My interest in medicine was initially sparked during my freshman year as I listened to Dr. Paul Farmer, a leading global health expert and human rights activist, deliver a lecture on tuberculosis. He spoke about the role of social justice in healthcare, and the need for more funding and research to be allocated towards conditions that disproportionately affect underserved communities. It was my first realization that as a physician I could combine my love of science and my passion for social justice.
His lecture, and subsequent public health courses, inspired me to begin thinking critically about how I can reduce the health inequities that permeated the communities around me. It was also during this time that my grandparents moved to the United States to avoid the ongoing violence in Mexico. This placed a large financial burden on my family and, consequently, I became financially responsible for my academic and living expenses just as college began.
I worried that working nearly full-time would hinder my ambition to pursue a medical degree, but I firmly discerned that my situation also provided an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the medical field outside the classroom. It was in this pursuit that I began as a medical scribe. The extended hours of the hospital allowed me to work nights and weekends, and then attend class during the day. One evening a man, paralyzed from the waist down, presented in the emergency room complaining of a pungent smell arising from his wheelchair. During his physical exam, we found a large ulcer on his buttock deep enough to expose bone.
His injury, the result of tremendous neglect, required surgery to prevent the infection from taking his life. The patient reported that he had been evicted from his apartment and, now homeless, had been unable to attend his physical therapy sessions. I was shocked by the cascade of events that allowed for a pressure ulcer to develop into a life-threatening condition, and I felt frustrated by my limitations to help. That evening brought the consequences of health disparities from a concept learned in a classroom to a desperate reality. I watched as physicians worked tirelessly to treat his wounds, and then scrambled to connect him to resources once he discharged.
As a public health student, I had been trained to elucidate the barriers that hinder access to care. And while I could recite in great detail provocative statistics about health inequities, I was humbled by how much I still did not understand about the hardships faced by people in my community. My time at providence hospital led me to understand what