After college, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, where I taught high school biology. Living in another society and witnessing its enormous health challenges inspired me to consider a career in public health.
After returning from the Peace Corps, I worked in community and public health research in New York City. But I worried that a purely public health career would limit my involvement “on the ground.” I was advised that medical school would open doors for all sorts of clinical work as well as research.
I did a fourth-year medical school elective at Einstein called “Research-Based Health Activism,” which really resonated with me. After that, I decided that Montefiore’s social medicine residency would be a great fit for my career goals.
I needed to write a mock grant for the CRTP, so I modeled it after the research of my mentor, Kathy Anastos, M.D., who works on HIV in Central Africa. My proposal was to study ways to ensure that people with HIV in Rwanda initiate and remain on antiretroviral therapy under the country’s HIV treatment guidelines. The NIH [National Institutes of Health] funded my proposal in 2017.
How quickly the pandemic took hold was a surprise—but its impact on immigrant communities was not, given the numerous barriers they face in accessing care, such as lack of insurance and fear of immigration enforcement. It didn’t help that the federal government’s new “Public Charge” rule—under which immigrants who obtain public benefits can be denied green cards or visa extensions—went into effect just as the pandemic hit.
I’ve mostly been practicing primary care via telemedicine, but I worked on a COVID-19 ward for a few weeks. The initial uncertainty about how best to care for these patients was a tremendous challenge, to say the least—and worrying about getting infected and infecting my family was scary.
I love biking. When I can, I bike to work at Montefiore’s Wakefield Ambulatory Care Center. I also love playing guitar but haven’t played much in recent months with all the extra challenges of the pandemic.