Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking back at 2007.

Time flies.

Oh boy, I wonder how many times I've said this phrase on this blog. But well, it's true. But it's also true that this year was full of meeting new friends and discovering my interests... and myself.

In spring, I participated in VIA's (a non-profit based in San Francisco and on the Stanford University campus) Exploring Health Care program to learn about health care in the USA and in the Bay Area in general. Along with medical students and undergraduates thinking of going that way, we hopped around the area to see hospitals, clinics (both private and free), homeless shelters, shadow doctors' rounds, participate in class to get a taste of what medical education is like there, and much much more over a period of 2 weeks.

The gay clinic called the Magnet, located in the heart of Castro, the gay mecca of the country, is what sparked me into community-based health care, or in other words health care that involves the entire community. What's amazing is that it's not merely a clinic but has the potential to act as a catalyst to bring a people together and empower them as a whole. I'll talk about this much more in detail another time...

And this summer, I found myself in a 11-day primary health care (PHC) training program at Mahidol University's ASEAN Institute for Health Development (AIHD) in Thailand. Along with nursing school students from that country, we followed a highly-concentrated course to see health care in the urban areas of Bangkok (including the slums), go up 4 hours by bus to the rural areas in Uthai Thani Province and stay in a village to do some epidemiology field work 'for beginners', and do a presentation at the end with our groups.

The rural area home-stay and the interviews and other interactions with the villagers totally changed how I think, and this is where PHC and community-based health care got on me. Again, I have to save another time to tell this in detail...

And last but not least, DOCS (acronym for Development of Clinical Skills), which we formed with the former participants of the Exploring Health Care program in our university to get a head start and practice clinical skills, played an important role in my life this year. We found energetic, passionate, student-caring doctors who were willing to teach us, in a university where we once felt finding those kind of mentors was devastating. Moreover, the activities led me to knowing general medicine, family medicine, and primary medical care, which then led me to Ukima Clinic, a community-based clinic up in northern Tokyo. (See post 2007/11/20.)

The more I look back at this year, the more the activities I was involved in get connected in one straight line. Compared to a year ago, I couldn't have imagined myself where I am now. This year helped me discover what my true interests are in (at least for now), and now I can much better describe the bigger picture of the doctor I have in mind for my future.

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and another great year! :-)

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