When Cecilia Fix was studying comparative literature as a Columbia undergrad, she had no idea she would someday be a medical student. Her interests were French and English literature and Renaissance painting, not science. But after participating in a summer program in Alexandria, Va., she developed an interest in pediatric psychology, which she pursued as a minor in college. Then “on a whim” she applied for a job at the National Institute of Mental Health. There she worked alongside doctors for the first time.
“I found the hard science really interesting,” she says, “which was not something I expected.” Her focus had been on the psychology, but she learned how medicine affects the chemistry of the brain, the undergirding of the psyche.
In a way, Ms. Fix’s career so far has been a blend of disparate influences: literature and science, social work and medicine, the psychology of an individual and the macro issues of public health policy. “Ever since I came to medical school I had a certain ideal: You have to take the whole patient into account,” she says. “What’s wrong with a patient is often more than, say, their high blood pressure.”
Ms. Fix’s philosophy is illustrated by her research with her mentor, Delphine Taylor, MD, associate professor of medicine and course director of the Foundations of Medicine seminars. The two studied how health care decisions influence migration and how, in turn, migration influences health care decisions. They focused on Dominicans who were patients at the Associates in Internal Medicine clinic at CUMC. Ms. Fix also worked with the YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program. Both projects were a synthesis of the macro and micro, with goals of making people well in the broadest sense.
Originally from Virginia, Ms. Fix applied to internal medicine programs throughout the Northeast with ambitions to practice primary care and also teach narrative medicine. “Through literature and art we can learn to think about other people and their motives from a holistic perspective,” she says. “In addition to knowing a person’s blood pressure, we need to know why they aren’t taking their blood pressure medication.”
Ms. Fix will pursue a residency in internal medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia.