Jordan Nestor is a strong believer, both literally and figuratively, that it's what's inside that counts. The soon-to-be physician is on a mission to bring equality to healthcare as she embarks on a career in internal medicine.
Jordan Nestor at the dialysis center where she shadowed patients Putting people first in healthcare has been her goal since early childhood when she was a young patient at a local clinic. “My parents couldn’t afford to buy health insurance,” the native New Yorker explained. “I wasn’t aware why, but in first grade I noticed that when I went to the doctor, I missed a whole day from school while my classmates would leave and come right back.”
During the long hours at the clinic, Ms. Nestor observed that everyone waiting to see the doctor only spoke Spanish. A patient’s right to a translator didn’t exist at the time and, as a young Latina herself, Ms. Nestor could see their frustration.
“There was a real disconnect,” she recalled. “I decided I would become a doctor – more specifically their doctor.”
Unfortunately, Ms. Nestor’s grades at College of the Holy Cross, in Massachusetts, halted her hopes of attending medical school following graduation in 2003. Halted, but not ended.
“I was lucky to get a job at Einstein as a research assistant, collecting data for various clinical studies,” she said. These included studies of discrepancies in pain management on the basis of patient’s race; mental health issues in uncontrolled diabetes and HIV testing and access to comprehensive services.
She also worked in the emergency room at Jacobi Medical Center, where she met and became close to an elderly patient whose complications from diabetes resulted in multiple lower extremity amputations, many hospitalizations and end stage renal disease. This latter complication required long-term dialysis. His passing had a profound effect on her.
“It made me aware of the relationship between poor access to care and worsening of chronic illnesses, and how the burden of disease impacts an individual’s quality of life,” she said.
The experience would stick with her as she improved her academic standing. It also impressed her future mentor, Dr. Irwin Dannis, co-chair of admissions at Einstein, during an interview in 2007.
“Jordan’s answers radiated compassion and caring. She had a sense of humor, was articulate, optimistic, extremely motivated and it was clear she would go the extra mile for her patients,” recalled Dr. Dannis. “These characteristics made her an ideal choice for Einstein.”
Einstein was also the right choice for Ms. Nestor. “I believed strongly in Einstein’s dedication to serving the underserved population of the Bronx,” she said. “I would walk the halls of Belfer and Forchheimer and say, ‘Okay, I’ll be here in 2006,’ which became ‘I’ll be here in 2007.’”
In order to meet the requirements to attend Einstein in 2008, Ms. Nestor first completed a year of study at SUNY Buffalo. From there, she never looked back, immediately feeling connected with her new community – filled with an underserved and chronically ill population that she vowed to get the medical care it desperately needed.
“Jordan is extremely dedicated to helping others and has a remarkable empathy that you can’t teach,” noted Dr. Amanda Raff, assistant professor of medicine, who taught Ms. Nestor’s first-year renal course and also became her mentor.
Ms. Nestor (soon to be Dr. Nestor) with her mentor, Dr. Amanda RaffThe instructor had such a profound impact on the young student that Ms. Nestor would relate her experiences at Jacobi while requesting similar opportunities as she studied medicine at Einstein. That summer, Dr. Raff permitted Ms. Nestor to shadow six dialysis patients.
“The patients taught me countless lessons and contributed tremendously to my education,” she said. “The opportunity to get to know them through this aspect of their lives, along with the fact that renal diseases disproportionately affect people of color, sparked my interest in the field of nephrology.”
Although busy with her studies, third- and fourth-year clinical rotations and a project through the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases that centers on insulin-resistance in type I diabetics in the Bronx, the consequences of poorly managed diabetes and its damaging effects on patient quality of life, Ms. Nestor has continued to make the dialysis patients a special part of her life. Her compassion and concern for patients will be recognized at graduation, where she will receive the prestigious Edward Weinstein Humanitarian Award.
“Jordan always went above and beyond for patients and they really appreciated her,” said Dr. Raff. “That’s what makes her special. She’s going to be a wonderful doctor.”
Ms. Nestor will soon begin her residency in internal medicine at Weill Cornell. When the three-year program is completed, she plans to pursue a fellowship in nephrology. Beyond that, she is looking to make a difference where it counts the most.
“With the changes in healthcare, now is a great time to be graduating from Einstein,” she exclaimed. “We can help eliminate the obstacles to care and decrease the number of people suffering from chronic illnesses.”
Posted on: Wednesday, May 30, 2012