Four months into my outpatient rotation with family medicine and internal medicine, I’ve noticed a lot of patients who may decline certain screening tests (i.e. mammograms, colonoscopy), or vaccines (i.e. influenza, shingles), either providing no reason for their refusal or stating that “I don’t need it, I never get sick.” It is quite stunning to see how powerful an anecdote can be, or if a patient personally knows someone who has been sick, for this can be a driving force in his or her health decisions. The person they know does not even have to be a relative or a family member, I have heard patients talking about “a friend of a friend,” “my son’s teacher.” Once the patient knows of someone who has been affected, it changes their perspective to be more proactive in their health. For example, I met a patient who desired the shingles vaccine after stating that they initially did not want it, after recalling a friend who had shingles and said it was extremely painful. Even when volunteering at the local elementary school nearby to educate kids on the importance of exercise, I noticed the most attentive students were the ones who later shared they had parents with diabetes, or relatives who suffered from a stroke. I wonder if there is a way we can more strongly incorporate this tool into promoting chronic disease prevention in the public health realm, as it seems to be a driving force in patients’ motivation behind their health.
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Alex is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. As an avid lover of the intellect and interspecialty collaboration associated with medicine, she is excited to be applying for Internal Medicine residency programs. Her interest in medicine largely stems from her volunteer work in free clinics in underserved communities and experiences growing up with a brother with autism.
Before attending medical school, Alex completed her undergraduate degree at Northwestern University in 2014 and her Master of Public Health (concentration in Chronic Disease Epidemiology) at Yale University in 2016.
When she is not working in the hospital or studying, you can find Alex running by the lake, doing circuit workouts outdoors in the fields, drawing and/or writing, or at home spending time with her family in the suburbs of Chicago.