June 25, 2017

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Medical Student Brooklyn Leitch and Her Path to Pediatrics

Growing up, Brooklyn Leitch wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career. What she did know was that she wanted to do something where she could care for children. In high school, when classmates were getting jobs at department stores or restaurants, Brooklyn spent her time babysitting. That’s what sparked the passion that would eventually lead her into the field of pediatrics. “It always felt like caring for children was what I was meant to do,” Brooklyn recalled.

With so many jobs that centered around children, there was one area that caught Brooklyn’s attention when she began school at the College of Saint Benedict. Pediatrics. “I knew I wanted to take care of children someday,” Brooklyn explained. “I figured out that the medical field was how I wanted to do that.”

Now, as a third-year medical student with the University of Minnesota, Brooklyn is gaining firsthand experience at ACMC in both Family Medicine and Pediatrics through the Rural Physician Associate (RPAP) Program.

In Willmar, she is working with Dr. Michael Nicklawsky in his Family Medicine practice which has allowed Brooklyn to see the relationships he has built with his patients. This was the motivation behind her decision to enter the RPAP program. As a native to Willmar, Brooklyn recognizes the importance of knowing the patient and the social factors that may affect their health. “I like the idea of growing relationships with my patients through the clinic that I’m working in,” Brooklyn explained. “This has always appealed to me and is such an important factor in primary care.”

Brooklyn has also spent time in the ACMC-Marshall clinic, working alongside Dr. Atul Mishra with his pediatric patients. This has given her the chance to experience both the challenges and joy of caring for children.

“Working with adults is great because they can hold a conversation with you and explain what is wrong. But there is just something about working with kids that makes it even more enjoyable,” Brooklyn said.

While working with Dr. Mishra, Brooklyn has appreciated the chance to learn from a full-time pediatrician, observing the tips and tricks that he utilizes daily. “The physical exam is more difficult in children,” Brooklyn explained. “It’s nice to be able to see how he does this and then being able to incorporate my own style. Dr. Mishra likes to explain things to his patients during exams and I am learning from those interactions as well.”

As she spends time in pediatrics, Brooklyn is discovering how important the parents’ role is in the exam process. Since very little communication is available with young children, Brooklyn is learning how to leverage the parent for a more effective visit. “Dr. Mishra does a great job of easing fears that often come with seeing a doctor,” she said. “It’s great being able to figure out how you and the parent can work together to make the child comfortable. “

Brooklyn has also applied her passion for pediatrics in her Community Health Project, working with the United Way of Central Minnesota. She is developing a health care curriculum for the United Way’s Growmobile, which provides education for preschoolers and meals for children of lower income families during the summer months. Brooklyn has helped health information which she is working to build into the programs curriculum.  “I am teaching children during the school year with the hope that the lessons will continue during the summer months to reach even more children,” Brooklyn said.

Brooklyn with preceptorIn addition to her pediatrics pursuit, Brooklyn decided that she wanted to deepen her ability to interact with patients of different ethnicities. Growing up in Willmar, Brooklyn was aware of the diversity found throughout Central Minnesota and the challenges that language barriers created.

This motivated her to earn an undergraduate degree in Hispanic Studies. “I have always loved the Spanish language,” Brooklyn explained. “I knew that I would want to be able to speak with my patients directly so being proficient in Spanish has always been important to me.”

As she spends more time in health care settings, Brooklyn acknowledges the value of her Spanish aptitude. Although interpreters are required in appointments for patients who do not speak English, she can utilize her abilities to communicate with patients.

Brooklyn plans to build upon her Spanish abilities with a medical rotation in Costa Rica next year to emerge herself in medical Spanish. “I realize now that knowing Spanish and knowing medical Spanish are two very different things,” she joked. Ultimately, Brooklyn hopes that her proficiency will allow her to participate in international service trips later in her career.

With just one year left of medical school, Brooklyn is excited to move into residency and decide what path her career will take. “For pediatrics I will have a three-year residency and then I can specialize through a fellowship but I haven’t decided,” she explained. “I like the mix of clinic, but I also like inpatient care so I will just see where my residency brings me.”