Whether it was volunteering at a non-profit women’s clinic or shadowing in rural Alaska, I was amazed at the compassion shown by doctors who were treating underserved patients. Unfortunately, I also noticed that many patients would return with recurring ailments. It was only after speaking to the doctors that they mentioned the frustrations of inequities interfering with the ability of their patients to feel well. From not being able to access healthy foods to poor living conditions, many patients indeed did not have a fair fighting chance to achieve wellness.
Witnessing the devastating consequences of health inequities invigorated me to research these issues and figure out how to approach them through a physician’s perspective on social justice. Although there were many different insights on the issue, one particularly stood out to me because doctors were essentially “giving away money” to patients facing oppression. Not quite literally giving away dollars and checks, but a handful of primary care physicians practicing in poverty-stricken areas found it helpful to provide patients with resources such as government assistance that could benefit their living situations. Through helping patients fill out the proper paperwork and getting patients connected with the right support, doctors were able to make a more significant impact on the lives of patients who otherwise would not be able to move forward. However, if it was not for the data and funding distribution that the Census provides, these doctors would not be able to provide these resources.
As a future physician, I think that it is crucial to have these previously listed resources available for patients who are experiencing health inequities. It is only after meeting these fundamental factors that healthcare professionals can make a difference in the lives of these patients.
As a graduate student currently doing research and an upcoming medical student, I recognize the importance of thinking of a healthy community as arising from melding together scientific data with compassionate medical care. Through utilizing a powerful tool such as the Census data, our most vulnerable communities across the United States will have access to more resources that will help them achieve wellness that otherwise would not be possible through medicine alone. Although a physicians’ ultimate duty is to be an advocate for the health of patients and the community, we are also scientists who rely on data to help us move forward in medicine, research, and public health. The Census should, therefore, be emphasized as an essential aspect of healthcare as it intimately intertwines with the lives of many of our most vulnerable patients.
Current and future healthcare professionals should all bring awareness to just how important the Census is regarding the scope of overall health. Whether it is through submitting patient demographic data or posting infographics of why the Census is vital within clinics, physicians should aim to incorporate the necessity of the Census among the medical community. Only then can we, as healthcare professionals as a whole, state that we are indeed doing everything on our part to best care for our patients, whether that be in a rural village or a large city.