Interview with Ernestina Mireku, Doctors for Dignity Intern Fall 2022
Compassion & Choices is honored to welcome Ernestina Mireku as the new End-of-Life Disparities Intern with our Doctors for Dignity program. Ernestina is currently a fourth year medical student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. She will be joining Compassion & Choices this fall to research end-of-life disparities in end of life care and support our outreach efforts with our physician advocates. To introduce Ernestina to our organization, Compassion & Choices staff connected with her in an interview to learn more about her interests and what led her to medicine.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your background, where you grew up, and what led you to your current career path as a medical student?
I was born and raised in Chicago, and I grew up around the Lakeview and Wrigley Field stadium area. I went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for my undergraduate degree, and then I did my post-baccalaureate program at Southern Illinois University. And now I’m a fourth year medical student at the University of Illinois, Chicago. I’m in my final year of medical school now, and I’m doing my sub-internship at the Veterans hospital and I plan on applying to anesthesiology for my residency.
I think my initial interest in medicine started in high school when my dad was diagnosed with diabetes. We’re Ghanian, and in the Ghanian community where we’re from, things like diabetes and hypertension are very prevalent. So when my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, it sparked my interest in medicine because I wanted to learn more about his disease, help him with his medication management, and even explain his illness to him because English is his second language. And then I solidified my interest in medicine while working as a Patient Care Technician in the ER and the Medical Surgical department, and that’s where I gained my confidence and decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to serving underserved populations through medicine.
Q: What brought you to Compassion & Choices? How did you find this internship?
Funny story! I went to a Student National Medical Association (SNMA) conference in April, and on the plane ride back to Chicago I met Sydney Reed, who was a previous Doctors for Dignity student intern. We sat next to each other on the plane, and she told me all about her experience with Compassion & Choices and the work that she did as an intern. She said it was an excellent opportunity to learn more about end-of-life care, and I thought it sounded interesting. We don’t really learn a lot about end-of-life options in our medical school curriculum, and I wanted to explore this field. So I applied for the internship, and here I am!
Q: Who are some of your role models in life?
My mom is my role model. Now that I’m a little older, I’m beginning to fully realize the amount of support that she’s given me. Even though she doesn’t always understand what’s going on, she always does her best. She’s never given up on me, and she’s incredibly loyal. I want to be like her when I get older.
Q: What are you most excited about in this internship?
I’m really looking forward to familiarizing myself with end-of-life options. As I said before, we only get a few lectures about end-of-life care in medical school. But now that I’m working in a hospital setting with patients, I’m realizing that it’s really important to understand and discuss end-of-life care options. I also want to get out of my comfort zone and practice presenting and public speaking in front of different organizations. I’m involved with a few local organizations, including student and church groups, and I’m excited to connect with them to talk about end-of-life issues.
Ernestina will be working with Dr. Rebecca Thoman, Compassion & Choices Doctors for Dignity (D4D) Director. D4D is a network of more than 2,000 physicians from across the country who support a full range of end-of-life options, including medical aid in dying, and are addressing end-of-life disparities through education, advocacy and empowerment. To learn more about Doctors for Dignity and get involved with their advocacy efforts, please visit their webpage and get in touch!