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Stephanie Treffert

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Experiencing the aftermath of Katrina led her to medicine and public policy.

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Stephanie Treffert

Marquette University, 2010
Medical School: University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, 2014

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

The President of the United States

What led to your interest in medicine?

Evacuating during Hurricane Katrina and being a part of the aftermath made me realize that I could cultivate an interest and have a long-term role in the health of others.

I returned to New Orleans only eight weeks after the storm. There I witnessed backed-up waiting rooms in the emergency department, unsafe public health concerns, and a universal lack of resources.

While I was tempted to stick to relief work, I began to see the long term needs

Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?

My family doctor from my hometown began to discourage me from the profession, explaining that it wasn’t as good as the "good ol’ days." But that is why I love it.

In many ways medicine is a team sport and a matter of collaboration. I am going to be held accountable by my peers, and the profession now extends far beyond the clinic.

Was there one person who stands above the others as your inspiration to go to medical school?

Jocelyn Sideco, the founder of Contemplatives in Action, truly challenged me when I was tempted to help others in an immediate way to really consider my long-term effect on my community.

While not a physician herself, she taught me a lot about the power of reflection and action. Reflection also gives me the opportunity to maintain balance and keep my priorities straight.

Through this balance of action and contemplation, I learned what it meant to be in solidarity with my community.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

I looked into all of my resources. There were people at my undergraduate university, Marquette, who really wanted me to succeed. I just needed to look for them and be willing to do the necessary work.

I was able to incorporate a lot of experiences from college that made me a unique and engaging person. For example, I founded an organization, MARDI GRAS: Making A Real Difference in the Gulf Region and Area Surrounding.

Also, I studied abroad in El Salvador as part of a service learning project, and I made a point of seeking out new knowledge through the news, books, and exciting people.

How did you balance the demands of medical school with these additional obligations and challenges?

My physical and emotional well-being have been major priorities for me. Building good lifestyle habits and priorities and maintaining them is important, even when school gets difficult.

I suffered an injury during my first year of medical school. It was distressing not to let off steam by going for a run between classes. Since then, though, I have learned how to cross-country ski and I ran my first marathon last weekend.

Medical school is the beginning of my career; I can’t pretend that my job as a physician will be any less demanding, nor do I want it to be.

What did you enjoy most about medical school?

Being surrounded by people who work hard and want to be here.

Please describe your participation in special programs such as volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.

I am a coordinator at a student-run free clinic, MEDiC and am the Region 2 Vice Chair and a member of the National Standing Committee on Legislation and Advocacy for the American Medical Association Medical Student Section.

As a clinic coordinator I meet every other Saturday to work with the medically underserved and often Spanish-speaking members of my community. I add continuity to the clinic by guiding medical students and orienting physicians to the unique needs of this population.

These types of experiences with the community make my work with the AMA-MSS even more profound.

In second semester of my second year, I organized a conference for medical students in six different states. Our theme was "Bedside to Curbside: Turning Medicine into Policy." This type of advocacy work gives me hope that these medically underserved populations will receive the care that they need.

Medical school is busy, so I choose to do things that bring me life. Working in a clinic reminds regularly why I spend so much time in the classroom. The AMA gives me a stage for voicing my concerns and working with equally passionate peers.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?

Get your applications in early!!! Beyond that, do it for the right reasons.

It is a hard career path to embark on if you are not sure that it will make you happy. Do not let logistics get in your way.

If you know you want to be a doctor, work with the financial aid department and deans from your school to make it happen. While I had no idea what I wanted to go into, or what my ideal location to practice would be, I was able to choose a school that would give me opportunities to figure out the best career path for me.

What advice would you give to medical students interested in pursuing a career track similar to yours?

I can’t wait to work in academic medicine and pursue policy. I am applying for a Master’s in Public Policy program because I want to offer a wealth of expertise.

Take advantage of your resources. Make a point of learning people’s names and following up on contacts that you make.

There is a huge role for physicians in policy to help bring change to our nation’s health care policies and the health of our nation.

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