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UMMS family medicine resident Stephany Giraldo Eierle shares journey in medicine

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

April 05, 2021

UMass Medical School Worcester Family Medicine resident Stephany Giraldo Eierle, DO, MPH, is a Latina first-generation American completing her first year as a physician at the Family Health Center of Worcester, and becoming a vocal advocate for diversity in medicine and public health.  

Dr. Giraldo Eierle, whose parents immigrated from Colombia, has more than 14,000 social media followers on Instagram and posts daily updates on her journey as a new doctor, the first in her family to attend college and to go into medicine. She shares all aspects of her life as a young doctor, from how she got into the field, to her interactions with patients, to how she recently became a patient herself with COVID-19.

“As a new doctor with autoimmune arthritis, I was very worried about getting COVID-19 and then I got it,” said Giraldo Eierle, who moved from Florida to Massachusetts in August, after earning her degree at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I had complications like shortness of breath, fatigue, brain fog and palpitations for roughly another month. I felt terrible physically, but I also felt guilt for not being there for my patients and colleagues.”

She said she will use the experience to connect with patients.

“New physicians are in an interesting position where we’re constantly learning while helping. I think that my life experiences, including having gotten COVID, offer me the ability to connect on a deeper level with my patients because I truly understand what they’re going through. It is scary, but I can now relate to them and give care based on my insight.”

She is working on several projects that aim to increase health equity and positively impact non-English speakers, one of which involves community members sharing their cultural beliefs and practices with providers, in particular those that could affect their medical treatment.

Another project focuses on quality improvement, in which patients receive documents in their native language outlining all their medications, the dosing, and the condition they’re taking the medication for. She plans to incorporate the teach-back method at the end of a visit, verifying the patient's understanding of this health information.

“As a native Spanish speaker, seeing their eyes light up after introducing myself in their tongue is the best feeling,” said Giraldo Eierle.

“The diversity of Queen Street and its designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center made me feel like I would have all the tools I needed to truly help my patients and be a physician who has both cultural competence and cultural humility. I think that the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need for more representation of minority populations.”

Giraldo Eierle’s parents came to the United States in their 20s. She grew up in North Hollywood, Calif., until middle school when her family moved to Florida. As a teen, she was exposed to gang violence and drugs, teaching her valuable lessons and inspiring her to enter health care, she said.

She said she recognizes her parents for establishing a nurturing environment and fostering her education. She is grateful for the opportunities she has to give back to the underserved and underrepresented.

“I’m a huge advocate for prevention, mental wellness and compassionate health care,” she said. “I felt like primary care doctors were gatekeepers, and that was the best position to put myself in to help people. It is an honor and a privilege to treat folks in the city of Worcester and make a difference in our underserved and underrepresented communities.”

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