A Career Devoted to Service
When Sarah C. Nosal, MD, FAAFP was four years old, she convinced her little sister that she had healing powers. This was a ruse of course and her sister quickly realized the truth, but the thought of having healing powers gave Sarah an idea.
“As it became clearer that my healing powers did not resolve all suffering, I decided I should become a doctor so I could heal them for real,” Sarah said.
Growing up in Washington, DC, Sarah remembers taking field trips downtown and seeing men experiencing homelessness sleeping on grates, asking for money.
“It was at that time that I decided I wanted to do the kind of medicine that focused on those experiencing poverty and those experiencing homelessness as it was inconceivable that our nation’s capital seemed to care so little for so many individuals suffering.”
In high school at Georgetown Visitation, Sarah volunteered at a shelter for women and their children who had been subject battering and abuse, reading and providing books to the kids there.
At Bryn Mawr College, Sarah helped found the school’s community service office, volunteered teaching science classes to inner city women and their daughters, and also worked with the people experiencing homelessness at the Catholic Workers free clinic. “I was never more fulfilled than when participating in service,” Sarah said.
When applying to medical school, Sarah learned that the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York had a student-run free health clinic. She decided that that would be her school. She started working at the clinic her first year of medical school there. “This work has really revealed to me that healthcare is a human right and universal health care is something I advocate for on the state and national level.”
Since graduating from the Beth Israel Residency in Urban Family Medicine, Sarah has worked at the Institute for Family Health were she has become a role model and leader supporting clinics providing care for underserved communities in New York City. She sees a wide range of patients, from the elderly to the young, treating as many as 35 people a day. She is also an HIV specialist and cares for people suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. “Our entire organization is focused on care for those underserved and providing primary care in impoverished communities and communities of color that have traditionally received inequitable access to care and had poorer health outcomes,” Sarah said.
Sarah loves her job. She especially enjoys “earning the trust of a patient who has experienced unjust barriers to care and who has rightfully learned to distrust the system.” Sarah also finds satisfaction in seeing her patients take their health into their own hands and feel empowered to change unhealthy habits.
And she loves the relationships that evolve. “Seeing multiple generations in a single day and the extended family of those family members is one of the greatest pleasures of being a family physician. It is really being the doctor that can meet the needs of entire families,” she said.
Sarah is confident that she is well equipped her for the life of service she now leads and where it will lead her.
From Georgetown Visitation Alumna Profile: Sarah Nosal '96, A Career Devoted to Service