DPH’s South Health District Welcomes First Georgia Regents University Medical College of Georgia Intern

July 21, 2015

When fourth year medical students begin choosing their elective rotations, exciting subjects come to mind: surgery, neurology, emergency medicine or even cardiology. But for one Georgia Regents University (GRU) Medical College of Georgia (MCG) student, public health sounded like an interesting and challenging rotation.

Vishal Goyal selected to spend the month of July in the heat of South Georgia observing the many programs of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) South Health District. As a native of Atlanta and resident of Augusta while at GRU, Goyal was interested in seeing a more rural area of the state so he elected to be the first MCG student to officially intern with DPH in the Valdosta area.

William Grow, M.D., district health director, learned of the opportunity of hosting medical students while networking with fellow MCG affiliates. According to Dr. Grow, a syllabus was submitted to become an approved site for medical students to learn more about public health practice as an elective rotation.

“In 2013, we received that approval and were pleased when Vishal expressed interest to work with us,” said Dr. Grow.

Goyal, who already has a Master of Public Health, is rotating through public health programs, South Georgia Partnership for Health and South Georgia Medical Center’s pediatric cardiology unit.

“I am interested in Family Medicine,” says Goyal. “I also have a particular interest in public health. I wanted a more practical experience outside of the academic setting.”

“I was able to work with Dr. Harold Katner, an infectious disease physician from Macon, through the Adult Health Promotion Clinic,” Goyal stated with enthusiasm. “That was a wonderful opportunity for me. He is very inspiring.”

During Goyal’s observation time at the South Georgia Partnership for Health, he mentions seeing one patient with Dr. Berl that had six comorbidities and couldn’t afford the medications to treat each.

“We had to come up with an alternative plan in that case, looking at options like the $4 medications available at drug stores and other community resources. You don’t have much exposure to these types of situations in the academic setting,” says Goyal.

“The cases that I have seen in public health are much more complex than the majority you see in private practice. Transportation is also a major issue,” he continued.  “I realize through this work, I will have to be creative in taking care of patients in the real world. I won’t always be able to give the textbook answer.”

Goyal is also gaining exposure to procedures that could help in his own practice one day. Through his work with Vital Records at Lowndes County Health Department, he better understands procedures that could benefit his own patients.

“If I have someone come through my practice one day that would need a Low THC Oil Registry identification card, I can confidently tell them how to get it and other stipulations that come along with it,” says Goyal. “These are policies and procedures we don’t learn about in school.”

Goyal is working his way through all facets of public health: environmental programs, telemedicine, children programs and many more.

“Vishal has had the opportunity to work with public health practitioners and others that have influenced policies and procedures for helping people that might not otherwise have access to medical care,” said Dr. Grow. “The experiences he is gaining will expose him to the needs and challenges people have with medical care that he will not learn about in an academic environment.” 

Visit www.SouthHealthDistrict.com to learn more about the public health program Goyal will be exploring this summer. 

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