I can’t help but wonder …
Every day I find myself driving against traffic to get to work. I am the kind of person that generally always worries about making it to work on time, so I tend to leave my home a few minutes early. Even at these early hours, I can already see a line of cars trying to merge on to the highway going the opposite direction as me. My lanes are mostly clear, with a few cars on the road going in the same direction as me, accompanying me away from the heart of the city.
Every day I drive to a new community clinic in San Diego County. As a community medicine fellow, I have the privilege to work for several health care organizations. The majority of my clinic sites are Federally Qualified Health Centers located in the most underserved areas of my county. My 15 to 20-minute drive transforms the city. I leave my neighborhood and pass a mall, a golf course and several shopping and restaurant venues before jumping onto a few highways and exiting onto worlds where the city bus or walking are the only transportation to work, where the homeless and otherwise hungry search for food in dumpsters and empty soda cans on the street they can sell for money, where a shopping cart is versatile in its use as a closet or a pantry.
Every day I wonder where the opposite side of traffic is going. Do these individuals have stable jobs and work in a corner office on the 10th floor of an executive building with a view? Or are they the custodian that we all appreciate but never seem to recognize because of our busy lives? Do they have children that have everything they need except for maybe college funds (since that is the hope someday)? Or do they have children that are hungry every day because the household income has to go directly to past due bills (because they electricity company has already turned off the lights)? Who are they? Why are they going in the opposite direction as me this morning?
Every day I hope I can bring something positive to the clinic I work at. That “something positive” can be a breakthrough or improvement on a health condition with a patient, it can be getting someone approved for a program where they have access to something that helps their health, it can be helping the clinic with patient access or clinic flow…it can be anything! There never is never too much good that can come to a community clinic. Resources are usually scant, and patients are plentiful. You would think with the way traffic was each morning that all of the population in this area would be gone! But no, they certainly always come to the clinic hoping someone can help them with something.
Every day I finish my clinic day exhausted. I go through a rollercoaster of emotions at my community clinics. Stress from how many things I cannot solve. Happiness from so many things I can help with. Sadness from the things some of my patients have endured in life. Excitement from realizing all the good people there are in the world helping care for others that need it most.
Every day I go home happy to have spent my day at the other end of the city because of the people I meet and the stories I am privileged to hear. Every day I go home proud to have done everything in my power to help those that otherwise might not have access to health care. Every day I am hopeful that others will reach out to their community clinics, community organizations or community leaders to volunteer or give back so that we can all do our part to make our world a healthier place for everyone.
… Who is left at the other end of the city?
Avelina Sandoval is a family physician.
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