Young Professionals Spotlight: Fatuma Rinderknecht
“I hope to improve access to healthcare in lower income communities..”
1. Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Davis, California, which is a small suburb outside of Sacramento. I ended up going to Harvard for undergrad where I studied Human Evolutionary Biology with a minor in Global Health and Health Policy. After college, I moved back out to California, and am doing medical research at UCSF while applying to medical school. I am really interested in looking at health disparities, especially in relation to race and gender.
2. Why did you choose to study medicine?
There were many things that affected my decision to go into medicine. As a Human Evolutionary Biology major in college, I became so fascinated learning about how the human body evolved over time in order to carry out really specific and detailed functions- it made me want to better understand how our bodies work. I also realized that there was more to being a doctor than just the academic aspect of medicine. I had the opportunity to shadow doctors in a community clinic in college, and found that the ability to interact with patients and make them feel comfortable was just as important as being able to diagnose and treat them. I recognized that a career in medicine meant not only being able to constantly study and learn about the body, but also being able to connect with people and put them at ease, which made it a really attractive career path to pursue.
3. What are the biggest issues facing the medicine and health in the coming years?
I think that some of the biggest issues we will see in medicine will come down to inequities in the healthcare different populations are receiving. With the progression of medicine and technology often comes the improvement in medical treatment. However, it is often the case that certain populations benefit from these improvements more than others, leading to an increase in healthcare disparities often along racial and socioeconomic lines. I think it is really important for professionals in the medical and public health field to keep this in mind and work to make sure treatments are equally available and distributed.
4. What does this generation need to do to help? Even if you’re not interested in medicine or health, how can you get involved in efforts to minimize health disparities?
I think the best way to help a cause is volunteering and donating your time or services. There are a lot of resources online for people to find places to volunteer, and an abundance of organizations that are looking for volunteers. However, I think it is realistic to understand that volunteering is not a possibility for everyone. Something that I have seen a lot of lately- and something I think people in our generation are particularly good at- is sharing information, especially through social media and other outlets. There are a lot of issues, especially when it comes to health disparities, that don’t get much attention simply because most of the public doesn’t even know about them. One of the reasons I started my own blog, Healing Points, was to bring to light issues in public health that aren’t focused on in the mainstream news. Whatever topics you are passionate about, whether it be health disparities or something else- there are so many resources and opportunities for people to educate themselves and share that information with others. A lot of times garnering attention and support for a cause is half the battle.
5. What makes you feel the most confident about your future?
I think that something that makes me confident and excited about my future is seeing all the work that other physicians and health advocates are already doing in terms of relieving healthcare inequalities. I think that armed with the knowledge and experience I already have working in the healthcare setting, I feel confident that I will also be able to make similar changes and progress in the field once I become a doctor.
6. What kind of impact will you like to have on the world?
Firstly, I hope that I can act as a mentor, and help other young women and women of color break into the medical and health field and do work that they are passionate about. I have had some absolutely wonderful mentors along the way that have helped me continue to pursue a career in this field, and I hope to return the favor. I think mentorship can be especially important for students who may not see very many people in the medical field that look like them. Later on in my career as a physician, I hope to improve access to healthcare in lower income communities. I want to work to inform communities on the resources that are available as well as how to acquire those resources. At the same time, I hope to work with public health officials and policy makers to improve the amount and quality of healthcare resources available.