The high pitched siren broke silence in a frosty winter morning. Stationed on the curbside was an ambulance with flashing red and white lights with my mother inside. Not long ago, our car skidded on ice and hit a tree. Although I could feel my heart pounding and the ever so steady ground begin to tremble, I murmured to myself, “mom and Jeannie are counting on me.” In the next few days, I sat alongside my mother in the hospital, praying that her pain would ease and she would recover soon. It was our first winter after my mom, sister and I moved to Canada; as a 15-year-old teenager, I knew it was the physician’s reaffirming voice that empowered me to take responsibility for caring my family through such a vulnerable time. From that moment, I experienced the unique trusting relationship a physician forms with a patient in a distressed situation. Since that day, a seed of passion for medicine had been planted deep in my heart.
Over the years since that winter morning, I had spent a lot of time volunteering, seeking to find my role in medicine. One night while volunteering in the hospital, a troubled physician called me in to help interpreting for the patient. As we entered the room, I was immediately reminded of my mother as I saw an elderly woman wheezing in pain. Under the thick blanket, I saw a skinny body curled up in bed. Her fear was palpable as I reached down to be at her eye level. Beginning with a sincere smile, I started chatting with her in her native tongue. I became her caretaker and audience as I learned of her childhood stories and struggles with illness. On the fourth day, as I excitedly entered the unit, I tragically learned that the elderly woman had passed away earlier that day. She left a note at her bedside, “Thank you for accompanying me. I no longer feel alone.” I was humbled that the elderly woman trusted me to accompany her when she felt the most vulnerable. Being able to listen and emotionally support those in need gave me a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction. However, these wonderful encounters left me yearning for more. One day, I hope to experience the honor to hold patients’ trust, address their mental anguish and help to heal them with my medical expertise.
As my curiosity deepened, my interest in disease prevention and lifestyle management was fueled by witnessing many patients in the ER as they often presented with poorly treated chronic disease. Additionally, during one medical mission with the [name of organization], José sat in front of [name of doctor] and myself. This time, he was showing off his blood glucose strip with excitement, “my diabetes is now under control!” Only a couple months ago, José hobbled into our clinic complaining how he struggled to manage his diabetes with prescribed medication. I could not stop picturing what his life was like as he explained how diabetes had affected his work performance and how limited his access to primary care was. As a night shift factory worker, José really did not have many options for healthy diets. After learning more about José’s background, [name of doctor] was able to customize an alternative diet plan and instruct him on proper use of a glucometer. Seeing how physicians apply their knowledge to create individualized treatment plans and preventive measures made it clear I was pursuing a heartfelt goal. I strive to become the type of a physician who is both a healer and an educator, the one that improves community health as a whole.
My pre-med years have not been smooth: the embarrassment from suspension crushed me and made me reflect on my attitude. After countless nights of mindful meditation, I recognized that being quick-witted was not enough to succeed in school nor in this new country. Upon graduation, I chose to work with [name of doctor]. His passion, dedication and tireless work ethics all exemplified the person I wanted to be. Over the years, working in research has taught me “slow is fast”. That is to do everything cautiously, confidently and properly. However, whenever I contemplate on which statistical theorem to use for disease model building, deep in my heart, I know I want real human interactions rather than treating each patient as a number. While on rounds, experiencing how physicians lead a team to support patient recovery and help return to their lives further consolidated my desire to become a physician. With all these years of self-reflection, now I know what it takes to turn a dream into a goal and eventually a reality.
Growing up I wonder why my mother worked so hard to find time in her busy schedule to represent blue-collar workers pro bono in a labor dispute. It was not until I started volunteering that I realized her efforts were made in the name of caring for others and a calling for social justice. I found my role in this effort in my life journey. My passion for medicine was planted by my mother’s accident, sculpted by accompanying the elderly woman and transformed by working alongside physicians in underserved communities. I feel humbled that during my journey, many patients have given me their trust to emotionally support them in difficult times. One day, however, I will apply my knowledge and training in medicine to serve as their companion in their most vulnerable time.
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