It was the middle of the night when I received the call that my friend was trying to jump off the 30th floor of an apartment building. When I got to her, all I could see was anguish and fear in her eyes as she looked back at me from the balcony. I was eventually able to talk her down, but this was only one of many times I came to her aid as she struggled with mental illness. When I comforted her in these moments, I could see how troubled she was from her intrusive thoughts. I did my best to calm her down, but I never felt like my words were enough. In an effort to help, I spent hours online looking up her symptoms and researching what changes could be made to make her feel better. Despite my efforts, I realized she needed the help of an expert, not just a friend who wanted to help, so I recommended she go see a psychiatrist. For a brief time, I felt defeated. I lacked the ability to help a friend in need; I lacked the ability to understand the complexities of her illness. This is when I turned my attention to medicine. I never wanted to feel powerless and unequipped to help another in their time of need.
When I entered college, I knew I was interested in pursuing medicine. In my first-year volunteering at [name of hospital], I was bringing a patient some water when a nurse suddenly yelled at me to make room. A woman was crashing; I watched as the doctor took charge of the situation, leading the surrounding staff to save her life. Time slowed down as I watched everyone work together to keep the patient alive. I felt disheartened and sympathetic for the woman, but also inspired by the efforts made to save her. I was watching the accumulation of years of training, experience, and a vast amount of knowledge in action. I wanted desperately to rush in and perform CPR, help set up the defibrillator, or get supplies. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to help with any of this. I felt a familiar frustration as I stood at a distance, powerless to help. In this moment, my interest in pursuing medicine became a passion.
To see the daily lives of doctors, I started shadowing with [name of doctor]. I was intrigued by a patient in his early 50s, who had suffered a heart attack. The patient seemed to open up to [name of doctor], describing the unhealthy lifestyle that led him to a hospital bed. Noticing how distraught the patient was, [name of doctor] reassured him that, with a change in his diet and exercise, he should have a low risk for another heart attack. When we left the room, I realized that the relationship between a doctor and patient goes beyond just curing illnesses. [Name of doctor] showed me that the best doctors are confidants to their patients. They provide a safe space for patients to express concerns about their body, lifestyle, and mental health without judgement. Patients come to doctors not only for medicine, but also for their guidance and wisdom. This experience reinforced my decision to become a doctor; I want to be the kind of doctor that is there for patients in their times of emotional and physical need.
While experiences in the hospital built the foundation for my desire to become a doctor, my encounters in the classroom made my passion whole. Whenever I was curious about a disease or condition, I would research it and find myself reading a PubMed article with terms I couldn’t understand, such as “transcription factor”, “cyclins”, or “cytokines”. I would look up these terms, but never fully understood them, and thus the takeaway from the articles was fuzzy to me. This all changed after I took biochemistry. I felt empowered by the knowledge that biochemistry bestowed upon me. I finally had a grasp of not only these cryptic terms, but also how the body cycles nutrients, how cancer evolves, and the pathophysiology of illnesses. The world seemed to open up to me and I felt so accomplished being able to understand the research articles that baffled me prior. Aside from just learning the material, I learned that educating myself in physiology and biochemical systems was empowering, as the knowledge that I gained even gave me insight on how to better my own health. After this class, I only wanted to learn more. Every new class, exam, and paper became an opportunity to understand more about physiology, biochemistry, and the knowledge needed to eventually serve those with complex illnesses as an aspiring medical professional. I know there’s still so much more to learn; I also know medical school is the place that holds that knowledge.
The powerlessness I felt in my friend’s time of need has driven me to medicine. While in the hospital, I gained valuable perspectives that solidified my interest in this field. Observing health professionals work together to save lives inspired me to push myself, so that one day I can have the expertise to coordinate a team to make such a huge impact on someone’s life. [Name of doctor] showed me that a strong doctor-patient relationship goes beyond diagnosis and treatment. This only furthered my desire to be a physician so that I can form personal bonds with patients and have the power to help them in their time of need. As a future physician, I will strive to champion learning, teamwork and compassion so that I can best serve those, like my friend, who need my help.