Third-year medical student Anisha Guda decided to pursue her career in dermatology because she was “intrigued by the emotional toll.” All diseases can have both physical and emotional effects on patients, but for Guda, skin conditions hold particular interest because they can often be detrimental to a patient’s mental well-being.
“It affects their mind and how they perceive themselves,” she said. “There is social stigma as well because you can’t hide what’s on the outside.”
Guda saw first-hand just how important dermatologic care can be when she traveled to Panama for a global health trip with the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics global health program.
Along with Richard Usatine, M.D., and a team of four other medical students, Guda visited three underserved communities in Panama and helped treat adults, babies, school children and teachers. Student teams have been visiting these communities for over a decade.
“Many of these populations are not able to receive normal health care. We were able to provide free dermatologic care and increase accessibility,” Guda said. “They look forward to the teams coming every year. Many make long trips on foot from neighboring villages to get treatment.”
The team treated these communities for scabies, an intensely itchy and contagious skin condition caused by tiny burrowing mites. According to Guda, scabies can “profoundly impair an individual’s quality of life.” As the mites spread, they burrow into the web spaces on a patient’s skin, such as the wrist, waistline and genital area. It causes painful and itchy lesions that can inhibit sleep and the ability to focus.
The condition can be effectively treated with antiparasitic medication, which the team administered to the communities. They compared data from previous trips to the area and found that there was a significant decrease in the incidence of scabies with each subsequent visit from UT Health San Antonio teams.
“The overall experience exposed me to the value of global health care and how it can greatly improve the lives of patients,” Guda said. “It reinforced my interest in incorporating global health work into my career as a physician. I believe that students should be provided opportunities to learn about global health so that they can see if it’s something of interest to them.”
Although recently canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Guda had been selected to give an oral presentation of her work at the American Academy of Dermatology conference in Denver. In addition to presenting her global health work, Guda was also slated to give a second oral presentation about a local skin cancer prevention program she took part in with Sandra Osswald, M.D., Division Chief, Dermatology, Department of Medicine.
Guda is eager to integrate her experiences from these global and local service programs into her future career as a dermatologist.
“I want to improve a patient’s self-esteem and confidence by helping resolve their skin disease,” she said.