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2023 LMS Essay Contest: Resident Category 1st Place

To Care for the Patient
By Andrew Williams, MO, MS

Dr. Andrew D. Williams is a physician resident in the Department of Neurology at The University of Kentucky – Albert B Chandler Hospital and College of Medicine. Dr. Williams went to Hampton University (an HBCU) for both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree, before completing medical school at Ohio University – The State’s Osteopathic Medical School. He is married to the love of his life, Mrs. Aliah Williams and is passionate about personalized medicine and giving back to the community.

For the majority of my life, I lived with an economic disadvantage. My family struggled as we had to live, for the most part, without a paycheck. I remember eating ketchup sandwiches because we could not afford the meat to put between the bread. I remember going to school during the cold winter months and being ridiculed because my hand-me-down clothes were ill fitted. I remember sharing a sofa with my mother and my brother and a bathroom with ten other relatives in one house. Most people might view these situations as roadblocks to becoming a physician. Actually, it is this background that afforded me a necessary connection to the greatest problem facing patients today. Does my physician care for me as a person? As the old adage goes, nobody cares how much the medical community knows, until they know how much the medical community cares.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that, “some African American people or Latino people are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than people in other racial groups due to lack of trust as a result of past medical racism and experimentation.” It is apparent that regardless of the level of expert knowledge presented to patients, numerous populations will go without the healthcare they need due to the lack of expert level personalized care. Various studies have highlighted that patients who are treated by physicians who come from similar backgrounds to them experience greater overall health outcomes. I posit, this is, in part, secondary to commonality between provider and patient. For many people, it’s difficult to care for something with which you have no connection. Because of my challenged background, I am provided a unique opportunity to connect and care for the hurting in a compassionate way.

So, progressing through medicine means more to me than just acquiring three degrees. It means being a social change agent, it means being an advocate for more minority representation in the field of medicine, it means being a Black doctor in a white coat. As a physician, it means becoming involved with the creation of certain healthcare standards and guidelines for our health institutions in order to allocate resources to individuals who have little, so that they may receive top quality healthcare. In addition, it means working with after-school community centers geared towards underprivileged youth in the community, offering them a safe haven after school while simultaneously preparing them to become competitive college applicants. As a physician, I am positioned to be a role model to so many students seeking a career in medicine. I will have the chance to tell those coming behind me that there is not only a demand for diversity in the field of medicine, but a demand for excellency of knowledge, excellency in the delivery of healthcare, and most importantly, excellency in the way we care for all patients.

So, there you have it. The most important issue in medicine today remains the most important issue facing medicine yesterday; have we as physicians uncovered and embraced the greatest scientific feat of them all? That is, the true art of caring for the patient is to indeed care for the patient. And here, in the commonwealth of Kentucky, our answer is yes, because here, being a physician just means more.