Alumna Serves with AmeriCorps in Arizona, Named Primary Care Physician Scholar
June 18, 2020 – Aileen Lee (NHS’16), who majored in international health (now called global health), has been awarded a Primary Care Physician Scholarship to attend the University of Arizona College of Medicine at Tucson.
After medical school, in exchange for the full-tuition scholarship, Lee has committed to practicing primary care medicine in a rural or underserved area of Arizona.
“I don’t see this service requirement as an obligation, but rather, the reason why I chose to enter medicine,” she said. “I am really looking forward to making an impact on my patients’ lives and in their communities.”
For about a year, Lee has been in Willcox, Arizona, a small town of approximately 3,500 people, working at the Northern Cochise Community Hospital as part of her service with AmeriCorps as an Alliance VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America).
“In this community outreach role, I have expanded a naloxone training program, established the framework to implement a high evidence based fall prevention program and co-taught a healthy lifestyle class to guide the elderly in chronic disease management,” she said.
Additionally, because of COVID-19, the local senior center closed. Lee has created an opportunity for local youth to volunteer to call senior citizens weekly to ensure social connectivity.
“Each week, the youth are given a different set of questions to ask seniors about their life,” she said. “I thought this program would be equally beneficial to youth and teach them verbal communication skills and what it means to be service-oriented.”
Lee said her Georgetown undergraduate education, including her research practicum in Ghana, gave her a solid foundation upon which to do her current job.
The major “prepared me for this rural health community service role by instilling my curiosity and appreciation for people who come from different cultures and equipping me with the tools to address health disparity,” she said.
“The rewarding sense of community I felt [while in Ghana] sparked my interest in rural health, and I began to wonder about the health disparities that existed for rural communities in the United States,” Lee added.
While participating in the Cochise Addiction Recovery Partnership, an effort through which various stakeholders in the county gather “to discuss strategies to address the opioid crisis,” Lee has helped towns with assessment activities.
“These same exercises are ones I did in my classes,” she noted.
When she is not working, Lee plays the violin at weekly Mass at a Catholic Church in the area. “I have even been invited to play at a senior center member’s granddaughter’s wedding,” she said.
As for next steps, Lee’s time in Willcox has informed her outlook. “I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact primary care physicians can have in rural communities and understand the severity of the primary care physician shortage in the Southwest,” she said.
“These health disparities are more than statistics for me – they are a daily reality for my neighbors, co-workers, and friends,” Lee said. “I aspire to become a family medicine physician thought leader and envision dedicating my career to practicing medicine in underserved areas, contributing to health policy regarding the recruitment of medical students to the primary care field, and evolving the health care system as a whole through health disparities research.”