Among the members of Einstein’s Class of 2015 who received their medical degrees on May 28 was Chelsea McGuire, whose various achievements and experiences demonstrate her commitment to social justice, using healthcare as a means for realizing her goals.
Dr. McGuire with classmate Dayle Hodge after they received their stethoscopes at the start of second yearGrowing up in Liverpool, NY, near Syracuse, Ms. McGuire’s interest in community service was imbued at an early age. Both her parents served as role models for helping others, through their volunteer work and quiet service to elderly neighbors, local charities and anyone needing a helping hand.
She became interested in medicine during high school. Although she originally planned a career as a veterinarian, a friend's encouragement to join the Doctors Without Borders email list-serve provided a "humanitarian awakening."
"All of a sudden there was this whole other world, beyond the comforts of Syracuse, in my inbox," she recalled. "There were these doctors working under the most difficult circumstances, helping people in crises, in extreme settings. I realized then that people needed more help than animals, and that I could see myself in that role, too."
While an undergraduate studying microbiology and Spanish at the University of Rochester, Ms. McGuire took part in her first international experience: studying public health in the Dominican Republic. She continued this work through a Fulbright fellowship, researching HIV prevention.
Chelsea McGuire with Rwandan medical students, with whom she conducted research while in their homeland"During my study abroad, I had the opportunity to visit one of the nation's bateyes, communities that initially served as Haitian migrant worker camps during the height of the sugarcane industry. The experience struck me deeply. It was the first time I'd been exposed to abject poverty, lack of education and the absence of healthcare on such a personal level. Before then, I had been engaged in basic science HIV vaccine research, but wanted the opportunity to explore the human and social impact of disease."
She arrived as a first-year student at Einstein in 2010, and became involved in a range of activities focused on helping the local Bronx community. She also worked to shape healthcare policy at the national level.
Even so, global health remained an interest and following first year, when the opportunity arose to go to Kenya through the Global Health Fellowship program, to take part in a community-based healthcare project, she took it.
"That experience was so fulfilling," she said. "It stemmed from a request from a small community hospital that Jill Raufman, program manager of the Global Health Center, was working with, which needed help establishing a database. Assisting with setting up a resource they wanted and needed provided a positive dynamic. It also reminded me why I was so interested in working internationally."
Renewed by her experiences in Kenya, Ms. McGuire applied to the Einstein Global Women’s Health Program, run by the department of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health. As part of the program, she traveled to Rwanda, where she worked with medical students there on a research project studying adolescent sexual and reproductive health. She and her two primary co-authors, Jean Damascene Uwizeyimana and Richard Nduwayezu, identified barriers to reaching young people with services and education.
Following her return to the United Sates, Mr. Damascene and Mr. Nduwayezu joined Ms. McGuire in presenting the work they’d done together to Einstein students and faculty at an event hosted by Einstein’s Global Health Center.
Among her many extracurricular activities as a student, Dr. McGuire joined fellow students to help shape healthcare policy at the national level"Working with international medical students toward a common goal is incredibly gratifying, with lots of reciprocal benefits," she said. “One of my proudest moments at Einstein was when Richard, Jean and I presented our work. It was amazing to watch them teaching what we had learned to the global health faculty at Einstein."
She continued, "That's how we should be doing this work—capacity-building by investing in the people in-country who will make a difference."
The type of work that most interests Ms. McGuire are initiatives aimed at developing primary care workforces and creating international partnerships. She also plans to practice clinical family medicine, remain involved in advocacy at local, national and international levels, and continue conducting research. "Research unleashes the power that creates change," she said.
Regarding her own development as a physician while at Einstein, the newly dubbed "Dr. McGuire" noted, "At Einstein, there's incredible support for students to make the most of any opportunity that speaks to their passions. If it will make you a better doctor, the faculty will bend over backwards to help you."
For her, that included devising and conducting a study that investigated the integration of mind-body medicine (MBM) into primary care.
"Through that experience I learned ways to improve patient care through MBM and also cemented my personal commitment to wellness, with meditation at the core. I've been doing meditation for over seven years, and now combine it with yoga for a daily self-care practice."
She will continue with her mind-body focus as she completes a residency in family medicine at Boston Medical Center, affiliated with Boston University School of Medicine. After that, she’ll be ready to take on the world.
Posted on: Monday, June 22, 2015