Write an essay where you tell us about what drives you in your pursuit of your graduate degree.

As the PrEP Coordinator in a youth health center, I supported adolescents taking Truvada as PrEP (a daily pill that prevents HIV). My role was unique in that I saw patients as regularly as their demand required. For example, for months I had a patient I would check in with daily because he was homeless and unable to take his medication to the shelter where he lived. Typically, I saw patients monthly and discussed medication adherence, sexual health concerns, and STI prevention strategies. Due to the high frequency of visits, my cultural competence working with minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, and my passion for building trusting patient relationships, patients often confided in me.

In a matter of months two young people disclosed suicidal ideation and a third expressed homicidal ideation. Regularly patients shared that they felt down or anxious. My only course of action at the time was to refer them to a medical provider, who referred to an offsite therapist. The youth rarely made these appointments leading me to feel powerless. I voiced my concern to my Medical Director; together we conducted a study focused on depression, anxiety, and adverse childhood events among my patient population. Soon there was data that reflected my experience, and as a result, a Behavioral Health Consultant was hired. I facilitated a panel presentation highlighting our study data at Philadelphia FIGHT’s AIDS Education Month Prevention Summit to shed light on the critical importance of offering mental health services to populations accessing PrEP. I tell this story because it taught me that quality healthcare is comprehensive, integrative and requires teamwork. I faced my gap in education when I was unable to easily address this gap in care. Luckily, I had a trusted mentor who supported my vision. I want to become a physician so that I will be able to create and implement systems that support comprehensive healthcare models and reflect relevant and innovative research.

Devon from Pennsylvania