By: Alexa Hirschberg
Last year, I took my studies across the pond to pursue the Health and Society program at King’s College of London. This module integrated seminars and clinical shadowing, allowing for students, like myself, to take our education beyond the textbook and further put studies to practice. As I developed an awareness of the patient experience and that of the healthcare practitioner from a scientific, scholastic and professional perspective, I also cultivated a holistic understanding of healthcare in the United Kingdom.
Although focused on healthcare, this course was interdisciplinary by nature, as lectures were led by academics from various backgrounds and specialties. Topics ranged from ethical reasoning and confidentiality to communication skills and role-playing scenarios. History and law were discussed as we took a journey through the National Health Service from its origins to how it currently functions on the ground in daily life. We visited the National Gallery, and learned about visual thinking as an important part of patient-provider communication. We honed our observational skills by interpreting art to understand narratives and engage with the social contexts of each piece. This exercise was then carried out into our clinical practices.
Clinical placement was also varied; I shadowed professionals in a general practice, a sexual health center, and an osteopathic manipulative treatment office. As a practitioner of alternative medicine in my own life, I found it particularly interesting to see how osteopathy is integrated into the British healthcare system such that existing social and political structures encourage patients to support these forms of treatment. Patients also felt at liberty to see their physicians more frequently, as they did not have the financial burdens with which United States citizens are charged. The Health and Society program inspired me to look more closely into the ways in which social structures influence individuals’ and societies’ experiences of health, illness and wellness.
Upon returning to Emory, I felt driven to extend my experience and keep working in the field of healthcare while finishing my studies in Human Health and Health Innovation, a program based on a collaboration between CSHH and Goizueta Business School aiming to train students to pursue careers in business and health. To satisfy this craving, I began working for locateyourcare, a digital health startup based in Atlanta. Through this experience, I was exposed to a different demographic than that of my study abroad experience, which challenged me to further expand my knowledge and skill set.
I started attending regional conferences and local events in the field of health technology and was introduced to the growing healthcare startup ecosystem in Atlanta. By May, my part-time job turned into a full-time opportunity for the summer. I spent the past several months down south engaging with the startup community and expanding my professional network. As I prepare to graduate, I look forward to new experiences that meet at the intersection of my academic and professional passions.