June 21, 2021
By Lisa Ryan
Can you tell me a little bit about your life before medical school?
I grew up in Port Au Prince, Haiti. I was raised by my maternal grandmother while my parents completed medical residency here in the U.S. My mom practiced pediatrics and my father was an OBGYN doctor. My life in Haiti was quite simple. I attended a catholic school taught by very strict nuns. In Haiti, one does not write their homework on paper or in a book to turn in. We were expected to memorize the answers and recite them when called upon. I went to school, came home, played with my siblings and cousins who were also being raised by my grandmother, memorized the lessons for the next day, and went to bed. We did not have a TV, radio, or any electronics. We did not have a phone, let alone cell phones. Life was simple. We played outside until it was dark, then we went to bed.
When I came to the U.S.in the ‘80s, I did not speak English. To continue my studies, I had to enroll in a school where I could learn English as a second language. I attended the United Nations International School in New York City. In the U.S. I was introduced to the many distractions we all enjoy today, but my mother was very strict; we were not allowed to watch TV unless it was Jeopardy.
What made you decide to go to medical school?
I came to the U.S. in 1981 when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Haiti, being the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, was ill-equipped to treat any type of cancer. My grandmother sought treatment in the U.S., but her cancer was quite advanced by the time of diagnosis, and she succumbed to her malignancy within 2 years. I remember her cries begging her deceased mom to come relieve her of the excruciating pain from her bone metastases. I remember well how the medications paralyzed her emotionally and physically. I was 12 years old. It was heart wrenching to see the woman who raised me lose her mobility and experience so much pain. On my 12th birthday, two months before she passed away in my homeland, I promised my grandmother that although I was too young to help her, I would try really hard to help others.
I attended Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. I completed my residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania before starting my career in Primary Care Internal Medicine. I chose this field because I knew it would allow me to build relationships with my patients; I help them to navigate their health and well-being, and any illness that befalls them.
How did you end up at Drexel, and what do you like about working here?
After completing my residency at Penn, I was offered many employment opportunities, but chose Drexel because I knew I would like the family atmosphere here. I also knew I wanted to teach and have a practice. Drexel gave me the flexibility I needed as a young mom to teach, practice, and be a wife and parent. It was the best opportunity for me, and 21 years later, I remain at Drexel. I have amazing colleagues, an awesome patient base that has grown with me, and I continue to teach students who are eager to learn and grow as young physicians.
What is your communication style with patients? What can patients expect from an appointment with you?
I believe in teamwork. My job is to inform and guide, but I cannot be with my patients 24/7, so I do expect that my patients will also do their part to eat healthy, exercise, take their medications, do their preventative procedures like their mammogram, PAP smear, colonoscopy, DEXA scan etc. I am kind but direct. I will always let you know what I think is wrong and how I think we can tackle any disease process we uncover. I am by my patients' sides when they have to endure the worst diagnoses. I get to know their support systems so that we can work as a team to help them stay healthy and overcome obstacles.
At an appointment with me, patients can expect that we will get to know each other well very quickly. We will work together to achieve shared goals. Patients will get prompt responses to their calls or messages, and they will know their lab results within 24 hours of those being drawn. They will see that the providers and staff make a great team, and that we welcome them into our internal medicine family. Our goal is for every patient to appreciate that we know who they are, and we care about their well-being!
Outside of work, how do you like to spend your time?
I love walking with my mini poodle who is now 7. I enjoy watching sports and HGTV, watching Hallmark movies, and reading books. Mostly, I enjoy spending time with my two sons, who are now in college, and my husband who I have known for 30 years.