Health, individually and for communities small and large, is the product of social determinants and physiology interacting. In medical school, we learn about how the body works (and about how it doesn’t) and give consideration to how social context influences health and disease. My aim in E-IPER was to develop a method for thinking about how the patient in front of me is influenced by the immediate and larger world, knowing that meaningfully intervening in the issues which most influence health necessitates interdisciplinary collaboration. In my view, Stanford’s interdisciplinary culture is made possible by the close proximity of each school and department on campus. E-IPER is literally across the street from the medical school. And thus to spend a year focused on developing an approach to interdisciplinary collaboration was one of the most valuable benefits of my experience at Stanford. E-IPER provided a flexible framework for pursuing this and an opportunity to participate in classes and projects that I never would have otherwise had the time to be part of.
I followed a health track but didn’t limit myself to health only classes. There is “health in everything” and thus I tried to gain awareness of how other disciplines approach the problems that influence individual and societal health, while at the same time looking at the specific health angle of the question in front of me. For example, I took a class with Chris Field one of the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report. I was part of a Civil and Environmental Engineering course with Michael Lepech that performed a Life Cycle Analysis on the construction of a hospital water system in Rwanda. And, I participated in a seminar at the Law School with Paul Brest on how to use Social Impact Bonds to reduce hospital readmissions for patients with mental illness, and another with Roz Naylor on global food security. For my Capstone Project, I developed a model with Steve Luby as my mentor to assess how degrees of temperature change may influence nutrition of children in East Africa, using a meta-analysis of studies from the Climate Change and Pediatric literature. E-IPER provided a foundation for learning how to think collaboratively which as a physician I’ll employ towards improving patient and public health.