The moment I realized health care was rigged — and when I decided to help fix it
My interest in health care started at a young age, having grown up continually inspired by the medical professionals in my family. Learning from their stories, I thought I was quite well-versed on how the health care industry functions. As I grew older and sought my own health care experiences through various volunteering and research opportunities, I realized that the state of health care was not as picture-perfect as I had always envisioned.
While working at a local hospital and rehabilitation center during my senior year of high school, I would interact with patients who came from all paths of life with various medical issues. Whether I was refilling their water jug or teaching the game of bingo, I’d hear them reflect on their experiences, many of which leading to a common theme: Too often, health care services were inaccessible or unaffordable for them. At a time when the sole focus should have been their health, many were under enormous stress thinking about where that next payment would come from. It was extremely disheartening to know that when people needed assistance the most, America’s health care system was failing them.
The system is broken and rigged in favor of only those who can afford health care services.
As I compared other patients’ hardships with my own medical encounters, the care and resource disparities I noticed were alarming and uncomfortable. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had to be rushed to a hospital for an emergency surgery. In the middle of the night, I had access to medical personnel, x-ray imaging, and a fully functioning operating room. Amidst my immense gratitude for the care I received, I was also made aware of my blatant privilege, because not everyone can say the same about a visit to the hospital. It was during a conversation I had with my aunt while in recovery where she told me how fortunate I am to live in the area I do, and be able to access immediate medical services. In other cities in America and other countries, you might have to wait days for a medical consultation. The reality became quite clear in that we live in an era where individuals struggle to attain life-saving medications and procedures, let alone preventive health services. The system is broken and rigged in favor of only those who can afford health care services.
I made it a point as I entered college to pursue work that would lead to the betterment of health care, a mindset which stems from my own experiences within the system. It was important to me that I gain a well rounded understanding of such a multifaceted industry, so that when the time comes, I can make a meaningful impact. As I embark on my senior year of college, I’m grateful to be receiving an education in economics and public health, both of which I am using to enhance my grasp on health care in America.
Identifying and acknowledging one’s privilege is the first step in being able to truly understand the complexity of America’s health care dynamics.
It’s been through my studies and past interactions within health care that have highlighted how identifying and acknowledging one’s privilege is the first step in being able to truly understand the complexity of America’s health care dynamics. With the right tools and education, that awareness can turn into action that will make health care more equitable.
Through interning with both the Lown Institute and Right Care Alliance, I’m able to see firsthand that even with different approaches, there is a common goal in fostering a better health care system. Whether it’s assisting with the Lown Institute Hospitals Index– a first of its kind ranking system for U.S. hospitals– or the Right Care Alliance’s house parties, which connect local individuals to discuss prevalent health care topics, I’m extremely excited to do tangible work that will enhance health care for all.