“I grew up in rural Alabama on a cattle ranch in a town of, at the time, 409 people. Living in a rural area, it's virtually impossible to access healthcare. It would be months before I could see my doctor sometimes; if I needed to see a specialist, I’d have to travel an hour and a half away to Birmingham. I realized how unfair it is that so many Americans live like that.
When I got to Princeton, I realized how infrequent conversations about rural areas are. Almost every paper about social justice or economic inequalities was always centered around urban areas. Those are important topics, but I was always a little bit frustrated. I wrote one of my JPs about rural environmental justice issues, which motivated me to start getting into policy.
Medicine is so much more than just science. The best doctors get to know their patients and get to understand the situation that's surrounding the patients and then tailor a treatment plan."Christian Pollard
At SPIA, I've taken classes across so many disciplines, and I think that gives me a much better perspective of where my future patients are coming from. This summer, I worked at a clinic in Alabama where many of the patients were undocumented immigrants or from the rehabs in the area. I found myself using a lot of what I’ve learned in my coursework, looking at the situational factors or socioeconomic determinants of health. I know what many of those are because I experienced them first-hand.
My hometown is very poor and suffers heavily from drug addiction. I've had family members living in poverty and developing addiction issues. Part of me wanted to have a life that was better than where I lived, that there was more out there for me. But now, I’d like to work in a rural area, preferably somewhere in Alabama close to home. I think that will allow me to have more impact, both in direct patient care and in being an advocate for different policies. I also hope to promote other rural students to go to college and medical school and come back and work as physicians as well.”