Growing up as an adoptee in rural America was burdensome. I was the only Asian-American in school. Although I was acutely aware of this, my classmates were not. To them, I was neither Chinese nor Asian; I was just Julie. Their racially insensitive jokes and comments were not meant maliciously. Consequently, I understood the importance of cultural sensitivity at a young age, initiating a desire to experience and explore other cultures.
During these formative years, I not only learned the importance of multiculturalism but also of the potential long-term effects of injuries. After severely spraining my neck in gymnastics, I was unable to bend or rotate it for two weeks. Although I had sustained numerous physical injuries during my competitive gymnastics career, this neck injury was life-altering. Simple actions such as tilting my head to eat or turning my head to speak became arduous, and I developed a muscle spasm causing piercing pain. Although the ever-present spasm was irritating, the mental impact was irreversible. The fear of injuring myself again consumed my thoughts. Ultimately, I had to retire from gymnastics because I had grown afraid of the sport that I had once adored. I realized that mental damage is sometimes greater than its physical counterpart.
I encountered emotional hurt from subtle racism, physical pain from injuries, and mental distress from recovery, but none of these experiences compared to seeing a family member in pain. My mother has suffered from scoliosis, endometriosis, and breast cancer. Her scoliosis was not fully corrected, resulting in debilitating respiratory problems while I was in tenth grade. She underwent a major back surgery that significantly impacted both of us in vastly different ways. I naively assumed waiting twelve hours for the surgery to be completed would be the most difficult aspect to endure. In reality, it was the recovery process. While a procedure affects the individual, the recovery process affects the family. Coping with my mother’s visual hallucinations, amnesia, and overall emotional instability was frustrating and exhausting. I was heartbroken watching the strong, independent woman who raised me struggle to be herself. Nevertheless, I witnessed the necessity of having faith and proper support in overcoming hurdles such as these. I hope to lend the strength that I gained from these hardships to my future patients and their families in their time of need.
I had my first experience interacting with patients from the view as medical staff during college at the [name of university], where I had the unique opportunity to volunteer in both patient units and anesthesiology. While volunteering in patient units, I spent most of my time performing tasks such as delivering drinks and cleaning rooms. These duties gave me insight to recognize that even the simplest tasks are important and meaningful to patients, nurses, and myself. I also had the privilege of observing surgeries in the operating room. I learned how anesthesiology is an application of neuroscience in the medical field. I developed a fascination with synaptic transmission and neurochemistry, so learning how the different anesthetics could alter a body’s state by acting at the synaptic level furthered my interest in this field.
In university, I yearned for a way to combine my passion for medicine and my dedication to cultural competency. I participated in a study abroad program in [name of city], India to explore a non-Western culture and to study naturopathic medicine. Working in India was challenging; I was unsure how to proceed without instructions and a lack of urgency. However, by the end of my internship, I had successfully embraced the autonomy and the relaxed pace. This experience opened my eyes to an alternative medicine and allowed me to truly appreciate another culture. My time in India left me desiring more opportunities abroad to interact with additional people and cultures. Therefore, I decided to further expand my worldview as an English Teaching Assistant in South Korea.
Working in a middle school in [name of city] has reinforced my understanding of how small gestures have large impacts. I intentionally make numerous efforts to involve students who have lower English levels and who exhibit disruptive or apathetic behaviors. Through acknowledging these students, I have built some unanticipated and valuable relationships. I never want my students to feel abandoned or excluded. By involving them, I recognize the efforts they are making and encourage them to keep trying.
While in medical school, I hope to complete rotations abroad to continue immersing myself in other cultures and learning about different approaches to medicine. After living abroad for more than two years, I now understand that for everything I have to offer, there is an equal amount for me to learn. I also intend to deepen my commitment to education. Doctors are inherently teachers because they educate not only patients but also future generations of physicians. I am enthusiastic to continue my education and begin my career caring for all people regardless of their circumstances.