INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH (BETH) ROGERS (’01)
By: Camellia Mukherjee (’12)
| Beth Rogers (’01) discusses the impact of her English minor on her work as a medical doctor.
Elizabeth (Beth) Rogers, a third generation Loras graduate (Biochemistry major, English minor), has worked as a health-care professional in Latin America as well as Asia (Pakistan). She has been involved with Doctors for Global Health (DGH) since 2007. After being trained in internal medicine and pediatrics with Harvard-Associated Brigham and Women’s/Children’s Hospital Boston residency program from 2007-2011, she is currently working as a Primary Care Research Fellow at University of California, San Francisco. Beth states, “After years in medical training, I am coming back to my writing skills and creativity in thinking about new potentials for improving health.” Here, Beth reflects on her journey, during and since her Loras College days.
Camellia: Your Biochemistry major and English minor are from two vastly different fields. Could you tell us about how they complemented each other?
Beth: For me, my English classes provided an outlet for creativity and philosophical reflection amidst analytical laboratories and the rational thought required for my science coursework. I felt much more balanced when thinking about both. I have also discovered that within understanding complex scientific concepts, one must be clear in communication to share these concepts and ideas with others, and my English background has helped enormously with this.
Camellia: You volunteered for a couple of years for the Jesuits and then in Latin America before completing medical school. How have those experiences shaped your medical career since then?
Beth: Each year-long period provided a chance to slow down from the rigorous and sometimes insulated world of an academic path to shed some real-life experience on things. I think each experience has reinforced the importance of how social factors play into health as well as keeping the person and community as the central focus instead of getting lost in reductionistic medicalized parts of the whole. I am much more aware of how our social and political systems affect the health of the community, especially those who are most vulnerable and for whom our current system isn't working.
Camellia: How did a literature background help you in your medical studies and profession?
Beth: It has helped me to be a more clear communicator when discussing and writing about medical issues. Also, one of my favorite parts of literature classes was listening in class discussions to the broad range of insights that other students had after reading the exact same thing that I had. I always felt humbled by this, appreciating that my individual viewpoint was limited. I think this has taught me to stop and listen to patients and to value the importance of them telling their perspective and story, which in turn helps me to better understand their obstacles and priorities in making decisions about their health.
Camellia: You mentioned about coming back to your writing skills. What are some projects you have been working on?
Beth: In this research fellowship, the majority of my time outside of clinic is spent reading the medical literature, summarizing themes, and thinking and writing about what areas we need to learn more about and how to do that through asking the right questions. So, now nearly all of my projects in thinking about models of primary care revolve around this.
Camellia: Apart from the remarkable work you have been involved in, do you find time to catch up with your literature interests?
Beth: I love finding time to read! Spending time with a good book helps me to keep balanced, and for me it's what I look forward to in my down time. I have yet to be disappointed with the ability of literature to bring fresh perspectives and new insights.
Camellia: Considering your all-round experiences, what have been the highlights and challenges of your career?
Beth: The challenges have been the stamina required to survive the rigors of medical school and the long hours and intensity of work during residency. It is difficult to keep a balanced perspective of medicine and of people through this, and it creates a rather unbalanced, career-centric life. At the same time, the highlights have included the opportunities and opened doors through this same path—traveling abroad and learning about other cultures and systems through medicine; getting to know truly amazing people, both patients and colleagues, through the process; and now having a very versatile and hopefully fulfilling career.
Camellia: Would you like to share any advice with the current students at Loras?
Beth: Soak up the community while you're there. It is a special and nurturing place where lots of amazing people, both friends and faculty, are available for asking questions, sharing experiences, and growing.
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