As a child, I traveled frequently to India to visit family. I experienced the vibrancy and beauty of the country and also was exposed to the striking disparities between the “haves” and “have-nots.” The suffering I saw caused me to question why I had a stable home, a loving family and the opportunity to go to school when others had very little. As I grew, this sense of guilt turned into the realization that perhaps I had been given much in order to be able to give back. While in school, I started volunteering at a hospital and nursing home, and saw that health was perhaps the most valuable commodity that one could possess, the very foundation on which to prosper in life. This sparked my interest in medicine. In college, I volunteered with an NGO in Chennai that was addressing India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic through not only clinical care and biomedical research but also public health education and awareness efforts. I saw that to effectively promote well-being, quality clinical care for the individual must be accompanied by initiatives that address the social, environmental and economic framework of a community; this was one of my first exposures to the power of public health. When I was in medical school, my patients (many of whom lived in underprivileged Baltimore communities) taught me the importance of primary care. I realized that, whether taking care of an elderly female hospitalized multiple times for exacerbation of chronic lung disease or counseling an adolescent grappling with the realities of living with HIV, primary care providers are on the front lines of protecting and promoting health. As a primary care provider during residency, I saw how the lack of adequate primary care services affected both individuals and the community at large. Inspired by patients and communities I have had the honor of learning from, I hope that I can continue to fulfill my responsibility to "give back" through clinical medicine and public health efforts that bring high quality, patient-centered primary care to the underserved throughout the world.
Assistant Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine