Caring for the Underserved: Penn Med and Beyond

In honor of Match Day, we are publishing pieces written by MS4s. On Monday, we published a piece on Penn Med’s awesome student body. Today, MS4 Kenji Taylor shares how he explored his interests in primary care and family medicine for the underserved, at Penn Med and beyond.

“Dumela Ra!” (Good day, sir)

The young man greeted us politely yet anxiously, with the characteristic roll of the ‘R’ that we had been practicing for the past four weeks in Botswana. He had traveled two hours to see the specialist doctors from the United States because he was concerned about his heart. With the Botswana doctor and a medical student from Germany, we examined the patient and reviewed his EKG.  Assured by the physical exam and other data we had, we suggested that he come back in the next two weeks to provide continuity in care and make sure he was well. As he thanked us, my attention turned to the hot room overflowing with children, men and women of all ages who had been waiting patiently since the early morning to be seen by the primary care specialists.

I am living a dream: providing full spectrum primary care to underserved communities.

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Through the Botswana-UPenn program, I am spending seven weeks in several different hospitals, both in urban and rural settings, practicing inpatient and outpatient medicine with local clinicians, Penn residents and faculty. Already almost four weeks in, I’ve learned so much about diseases endemic to the region like TB and HIV, adjusted to relying purely on a history and physical exam when other tests aren’t readily available, gained an appreciation of Botswana customs around health, and developed a better understanding of the system of primary care.

I credit my time at Penn Med as the reason I was able to develop my interests in the specialty of Family Medicine and practicing medicine with undeserved communities both in the US and abroad. During my first three years of medical school, I helped build The Cut Hypertension Program with fellow classmates. This program sends students of all health professions into African American barbershops in our West Philadelphia neighborhoods to provide blood pressure screenings. Ultimately, the program aims to reduce the stark disparity of cardiovascular disease that African American men face. I’m proud to say The Cut Hypertension Program continues to flourish in Philadelphia, and most recently in Atlanta, with the help of grants from the Schweitzer Foundation and United Health Foundation.

Faculty mentorship from across the University in Family Medicine, Nursing, the Center for Public Health Initiatives, Wharton, General Internal Medicine and the Center for Behavioral Economics has been immense. It is a real strength of the medical school program that cannot be understated. With support and encouragement from faculty, I decided to take a year out from medical school and accepted a paid fellowship position with the Centers for Disease Control in the global maternal-child HIV group. It was during this year I augmented the excellent clinical training we receive as Penn students with the perspective of public health. I kept in touch with faculty mentors throughout my time with the CDC in order to help me keep my experiences in the context of patient care and help me transition back into my final year.

The strengths of medical education at Penn extend far beyond a second-to-none curriculum and training facilities. The exposure, leadership opportunities and faculty mentorship are phenomenal. I often did not fully appreciate these things until I left the University and realized how lucky we were to have so many resources and opportunities at our fingertips. Regardless of what your interests are in medicine, you can find the mentorship and guidance you need to help you realize those dreams.

Kenji Taylor is an MS4 from small towns in rural Kansas and Pennsylvania. He graduated from Brown University in 2008 where he majored in Neuroscience and East Asian Studies. He then worked for a couple of years in finance in LA, London and Tokyo before coming back to medicine. Outside of class, Kenji enjoys hiking, fitness, cooking and watching Hulu with his girlfriend.

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