When I was 5 years old I was blessed with a little sister, who was as adorable as I had imagined for those long 9 months. To my utter most sadness, when my sister was 3 months old she was diagnosed with epilepsy, and as she got older we saw deficits in her social interactions, language acquisition, and cognitive abilities. As an 8-year-old, I spent most of my time after school in hospitals or doctors’ offices. These offices became my routine and I became accustomed to them. This is when my affinity for medicine sprouted. I pursued medical extracurriculars in high school and each step reaffirmed my growing interest in medicine. In addition, I joined a liberal arts college to gain a well-rounded education.
My time at Albany Medical Center (AMC) was meant to function as a confirmation of my interest in psychiatry; however, as time passed, I saw mothers come in with bruised arms and bloody lips, who consistently denied being victims of domestic violence, and my focus shifted. I watched as physicians would give up in frustration when a mother would not admit to her child experiencing trauma. Evidently, the mothers did not trust the doctors to admit something so private. For example, one day a 5-year old boy came in with symptoms associated to ADHD. Because the mother denied domestic violence in the household, it was up to me and my team to follow up, infer from context clues, and administer the proper psychological examination to formulate the correct diagnosis; PTSD. It was then, that I confirmed my interest in medicine, to help women like the ones I had seen, the women who had lost their voice, who were scared enough to risk their child’s health, who did not expect anything from their child’s doctor. I want to become a doctor for them. I saw dozens of other children like that young boy, who were at risk of receiving an incorrect diagnosis because of their scared mothers. My time at AMC taught me the vitality of comprehensive care and caused me to modify the way I personally defined “good healthcare”. After seeing mental and physical health intimately intertwine, I plan to incorporate both aspects as a physician for the betterment of my patient’s overall well-being.
My time at AMC would not have been meaningful without my experience in Karapitiya, Sri Lanka, where I was exposed to various medical settings and adjusted my definition of health. The alternative approach to classic medical cases was a learning experience. Doctors conducted themselves more casually around patients and fostered a lax attitude towards the profession as a whole. Even though I assumed medicine was practiced differently around the world, this took on a greater meaning for me when I watched Sri Lankan doctors readily incorporate naturopathy and folk medicine into their treatment plans. A patient came in with a high fever and was first made to drink turmeric milk, which was known to reduce inflammation and fevers, and was only then given medication. Through this experience and many more, I began to understand that medicine can have multiple meanings and changes through context. With this in mind, I aim to be a culturally competent physician and consider cultural background when treating patients.
In order to further my educational experience, I completed my senior thesis, which provided me the opportunity to combine academics with clinical work. The current research is a pilot clinical study exploring the association between body perception and postpartum depression in women with increased gestational weight gain. This year-long research project has not only developed my research skills by becoming familiar with the IRB process, but has also allowed me to implement patient-provider models I had learned from my past experiences. I gathered all the good and bad I had seen over the years and found that effective patient interaction methods include cultural competency, active listening, and sensitivity. With my clinical research, I was able to partner the meta-analysis with a pilot clinical study and create a holistic picture of a medical phenomenon; post-partum depression. This type of research showed me how quintessential patient input is, in addition to a thorough literature review.
The time I have spent in various medical settings has confirmed my love for the field. Regardless of the environment, I am drawn to patients and their stories, like that scared young boy at AMC. I am aware that medicine is a constantly changing landscape; however, one thing that has remained steadfast over the years is putting the patient first, and I plan on doing this as a physician. All of my experiences have taught me a great deal about patient interaction and global health, however, I am left wanting more. I crave more knowledge to help patients and become more useful in the healthcare sector. I am certain medical school is the path that will help me reach my goal. One day, I hope to use my experiences to become an amazing doctor like the doctors that treated my sister, so I can help other children like her.