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AIDS United AmeriCorps Alumni Spotlight: Maya Kailas

Maya Kailas served as an AIDS United AmeriCorps Member in Chicago, IL from 2014-2015. She recently began medical school at Boston University. We caught up with Maya to discuss her experience in medical school, how she stays involved in public health, and how AmeriCorps influenced her career goals.

What have you been up to since serving in AmeriCorps?

I moved to Boston and started med school at Boston University just two weeks after completing my AmeriCorps service. I have already learned so much about the field of medicine, including how broad the work can be! There are so many different things you can do with a medical degree, like gun violence research, healthcare for the homeless, HIV care, and substance use.

I have also gotten involved with an outreach van that serves the homeless population of East Boston. The van goes out weekly and provides hot food, groceries, clothing, medical consultations, and seasonal things like flu shots and winter clothes.

How did you decide to pursue a degree in medicine?

I’ve always been around doctors; there are doctors in my family. I knew I wanted to do something people-focused where I provide service and help people directly. I also really enjoy science, biology is my favorite subject. A career in medicine is a great combo of intellectual and interpersonal skills!

Have you used any skills developed during your AmeriCorps service in med school?

My AmeriCorps service was an introduction to serving underserved and marginalized populations. This is something I wanted to continue in medical school, so I sought out the homeless outreach service learning project.

Also, in my service I learned how to develop relationships, talk to people, and be culturally responsive. This is incredibly helpful when doing outreach in Boston and will be an asset in my career as a doctor.

I'm also getting a chance to use my HIV/sexual health knowledge and experience to educate clients and create new outreach projects, which has been really fun!

Did you have any other takeaways from your AmeriCorps service?

Out of college, a lot of people tend to be idealistic. Being in AmeriCorps made me want to continue to be an idealist and make a difference, but I learned that it is harder said than done. Not everything people do to make change is effective.

My service helped me think critically about how to be most effective in my career and life. This is something I hope to keep in the back of my mind as I continue in my career in medicine.

Any words of advice for current AmeriCorps members who want to stay involved in the field after AmeriCorps?

AmeriCorps is a unique opportunity to develop hard skills in the public health field and also to make relationships with community members. I’d encourage current members to focus on building relationships with their program clients and participants. In doing so, you learn a lot about the people you are serving as well as yourself.

Anything else you want to share?

I really think that the AmeriCorps experience is a wonderful opportunity for people to explore and develop their interests. You not only get to make a difference for the community in which you are service, you get to learn about a career in public health. My service has really shaped the way I think about things!

Posted By: Sarah Hashmall, Program Manager, AIDS United AmeriCorps Alum ‘09-11 - Friday, April 08, 2016

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