In what ways have you worked with MGG, and where are you at in your professional life right now?
I got involved in MGG during the summer between my first and second year of medical school. I worked on a project where we did an asthma curriculum for schools in the district which were identified as having a disparity, which means the students and how many children were hospitalized depending on whether they were Spanish speaking or not. So, we identified a problem and went ahead and developed a curriculum that was both in English and Spanish, and then taught that over the summer. Then, throughout the remaining four years, I was involved I a variety of different projects involving Syrian refugees, different fairs, creating a connection between the local community and MGG so they can have more access and resources amongst the community. Right now, I’m a second-year Pediatric resident at UCLA.
What programs or events did you find the most personal value in?
My first exposure working with children, health, and families was through the asthma project, so that was pretty early on in my medical career, which was very formative. I ultimately ended up choosing Pediatrics and continued implementing some of the way of speaking and disseminating information to parents and recognizing where some of the problems lie in getting the information we have at the office, at the hospital to families. That was very big in ultimately deciding what I wanted to do with my career. In regard to the Syrian refugees, working with MGG, Bayview, the physicians, the medical students, and nurses to develop this curriculum was particularly fulfilling because immigrant health and advocacy in general is very important to me. That allowed for a good merging between the two, and then really highlighted the importance and feasibility of getting the medical field right into the community and see how that can play out.
You’re a Pediatric resident right now – what do the next 5-10 years look like for moving your career forward?
One thing I know for sure is continuing advocacy work – being involved in the community. Recently was our advocacy council meeting that they just developed at UCLA with one of the Pediatric chief residents, and we’re working on somehow implementing projects and activities into the Pediatric residency program and seeing how we can be advocates for our patients. For sure, I see myself continuing work along the lines of what I did in medical school as a working physician. It’s more difficult as a resident just because of time constraints. As a resident, I have to make sure that each one of my patients I’m advocating for in the immediate setting, and then hopefully in the future, more in the community.
Has MGG reinforced this goal for you, or is it something you’ve always known?
It’s always been something I’ve known I wanted to do, but MGG allowed me the opportunity to actually carry it out. The really cool thing about MGG is it took a more general desire to do XYZ and then allowed me to actually go do it. Through different surveys, etc. we were able to see the impact we had, and MGG was really empowering for that, even as a medical student, I was able to have an impact and make a change and implement something that I thought would be helpful to the community.
More broadly, has MGG taught you any particular lessons about the medical world as whole?
I was able to appreciate from MGG how separated we can become in the medical field from the rest of the world as a community. What I’m referring to is some of the classes that I ran, and we were being asked questions by community members that, for us, are very basic. “What does it mean that the heart is a muscle?” and “why can’t we eat fatty foods?” etc. These are things that we physicians are always preaching about and talking about, and then being on the other end and seeing actually, we’re not doing such a good job of explaining or teaching these things. This is why we have patients that are so ill and chronically ill, so it made me realize that there’s a communication issue. Information that we have isn’t always effectively disseminated to our population. That was an eye-opening experience because before I could talk about heart disease, maybe we need to explain what the heart is and why we consider those things to be important. I don’t know if that’s always in consideration when we’re counseling our patients and giving them information regarding their health.
Should professionals in the medical field who don’t regularly focus on community work participate more?
I don’t think that it should necessarily be a requirement because medicine in and of itself is a very giving, selfless profession and requires a lot of sacrifice. I do believe that raising awareness about issues that are affecting the community and allowing each person to individually find ways to integrate that into their practice, as well as have the opportunity for them to be involved in those communities. I like MGG because anyone could be involved – medical students, residents, anyone who was interested in this had a way to go ahead and actually participate, and in turn, individuals from MGG were able to share the information that they had. It created this nice relationship between people who aren’t necessarily involved and people who want to be more involved. I do think it should be integrated more into the resident curriculum because if you’re never taught about it, it will be harder just for people to just merge that into their practice in the future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.