I had such a fun time talking about my journey to medicine with Jenn on the “How Did You End Up There?” podcast the other week! It’s definitely not typical to start out in politics and end up a (almost) physician, but I can’t imagine any other path. I learned many valuable lessons along the way and had the opportunity to delve into interests that I might not have as a pre-med at 18 or as a medical student in my early 20s. We sacrifice a lot to find the time to learn all we can to save and improve lives. You can listen to the episode here – be sure to check out all of the other episodes too! It’s so interesting to get glimpses into other winding career paths.
I was also interviewed by my medical school magazine about my interest in public health and advocacy as a medical student and future physician. As I mention in the article, it is so important for medical students (and all health professionals) to see beyond the four walls of the clinic. Our patients exist in vibrant communities and we have a responsibility to understand how their social interactions and environments impact their health. It’s the main reason I started this blog – to educate and empower the next generation of physicians to do the most good for their patients.
Let’s start out by dispelling the misconception that physicians are trained in public health and therefore should be consulted as experts during public health crises. For the most part, this is NOT TRUE. Physicians are trained to provide medical care – to diagnose, treat, and manage individual health problems. While some medical schools do teach epidemiology (the science of public health), it is not enough to head out into the world as a public health professional. If you’re a physician with a Master of Public Health (like I will be!), then you certainly have more credibility to speak on matters of public health as a physician. And the reverse is true as well – experts in public health who did not go to medical school are not doctors! The medical and public health professions need to work together beyond times of crisis and both need to be consulted by policy makers. Doctors alone should not be asked how to contain a pandemic – simply put, we are not trained to give that advice.
So, let’s get into it. What exactly is public health?
The Florida Keys usually conjures up images of sunshine, ocean breezes, and copious cocktails. But beyond the vacationers paradise, there is the reality of life in the Keys – and needing access to health care.
Across the 137 square mile archipelago, there are only 266 health care providers for 74,000 residents (and 2.25 million annual visitors). The Florida Keys has a serious shortage of health care providers and services.
There are two main types of shortage designations, as determined by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA).
I spent this rainy morning shadowing a pediatric nephrologist, the specialists for kidney function in kids. The number of conditions they see is vast, but each has a unique course and some can progress to renal failure, even with medical intervention.
Chronic renal failure is the result of slowly progressive kidney diseases (and it not often reversible). 1 in 3 American adults is at risk for kidney disease — the two main causes of CKD in the adult population are diabetes and high blood pressure. In kids, CKD is often associated with inherited disorders, malformations present at birth, and autoimmune diseases, to name just a few.
We’re well into the 2020 presidential election cycle and there are a lot of health care proposals floating around. Most of them want to increase access to insurance and some have a plan to reduce the cost of care. But unfortunately, universal access to health insurance does not equate to health equity or better health outcomes. Health care systems are designed to handle individual medical needs, not the most critical causes of poor health – socioeconomic factors. In the United States, the development and provision of health care has fundamentally misunderstood what health is and what it requires.
A 2017 study in Health Affairs conveyed that the U.S. has one of the largest income-based health disparities in the world. Among the poorest third of Americans in the study, 38.2 percent reported being in “fair or poor health,” compared with 12.3 percent of the richest third. Most of the nations studied had an income-based health disparity, with the exception of Japan and Switzerland.
I love Monday’s – time to make a new weekly to-do list and the possibilities for what I can accomplish during the week seem endless. (Although I don’t love Monday mornings with an exam as much as Monday’s without exams). Over on Instagram, I’ve been sharing about public health and health policy on Monday’s. I’m trying to make #MPHMonday happen! And I thought it was finally time to migrate some of that fun over to the blog!
I typically listen to podcasts for news or current affairs analysis but I also love them as an opportunity to learn about new topics or fun trends.
Fun fact about me: I actually used to edit two podcasts as part of my job in graduate school! One focused on innovations in emergency medicine and the other centered on improving the quality and value of health care.
I wanted to share some of my public health, health policy, and medicine favorites!
Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a great week. Since I got back from Europe on Wednesday night, I’ve been getting my life back in order (so much laundry) and studying for an exam this afternoon. I’ll have a recap of my days in Barcelona up soon, but in the meantime, here are just a few things I’ve been loving lately!
Sara Bareilles’ new album Amidst the Chaos was released this week and I’ve probably already listened to it 40 times. Since her last album, she wrote the music and lyrics for Waitress on Broadway and even starred in the production! I was lucky enough to see her as Jenna and it was magical. Everything she writes is gold and this is no exception. She was the musical guest on SNL last weekend and no lie she sounds the same live as on the recording. That takes serious talent. Go listen now!
During my senior year of college, I took a class called Man’s Food, which was a basic nutrition course and it made me question everything I knew about healthy eating. I became a bit too regimented in what I ate for a few months — oatmeal or eggs for breakfast; a sandwich, carrots, and an apple for lunch; and then it was up in the air for dinner– but I lost a good, and needed, 10 pounds. Then I started walking on the treadmill every other day and eventually, ran my first half marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment and also some of the worst physical pain and exhaustion I have ever felt.
Running 13.1 miles in Orlando in October can be brutal — it was still so hot and humid and my longest training runs had been during D.C.’s lovely crisp fall. But I did it, recovered, and then wanted more. I even convinced a group of colleagues to run a half marathon with me! [Yes, we’re still friends!] I eventually reached a point where I started running less and joined a the gym so I could try out Bodypump class, which I learned about years ago from Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers. I went to that class twice a week until I moved to Philadelphia — the first time I took it, I was so sore I couldn’t walk without pain for nearly a week!
Welcome to the first edition of “This Week in Health Policy!” I used to send a weekly roundup of health policy and public health news to one of our student interest groups in graduate school, so I thought it would be a great way to share the interesting articles, research papers, podcasts, and more that I come across each week with all of you! I wanted to pop in yesterday to share but studying had to take priority.
I spent yesterday at my desk, aside from attending our exam review, and did some meal prep to get me though some of the weekend with healthier food. I planned to make pasta with lots of veggies and chicken sausage but ended up having at last three times as many veggies than pasta, so it’s more of a veggie sauté with pasta. Oh well, it tasted great and more veggies is always a good thing! But this exam must be getting to me because I definitely forgot to strain all of the water out of the pasta and put my new dry erase markers away in the silverware drawer…?