Monday, April 28, 2014
Jackie Britz, a first-year student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, was one of five winners in the research category of the American College of Physicians’ Abstract Competition, held April 12 in Orlando, Fla., during the ACP’s Internal Medicine 2014 conference.
The competition, while a bit stressful at times for the West Hartford, Conn. native, reinforced her passion to bring medical care to underserved populations.
“I was a little nervous, but the judge was very interested in my research and asked a lot of questions,” Britz said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Jackie was one of just 40 students from across the country chosen to present her research, which focused on the effects of charging immigrants in England to access primary health care services. Currently, primary care is free for immigrants, but the country is considering changing that policy, as some argue it would discourage those who immigrate solely to access free health care.
“This would affect more than 1 million people,” Britz said. “The consequences would be huge.”
Britz spent about a year researching the proposal’s impact as part of her thesis project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She graduated last year with a master’s degree in public health.
After she interviewed clinicians, members of Parliament, officials with the Department of Health, and others, the implications of charging immigrants became clear to Britz. Most would delay seeking medical attention, which would lead to higher costs down the line. This would not only impact the patient, but the health care system and society as a whole.
“Jackie’s selection to the conference says a lot about her and will undoubtedly feed her enthusiasm,” said Lisa Ellis, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and OB/GYN at VCU and the governor of the state ACP chapter, which supported Jackie’s trip to the conference. “It is very impressive.”
Judges called Britz’s research “timely.” It goes beyond pointing out health care’s problems by also offering solutions. Britz cites international models, such as the London Pathway, which integrates mental, social and physical health care together for a more coordinated effort that saves money in the long run.
“Too often, when a person comes to the emergency room, just enough is done to get them out the door,” she said. “Then, they are back a few weeks later. How much better to get the whole picture right away.”
Britz’s research has implications worldwide, including in the United States, given the ongoing debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.
“A subset of the population will be denied health care if Medicaid is not expanded,” Britz said. “There’s a gap – people who are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but they don’t qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. They are caught in the middle.”
Britz, who hopes to get her research published, has come face to face with the underserved by volunteering in London, Paris, Guatemala, South Africa, Nicaragua and the United States.
“I’ve seen levels of poverty I never imagined,” she said. “I believe everyone has a fundamental right to health care.”
Britz, 25, grew up with an interest in medicine. The youngest of four, she remembers concocting homemade remedies for her three brothers whenever they were sick. Mint leaves and mustard seeds on Cheerios were some of her more tasty solutions.
“Anytime they went to the doctor, I’d be right there asking questions,” she said. “I’ve just always felt drawn to medicine.”
She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from James Madison University and, after earning her master’s, headed to the MCV Campus, primarily because of two big draws: the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program, which prepares student doctors to provide quality, compassionate care to medically underserved populations, and the school’s Honduras Outreach Medical Brigada Relief Effort (HOMBRE).
“Studying medicine is a huge commitment, but I feel pushed to do this,” said Britz, who heads to Peru this summer as part of HOMBRE. “I’m combining a lot of my passions together, and I feel so fortunate to be able to pursue them."
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