"Come on Michael! One more...you can do it!” As a volunteer at Thrive, a cancer rehabilitation center, I was eager to work with Michael to help him reach his goals. Michael is a military veteran who used to be able to execute 200 pushups with ease, now he was struggling to reach ten. His body was still recovering from the chemo and I could tell the past two years had been difficult for him, but seeing his resiliency and weekly progression was inspiring. When I think about why I want to pursue a career in medicine, I think of people like Michael. I think of how health and wellness is a malleable concept that must be molded to each individual and circumstance. This realization, which was unearthed by this and other personal experiences, sparked a passion within me to take a personalized approach to maintaining, enhancing, and maximizing others’ overall health and wellness.
I first took an interest in health and wellness through the highs and lows of competitive tennis and rugby. I thrived on the feeling of hitting a forehand winner past my opponent to seal a victory or the surge of adrenaline consuming my body as I scampered past a tackle on the sidelines en route to scoring the go-ahead try (equivalent to a touchdown in football). Besides bringing me an indescribable level of joy, these experiences instilled within me a relentless drive for success, personal accountability and strong decision-making skills. Unfortunately, as my passion for tennis grew stronger, my body was unable to keep up. I began experiencing severe pain in my wrists with every swing of the racquet, and over time it became substantially worse. After months of frustration, I found myself in a room at the University of Calgary’s sports medicine clinic with Dr. Henny, who looked me in the eyes and diagnosed me, “Benny, you have lax ligaments in your wrists. This is a chronic condition with no treatment other than to avoid activities that cause pain. I am sorry, but competitive tennis is no longer an option for you.” To make matters worse, two years later during a rugby game I awkwardly tackled my opponent, shearing the muscle fascia off the inner layer of skin in my lower back resulting in a hematoma. While both my rugby and tennis injuries were very difficult, they brought me greater insight into what I wanted to do with my life. Having to undergo the process of diagnosis and treatment on several occasions allowed me to gain an appreciation for the knowledge and compassion of those who took care of me. It also became evident that in this fast-paced environment, a team-based approach was necessary to achieve the common goal: improving the health and well-being of the patient. Much like on the rugby field, everyone has a specific job to perform using a unique skill set, and team success is only achievable through strong leadership, collaboration, and trust. I began to picture myself in this medical environment, as it had many parallels to sports I played. Combined with my interest in health, fitness, and overall wellness, I began to strongly consider a career in medicine.
Travelling around the world has also helped solidify my desire to become a physician. For example, I participated in a volunteering trip to the remote Amazonian village of Tupana, Brazil. I’ll never forget arriving in Tupana. No bigger than a few city blocks, the village was primitive and badly in need of a health clinic. Building the clinic was a challenge but interacting with the people and seeing their reactions to the completion of the project brought tears to my eyes. I acknowledged how many aspects of life are taken for granted in our society, including access to proper healthcare. I also came to better appreciate how strongly economic circumstances impact education, occupational opportunities and consequently health and well-being. Leaving, I was humbled knowing I had contributed fundamentally in developing a better healthcare platform for a population in need. Although the people of Tupana lacked many opportunities, they had an enthusiastic and positive outlook on life. This resonated strongly with me and further developed my passion for serving others. It also highlighted the importance of a physician's role in promoting health, not just treating illness.
My interest in the field of medicine has developed overtime, with a common theme surrounding the importance of personal health and wellness. Through my journey in sports, travelling, and meeting some incredible individuals such as Michael, I have shifted my focus from thinking solely about the physical well-being, to understanding the importance of mental, spiritual, and social health as well. Being part of a profession that emphasizes continuous education, and application of knowledge to help people is very rewarding, and I will bring compassion, a hard work ethic and an attitude that is always focused on bettering patient outcomes.
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