By Cristin Quinn Fritz
Dr. Fritz is in her first year of pediatrics residency at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. She attended Vanderbilt University School of Medicine where she earned her MD as well as a Masters in Public Health with a focus on Global Health. She graduated from Washington and Lee in 2010 with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and minor in Poverty and Human Capabilities Studies.
“I am reminded of the detrimental effects that a resource-limited home environment can have on the health of a child on a daily basis,” writes Dr. Quinn (W&L 2010).
My involvement in the Shepherd Program initially began as an attempt to provide a good balance to pre-med coursework. However, it quickly evolved into one of the most defining elements of my undergraduate experience and continues to shape my career path.
My summer internship in Washington D.C. at the S.O.M.E. Medical Clinic serving the homeless was my initial glimpse into the disparities that exist in the health care system. I saw firsthand how the health of an underserved individual is intricately intertwined with his or her environment. As a result, I became interested in better understanding this relationship in order to advocate on the behalf of such individuals. These experiences inspired continued work in Lexington’s free clinic throughout the rest of college and collaboration with the clinic to implement new educational initiatives for diabetic patients. Concurrently learning about the social determinants of health and the ethical distribution of medical resources through readings and classroom discussions further expanded my view of health care. I wanted to be a doctor when I entered college, but these experiences sparked my desire to also become involved in health care delivery on a scale greater than the treatment of individual patients.
As I moved on to medical school, my experiences in the Shepherd program continued to influence my work and interests outside of the classroom. I worked at our medical student-run free clinic as a clinical volunteer as well as teacher of a diabetes education course, director of patient health education, and eventually as the executive director. I believe that my introduction to management of free clinics and program development through the Shepherd program in college equipped me to make meaningful contributions to improve the care of our underserved patient population with no other access to healthcare.
While I enjoyed learning the intricate details of medicine during my first two years and the clinical skills of examination and diagnosis during my third year, I found myself missing the opportunity to think about and discuss the impact of social determinants of health on individuals and communities. Thus, I chose to pursue a Masters in Public Health to gain formal training in analyzing and implementing initiatives to improve health on a societal level. After studying many aspects of domestic poverty through the Shepherd program, I was specifically interested in better understanding the relationship between poverty and health on a global scale. My global public health training built upon the strong foundation developed through the Poverty program and further equipped me to engage in research and initiatives both at home and abroad.
As an intern working to develop my clinical skills, it is easy to get caught up in the minutia of patient care and documentation during long, busy work days. However, I am reminded of the detrimental effects that a resource-limited home environment can have on the health of a child on a daily basis. My training in the Shepherd program has developed an understanding of the complex interplay of factors that contribute to my patients’ health and has taught me to consider and address such issues with each patient. I believe this mindset will allow me to provide more thorough and effective care throughout my career that will contribute to improved health rather than merely relief of symptoms.