Keck School of Medicine of USC medical student Alexa Manrriquez grew up in the neighborhoods around USC. Now in her third year of medical school, she wants to do more than treat patients’ diseases. She believes she must get at socioeconomic reasons behind patients’ poor health. USC News writer Paul Boutin recently spoke to Manrriquez about her outlook as a future pediatrician.
I learned at a very young age the power that lies in serving others. Throughout my life, my family, my mentors and my peers have fostered in me a strong sense of responsibility to my community. I chose to become a physician in hopes that I would find the rich, interpersonal relationships that lie at the heart of medicine, as well as the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those around me.
I plan to pursue pediatrics — the decision was somewhat of a no-brainer for me. There are so many things about the field of pediatrics that I love, and I have always loved working with children. In college, I began working at a summer camp for kids with chronic medical conditions, and I have continued to do so throughout medical school. Over the years, my work at camp has helped clarify how I see myself as a future pediatrician and allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of what it is that our patients and their families go through outside the hospital walls.
In the third year of medical school, we transition from the classroom to the clinical world. As I navigate the very beginnings of my career in clinical medicine, it has become increasingly clear to me how difficult it can be to understand, much less address, the many factors that contribute to the physical health of our patients.
A patient’s most pressing medical issue
Given the confines of the medical system, and the very fast pace of the hospital and clinic, there hardly seems enough time to address our patients’ most pressing medical issues, much less the complex systemic and socioeconomic factors that directly impact their physical health and well-being.
Now that I’ve had a chance to be more involved in patient care, I see that our role as physicians encompasses much more than simply the practice of medicine in the traditional sense. We cannot call ourselves healers if we don’t address the many underlying factors that contribute to the pervasive cycles of poor health outcomes in so many of the families in our communities.
Doctors as advocates
As someone who has long identified as a pediatrician, I understand my role as a physician as one that is intimately connected to my role as an advocate. In my time at USC, I have been given an opportunity to find my voice, and to use it to advocate for my patients. I found a home in the American Academy of Pediatrics, serving as the representative for California medical students.
In this role, I’ve found many opportunities to practice my newfound advocacy skills, which have been widely supported by my mentors here at USC. In fact, this past December, I worked with residents at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center on a rally urging our elected officials to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a program that nearly 9 million children in the country rely on for health care. That rally was part of a larger day of action uniting health care providers across the country. It was also one in a series of events put on by residents and medical students at USC that centered on issues affecting our patients, the most recent of which was a rally in support of a Dream Act to protect DACA recipients.
Raising your voice about injustice
I feel fortunate to be educated in an environment where I am empowered to recognize and raise my voice about the ongoing injustices that our patients experience daily. It is certainly not lost on me that I am receiving my medical training at the very hospitals where my grandparents received medical care. My grandparents came from Mexico and made a life for our family here in Los Angeles, in the communities surrounding the Keck School of Medicine, and I work every day to honor their legacy.
I have learned that no matter where we come from, each of us has been granted an invaluable opportunity to train at the Keck School — an opportunity that we are so fortunate to have and one that puts us in a unique position.
As medical students and future physicians, we have a chance to be heard. When we speak out, people will listen. There is power in each of our voices, and exponentially more when our voices are in unison. It is imperative that we stay connected to our patients, and it is our responsibility as physicians to advocate on their behalf.