Akilah Hyrams plans to get to know her patients in order to help heal their whole selves
January 5, 2023
Fourth-year medical student Akilah Hyrams isn’t a doctor quite yet. Once she does start practicing, she’ll no doubt have a long line of willing patients following her recent appearance on “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast.” Listen here. Hyrams, a former Young Adult Volunteer and the daughter of a Presbyterian pastor, enters the conversation with hosts Simon Doong and the Rev. Lee Catoe at 27:25.
Hyrams was asked two questions: What’s it like working in the medical and health field as a person of faith? How does your faith inform the work you do and your perspective on the nation’s health-care system?
“I’m going to get sappy,” she told the hosts, “but you’re working with God’s creations. You’re entrusted with their health and well-being. It’s super humbling and a privilege to be called into the health field,” because “it’s God working through you to help people and heal people. To be honest, that’s kind of rough. You are there for people’s worst days as well as their best days. They can ask you super hard questions, like ‘Why is this happening to me?’ and ‘What did I do wrong?’”
“As humans, we don’t like not knowing stuff,” Hyrams said. “It’s hard sometimes to trust that things are going the way they’re supposed to go. It may not be the way I wanted it to go, but it’s God’s will, and so we roll with it. It’s rewarding but difficult at times.”
She urged listeners considering a course of study to take a look at a career in health. “Please consider it,” she said. “You don’t have to go to seminary to be a faithful leader.”
As an adherent to the Golden Rule, Hyrams said she treats every patient she’s seen during her medical training with respect, kindness and dignity, “even if I don’t necessarily get that in return. I try to take care of not just the body, but the mind and the spirit too.”
She said she spends a few minutes during each appointment trying “to connect with the patient. I try to understand who they are, what they believe in, and what their health goals are and their life goals in general. What are their physical and socio-economic and systemic barriers? It could be their faith or trauma from the past that’s causing a barrier, or familial or romantic relationships.”
Hyrams plans to practice family medicine. “I will work with your general health and well-being, a unique position where I can address people’s barriers to health,” she said. “But some things I can’t address, and that leads me to the second part of your question.”
“A lot of us aren’t satisfied with the current system, me included. The current system values money over human life, and I’m not OK with that. We have a huge health disparity problem. I’m supposed to be taking care of God’s creations, but I’m in a system that values a paycheck over a human’s life.”
That level of disparity “makes me an advocate for my patients. My faith is driving my advocacy, because this is what I was called to do,” Hyrams said. “Obviously I’m not alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people who want to see change.” As a physician, “I’ll be in a position where I can work from the inside out. By being in the system I can help change the system. … I’m not going to achieve all these goals, but I can at least start.”
Hyrams said sometimes she’s wanted to give up. “This is super hard and super depressing. How am I supposed to help? I’ve been there, and sometimes I still go there,” she told Catoe. “But I have surrounded myself with people who know what I want out of my life, and I have them to talk to when I feel that way.”
“It’s easy to feel jaded because you feel like you’re going in a circle and nothing’s changing,” she added. “But if you surround yourself with people who know your goals and can keep you accountable and inject a little hope and faith when things get a little darker, that’s what’s helped me the most.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: ‘A Matter of Faith’ podcast
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Let us pray
Dear God, as we face the future, encourage us to do so boldly with the assurance that you walk with us. Strengthen us for the tasks ahead and assure us that as you have been with us in the past, so will you be with us in every new day. Amen.
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