Thursday, July 16, 2015

UAB Women in Medicine: Elizabeth Kvale, M.D.

Elizabeth Kvale, MD, grew up in Minnesota. She attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois to study biology and philosophy. She attended graduate school in philosophy at the University of Illinois, and then shifted to the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri, where she served as Chief Resident. After completing a service obligation in primary care in Dixon, Il, Dr. Kvale returned to academia to complete a 2-year research fellowship in palliative medicine at UAB.

Why did you decide to become a doctor?
I might not have had much of a choice! My mom is a nurse and my dad was a doctor. All of my family is either preachers or nurses. 

Why did you choose to establish yourself at UAB?
I did my fellowship here, and at first I had no intention of staying. But it’s a terrific environment for what I was focused on. I made a great choice. I’m inspired by my patients every day. They are so brave, beautiful and graceful. I feel fortunate to be a part of what they’re doing.

So you had a pretty positive experience going through medical school. Did you experience any struggles going through as a woman?
I would be lying if I said it was anything but awesome. We all know how lucky we are. I was never aware of any differences between me and my peers. I’m in a discipline were communication is very important. I think being a woman and having natural empathy is almost an advantage, in my case.

What kind of research are you doing right now?
Health services research. I’m particularly focused on how to deliver cancer care and palliative care to patients. There just aren’t enough palliative care specialists and I’m trying to figure out how to give patients the care they need.

I hear you participated in the first Cycliad last May! Why did you decide to do that?
True story. I decided to ride because I really think our navigators are helping people and that ultimately this fundraising effort has the potential to ensure that more cancer patients receive this support. Every event needs people to commit in the first year, and most often those are going to be people who really believe in the cause. My favorite part was getting to know the other 4 individuals who were willing to jump in and ride 1300 miles for this cause, and meeting people along the way that our program has touched and helped.

What kind of advice do you have for women interested in the medical field?
Stay tuned to your empathy and use it to your advantage. In science, it can be easily squashed, but try to stay tuned to it.

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