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Unsung: Kevo Rivera

Unsung: Kevo Rivera
July 30, 2015 No comments

I’m going into my second year of medical school, currently completing an infectious disease research project in Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil as part of a Global Health distinction track through my school. When I got into med school, I was pretty excited to follow in the footsteps of some heroes within the global health/infectious disease community. Although I’m loving the experience so far, I think this summer and the process of medical school in general) has been really valuable in showing me that there are other medical specialties within the context of public health that I could be really excited about. Right now, I’m actually leaning toward psychiatry and global mental health, which is a far cry from the laboratory bench.

In our medical school curriculum, we only get one long stretch of off time: 12 weeks in-between first and second year. Like many of my colleagues I wanted to spend that time growing professionally, but also being able to enjoy this last “hurrah” before, you know, vacation starts to feel like a distant myth. So I sought out an opportunity to come to Natal–which translates to “Christmas” in Portuguese, although their winter heat feels like Southern California summer–in Northeast Brazil. Now I’m here finishing up my 11th and last week at the Institute of Tropical Medicine-RN, and I’m quite happy with my decision to come here. The project has focused on infectious diseases called Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis which are endemic to Brazil, and are 2 out of the 17 WHO-appointed “neglected tropical diseases.” This is experience is a first for me in terms of both visiting Brazil as well as doing formal bench research, so it’s difficult for me to compare what biomedical research is like here versus what it’s like in the States. But doing bench research is a different beast than previous health-related trips I’ve taken before. Since I’m in a lab most days and not in contact with patients, it’s not the same as the emotion-driven experiences that have inspired me to pursue a career in global health. Here I’m hoping to utilize more cost-effective technologies as a diagnostic technique in lieu of the resource-intensive technologies that have become the standard in more developed countries. So it’s still a good learning experience in the sense that my motivation is less rooted in compassion, and instead helping regional experts reduce health inequities across borders by setting realistic goals based on the financial and human resources in a given context

When things get difficult, what keeps you going?

Haha. Miracles, probably. I mean, there’s plenty of difficulties in medical school; “difficult” tends to be the baseline and sometimes things get less difficult. Ultimately, I’ve always fallen back on a few things. When I’m feeling selfless, I remember how important my personal mission is to reduce global health disparities. Other times, I have to remind myself of things that don’t feel like a sacrifice: like exploring, making music, and binge-watching whatever’s available online. And when I’m feeling lost or isolated, I can’t stress enough how important community has been; whether it’s my family, old friends, or colleagues who can sympathize with the med school struggle, it’s important to remember you’re not alone.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your position?

Don’t compare yourself to anyone: your heroes, your colleagues, or the image of yourself you hoped to fulfill in medical school. Do everything you can to live honestly and in truth to yourself, while striving to do the best you can without going overboard.

Why did you choose to be where you are today?

They say that Passion is a job that you love and that you’re good at. Profession is a job you’re good at and that you can be paid for.

Vocation is a job that you can be paid for and that the world needs.

Mission is a job that the world needs and that which you love.

Purpose, though, is when all these things come together.

I’d add that Calling is the same as Purpose, except a Calling is whatever will challenge you to grow constantly. For me, a career in medicine was the only thing that included all of those facets.

What does “Crafting Wellness” mean to you?

I think crafting wellness would mean to form unique and personal relationships with patients, getting to know their story, so that I can understand how my work will lead them to thrive and be successful in their own lives.

Lastly, do you have a story or moment that has had an impact on your career/life?

Between college and medical school, I worked for a nonprofit organization that advocates for, protects, and rehabilitates populations in central and east Africa that have experience sever violent conflict. It was not at all health-related, but I really gained an appreciation for the skills that I gained there that would carry over into my current professional goals. I learned how to advocate and spread awareness for vulnerable people. I was equipped with logistical and creative skills that bring programs to life. And I learned that when you’re tackling something that is colored with profound tragedy, the best way to posture yourself is in extreme joy and gratitude. That’s the only way to sustain yourself.

– Kevo Rivera, 24, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Unsung, is a feature MDF proudly brings to the MDF community highlighting the incredible MDF’ers who are truly #CraftingWellness. We hope to inspire, encourage, and connect humanity by sharing the stories from the thousands of anonymous individuals whose imprint can be seen in the lives of countless others.

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