Justin Pegueros got his first sense of what doctors do when he was a kid, trotting after his mother at her job as a Spanish-language interpreter at Stanford University Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
“I remember seeing the patients and doctors interact as my mother interpreted,” Pegueros recalled. “I learned to think of doctors as secret keepers, confidants and nurturers – and I think that appealed to me more than the medical science.”
Pegueros eventually decided he wanted the medical science, but with a deep focus on patient care. That’s why the 26-year-old California native chose a dual-degree program, and is working toward his M.D. at Albany Medical College and a master of public health (M.P.H.) at UAlbany’s School of Public Health (SPH).
“The two programs enhance each other,” Pegueros said. “In my opinion, physicians should be well versed on the policies that govern their patients’ care. The public-health program offered me ways to influence health policy and gave me a conceptual framework for the health behavior of patients. This will help me tailor my interventions to patients at different stages of health decision making.”
At SPH, Pegueros completed a six-month internship with the Health Information Exchange of New York (Hixny), developing a system to track patients with hypertension or diabetes and send medical alerts to health-care providers. Hixny is working with SPH and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) to determine how health-information exchange data can support health initiatives.
Pegueros was named project coordinator, working under Hixny Vice President Scott Momrow, M.P.H.’97, as well as with DOH officials and clinical consultants. The team had to determine what information was needed – for instance, lab tests, vital signs, diagnoses, treatments – and cull that from health-information exchanges. Then the information had to be coded so that changes could be tracked by clinicians.
The Hixny internship ended in June.
Pegueros hasn’t yet decided whether to focus on obstetrics and gynecology, family practice or another specialty, but he knows what he’s gained at SPH and understands how his internship will impact the way he practices medicine. “I am much more equipped to tackle public-health and health-policy problems related to health-information technologies, which will undoubtedly play a big role in how doctors care for patients,” said Pegueros.