(May 2017) In Peru, Amy
Beeson’s uncertainty about a career in medicine fell aside while she worked in
the impoverished outskirts of Lima.
Beeson helped with after-school classes, taught children to swim, and participated
in research with tuberculosis and HIV patients with Partners in Health. By the
end of her year in South America, Beeson was certain that she wanted to work to
improve health care delivery, “particularly for the most marginalized communities.”
entered CU School of Medicine in 2012. During her third year rotations at
Denver Health, she again saw patients struggling with health care access, and
she decided she wanted another opportunity to take part in global health
delivery research before she entered residency training.
In 2015, Beeson
applied for a Doris Duke International Clinical Research Fellowship, imagining a
return to Latin America. Instead, the foundation offered a spot in KwaZulu-Natal,
lived for a year on a rural hospital compound and worked with community health
workers at a local non-governmental organization, a role that was familiar from
her time in Peru where such workers are known as promotoras.
community health workers performed home-based screening for a variety of common
illnesses and accompanied neighbors, friends and family, particularly those
with chronic and complex illnesses, to clinic. They also helped to address the
barriers that families face, such as the fear of stigma, and educated patients
about disease prevention and treatment.
“It’s a model I really love,” said Beeson, 28,
who received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Harvard College in
2010. “I think we ask far too much of
people with chronic diseases. To get to clinic in South Africa, some walk all
day, in some cases maybe tens of kilometers. They spend whole days waiting in
line. Sometimes they’re told to wait in a separate line if they have HIV. In
contrast, community health workers knock on the door and offer a listening ear,
essential preventive care, and accompaniment.”
witnessed cases of patients with advanced disease that she knew could have been
prevented with earlier interventions.
a patient-centered approach, you hope to reach people earlier and prevent that
nadir. To me, that’s the best kind of medicine.”
witnessed the power of antiretroviral and anti-tuberculosis medicines to
reverse the course of a disease.
to see people getting better over days, weeks, and months.”
pulled to return to South Africa, where she found mentors who have worked with
the community for decades. “They are just incredibly resilient and dedicated
and have a very broad base of skills. They’re a great inspiration.”
wherever I’ve been last is where I want to go back and work,” she says with a
laugh. “I’m not certain where I’ll end up in the long term.”
The next few
years are settled. Beeson, a Gold Humanism inductee and 2016 recipient of the
St. Geme Medical Student Award for Outstanding Research in Pediatrics, will
serve her residency in the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Combined
Internal Medicine-Pediatric Residency Program.
“I was one
of those people who liked everything in third year. But I am hopeful that med-peds
training will be good preparation to work in low-resource setting, whether in
the Southwest (U.S.) or internationally. Ideally, I would like to partner with
communities to provide primary care for children and adults living with HIV and
other chronic diseases.”