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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

IU Health doctor chose medicine to help people

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Lauren Nephew decided in third grade she wanted to become a physician. Not because it’s what she grew up around — there were no doctors in the family — but because she knew she wanted to help people.

Prior to third grade, Nephew thought she might want to be a waitress. There’s a lot of interaction in that job, right?

What probably nudged her in the direction of medicine, she realized later, was having a good pediatrician. So, medicine it was.

“I really had a desire to serve and help people,” Nephew said, “and I thought it was the best way to do that.”

It’s Dr. Nephew now and has been for about 10 years. She earned her doctorate in medicine from Case Western Reserve University and has been at Indiana University Health since 2017. She’s also an assistant professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine.

Nephew is a hepatologist, so she works with people who have liver disease. Getting to hepatology was a journey in itself. Nephew went to medical school thinking she wanted to do neuroscience. Then she spent her first two years of school thinking women’s health — maybe reproductive medicine — was the right path.

True to her third-grade self, Nephew kept coming back to people. That’s where her passion was. She wanted to help people who have a lot of medical problems, and liver disease can lead to issues with the heart, kidneys and more.

“I actually like sick people,” she said.

Nephew, 40, said she finds fulfillment in helping other Black people and those whose socioeconomic status creates even more obstacles.

“I like being able to help people navigate a complicated health care system and help them get through medicine despite all of the social issues,” she said.

Nephew, who has a master’s degree in ethics, is also part of the transplant committee, which includes a variety of other professionals who help patients through the transplant process.

Nephew doesn’t work directly with COVID-19 patients but is nonetheless still at ground zero for the pandemic in a hospital. The world will always need doctors, she said, but right now the need is unlike ever before.

“It’s an honor to be able to treat patients at a time when you’re really needed,” she said.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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