Megha Kalia, Team Leader
Megha was born in Indore, India and moved to the United States with her family when she was five years old. She was raised in the vibrant city of Atlanta, Georgia and grew up among a wonderful blend of Indian and American traditions that shaped her curiosity for other cultures. She attended the University of Georgia, and found a passion for working with children while conducting research on behavioral interventions for kids with autism. Megha graduated with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and minors in Spanish and Public Health. Currently, she is a second-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia and strives to combine all her passions into a future in pediatric medicine. Given the rare break from school, Megha loves to travel and gain an appreciation for diverse populations. She hopes that understanding different perspectives and customs will help her be a more empathetic and respectful physician. Megha spends most of her days studying, binging Netflix, or burning any food she attempts to make.
Emily Myers, Team Member
Emily Myers grew up in a small town in the heart of Georgia, but from a young age, she learned to appreciate the diversity of cultures and peoples that exist in this world. She obtained an undergraduate degree in Genetics at the University of Georgia, where she learned to value the similarities that unite people as much as the differences that make us unique individuals. She also gained a passion for learning about health disparities and an aspiration for pursuing a career that allows her to work to end those health disparities. Now, as a rising second-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, Emily’s passion for ending health disparities has only grown as she learns more about the inequalities that different populations face in accessing healthcare. She spends most of her time studying, volunteering as a patient advocate in the hospital, and exploring the world around her. All of her activities are fueled by coffee and an excitement to be working towards attaining her aspirations and spending the rest of her life helping people.
Sehar Ali, Team Member
Sehar was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. As a first generation college student, she obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia. She is currently a second year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia (she likes to stay true to her roots), where she spends most of her time studying next to windows so she can stare enviously at those that are not studying. Sehar loves to sing and cook, but never at the same time. She has a passion for serving others and truly believes that communication is one of the most important skills a physician can have.
Zulqar Islam, Team Member
Zulqar was born in New York City and raised in the Atlanta area, which meant he experienced the best of both worlds on the east coast. Growing up in a Bengali household, he has a love-hate relationship with rice, enjoys music playing at all times, and is addicted to spicy foods and sweet desserts flavored with mangos or coconuts. He obtained his undergraduate degree in engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he became dependent on Thai food, green tea, running, and Netflix to survive the early stages of “adulting”. He is a self-proclaimed “foodie” and shares a food blog with his friends on Instagram (they even got a repost from Yelp Atlanta!). Currently, he is a medical student at the Medical College of Georgia where he spends most of his time studying PowerPoints and mastering the art of power-napping.
A mother brings her infant to a mobile primary care clinic in a rural town outside the city of San Jose, Costa Rica. The infant is small, hot to the touch, and has flushed cheeks and labored breathing. After examining the infant, the physician tells the mother that the clinic does not have the supplies on hand to treat her infant. The doctor tells her that she needs to try to go to the nearest government-run clinic to find treatment for her child. However, the mother does not have transportation to reach the distant clinic and get the treatment her child desperately needs. What should she do?
Our health and wellbeing are not isolated to the absence or presence of disease; in fact, social determinants of health impact health outcomes just as much as biochemical, physiological, and genetic manifestations of diseases and infections. Various social factors such as socioeconomic status, distance from healthcare resources, availability of resources, and willingness of policymakers and healthcare providers to treat these communities impact the ability of communities to access healthcare. These social determinants, among many others, lead to inequities in healthcare and varying levels of wellbeing among populations.
In our training as medical students, we learn to view medical cases as cause and effect. We are taught that if we can treat the underlying disease, we will be able to help people lead healthier lives. We try to understand diseases in terms of the information that we can use scientific methods to elucidate. In a sense, we are trained to treat the disease, not the patient. But in order to effectively treat the whole person, we need to take into account their circumstances, their background, and their resources.
As seen in clinics around the world, different diseases affect certain populations disproportionately. The reasons this occurs cannot always be entirely explained by science. We can further dissect the causes of this disproportionate burden of disease by learning about broader social inequalities. But unlike learning a biochemical pathway, the best way to truly understand the social determinants of health is by experience.
Volunteering abroad allows us the opportunity to learn from our patients by observing, listening to, and undergoing their experiences, even if only for a couple weeks. Our goal is to gain perspective on what truly treating the whole person entails for not only the provider, but also the patient. As we study to heal human suffering, the global health perspective reminds us of our immense responsibility to provide compassionate care and enact sustainable change for those whose circumstances stifle them from thriving. In doing so, we can reflect back on the question, “what should our patient do?” and transform it to, “what more can we do?”