This is a post I have been very much looking forward to writing and sharing with you, especially to those in the pre-med community who are a little hesitant to step out of their comfort zone or just don’t believe that an experience like this will further their motivations to be a physician. Let me tell you, I started this fellowship in June feeling like the ultimate outsider, completely out of my element. At Bootcamp, I was surrounded by driven and passionate sustainable development majors, social entrepreneurs, non-profit directors, and artists. Individuals who truly believe in the potential of communities around the world. Individuals committed to the field of global development.
Enter LIL OL’ ME. Microbiology major, little experience in development, about to commit 7+ years to the field of medicine. Did I take a wrong turn somewhere?
These last three months of studying curriculum and learning about Mama Hope’s Connected Development model has slowly made me realize that community development and patient care ARE VERY SIMILAR and if done the correct way, they can be incredibly impactful on the health of patients and the future livelihood of global communities. Along the same lines as my fellow Advocates, I truly believe in the potential of patients to live happy and healthy lives, and I am committed to making my local and global community a healthier place through connection, collaboration, and partnership.
There are endless parallels I have noticed between human-centered development and patient-centered care, but I want to highlight two similarities I noticed that are especially important to remember:
(1) In development, communities are more than just the apparent necessities they lack. Similarly in health care, patients are more than just values and symptoms on a chart. We need to stop viewing developing communities and patients as problems that need to be solved by experts. Instead, we have to start viewing them with dignity and respect, as valuable and capable partners. As I’ve shared with you, every one of Mama Hope’s global partners is a visionary leader who knows exactly what his or her community wants and needs to thrive into the future. All they want is to be able to collaborate, learn, and be heard. Likewise, patient health can be shaped by so many external as well as internal factors. What’s on the chart is just one part of the story, and the only way a medical provider is allowed access to the other part is by taking the time to get to know the patient. By creating a meaningful relationship based on trust, support, and respect, a patient is more willing to share their insight with you, leading to a better picture of their overall health.
(2) Providing aid alone to developing communities is not a sustainable solution for progress. Similarly, prescribing medication alone to patients is not the best way to improve health outcomes. These short-term solutions are ineffective, costly, and create dependency. The best way to support and empower communities and patients in the long-run is capacity building and education. While aid can buy material goods for survival, developing the skills and instincts to adapt and thrive will build stronger and more self-reliant communities. Likewise, medicine may be very beneficial in keeping the worst symptoms of a chronic condition at bay, but disease is usually multi-faceted, attributed to lifestyle as much as biology. This is why patient education is so important. Understanding how diet, exercise, and other lifestyle interventions can lead to better health will empower patients to take steps to stay ahead of their illness, instead of just waiting for their next refill.
How amazing/weird/miraculous is it that I stumbled upon an organization that operates with values and principles that align almost exactly with the kind of healthcare I saw being practiced at the Mobile Outreach Clinic in Gainesville. Both these experiences have reinforced my passion for educating and empowering communities through accessible and quality patient-centered health care.
I’m exactly where I should be.
WE MADE IT! Thanks for joining me on the last day of Blog Week. I have had so much fun launching this travel blog and giving you a small glimpse into my world as a Global Advocate in preparation for my time in the field.
I have a ton of packing and prep left to do before my departure on the 27th, but be on the lookout for new content and posts in two weeks. Thanks for the support, and see you then!