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My Family and My Patients are Why

Kyla Lara became a doctor because she is passionate about preventing disease in her family and her patients.

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Guest post by Dr. Kyla Lara, MD, Internal Medicine Resident at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

As a child, my version of a “breakfast of champions” consisted of the typical Filipino mouth-watering staples of pork longuinisa, garlic rice, and fried eggs. In my culture, eating until you burst was a sign of good health and security. However, once in college, I began to observe the decline of several family members’ cardiovascular health including hypertension and hyperlipidemia in my mother, fatty liver in my 28-year-old cousin, and a debilitating stroke in my grandmother that ultimately took her life. I began to question the role diet played in their diseases and earned a master's degree in human nutrition.

Through my studies in food science and practice of motivational interviewing, I became passionate about becoming a doctor so that I could prevent further disease in my family and my patients. In clinic, I feel perplexed on how to motivate my patients to eat healthy when they live in neighborhoods where healthy foods like fresh produce and a variety of whole grains are scarce. It feels unrealistic to tell patients in good nature to make a salad or steam seasonal vegetables when their local corner stores are filled with processed food.

Our best opportunity to improve the health of our community lies in the access to fresh fruits and vegetables and nutrition education. The first step involves providing SNAP incentives, making produce available at bodegas, and developing more grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. In addition, we must engage the community, provide culturally sensitive nutrition education at food retail sites and local farmers markets, and make sure stores promote and market the healthy items.

Only when my patients can afford and access healthy food will I truly be able to help them develop a nutritious diet and good health.

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