After finishing her first year at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Sydney Hyder spent a few months that summer working at a health care clinic in a small rural eastern Tennessee town where the local country doctor had been called on to deliver a baby goat.
Although it seemed a little odd to Hyder, to the doctor’s clinic patients, whose families had lived in Livingston Tennessee for generations, there was nothing unusual about it.
“It gave me a real education on how health care is delivered in other parts of the country and how the role of the family doctor is so different,” said Hyder, who will graduate from medical school on May 15 and begin an internal medicine residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in July. “He was a family doctor who did c-sections, breast augmentations and was also a cowboy who worked at a rodeo and occasionally as a veterinarian.”
While the Appalachia physician’s daily routine may have been unique to his surroundings, Hyder, the daughter of an ophthalmologist and a dentist, said the relationship she saw her parents develop with their patients in Moorestown, a New Jersey suburb of Philadelphia, was similar to the doctor-patient relationships exhibited in this 5.2 square mile Tennessee town.
“What I always loved seeing was the way that both my parents were able to talk to their patients and put them at ease,” said Hyder who received her undergraduate degree in biology from Haverford College in 2013. “What I learned in Tennessee was that the community liked getting care from someone who was their own, felt they could trust and made them comfortable.”
Developing connections with people, meeting them where they live and getting out of her comfort zone, in part, is what drew the 25-year-old to medicine. Her goal when she goes into a patient’s room is to try and make them laugh at least once because smiling, she said, makes everyone feel better.
“I try to understand my patients at their core,” said Hyder, who was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Gold Humanism Honor Society, which recognizes students as exemplars of compassionate patient care, empathy, altruism and outstanding interpersonal interactions. “I want to know what makes them tick because I want to help set them up for success.”Hyder has been recognized by the medical school with a Distinction in Service to the Community award for founding Women Connect, an organization that instills a sense of empowerment in women struggling with addiction.
The organization helps women create medical journals so they understand when to go to the doctor and what questions to ask, the importance of keeping up with health care screenings and, if they are mothers, the development milestone for their children.
Hyder isn’t sure whether she will become a primary care physician after her residency or specialize in another field like pulmonology/critical care medicine. But whatever route she takes, the former college field hockey goalie, knows that she will continue to be an advocate for her patients.
“When someone leaves the hospital, I want to know that they are going somewhere safe, where they can continue to recover,” said Hyder. “Everyone who knows me tells me I am a primary care doctor at heart. I’ll have to see if that happens.”
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