Throughout my training, I’ve observed the shortcomings and strengths of the healthcare system from the perspective of the next generation of physicians. Lack of emphasis on preventative care put Americans at risk even before COVID-19 hit our shores.
Though there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Saipan, the island commonwealth has become a ghost town.
Doing my elective at Klerksdorp-Tshepong (K/T) Hospital Complex in my hometown of Klerksdorp gave me the opportunity to become familiar with the health system, the medical personnel and health-related issues that are prevalent in my community. It also allowed me to draw comparisons between my home country of South Africa and the United Kingdom, where I have undertaken the clinical years of my medical degree.
From a public health perspective, we in Oregon have nowhere near the number of cases as our northern neighbors in Washington, although with delayed testing it is hard to tell exactly how many people are infected. But as we continue to follow the pattern of disease spread that has been demonstrated in Wuhan and Italy, we can presume that things will only escalate from here. And with it, inequities will be laid bare.
This is a question that I have been asked dozens of times over the last several weeks. Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency, news media has integrated COVID-19 into the news cycle constantly.
Although I’ve spent only a mere two and a half years as a student in this world of medical education, it’s readily apparent that I fit into very few of the “typical medical student” patterns. I’m part of a small cohort of dual degree students. I’m nontraditional, having never considered becoming a physician until after I graduated from college in 2013. And I am a disabled woman.
The United States is the most heavily incarcerated country in the developed world, and with that comes many secondary consequences, including children growing up with incarcerated parents. Although efforts have been made to mitigate the harm associated with having an incarcerated parent, few are focused on meeting the direct health needs of these children through preventative health care.
During our August delegation, we learned from Puerto Rican experts in their fields and acting first responders about implementing lasting social change since Hurricane María. Each expert’s lecture seemed to revolve around relief, recovery and resilience.
Homelessness is a prominent concern among LGBT+ people, particularly the transgender community. Nearly one-third of the respondents who completed the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey reported homelessness at some point in their lives, with even higher rates (74%) among individuals whose families had rejected them.
The health impacts associated with structural violence prevent vulnerable populations from gaining access to basic needs. This is due to injustices embedded within institutions and social structures that exist in today’s society.
Developing skills of cultural competence requires an open heart and mind — and often an uncomfortable examination of personal biases. It takes time, but along the way physicians gain greater humility and compassion, which translates to expanded access and higher-quality care for patients.
Seeking to document the experiences of students in street medicine groups at medical schools across the country, I decided to start with my own institution, the University of Illinois Chicago College of Medicine.