Sandra Au

I am a current third-year medical student at Duke University interested in health equity initiatives and improving how social determinants of health are explored in medical education.

My hometown of Rochester, NY is not only where I grew up, but where I became a first-generation college student, and my interest in patient advocacy and community engagement began. After college, I worked in a patient-centered primary care clinic integrated with social workers, care managers, and behavioral health services. This effort hoped to minimize logistical barriers to health care maintenance, social needs screening, and referrals, as patients were already making difficult personal sacrifices (such as taking time off hourly work, navigating multiple bus lines, locating dependable childcare, forgoing a meal or delaying paying other bills) to attend their medical appointments. Getting to know my community in this way gave me greater insight into the array of personal and system-based obstacles that stand between a patient and their health goals.

Since moving to Durham, I’ve enjoyed working with organizations that stay attuned to the needs of the Durham community through active engagement such as the Lincoln Community Health Center, Refugee Health Initiative, and Benefits Enrollment Center. I’ve been inspired by those who have used creative ways to continue addressing health inequities and foster understanding between patients and their medical community through changing times. As part of the DukeMed BEC Fellows leadership team, I hope to continue engaging other students in health advocacy and equipping them with the knowledge and resources to better address the needs of our community.

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