Saturday, February 10, 2007

Health Care on the U.S.-Mexico Border

Decisions have never come easy for me. I have trouble letting go of the road not taken.

There was, however, one decision that was amazingly easy for me.

When I started college, it was my goal to become a physician. I was -- and am -- fascinated with human physiology and the brain. When you're a pre-med student, they urge you not to focus upon a specialty before you get to medical school, but I was interested in the brain. I was thinking psychiatry, but I'm betting that I would have ended up in neurology.

All was going well. I was checking things off the pre-med checksheet.

Until one day my wife was sick. A routine cold, I think. Perhaps a flu. We went to see her primary care physician.

As she was called back to see the physician, I sat there for a moment looking around the room. There were people of all shapes and sizes -- and degrees of cleanliness. They coughed, sneezed, and generally were sick.

And that it hit me.


My would-be career in medicine died that moment. And I have never looked back.

Yet sometimes I am fascinated by how the turns of life bring us back again to where we once were.

Sometime about three years after that fateful day in the waiting room, I was hired to cover education and health care for the Las Cruces Sun-News. It was now my job to explain medicine although I had no formal training in it.

I liked this job. I care about sick people. I care about making it better. I just don't want to actually touch the sick people (my friends and family are laughing as they read this).

A promotion and then a bigger circulation paper took me away from that job.

Six years or so later, I found myself in Annie Lang's lab at Indiana University studying cognitive science and performing funded research on health communication.

That scratched my brain itch.

Now a few years later I'm sitting in West Texas increasingly thinking about health communication. Texas Tech is aggressively seeking full funding for a new 4-year medical school in El Paso, which borders Mexico.

And the more that I think about it, the more that I realize how much I care about border health. Perhaps it's the old health care reporter in me.

In the TTU Health Sciences Center's institutional goals, they say, "we must position our new four-year medical school in El Paso as the national leader in border health. No other medical school in the nation is as well-positioned or ideally suited to impact border health, which is quickly becoming a health disparity issue with enormous national implication."

I left medicine behind in that waiting room more than a decade ago. Somehow, however, medicine keeps finding me.

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Blogger (Me) said...

I do hope that the medical school in El Paso eventually comes through. Besides Texas Tech, there is no other school that caters to this area of our state, an area that is sorely lacking in physicians who understand and are familiar with the area.

I will be entering medical school next fall (I am from West Texas) and I hope to go back there after training to practice, not only because of the physician shortage, but because it is my home and all friends and family are there.

Either way, thanks for the post.

6:33 PM  

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