Kayla St. Claire, MD, MBA // On the Frontline of Healthcare - 4.0
Kayla St. Claire, MD, MBA is currently a transitional year internal medicine resident at St. Joseph Ann Arbor Hospital. Coming from a family of healthcare professionals, including her mother, father and sister, the field of health was a natural calling. Kayla will soon begin her dermatology residency at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background - where did you grow up? Do you have any family members in healthcare?
I grew up and attended high school in Okemos, a smaller town outside of Lansing, Michigan. I have a sister who is one year older than me, so we are super close. We went on to undergrad together at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Following, I stayed in Chicago and pursued a MD/MBA program at the University of Illinois Chicago. Currently, I am a transitional year internal medicine resident at St. Joseph Ann Arbor Hospital. Soon I will be beginning my dermatology residency at Wayne State University. My entire family has been involved in healthcare- mother, father, and sister. For me, healthcare was a natural calling.
We love people who break the boundaries and relentlessly push toward their goals. You've been through a lot of schooling and are now jumping into a pretty tough residency. What drove you to pursue such a demanding career? Was there an event, or a personal moment that triggered it all?
I knew pursuing medicine would likely have its demands, but in all transparency, I had no idea of its true challenges and sacrifices until I was in medical school, and even more so now in residency! My drive to pursue medicine stemmed from a desire to want to interact with and help people obtain their best health, whether physical, medical, or psychological. Specifically, in the field of dermatology, I realized the strong interplay between external cutaneous manifestations, internal systemic conditions, and the impact on psychological health and well-being. Additionally my mother was a dermatologist, so I had exposure to the field at an early age.
Why do you choose to get out of bed every morning (or afternoon/night) to come in to work?
I choose to go into work because I hope that each day I can make an impact on my patients in some way. The hospital is a place full of various energies. Some patients receive good news, others terrible news. For some it is the first day of their life, while others it is the last. I choose to enter work with gratitude, being thankful for my health, and for the hospital being a transient place that I can choose to enter and serve others.
Amidst the current pandemic while treating patients in the ER, you've been the first to contact some of these patients. Can you discuss a positive experience that you might have had with one of them? Or even a takeaway or a change that you've made? For example, I've had many situations where I've had to intubate these patients and they are scared and alone. It's felt good to be there to comfort them while they go to sleep, and I have felt more empathy and gratitude for my personal health after these experiences.
During the current pandemic where I've evaluated, diagnosed, and treated several COVID patients, I have witnessed the strength, courage, sacrifice, trust, flexibility, and teamwork displayed among many healthcare personnel, patients, and the community. Examples of these situations include: doctors stepping up to expose themselves in place of their pregnant colleagues, patients adapting to telemedicine & virtual discussions, patients’ families entrusting medical staff despite not being able to visit their loved ones, community members sewing and donating homemade masks, and local restaurants dropping off meals to the hospital. A major take away from all of this is that an unpredictable fear-provoking event can still bring about noteworthy outcomes like unity and positivity. How we react, respond, and come together in times of change has the potential to strengthen our community for the better in other avenues.
What does it mean to you to be fueled by choice?
Fueled by choice to me means visualizing and working towards the life you want to live and doing so in a way that is authentic to you. You need to believe in yourself and visualize your success and then have the determination to accomplish your goals. The path in between visualizing and achieving, only you can create.
What mantra do you want the world to remember you by?
Everyone is going through something.
It can be very easy to get lost in focusing on ourselves, or make assumptions about other people. Whether a stranger, friend, or family, remember that a smile, a head nod, a handshake, a hug, and a phone call go a long way. A seemingly small interaction to you may mean the world to someone else.
The stress has been overwhelming for all of us in healthcare and distractions from the crisis are important when we're not working. What do you like to do outside of work to keep your mind occupied? Hobbies? Any healthy habits that you've picked up?
Outside of work I like to exercise, do yoga, read a book for fun, watch TV shows, listen to podcasts, try new restaurants, travel, and spend time with friends and family.