"The Kean Fellowship is important to me personally because it helps me spend a year in Haiti before returning to finish my final year of medical school. I hope to use my medical degree, surgical training and language skills to contribute to academic medicine in and for Haiti."
I was raised in a Quaker meeting that partnered with a Haitian-American church for youth events in Massachusetts. I attended Williams College, where I majored in history and played rugby. Before medical school, I worked as an emergency medical technician and volunteered at a primary care clinic in the Dominican Republic.
In medical school, I gravitated towards surgery and Haiti. I read two articles that left particular impressions on me: an op-ed in the Washington Post about maternal mortality in places where access to emergency obstetrical surgery is limited, and "Surgery and global health: a view from beyond the OR," which labeled surgery the "neglected stepchild" of efforts to improve care in poor countries. I was also inspired by the career of Dr. Russell White, one of my professors at Brown and chief surgeon of Tenwek Hospital in Kenya. During the summer before second year, I did lab research in trauma surgery and traveled to Port-au-Prince with a close friend from college. I applied for the Kean Fellowship and other funding opportunities to support a year in Haiti, and now I am researching malnutrition and gaining clinical exposure at St. Luc Hospital on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
What impact will the 2011 Kean Fellowship have on your future?
The Kean Fellowship is important to me personally because it helps me spend a year in Haiti before returning to finish my final year of medical school. I feel that now is my best chance to become fluent in Haitian Kreyol before embarking on a general surgery residency. This year of clinical research and service in Port-au-Prince is also teaching me about the obstacles to improved health in the capital and will inform my future efforts. My hope is to use my medical degree, surgical training and language skills to contribute to academic medicine in and for Haiti.
Describe some of your most memorable travel or work experiences.
In August 2009, I made my first trip to Port-au-Prince, Haiti with a college friend to visit his extended family. We traveled throughout the city to such sites as St. Jean Bosco church, which had been attacked by arsonists while then-future president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was preaching in 1988. We also toured St. Damien Hospital, a pediatrics hospital that Brown University has since supported through a teaching partnership. The experience left me determined to learn Haitian Kreyol to help me serve patients in Haiti and the United States.
What advice would you give to those just entering school or trying to determine their specialty or field of interest?
The best medical school-related advice I ever received was from a senior physician at Brown: "In medicine you will be pulled in 50 different directions by mentors and colleagues who want to help you work on their projects, but no matter what, you have to make sure you are doing what makes your heart sing." At every step in medical school, consider the factors that will make your heart sing later in your career--whether they are working with specific patient populations, disease processes or approaches to research. Especially if you are interested in global health, be careful not to narrow your field of interest too early; all physicians working in developing countries should be capable of performing as competent general practitioners, as they are often called to do. If you treat each of your medical school courses and clerkships as crucial to your future work, you will not only enjoy medical school more, you will be better prepared to work abroad.