Kind and supportive classmates. Inspiring mentors. Life-changing interactions with patients. These are all facets of the Duke University medical school experience that graduating students will take with them when they move to their residency programs later this year.
Priscila Cunha of the Class of 2020 was interviewed about her favorite memories from her time at Duke and her aspirations for the future.
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Q: What inspired you to become a doctor?
A: Unlike many of my peers I did not always know I wanted to become a doctor. What first brought me to medicine was my interest in science and the wonders of the human body. At the time I was still quite young and did not yet fully understand that being a doctor involved so much more than that. As I decided to explore medicine volunteering with patients in a clinic by taking their vital signs and initial histories I realized how rewarding it is to be able to help others and to have their trust in such delicate aspects of their lives. I would say the connection I felt with patients is what really made me decided to pursue medicine.A;
Q: In what area of medicine do you hope to practice?
A: This was a bit difficult for me to choose as I enjoyed working with both adults and children in a primary care setting. The decision ultimately came to what brings me most joy, and that is working with children, so I have chosen to go into general pediatrics.
Q: What is your favorite memory from medical school at Duke?
A: It’s hard to choose among so many, but if I had to choose a clinical one it would be the birth of a child whose mother I followed in the Centering Pregnancy Program, which is group prenatal care. In this program, health appointments occur throughout pregnancy with the same providers and the same group of other pregnant women. I got to know the patients and families intimately throughout nine months of appointments; therefore, it was a magical moment to be able to not only witness the children I cared for in the womb come to this world but also be there for the families. One particularly rewarding moment was when one of my patients had a labor complication, and I was there to support her. Her partner later told me that when entering the room and seeing the sea of stranger faces he felt comforted by the fact that a familiar one, mine, was there with them.
Q: How do you hope to impact patient care and/or research in your career?
A: I’m originally from Brazil. My family and I moved here when I was 18, and my mother is not fluent in English. As a result I have accompanied her to many health appointments. Watching this once fierce and independent woman become helpless in the face of a health care system not designed for non-English speakers was what first made me realize I wanted to enter healthcare to serve the Hispanic community and non-English speakers. As I learned more about health disparities and got interested in the longitudinal aspect of primary care I knew I wanted to work in general pediatrics helping the Hispanic community with many of the challenges they face in accessing care.