After six years of being in the closet, I came out to my parents as bisexual in the middle of a family dinner, blurting out the confession as I couldn’t hold it in anymore. My parents couldn’t look at me and it took a long while to break the silence. This took me back to four years earlier, where I had a similar experience disclosing to my doctor that I was bisexual. That one piece of information about a part of my identity as a human being, but is part of a minority group in society, elicited a similar response; awkward silence, and ceasing eye contact. To me, this was just one small piece of me and my identity that was different but for some, it makes all the difference.
Different personal experiences manifest through everyday societal interactions. It first became apparent to me in high school when I realized that my day-to-day interactions with the world were different than those of my peers. I’m of Indian decent and I’m LGBTQ. Being a visible minority meant that my grandmother, who is an American citizen, would speak to me in Telugu, and a stranger would yell at us to go back to our own country. It meant that when I disclosed to my doctor that I was bisexual, he became awkward and couldn’t look me in the eye. It wasn’t that people were necessarily intolerant, but unfortunately most people are ill-equipped with the knowledge and experience of diverse societal intersections. That is where I feel marginalization stems from; through disparities in attitudes, treatment, and access to resources.
At age fifteen, I began volunteering at my local hospital as I was always interested in the field of medicine. I saw what the hospital environment entailed; doctors, nurses, and the rest of the hospital staff consistently putting patients first. Physicians in particular were not only engaged in their patient’s diagnosis and treatment plans, but also had to consider how this would impact the patient's daily life. In order to do that, the physicians had to understand and appreciate the patient’s own unique identities. This appealed to me because of the early experience I had with my own doctor. I realized that if my doctor had been better equipped to respond to me from a place of compassion and understanding instead of avoidance, I would have felt comfortable going back to him. Instead, I found excuses not to see him due to feeling judged. I want to be a compassionate doctor for people who are different and afraid of judgment. I kept this desire in mind as I applied to universities, and chose the school I felt offered the most diversity.
I started at [name of school] just after the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Due to this positive outcome, I was motivated to become more educated in politics because of what my fellow LGBTQ community members advocated for. I joined the [name of organization] club my first semester. As the democratic primaries for the U.S. presidential election grew closer, one topic kept resurfacing; healthcare. Although I had volunteered at the hospital, I had not really heard of or understood these inequities within healthcare. I remember being unable to comprehend the fact that it wasn’t equitable, and access and quality of healthcare depended on how much money one had, where one lived, and the colour of one’s skin. I found this ironic considering the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is defined at the beginning of the U.S. Constitution.
This only solidified my desire to be a physician because in addition to being a compassionate physician who could advocate for minorities like myself, I also needed to advocate for equal access and distribution of healthcare for all people as well. I could combine human interaction, learning, science, and caring for the underserved as part of my advocacy. Equality and equal access to healthcare is important for personal growth and well-being which is reliant on the basic need of physical and mental health. I want to pass on to the next generation of physicians the importance of this fight so that all people are closer to equal access to health. In order to do that, I needed to gain exposure to more of the field to witness firsthand some of the disparities that exist in healthcare.
I began shadowing physicians and I started to see inequities manifest in front of my eyes. Many of these patients I saw needed both physical and mental health support. I became so interested in mental health that I became a Research Assistant helping to study patterns and traits of aggression. My time in this lab had me interact with people of all backgrounds in order to collect data. Through this experience, I have learned how to communicate more effectively. This lab experience has given me the skills of patience and attention to detail, two things that are vital to my practice as a future physician.
As a physician, I will strive to advocate for those who don’t have access to healthcare in our country, as I believe this is a crucial step to reaching overall equality. My goal is to give compassionate care, have my patients feel safe and understood, and to be comfortable to keep coming back for treatment. I'll be a physician who fights for equal care for all in our society, and be equipped to serve and celebrate the of diversity of my patients.