Wish Upon aTeen has been partners with the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and their medical students who are working on their four year Capstone Project. One of our current students, Ashley Aller is a third-year medical student . She discovered her passion for medicine at an early age through leadership and service opportunities, and she became especially interested in how to improve the overall patient care experience for teens and young adults.
Read on to enjoy Ashley’s thoughtful insights!
Growing Up in Health Care/Growing up isn’t always easy
By Ashley Aller
Once upon a time, I was living a fairytale life. I would awaken, and my dirty clothes would magically be clean. My room was magically neat and tidy. My day was magically planned out for me. A long golden chariot would carry me and my many friends to that big brick palace filled with books and knowledge, and I’d spend the whole day there, even have lunch served to me on a plastic platter, play outside, take naps, and when the day was over, that same long golden chariot would take me home, where I would eat dinner already prepared, and I would play with my friends, and fall asleep to a bedtime story…
…and then I grew up…
Hi! My name is Ashley Aller, and I am a medical student. You might be curious to know why a medical student would be sharing her memories of childhood, but it’s because I would like to start a conversation about something of interest: transition of care from pediatric medicine to adult. It’s actually been something that has interested the medical community for some time now, and one issue that we are still working towards improving. And if there is one thing that has been emphasized in my medical education, it is the power of community involvement to bring about change. If we all work together, we can solve a great many things. Thus, I’d like to ask the community about this issue. My question is to the greater community, not just the medical community: How can we provide a smoother transition of care, and avoid the ultimate heartbreak, which is “lost to follow up” and all that we associated with that phrase? I ask all to reflect on their own experience, and think about what we could be doing better. So, let’s start a conversation, and make a difference!
I’ll start by sharing my own story. So, before I transitioned over to adult medicine, I was seeing this wonderful pediatrician. Remember the fairytale analogy? Well, if I were to continue with it, I would say she was like my fairy godmother. I had been with my pediatrician long enough for her to know my story, my struggles, and my accomplishments. She knew I was a good kid, studied hard, and that I was careful with my health. She knew how to talk to me about anything, how to prepare me for anything, and I felt comfortable going to her if I was sick, because I knew she would listen to me. I trusted her. My parents trusted her. She was an advocate for my health, and actually one of the physicians who inspired me to go into medicine.
I’m sure many have similar stories. Pediatricians are in some ways the unsung heroes of childhood. They are there when we need them, parents and kids alike. After all, when a child is sick, the first parental instinct is usually to call the doctor, and the pediatrician will council us through these anxious times. Sometimes it’s just a cold, sometimes is something more serious. Whatever it may be, we look to the physician to guide us through this time, to answer our questions, to be the calm in the storm.
My pediatrician was like that. A great doctor. And I remember the utter confusion I felt when the idea of transitioning over care to adult medicine entered into the dialogue. Silly as it might seem, that’s how I felt. Couldn’t she just stay my doctor? I just remember thinking, “uh, okay” and then ignored it, because I wasn’t going to worry about it until it was the right time to transition over.
And then, I started college. A college in a different state. It was then that I decided it was time to transition over to adult medicine. I was now paying bills, pursuing a bachelor in science, driving. My family provided me a list of doctors in the area covered by our insurance…and so, first question: what is insurance? Second question: What is Med/Peds? What is Family Medicine? What is Internal Medicine?…so many choices!!! Third question: What is HMO, PPO?…And then, a thought came to my mind: What if I didn’t like the doctor? Was I stuck with this doctor forever? Would I have to explain my story to this person over and over? Would they trust me the same way my pediatrician trusted me? Would I trust them? Could I rely on them?
…I called my parents…
And they did what they do best: calmed me down, and guided me through this new chapter. To have someone you can turn to who will help you through these moments is so important. I still look to my mother and father for guidance. Baby steps, baby steps. It’s a big world out there, and at the time I transitioned over I was moving from training wheels to a two-wheeler. Even now, I’m able to ride around on my two-wheeler (well, currently a four-wheel sedan with sensible gas mileage) because they are watching from the sidelines to help when things get a little wobbly, and prevent a fall. The same could be said for how physicians approaches patient care. I know many who do, and they are truly inspiring.
Long story short, my parents helped me navigate my way through the process (insurance, copay, signing in, verifying this, confirming that…everything). The new doctor office helped me as well. They reached out to my old doctor’s office, they walked me through the visit. My new doctor was excited to meet me. By working together, we were able to accomplish the ultimate goal: establish care with a new doctor.
So, why am I sharing with you my story? I recognize my experience might be different from others, and I would like to encourage a conversation about this subject. After all, stories are the way we pass information down from generation to generation, and where we find common ground. The point is, no matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone is a teen at some point, and health is a universal concern for all, so even though a lot of the medical literature’s focus might be on teens who happen to have chronic diseases, as it should be, especially since they are the most impacted by this change, please keep in mind that this is an issue that affects all teens. By coming together, we can make a difference for all teens!
So, let’s start the conversation today!