How One Haitian-American Fulfilled Her Quest To Give Back To Haiti, Part II
Los Angeles resident Trisha Therese was born in New York, and is currently going through medical school. As her Haiti-born parents brought her up in the Empire State, they taught her French and Creole, and exposed her to Haitian culture and traditions. Trisha Therese has made it a point to use her skills as a medical student to help some of Haiti’s population. Here’s the story of how she went about doing that…but first, let’s get a feel for her background!
Kreyolicious: When did you first become aware of the need to serve?
Trisha Therese: From a young age, my parents made me very aware of the fact that there are less fortunate people all around the world, including Haiti. When I was younger they encouraged me to help sort my unused clothes and toys for donations and as I got older, they taught me the importance of service and giving back to my community. They led by example by being generous with their resources and time to causes that were important to them. The older I got, the more I wanted to find impactful ways to make a difference in my community.
Whether it was volunteering through my church, or creating my own opportunity to give back, for me it was never a question of whether I wanted to serve. It was more of an issue of trying to find a way to combine my unique interests and strengths to give back, and I have done so in various ways over the years. For instance, growing up, I was on a nationally ranked competitive cheerleading team (actually within the Top 3 in the country) and in college, I used my cheer experience to volunteer as a coach for a failing high school in Boston. To some it doesn’t seem like much, but to the girls I coached, they had a team they were proud of and they had an opportunity to have a safe and fun place to go after school ended. I used my strengths in math and science to tutor local high school students. And even now, I use my blog as a platform to mentor aspiring medical students who need help navigating the medical admissions process.
Professionally, my focus is on serving urban under-served and minority communities domestically and abroad (primarily in Haiti). I am at a medical school that has this exact mission and and it has been amazing to have classmates and advisors who are just as dedicated to this cause and the need to serve as I am.
Kreyolicious: What inspired you to become a doctor?
Trisha Therese: There are so many factors and experiences that influenced my decision to go into medicine and become a doctor. But for the sake of time I’ll list three: one, my mother who is a nurse; two, my pediatrician, and three, my global health experiences in Haiti.
When I was a child, my mom went back to school to advance her nursing degree. She always used to play her audio lectures everywhere including in the car and around the house. After listening to them for a while, I started to remember the facts the professor would teach. The material was always interesting to me especially the maternal and pediatric lectures and they helped uncover my initial interest in science and medicine. One day after listening to lectures, I told my mom that I thought I could do well in nursing school and told me that I was smart enough to be a doctor if I wanted to, and I haven’t looked back since. On days that she couldn’t find a babysitter, I would go with her to her job at the nursing home. I was supposed to sit in the break room and be quiet, but I’d some how end up roaming the halls. Sometimes I’d go to the lobby and play piano for the residents, or I’d visit my favorite patients in their room. On rare occasions I would follow my mom as she walked the halls of the nursing home. She remembered everything about all of her patients and they’d often tell me she was their favorite nurse. Even the patients’ families were always so delighted to see her. My mom is an example of someone who goes above and beyond for her patients and as a future healthcare professional, I’m so glad I got to witness this firsthand as a child.
In addition to my experiences in the nursing home, I also loved visiting my pediatrician. Doctor’s visits were more than a check-up and it was like visiting a family friend. I asked so many questions and my doctor always taught me about medicine during my visits. After each visit, he would take me into his office to get a sticker and I was always in awe of his wall of diplomas and awards. I remember asking him about each one and he showed me his medical school diploma and told me that I can have one too and become a pediatrician just like him.
When I got to Harvard for college, there were so many opportunities in a variety of fields. During my freshman year, I questioned whether or not I truly wanted to go down the medical school path. My friends were getting really cool internships for fun companies like Google and Facebook and my older friends were getting job offers in exciting and lucrative industries. This was all very enticing, but after going on my first global health trip to help Haitians in rural Dominican communities, I rededicated myself to medicine. It was then that I realized my true calling to become a doctor.
Above: Trisha Theres in Los Angeles.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?
Trisha Therese: To be completely honest, I’m not really sure. I know what I want to do but I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do it yet. When I first started medical school, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my former professor Dr. Paul Farmer and focus on infectious disease in urban and global settings. However, upon arriving to medical school, I have been exposed to a new realm of health care that involves tech, innovation, and digital health. At the end of the day, I am most passionate about serving underserved communities in the U.S. in Haiti. My goal is to make healthcare more accessible, more affordable, and more efficient for this group of people.
I’m at point where I’m realizing all of my interests (tech, health, preventative medicine, infectious disease, global health, etc) are somewhat related and that it is possible to combine them. I’m not sure what path these interests are leading me towards, but I’m hoping that I can merge them to create innovative solutions for the underserved communities I’m passionate about serving. Until I figure out exactly how I want to do that, I’ll be completing my last couple of years of medical school. If you want to keep up with me and my whereabouts, feel free to follow my journey on my blog Three Thousand Miles (www.threethousandmilesblog.com) or on my instagram @threethousandmiles where I share my experiences in medical school and my adventures in Los Angeles.
There you have it folks…the story of how one Haitian-American used her skills to give back to her parents’ homeland.
[Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Trisha Therese]
This concludes PART II of the interview with Trisha Therese! CLICK HERE if you missed the first part!
And be sure to…
CLICK HERE to visit blog and website!
CLICK HERE to follow her on Instagram.