Even before I became a doctor, I recognized a calling to work with underprivileged children. I spent my high school years living in India, and role models there helped ingrain in me the importance of making a change for the better. Both in college reachout programs and for two years after graduation, I taught in underserved urban communities. In 2000, I decided to go back to school and get my medical degree. I was fortunate enough to be accepted in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship Program. Now I am a pediatrician in Gouverneur, NY.
Neither my husband nor I are from New York state: He is from South Carolina, and I am from Michigan. But, we have made it our family’s home, and we love it. We have been amazed at how accepting the community has been of us as outsiders, and we feel that it is a place where we can put down roots and share a sense of pride and ownership. It’s great to go to the local diner, or the grocery store, or the pharmacy and see familiar friendly faces every time.
As children, we both moved around a lot. So as adults, we wanted to settle down and be part of a community. It’s an added bonus that both my husband and I get to do jobs we love. I work at the local hospital, and he is the principal at local school. For me, this is a wonderful way to practice medicine. There’s a connection to the community that you just couldn’t get in a bigger town.
In a small community, it is fascinating to me how the lines between friend and family physician blur. It is not an unusual occurrence for me to do a “curbside consult” with children and their parents on the soccer field, in my living room, or on the sidewalk after someone drives by on their way home and remembers their child’s bug bite or swollen ankle. I’ve visited with Amish families, accepting raspberry pies and Adirondack chairs as forms of payment! It’s not a typical doctor’s life, but for me it’s not just about being a pediatrician, it’s the desire to make a difference. And, because I know my patients so well, I know that what I do does make a difference.
For the most part, the population we serve at Edward John Noble is a mix of military and farming families. There were zinc and talc mines here for many years, but closures have left many people in the area unemployed. Retail, construction, and a state prison provide most of the remaining jobs in our area. Most of the children we see are Medicaid recipients. Our practice never turns a patient away and our mission is not just to provide medical care but to provide stability and viability to the towns around us and their residents. Every person who walks through our doors is treated with the same dignity and respect we would afford to our own family and friends.
We also happen to be located in a very beautiful area in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, not far from the Canadian border. My job is wonderfully rewarding, and I am so grateful to the NHSC that I get to practice medicine that matters.