After college, I joined the Peace Corps and served in Guinea, West Africa. I loved working in the field of public health, with people from a different culture than mine, and felt I'd found my calling. I continued to work in West Africa for several years after completing my service in the Peace Corps, and although I continued to enjoy my work and my community, I found myself yearning for home.
When I learned about the NHSC, is was a natural fit – I could pursue my passions for health care, working with people of diverse cultures, serving vulnerable communities and seeking adventure.
I was awarded an NHSC scholarship for medical school and felt confident it was the right path for me. During my third year of medical school, I found an opportunity through the NHSC Student/Resident Experiences and Rotations in Community Health (SEARCH) program to come up to rural Alaska to gain exposure to family medicine, and was intrigued. I spent the summer in Seward, Alaska and was as excited about the challenges of providing medical care in a rural setting as I was about the adventures found in Alaska and so I returned to Alaska for my family medicine residency training.
Colleagues and classmates commented that Family Medicine would not be challenging enough for me, but such the opposite is true. I can't imagine a field more challenging than rural Family Medicine where you really are on the frontlines and routinely are presented with traumatic injuries from the fishing industry, cardiac emergencies, plane crash victims, hypothermia, in additional to the daily challenges of cross-cultural and language barriers and trying to provide the best care to many patients who have no health insurance. It is a field where boredom is never an issue.
During my residency, I grew to love the adventures you can't avoid in Alaska including backcountry skiing, exploring the oceans by kayak, hiking into the wilderness. On a rural rotation in Dutch Harbor, I met and fell in love with my new husband who shares the same sense of adventure and was drawn to rural Alaska for the same reasons I am.
My husband and I chose to fulfill my NHSC service in Kodiak, Alaska, a remote island with a tight community and a beautiful setting for exploring the wilderness. I work at the Kodiak Area Native Association in my dream job, which integrates my love for cross-cultural interaction while providing comprehensive healthcare to rural populations. Similar to my work in West Africa, I work closely with an integrated team of providers including nutritionists, behavioral health specialists, and diabetes educators as well as rural community health aides to extend our reach to more remote Alaskan villages. We utilize technology via the Internet and telemedicine, and work closely with colleagues in the villages and in Anchorage using technology to optimize patient care.
Alaska has proved to be such an exciting place to live and work, and I am thankful to the NHSC for providing this opportunity to me and my family. We could not be happier.