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Jennifer Soh, '23

Reimagining a childhood dream: The journey to committing myself to service in healthcare

I felt my face burn with frustration and guilt as I sat in the Shriram Center, listening to my professor passionately criticize the U.S. health insurance system. THINK56: Health Care, Ethics, and Justice is a course designed to teach students how to think critically about ethical questions in the medical field. Over the course of ten weeks, I only scratched the surface of the obstacles to equity and access that make our healthcare system so flawed, yet I could easily see that these problems were deeply rooted in the ways of our country. 

As someone who has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember, I left the lecture hall with a question seared into my brain: If I become a doctor who only works within the four walls of a hospital, will I just be contributing to this flawed system? 

As I searched for answers, I stumbled across SIRUM, a tech-based nonprofit organization. By matching two systemic problems—a lack of access to prescription medications for underinsured and uninsured patients, and the billions of unused medications that are destroyed annually—SIRUM has developed a scalable solution in the realm of healthcare, something that very few have been able to accomplish. To say that I was inspired by SIRUM’s mission would be an understatement. From advocating for bills that could expand SIRUM’s donation network to more states to ensuring that every donated medication is redistributed to someone in need, the work that SIRUM does daily, quite literally, saves lives. 

Being a part of SIRUM’s mission has been the greatest honor for me. SIRUM’s current network has already reached hundreds of partner donor and recipient organizations across the country, with plans to expand to more states. Each day at SIRUM feels intentional and meaningful—every Excel sheet I work on, email I send, and conversation I have contributes to the goal of providing equitable access to medicine for all. 

It took a Cardinal Quarter for me to reimagine my childhood dream of becoming a doctor. My service with SIRUM was the first time I realized that the role I want to play in healthcare is outside of a hospital. SIRUM has taught me how to think about health care more holistically, which is one of the most important perspectives I will carry with me for the rest of my life. 

I have found a new dream for myself—to use my voice, energy, and resources to focus on policy change that gives those who are underinsured and uninsured in our country equitable access to healthcare.

Jennifer Soh, '23, is studying bioengineering. She serves on the executive board of Stanford Women in Medicine and Stanford Roots, and is also a Cardinal Quarter Peer Advisor and volunteer with Cardinal Free Clinics. Jennifer is originally from Santa Barbara, California.
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