“The book that I read that changed the trajectory of my career was…”

Answering the prompt, but changing it a little about “If I had an influential class in high school?” And I will instead answer the prompt “Have I ever read a really influential book that is still kind of impacting what I do now?” And the book that I read that changed the trajectory of my career was Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. So it’s a book written about Dr. Paul Farmer, who is a global health doc specializing in a lot of things but primarily infectious disease, and he was one of the first people that was really advocating for people living in poverty to be treated for tuberculosis, which historically had been really challenging because it’s a super long treatment regimen, you know, 12 months to 18 months at least when the book was written, and the drugs are really expensive. They’re often very toxic, so they’re chemotherapeutics. They’re – in addition to curing you of tuberculosis, they might also make you deaf or blind. So just really gnarly drugs that need to be taken regularly. And if they aren’t, it can cause tuberculosis to become resistant to those medications which is hugely detrimental to society. So we’ve already seen multi-drug resistant and extremely drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis, and as much as we can keep that from happening, the better. Just it gets so much harder to treat and more expensive. So, but the purpose of the book was sort of describing Paul’s approach to treating folks and how he was not satisfied with the answer at the time, I think, of the World Health Organization, which is basically it’s too expensive to treat people for tuberculosis in like these certain areas of the world. I think “It’s not cost effective” was the term, and he really pushed back against that. And at the time I was considering maybe going to med school and it’s kind of counterintuitive ’cause I read this book about this physician doing something I feel really powerfully about, and it made me not want to become a physician because I think I was so focused on the fact that like he’s trying to impact these, you know, one, two, three people, this handful of people in this area, and really it’s the system that’s broken. It’s the World Health Organization saying “This isn’t cost effective,” and ultimately, you know, he’s working to prove them wrong, but I was just so much more interested in the systems-level work and that’s what drew me to public health because in a lot of ways it’s focused on that system. You can get really in the weeds, and that’s another nice thing about public health is there is no one path. There’s many, many paths and you can take multiple in your career, which I am grateful for.

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