STudents on Serving The Underserved; Week 1

by Liz Karolczuk, UTHSC College of Medicine, M1

When I applied to medical school, I had participated in a number of experiences that helped
solidify my desire to serve the underserved as a major part of my career as a doctor. As an
undergraduate student, I received the Bonner Community Service Fellowship to attend Rhodes
College. Through this fellowship, I was exposed to the ideas of social justice, structural violence, and ethical service for the first time.

My understanding of these concepts continued to develop as I progressed through my college career. Through Bonner and a number of grants, I had the opportunity to volunteer and conduct community research in Ghana and Nicaragua. Developing relationships with community members in these countries instilled in me a deep desire to serve
the most vulnerable populations as a physician.

After graduation, I worked at Church Health coordinating the gynecology and pain management clinics. I was reminded each day in the clinic how multifaceted one’s health truly is, and how important it is as healthcare providers to address the health of our patients on a holistic level. I then spent the following year working in hospital administration at Methodist University Hospital, and learned how essential it is to keep patients healthy at the community level before/after their hospital stays.

Now, reflecting back to the first seven months of medical school, I remember how they have
been filled with endless hours of learning gross anatomy, biomolecular pathways, Hematoxylin
and Eosin stain interpretations, and a myriad of other hard science material. At this point in our
medical education, with so much importance placed on trying to understand the wealth of
science curriculum, it can be difficult to make time to focus on our future patients.

I applied to this course in poverty medicine because I want to start learning practical ways to best treat my future patients before I am assigned real patients in my 3rd year. I have a good idea about the population of patients I want to work with in the future, but sometimes I feel
overwhelmed when I think about effectively treating the health of the patients in front of me
while also addressing a number of structural and societal factors that also play a role in their
health. So many questions run through my head, like ‘how do I get connected to organizations
serving patients most in need of treatment?’ ‘Can I still support my family and pay off my
mounting student loan debt when working with patients who may not be able to afford care?’
‘How can I get involved in political advocacy work for my patients?’…the list continues on and

I am so privileged to be in a position right now where I am training to become a future doctor.
With this knowledge and these skills, it is my duty to give back to my community both locally
and globally. I hope the next few weeks in this Serving the Underserved course will start to lay
the groundwork that will help provide practical ways to serve patients who need healthcare the most.