Quinnipiac University pre-med students were given the incredible opportunity to engage with Dr. Andrea Knight, a pediatric rheumatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Canada. Throughout the talk, Dr.Knight covered her own experiences navigating the medical profession and then gave an overview of Lupus from a Rheumatologist’s point of view.
Dr. Andrea Knight
Dr. Knight, an inspiring and well known public figure in her field, received her medical degree from the Columbia College of Physician & Surgeons in New York, completed her pediatric residency at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and got her Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania.
After compiling an impressive academic profile, Knight currently seeks to improve both the care and care for children with childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus (cSLE) through research efforts.
Anticipating the Road Ahead
Dr. Knight started her presentation by offering the pre-med student invaluable advice about how to navigate their medical careers. Most notably found in Chuck Saia’s book, YOU GOT THIS, KID!, Knight notes that her career path was nothing short of a long windy road that has plenty of detours, bumps, and divots.
She empowered the students to expose themselves to as many opportunities as possible before they need to narrow down their area of study. At the end of the session, the students were reassured they too will find a passion they want to pursue.
Symptoms, Treatments, and Diagnosis
The conversation changed gears when Knight went into a crash course on Lupus, exposing students to the fundamentals of the disease including, symptoms, treatments, and current diagnosis protocol.
Lupus presents itself in a variety of forms making it very difficult to diagnose, but also treat. The students got exposure to current diagnosis protocol and what techniques could be used to detect the autoimmune disease. At one point in the discussion, Knight described Lupus as, “the disease with a thousand faces,” indicating the randomness of symptoms.
The most memorable thing about the presentation Dr.Knight gave were the countless connections students could make to the discussion they had a week prior with the panel of Lupus warriors. Dr.Knight was able to reinforce what the Lupus panel had brought to life for these students with their personal experiences and stories.
For example, Knight discussed the mallor rash, otherwise known as the butterfly rash, something the panel members had personal experience with.
Mental Health is Key
In 2015, Dr.Knight founded the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) Workgroup that focuses its endeavors on mental health for children with childhood-onset systemic lupus erythematosus and other pediatric rheumatic diseases.
The theme throughout the discussion with Knight largely focused around mental health and the toll Lupus has on patients. The students were able to recall Toni Grimes and her own experience with mental health issues during her diagnosis and fight with Lupus. Grimes spoke about mental health and the importance of having a support system around you; “Mental health is a big key because you lose yourself in the diagnosis.”
Doctoring with Empathy
After two weeks of discussion, the pre-med students now have exposure to the hard facts about Lupus and the personal toll it takes on their patients. Something Quinnipiac hopes to empower these students with, is the ability to treat patients with unconditional empathetic care.
Lupus is a scary disease, but it is nonetheless manageable. Through proper treatment, care, and encouragement, these pre-med students are destined to improve the lives of their future patients.