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New Orleans, Louisiana
St. Thomas Community Health CenterVIEW PROFILE
Lauren Bartholomew, M.D. (MED ’14), recently completed residency and started practicing family medicine at a community health center in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Her family evacuated the city the day before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 — days before she was due to leave for college at Princeton. Raised with a consciousness for helping others, she always planned to return home to care for the underserved. She’s glad to be back in the Big Easy and is eager to make a difference in the city she loves.
“It’s a new experience to not have someone double-checking my work or looking over my shoulder. Sometimes I wonder, ‘What would my attending say?'”
My mom was very involved in volunteerism, and I participated in it with her. I enjoyed it and grew up with a love of taking care of others. I did well in science in school and have an aunt who encouraged my interest. Medicine was the perfect combination. I was about 8 years old when I told my family I wanted to be a doctor.
My family evacuated to Memphis the day before the hurricane hit. Our one-story house took in 5 to 6 feet of water. We lost everything. We’d evacuated for a few days here and there during my lifetime, but nothing bad had happened before.
The hurricane hit days before I was supposed to leave for college at Princeton. I took only a few days’ worth of clothes with me when we evacuated, so I lost everything I had planned to take to college. My parents insisted I go straight to Princeton as planned and not return home to New Orleans with them to clean up and rebuild. They couldn’t go with me to help me get set up at college, and I didn’t have any of the things I needed. My first night at Princeton, my RA took me to Target and picked out bedding and other necessities for my dorm room. Princeton was very supportive. I also benefited from the support of family members who live in the Northeast.
Growing up, I didn’t know much about Mayo Clinic. After Hurricane Katrina, my parents moved to Rochester, Minnesota, for my dad’s job with IBM. During college at Princeton, I reached out to the Princeton alumni network to find out who I could shadow in medicine. Dr. Daniel Broughton (PD ’78), a Mayo Clinic pediatrician, and Dr. Thomas Mangan (GI ’84), a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, invited me to spend time with them and their colleagues in Rochester, Minnesota, for a summer. I also participated in Mayo’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship during a subsequent summer. Both of those experiences introduced me to Mayo Clinic and its medical school.
I had a very positive experience. Teachers were very hands-on, and the class size was small. I loved our selectives. I did half of my third-year rotations on the Arizona and Florida campuses, which were great experiences. Having Mayo Clinic on my CV means I received world-class medical training and got my foundation at a solid place. I was taught the basics of medicine very well.
For residency I wanted a more urban experience because I planned to return to New Orleans to practice.
I took off three months after residency to decompress. I didn’t want to look at a book, have an evaluation or hear a pager. I spent time with my family and friends and moved back to my hometown, New Orleans, to practice.
I’m a family physician at St. Thomas Community Health Center in New Orleans, whose mission is to provide culturally competent, high-quality care regardless of ability to pay. Federally Qualified Health Centers such as St. Thomas are phenomenal institutions doing their best to provide top-notch community-based care with fewer resources.
It’s a new experience to not have someone double-checking my work or looking over my shoulder. Sometimes I wonder, “What would my attending say?” I want to learn community medicine the best I can.
I always planned to return. I feel a social responsibility to take care of those who need it most. I’ve always felt strongly about providing primary care to underserved populations.
Practicing community medicine can be hard, but I find meaning in my work, and it’s rewarding.
I want to continue to practice community medicine and get involved in community advocacy, public health and public policy. That includes determining what the community’s needs are and engaging residents.
Some favorite restaurants are gone, and locations have changed. Demographics have shifted. Housing costs have gone up due to gentrification, which has forced locals farther out from the city and made their lives more difficult. But our city is resilient. People in New Orleans make do during tough times and still find a way to enjoy life. There’s laughter even when things are down.
The city is still culturally lively and vibrant. There’s always something going on. Life is centered on food, family, friends and music. I love that about New Orleans.
In addition to getting reacquainted with New Orleans, I am more social post-residency. I eat out more and spend time with family and friends. I volunteer and have joined several civic organizations including the Medical Reserve Corps and Urban League Young Professionals. And I sleep!
See past New Chapter stories here.