My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Kristina Krohn, MD, Stanford-NBC News Global Health and Media Fellow
Dr. Kristina Krohn's initial interest in practicing medicine internationally stemmed from her parents' work with the Peace Corps in Africa. As a child, Dr. Krohn was always interested in math and science. She jokes that when she was ten years old she wanted "to be a surgeon in sub-Saharan Africa." Dr. Krohn was born and raised in Minnesota, in a small town of around 12,000 residents. She attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota where she received her Bachelor's Degree in biology. While attending Macalester College, she met several friends who were applying to medical school and many who were in their residencies. "They told me to make sure that going into medicine was exactly what I wanted to do, because otherwise I would be unhappy with the time and commitment it takes to become a physician. It was one of those things where there was nothing else besides medicine that I could imagine myself doing that would make me happy." She felt that becoming a physician was the perfect combination of getting the chance to interact with people on a daily basis and applying her love of science.
Dr. Krohn with her nephew Jaxton and her fiancé Marc.
While attending the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dr. Krohn had a difficult time choosing between family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics, as well as emergency medicine, but eventually decided on combined internal medicine and pediatrics (med/peds). "I knew that I wanted to see a range of people, not just adults or children. I wanted to be able to see whatever patient walked through the door. The internal medicine/pediatrics program was structured so that I was able to see a patient from their initial diagnosis all the way through his or her recovery."
Dr. Krohn's choice to pursue internal medicine and pediatrics was also driven by her desire to practice medicine internationally. Her parents experience in the Peace Corps was something that was always in the back of her mind. "When you are practicing medicine in a rural Africa, it is so much different than practicing in a large metro area in the US." She was drawn to the idea of providing medicine for people who would not otherwise have access. "I think being able to fill that gap is really rewarding."
Dr. Krohn took advantage of the University of Minnesota's "Flex MD" program which allows students to finish their degree in as little as three years or as many as six while only paying for four years of medical school. She completed her final year of medical school in two years which allowed her to study and work in both Uganda and Brazil through a scholarship program. Working in Uganda led her to choose internal medicine and pediatrics, since 50 percent of the population was under the age of twelve. "I could see that being able to treat both adults and children was a huge help." What Dr. Krohn enjoys most about international medicine is the larger picture perspective that it requires. "It is different than going into a country and seeing as many patients as possible in the period of the week. Instead, it means traveling to a country and investing time there and saying 'what can I do here that is going to be sustainable and make an impact for that country's future'?"
While in Uganda, Dr. Krohn worked with researchers on understanding the fungal infection Cryptococcus, a disease that affects individuals with compromised immune systems (i.e. people with AIDS). Cryptococcus is one of the major causes of death in sub-Saharan Africa. She had the opportunity to work with a medical group searching for the source of the fungus that caused the infection. The clinical trial has made several advances and continues at this time.
Dr. Krohn also had the opportunity to work in Brazil while in her residency. She did an infectious disease rotation at Hospital Nossa Senhora das Gracas in Curitiba, Brazil. She was the first medical student doing a visiting rotation from the United States.
Dr. Krohn has continued to follow her passion of internal medicine and interest in public health when she was selected as the 2012-2013 fellow for the Stanford University -NBC News Fellowship in Media and Global Health. She was encouraged to apply for the highly selective fellowship program by her medical advisor. Stanford University's Center for Innovation in Global Health launched the first fellowship in Media and Global Health to demonstrate how media platforms have an impact on global health. Dr. Krohn was chosen from a selective pool of physicians-in-training and physicians committed to a career in global health. During the course of her fellowship, she will learn how multiple media modalities can play a significant role in health and human rights efforts, foundation and government health assistance, and individual health choices. She will spend the first few months of fellowship working in the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Communications Department in the organization's South East Asia Regional Office in Delhi, India. "A lot of what I will be doing in my fellowship is learning how the WHO crafts its messages and how the public absorbs and processes public health information." Dr. Krohn will spend another month at the WHO's Communications Department in Geneva, Switzerland. She will then participate in "journalism boot camp" by attending courses at Stanford University's School of Journalism. In the spring of 2013, she will be working at the NBC News headquarters with the Today Show, Dateline, and the Nightly News.
Dr. Krohn plans on keeping her options open after completing her fellowship and residency but would ideally like to pursue a fellowship with the Center for Disease Control's Epidemiology Intelligence Service which would combine her interest in how the public learns about medicine with the clinical aspects of practicing medicine. In her spare time, Dr. Krohn and her fiancé enjoy ballroom dancing and rock climbing.
Dr. Krohn will be blogging about her experiences in her fellowship on her blog http://globalhealth.stanford.edu/blog/2012_2013-ghmedia-fellowship as well on Twitter @GlobalthealthDR.