As part of the #OutRunAnxiety – Tucson event, we are pleased to partner with The Outpatient project, a student-founded organization sharing women’s physical and mental healthcare testimonies. Stay tuned as they roll-out out photos and videos from the event and join us for this exclusive AIT interview with The Outpatient founder, Sruti Bandlamuri.
AiT: What is The Outpatient Project all about and why did you start it?
SR: The Outpatient Project serves to provide a platform for women across demographics to share their otherwise underheard perspectives on mental and physical healthcare attitudes, experiences, and issues through featured photo interviews. At our core, we publish anonymous photo interviews with women about their mental and physical healthcare stories. So far, The Outpatient Project has helped over 50 women publish and share their healthcare stories to a growing following across social media. We have also started partnering with other organizations to help fundraise, fight stigma, and organize events.
Healthcare is much more than a doctor providing a patient with treatment. Healthcare encompasses social pressures, economic obstacles, cultural attitudes, and anything else that affects someone’s mental and physical well-being. When we look at healthcare on this scale, we see several issues with healthcare in the United States and worldwide, with issues ranging from broad misunderstandings of mental health to a lack of general healthcare accessibility. I started The Outpatient Project after noticing the under-representation of the female voice at all levels of the healthcare discussion. Women have a lot to contribute to the conversation when it comes to identifying how attitudes influence health, how some people never obtain the treatment they need, or how to solve many issues. The Outpatient Project not only serves as a loudspeaker for women’s healthcare perspectives but also gives complicated, systemic issues some real, beautiful, human faces.
AiT: Why is it important to share our personal stories?
SR: When women share their accounts, they shed light on prevalent cultural attitudes regarding healthcare and how those attitudes affect the outlooks of those who routinely interact with them. Everyone has their own unique story– sharing our personal stories allows us to learn from each other’s experiences to identify undiagnosed systemic problems with healthcare, and build a positively reformed healthcare future.
AiT: What have you and your team learned from interviewing women from different backgrounds?
SR: Our team has been struck by how every single person that has been interviewed has such an under-expressed mental and/or physical healthcare backstory. A lot of the first people that we interviewed were people that I had already known for a while. Daily interactions with these people were always casual; that is, their usual demeanor and poise betray none of the incredible rumination that remains on the inside. Once given a platform to outlet their bottled opinions, reflections, and experiences, many of these women discuss in depth how cultural attitudes, social pressures, and/or economic obstacles have affected their mental and physical health conditions. If I had never started these interviews, I never would have realized how nearly universal it is for social pressures to force women to bottle their reflections and opinions.
AiT: You’ve mentioned pursuing a career in healthcare, what kind of insights can healthcare professionals glean from the stories on The Outpatient Project?
SR: While some might not feel comfortable or motivated to detail their feelings about their healthcare experiences on a hospital form, most people warm up to anonymously expressing their untold narratives to a relatable public audience. People want to be heard, and The Outpatient Project is a platform that helps those people feel comfortable fulfilling that want. In this way, stories shared on The Outpatient Project contain perhaps some of the most candid feedback a patient could provide about their healthcare experiences. Through these stories, healthcare professionals gain perspective on cultural attitudes and environments that affect how patients can obtain treatment, obstacles that prevent patients from obtaining proper healthcare, and reflective feedback on past treatments. The interviews go the other way too. By reading the reflections of women who work in healthcare, patients can better understand the barriers and pressures that healthcare providers face when providing treatment.
Sruti Bandlamuri is a rising freshman at the Leadership in Medicine program at Union College in Schenectady, NY. She founded The Outpatient Project in 2016 as a high school student in Tucson, AZ. When she’s not pursuing her passion for mental and physical healthcare outreach, Sruti can be found practicing Indian classical dance or playing sports.
Share your story, get involved or contact the Outpatient Project by corresponding with Sruti and her team here!