Reflections from California

Each summer, Kaiser Permanente invites selected rising second-year medical students from across the country to visit the Bay Area of Northern California to experience the company’s integrated health care system. Christine Rizkala, a second-year NEOMED College of Medicine student, reflects here on her participation in Kaiser’s Introduction to Integrated Healthcare (IIHC) Program.

For four weeks over the summer, I had the opportunity to shadow different medical specialties and attend weekly didactic sessions that focused on preventative care, culturally sensitive care, and teamwork in medicine. I also learned about the many residency and fellowship programs offered through Kaiser Permanente.

I applied to the IIHC Program mainly because of its focus on population-based health care. I strongly believe in the importance of cultural humility in medicine, and I am especially passionate and involved in improving Latino health. It was amazing to see how this message was genuinely reflected in Kaiser Permanente’s facilities.

I met so many diverse physicians and nurses who brought their own unique backgrounds to patient care and who really had an understanding of their patient populations. Health information was translated in Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and many other languages, depending on where certain sites were located. Translator services were always available.

I even had the unique opportunity to shadow at the Gender Pathways Clinic in San Francisco, specifically providing care for transgender and LGBTQIA+ patients. Knowing that there is a health care system that encourages action towards culturally sensitive care reassures me about where medical care is headed. With a rapidly diversifying population, we need to be aware of these gaps in our healthcare system and work towards providing quality patient care now and in the future.

I hope to share the lessons I learned not only on our NEOMED campus, but in my future practice.

I am so grateful for my time with Kaiser Permanente. I walked away learning a little more about myself and my interests in medicine. I gained some confidence in my interviewing and suturing skills, and I feel more prepared for third- and fourth-year rotations.

The physicians I shadowed were so welcoming and eager to teach, and they gave me great advice that I will carry with me in the years to come. Just as inspiring as the staff at Kaiser Permanente were the medical students who joined me in this program. They all showed so much strength in their journeys through medical school, and there was a shared passion for serving underrepresented and underserved patient populations.

It was a warm, comforting environment in those four weeks where we could share our feelings, thoughts and ideas. I feel so honored and humbled to have shared this experience with this group, and know I have another source of support for the challenges ahead. I hope to find myself at Kaiser Permanente again!


—Christine Rizkala, a second-year College of Medicine student contributed this reflection.

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