Aimee Shock, MD ‘17 Traces Passion for Global Health to Experiences at AUC
Dr. Shock is one of many AUC graduates who have completed the Global Health Elective, an immersive clerkship offered through a partnership with Danbury Hospital and the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN). Through this collaboration, students can travel to one of several different countries to experience medical care in a new environment.
For Dr. Shock, attending AUC’s medical sciences campus in Sint Maarten was the spark that enabled her to develop her growing interest in global health.
“During my time in Sint Maarten, we were able to go to the hospital there, which was basically my first experience with global medicine. I absolutely loved it,” says Dr. Shock. “I also did some service work through Community Action Day and Phi Chi [AUC’s service fraternity] with the orphanage on island, which was a very rewarding experience.”
Traveling to Zimbabwe for the Global Health elective brought a new dimension to her understanding of medicine.
“We worked in the medical wards and the pediatric wards, the emergency department, and the HIV clinic,” Dr. Shock remembers. “When you’re learning medicine without all the resources you’ve come to expect, it’s completely different. A lot of the medicine is based on taking a really good patient history and physical exam since lab testing and imaging aren’t available.”
A Cross-Cultural Approach to Medicine
Her experience in Zimbabwe inspired her to seek out similar opportunities during residency. The Medstar/Georgetown Global Health track was a perfect fit: Residents could complete several monthlong rotations at sites ranging from Thailand to Namibia or Colombia. These experiences would be complemented by regular didactics, featuring lecturers specializing in economics, epidemiology, global health and other fields.
Earlier this year, Dr. Shock traveled to Ecuador as one of her rotations in the program. After practicing tropical medicine and working the clinic in the mornings, she joined fellow residents in taking conversational and medical Spanish language classes in the afternoons.
All of her international experiences have left her with plenty of lessons that have remained invaluable long after she’s returned stateside. “Culturally, there’s a lot about the American health system that is easy to take for granted,” she says. “Going abroad to certain areas and seeing the doctors there working with so little—in areas with few social programs, extreme poverty and political instability—is just eye-opening. And yet, many doctors in resource-limited countries take the time to focus on things that are very hurried here in the United States.”
Her time abroad has emphasized the importance of the biopsychosocial model and being attuned to the social determinants of health.
“In the U.S., it’s not always common to check on the physical needs of patients as it is in other countries,” Dr. Shock says. “It’s so important to know about food and security, access to clean running water, whether a patient has a reliable job or transportation. For example, if a blood pressure medication isn’t working for a patient in the U.S., the initial response from the doctor may be to try another one. But you have to ask the patient, how often are you taking the meds? Can you pick them up reliably? And, do you fully understand what these meds are for and why you need them? I think these kinds of questions should be part of every interview.”
Dr. Shock hopes to return to Sint Maarten to complete a rotation one day. Until then, she’s putting her lessons learned into practice.
“[These experiences] have helped me to ask more questions of my patients,” says Dr. Shock. “Often, it’s easy to feel rushed to put in labs, put in imaging, but if you sit with patients, get a good history, and just talk with them, there’s always something you can learn.”
Dr. Shock recently spoke as a panelist on an AUC webinar, "Exploring the Benefits of a Global Perspective in Medicine." Watch the recording here >>
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