The Social Determinants of Health

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Amanda Li ’16, in office at the New York Academy of Medicine

Amanda Li has had the opportunity to live and grow up in New York, China, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New Jersey. Her interest in parasites and their interactions with our gastrointestinal tracts drove her to pursue a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton, while her experiences with Engineers Without Borders prompted her to consider a certificate in Global Health and Health Policy. She cares greatly about providing high quality and affordable healthcare for the homeless and medically under-served. Her ultimate career dream is to be a doctor. She is extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with and learn from the team at the New York Academy of Medicine, and shares some of her insights here.

With the dream of becoming a doctor, I went into my fellowship year hoping to gain new insights into the world of health and medicine. I hoped to broaden my perspectives and learn important lessons that I could take with me throughout my professional career. The New York Academy of Medicine has given me that and so much more—I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to spend the past 10 months here.

When people ask what I do at the New York Academy of Medicine, it’s always a bit difficult to give a simple answer, because every day and every week is new and different. It has been very exciting to help out with many of the projects and initiatives happening at the Academy. My role ranges from gathering data and writing issue briefs on local food procurement, to conducting background research on how we can better incorporate healthy aging into New York State’s Prevention Agenda, to helping pull together a blueprint for child wellness, to drafting grant applications, to managing some of our organization’s blog and twitter pages. Through working on all of these various projects related to health policy, I have gained a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the social determinants of health, a side of health that may not always be seen behind the walls of a hospital or clinic. It’s the side of health that acknowledges the disparities that exist in a community and works to address them. It’s the side of health that pays attention to the widespread closings of grocery stores across a city and aims to make healthy food accessible to all. It’s the side of health that invests in making our streets safer for bikers and pedestrians, regardless of age or disability. In my time at the Academy, I have learned that addressing the social determinants of health through policy and programs is a challenge, but it is a challenge that I definitely want to face as a medical school student and doctor.

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The New York Academy of Medicine

As my time at the New York Academy of Medicine comes to an end, and as an ending to this blog post, I just want to say a huge thank you to my supervisors and my co-workers. Thank you for being such great mentors and teachers. Thank you for being so supportive and making me feel like part of a team. Thank you for giving me insights that I will take with me throughout my professional journey. And of course, thank you to the Project 55 team for connecting me with the New York Academy of Medicine.

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