I developed an interest in healthcare during middle school when I was in and out of doctor’s appointments due to a medical condition that was difficult to diagnose. Throughout that process I felt alone, and my mother felt helpless, unable to help her child and unable to adequately communicate with the various physicians. I believe that her feelings of inadequacy and my feeling of isolation could have been remedied with a physician who was an effective communicator. One who listened more than they spoke, was cognizant of their patient’s ability to digest and comprehend information, and tailored treatment plans to each family. I want to become a pediatrician so I can empower parents to be advocates for their children.
As of today, I am not qualified to diagnose or treat children, but I have found a way to impact the lives of the children of Vermont and surrounding communities. As one of the Pediatric Student Interest Group (PSIG) leaders for the class of 2021, I got involved in the Big Change Roundup, the largest fundraiser for the UVM Children’s Hospital and a beloved community event. Being the medical student liaison for the Big Change Roundup is advocacy in action. The roundup features an RV that travels to schools and businesses across Vermont and northern New York, recruiting change “bandits” to join “posses” who collect spare change for the UVM Children’s Hospital. In addition to raising money, I was also responsible for recruiting a medical student to join Dr. Lewis First onboard the 98.9 WOKO RV as he traveled across Vermont thanking “bandits” for their hard work and dedication. This seemed like an easy enough job – who could say no to a Saturday morning riding around Vermont aboard an RV with Dr. First, the chief of pediatrics at the UVM Children’s Hospital, who is also well-known for his knock-knock jokes?
When I joined the effort, the emphasis was on the value I could bring to the project as a future pediatrician, which left me – as a first-year medical student – feeling important. What I was not prepared for was how much I would learn from my new community, and how welcoming and caring the individuals of New England can be. On my ride aboard the RV we visited a group jazzercising to raise money, and attended a craft fair where the proceeds went to the Big Change Roundup. This experience allowed me to connect with my future patient population on a personal level, without the looming need for a diagnosis. I was able to gain an understanding of their lives’ outside of the clinic, and appreciate their experiences with the healthcare system. A child of one of the craft fair vendors spent the first few weeks of his life in the NICU. Despite how difficult that time was for her and her family, she remembered it fondly and repeatedly thanked Dr. First for his contribution, and praised me for embarking on such a difficult journey.
Watching Dr. First interact with the community taught me that being a part of someone’s care team does not begin or end in the office. He spends almost every Saturday between mid-January and March engaging the community, building and strengthening relationships. I believe it is this type of transparency and accessibility that led an elementary school teacher to reach out to him and request he educate her students on germs and the power of washing your hands. I told my friends who are educators and they were taken aback. During the recent flu epidemic, none of them had considered reaching out to a physician, let alone the chief of pediatrics, to help educate their students on germs. It has long been said that “it takes a village,” and the Big Change Roundup has vividly illustrated to me the power of community.
Big Change Roundup Highlight Video