VP&S Class of 2021: Stephanie Granada
When Stephanie Granada starts her residency in pediatrics this summer at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, she will be achieving a goal years in the making and one with roots in her childhood. “I want Latinx patients to have a doctor who speaks their language and looks like them,” she says.
Growing up in Miami, Granada served as interpreter for her parents and grandma, who emigrated from Colombia, translating their doctors’ English questions and directions into Spanish. “It was through these initial introductions that I realized how much I want to help people and serve as their bridge to the medical world, making sure they don’t have to rely on their children or other people to understand them,” she says.
Granada, who is the first in her family to graduate from college and medical school, was drawn to the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons by a desire to be a doctor-in-training in an urban, predominantly Spanish-speaking community, such as Washington Heights.
Upon arriving on campus, Granada became involved in VP&S Club activities, including the Columbia-Harlem Homeless Medical Partnership, one of five student-run clinics; the First-Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP); and the Black and Latino Student Organization.
“Joining FLIP was one of the first times I saw my story in other people in academia,” says Granada, who has served as one of the group’s co-leaders. “For example, we talked about our families being on food stamps and Medicaid, and it was just understood that we all knew what the other was talking about it. It was a shared language. It was important to me because as a first-generation, low-income student, you have to code-switch a lot or explain your backstory, and this was one of the first times I didn’t have to do that.”
In addition, Granada has been part of the Daniel Noyes Brown Primary Care Scholars Program, which provides students with mentorship and clinical experiences in primary care in community settings throughout their four years. She took a special interest in unaccompanied minors who crossed the Mexico-U.S. border and were living in NYC, and, with faculty-mentor Manuela Orjuela-Grimm, MD, assistant professor of epidemiology and pediatrics, learned what their journey is like, from the routes they took to the reasons why they left and their experiences acclimating to the United States. “I specifically analyzed their sleep patterns, and, unsurprisingly, many of these adolescents experience less sleep than their peers and also suffer from poor quality of sleep,” says Granada.
The COVID pandemic was underway while Granada was working on her scholarly project, interviewing Spanish-speaking and bilingual patients who had just given birth about their birthing experiences and how language affected the quality of their health care experiences. Her project found that patient birthing experiences were overall positive, even in the peak of the pandemic, and were closely tied to birth outcomes, quality of care, and supportive staff. She also noted that restrictions on visitation and lack of a support person during the birth or postpartum period caused emotional distress, and challenges brought by COVID-19 were more impactful on experience than language barriers. Overall birthing experiences were not significantly different between bilingual and Spanish-only patient groups.
Her major clinical year cemented her interest in pediatrics. “I love that pediatrics is a team sport. Everyone from the nurses, to the doctors, to the social workers, work together with the parents to make sure the child leaves the hospital as soon as possible and gets better,” she says. “You’re not only providing care to the child, but also supporting the family and easing their worries. I also love that advocacy is in the DNA of pediatrics, and that health justice and equity are not topics pediatricians shy away from.”
In reflecting on her time at VP&S, Granada hopes up-and-coming students will take in all the opportunities provided to flourish, to truly soak it all in, and “fill their cup,” as she calls it, with the breadth of club activities, research endeavors, and clinical experiences available on campus and beyond.
Granada says, “Because I really soaked it in, I was able to learn who I was in medicine and also define myself outside of it.”