Using medicine to improve the health of underserved groups

Using medicine to improve the health of underserved groups

The notebook is one Columbia News series highlighting just a few of the many fascinating students studying at our University.


Omid Cohensedgh came to Columbia to pursue his undergraduate degree in biology and Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies, and he’s stuck around ever since: He’ll graduate with a medical degree from the University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia Irving Medical Center (CUIMC) this spring. We caught up with Cohensedgh to discuss what got him interested in medicine, how he plans to use his degree to improve the health of underserved groups, and, of course, the best places around town to eat.

What drew you to a career in medicine?

I was raised by a single mother who is legally blind, and so growing up, I saw firsthand how the disease can affect a person’s life and the lives of their loved ones. At the same time, I witnessed how doctors had the unique ability to connect with their patients and guide them through their illness experience. This sparked my initial interest in medicine, which was further strengthened by my experiences in college (at Columbia!), including my time working at the Gay Health Advocacy Project and conducting biomedical research at CUIMC. I also saw a career in medicine as a way to connect and give back to communities that have been historically underserved, including the LGBTQ+ community.

What do you hope to do after you finish medical school?

I am currently in the process of applying for my psychiatry residency, so after graduation I plan to start my first year as a resident! I’m still exploring my specific interests within psychiatry (some contenders include child and adolescent psychiatry and relationship counseling), but I know I want to continue working with patients from marginalized backgrounds, including patients who identify as sexual minorities and gender. Long term, I hope to be involved in medical education as well, which is another passion of mine within medicine.

How did you become involved with the Vagelos’ Equity and Justice Fellowship, and what does your role there entail?

The Equality and Justice Scholarship is a program at Vagelos that aims to develop curricular initiatives in anti-racism and health equity. I became involved in the fellowship because I wanted to help expand our curriculum to be more comprehensive, better preparing students to provide high-quality care to the patients we care for. As part of the fellowship, I helped develop and lead an elective course entitled “Racism and Health” for fourth-year medical students who are interested in learning more about the legacy of racism in medicine and how to promote the work. against racism in their medical careers. Getting to discuss these important issues with my classmates has been one of the highlights of my time in medical school. I have also helped develop a module on providing trauma-informed care for patients who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex, which is now integrated into our clinical year curriculum.

How do you like studying in New York? What are your favorite things to do in the city?

Living in NYC while a medical student has been a dream come true! On the medical campus, we are fortunate to have the Vagelos Learning Center, where I spent a lot of time studying for exams and socializing with my classmates. Going back to my undergraduate days, I sometimes come down to the Morningside campus to study in Butler Library. Here are some of my other favorite things to do around town: Nitehawk Cinemas in Williamsburg (an independent movie theater that also serves food and drinks), MoMA PS1 (free summer concerts), Gantry Plaza State Park (in Long Island City – amazing views of Manhattan, go at sunset) and the Cloisters (really beautiful fall foliage).

Any suggestions for incoming medical students on how to best navigate the city and the best places to eat, grab books, or explore?

My advice would be to explore the city as much as you can, including the outer boroughs. We’re lucky to have the Express A train right on campus, which can take you downtown in 20 minutes. Some of my favorite places to eat in the city are: Ravagh (upper east Persian food – get the tahdig with a stew), Chai Thai Kitchen (Columbus District – get the Khao Soi and peanut noodles), Asian Jewels (faint sums in Flushing), and BCD Tofu House (Korean restaurant open until 1am).

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