A Glimpse into the Heart of a Physician
Editor’s Note: This is a series of real-life essays written by physicians for entry into medical school and into residency. We hope that by sharing these, those who are not physicians will have the opportunity to see the why and know a piece of our hearts. We also hope that those who are physicians will be inspired and touched and helped to remember why we do what we do- the meaning behind our work. Copying these will constitute plagiary.
What you are is God’s gift to you.
What you make of yourself is your gift to God.
During my high school years, this statement would come to mind often as I pondered my future. Already certain that my professional career would be in the healthcare field, I originally decided to major in nursing. To confirm that I wanted to work in a hospital environment, I enrolled in my high school Regional Occupational Program. The ROP allowed me to earn high school credits while working in the Pathology Department and Emergency Room at the University of California, Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Subsequently, this experience would strengthen my resolve to be employed in a hospital setting, particularly one located in an underserved area. In addition, this experience also gave me my first real exposure to medicine.
My goal has always been to provide the best health care possible. I believe that the advanced training and skills that I would receive as a physician would enable me to do so; hence, my decision to become a physician. This was reinforced by a personal experience. While accompanying my sister to a function in Oceanside, California, we were the second car to arrive at the scene of an accident. Being the only person who knew CPR and first aid, I administered to the lone victim while my sister directed traffic. Although well aware I had done everything I could for the victim, I was frustrated by my inability to do even more because I did not have the training.
While in my senior year in college, I interned as a pathology assistant at the Coroner’s office. I was actively involved in the autopsy itself and responsible for logging and storing the various human tissue and body fluid samples required to determine the cause of death. Assisting the forensic pathologists gave me the opportunity to appreciate the complexities of human anatomy.
I became aware that as a physician, there will be much about medicine that I do not know or understand. I have determined, therefore, that my education will be perpetual.
As a result of my close and personal working relationships with the various pathologists, I gained valuable insight as to why they became physicians, the sacrifices they made, the type of students they were and most importantly, if they were happy with their decision. This experience enabled me to see the pathologist not only as a physician, but also as a human being.
Other experiences in my life helped me to develop people skills readily applicable to medicine. At the time of my employment as a bank teller for example, it was necessary for me to serve a broad spectrum of people. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was not to take very negative remark or attitude as a personal affront to myself. As an African-American, I found this lesson particularly applicable when confronted with behavior of a racial nature. Also my involvement with sports enabled me to develop both as an individual and as a member of a team. Our goal as a team was to win; as a team player my responsibility towards achieving that goal was to perform to the best of my ability.
For several years my grades suffered both as a result of my anxiety over my mother’s serious and ongoing illness and the long hours I worked to support myself and pay for my schooling.
Nevertheless, my determination to complete my education was great as I would eventually become the first member in my family to receive a college degree. However, through this experience, I discovered an inner strength that I was not aware existed. This was God’s gift to me.
In the midst of my college career came the realization that I needed to make a true commitment to my future. This meant re-evaluating myself and my goals, establishing priorities and making choices I did not always want to make but which were, nevertheless, in my best interest.
“Sacrifice” took on a whole new meaning.
I became involved in study groups, acquired improved study and time management skills, developed a familiarity, and in some cases, friendships, with my instructors and advisors, joined educational and support organizations, including the Minority Organization of Science Students, a pre-professional student organization of which I am currently president, served on an educational equity committee and attended summer enrichment programs as well as some pre-medical conferences. In other words, I became more actively involved in my own education. As a result, there was a marked improvement in my grades and perhaps more importantly, in my understanding of my capacity for success. I know that I must approach my medical education in the same manner and I am confident I will succeed, not only as a medical student, but also as a physician.