Adversity Against Adversity

When I walked through the doors of the Education building at MAHEC, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never done an employee orientation of any kind before. ‘It’ll just be an extended series of PowerPoint presentations… right?’ Well, little did I know that said presentations would have such a great impact on my future goals. The very first presentation focused on the mission, values, and structure of MAHEC and began with one phrase – Your Doctor. Your Teacher. Your Advocate. Contemplating these words over a matter of weeks struck me sufficiently enough to lead me to shred my first medical school personal statement and write something entirely new – a piece largely influenced by this simple statement. Yes, really… the root of my motivation to go to school for yet another 4 years had transformed by observing the essence of this statement first-hand every day.

My very first day of actual work began with a 2-hour discussion with Dr. Letson, my supervisor, and former Davidson Impact Fellow/new MAHEC employee, Cate Hendren. We went from Medicaid expansion to neonatal abstinence syndrome, then to the unique academic life at Davidson, off to ‘best-practice’ pun delivery techniques, back to Dr. Rishi Manchanda and upstream medicine… and back again. Needless to say, it was a relaxed and friendly conversation on the surface. But I’m sure my new colleagues could see the whirlwind behind my eyes, as though I was literally screaming, “There is so much to be done! Where could I possibly begin?!?!” Even now – three months in – narrowing my focus has not helped much in the complexity of these important problems. What has helped is meeting people who have dedicated their lifelong careers to trying. How do we end sexual assault for good? Completely eradicate the rampant spread of HIV in the Southern U.S.? Find a sustainable and effective way to close the health outcome gap between races and ethnicities? Well. You simply start by trying.

In my opinion, I am meeting the most extraordinary people this nation has to offer. A woman who goes to work to raise money for Planned Parenthood, knowing she will likely be met by an adamant pro-life protestor. A man living with HIV who leads community engagement to ensure access to medicine and frequent rapid testing to stop the cycle of transmission. A health system innovator who says that her work is informed by her deepest personal values. Almost every day, I meet a new person who inspires me to consider the breadth of what I could do as a Davidson Impact Fellow and (fingers crossed) as a future primary care physician. Instead of simply being a doctor, why not be a doctor AND teacher AND advocate each time I enter an exam room? Holding the responsibility of charting symptoms and advising treatments was never my dream job – it has always been more than that. I want to make people healthier and sustain healthy states, not merely cover-up symptoms. Most will need medications. Others will require knowledge on how to manage their chronic illness. And every patient deserves an advocate who will stand in their place in front of the legislator, the landlord, or the peer physician when their voice is being silenced.

I am exciting about my current projects and initiatives here at MAHEC and beyond as an advocate for women’s and children’s health and well-being. And I could not be more grateful that this opportunity has directly informed my future as a primary care physician.

What does it mean to be a Davidson Impact Fellow?

“So what exactly do you do?” When I first started here at OrthoCarolina (OC) I struggled to answer this question when my friends or even coworkers would ask. As a collective, the Davidson Impact Fellows share similar values and sometimes even the same goals, but individually, our job descriptions differ greatly. I found that each [...]

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Justice is not so simply dealt out: walking with kids who cause sexual harm

My name is Grace Watt. As I transition into my new job, which I will describe later, I have had to ask some complicated and emotionally distressing questions.  The following essay is part of an ongoing, maturing conversation with myself as I process what I am learning and how I might more effectively respond to the issue [...]

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Taking the Time to Reflect

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I just passed the halfway mark for my fellowship in June. This seemed momentous for several reasons: a) This is my first “real job,” thus I feel like a real adult with one work anniversary under my belt, b) I have less than a year to figure out my next steps, which still seem pretty [...]

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Quis custodiet ipsos excelum

I’m trying to navigate through the bureaucracy of obtaining a work permit with an immigration officer, and my progress is interrupted by the officer’s ringtone. It reminds me of the ringtone I had on the phone I was given during my semester in Uganda almost a year ago. Moments later, someone else’s cell phone brings [...]

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Expecting the Unexpected

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It’s the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy for you too.” – Frederick Buechner At some point during each of the six audit projects [...]

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The recent months have been a whirlwind. With changing seasons, new jobs, and big hopes, I concluded my Davidson Impact Fellowship and embarked on a new journey. I have yet to have time to sit and think about the things I worked on and contributed to over the past year. So as I pause to [...]

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Prideful D.C.

Although D.C. Pride did not have the same uniquely perfect timing as the San Francisco and NYC (and others’) Pride weekends enjoyed – theirs inaugurated with the historical moment of marriage equality for all ushered into America last Friday – it nonetheless provided for a week of amazing Pride-ful presence across the nation’s capital. Granted, my experience [...]

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Thinking Pink: Ladies Night Out and the World of “Breast Cancer Kitsch”

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We’d talked for about a minute and a half when Wanda yanked an extra chair closer to her computer monitor (perched amidst hallmark figurines, inspirational slogan magnets, and family photos) in her gray health department cubicle. She pledged: “Now this is guaranteed to make you cry.” She was talking about Ladies Night Out, a monthly program [...]

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Musings from the Mountain


   During my time at ASC, I have had the opportunity to attend two retreats with my team. Initially, I was very apprehensive about this experience and the thought of spending three days on top of a mountain with zero cell service and zero personal space.  Nonetheless, I packed up my car, and my work, [...]

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