“You were in an accident,” my mom said leaning over me with a wrinkle of concern on her face. I squinted my eyes at the brightness of the room, trying to orient myself. I glanced up at a cherry red bag of blood hanging above me, and with the familiar sounds of machines beeping and medical chatter, it wasn’t hard to pinpoint where I was. I was in the emergency department, my hair matted with dried blood and dirt. How did I get here? It felt like a blink as I opened my eyes to completely different surroundings from the towering trees I last remembered while hiking; my favorite study break from the stresses of medical school. The trail crumbled beneath my feet sending me 300 feet down the edge of a cliff. I was lucky to be alive, but any sense of luck eluded me as pain sent me in and out of consciousness and the darkness of delirium fluctuated. My fractured vertebrae could have easily left me paralyzed, and with a plethora of broken bones, lacerations and blood transfusions, I faced the reality of a lengthy recovery. On that afternoon in July 2016, my scholarly interests collided abruptly with my personal life. I was now a medical student and a patient, concurrently.
During lucid moments, I was distinctly aware of the many voices surrounding my hospital bed. Growing up in a household with a physician, my interest in medicine started early, but my passion for emergency medicine was solidified by the accident that put my third year of medical school on hold. I had spent the prior year on the other side of the bed as a medical student, which expanded concepts learned during medical school. I was able to gain exposure to and observe distinct approaches to clinical practice in emergency medicine. I learned various skills, including suturing techniques, resuscitation codes and proficient communication. These experiences ultimately influence how I communicate with patients and staff.
After returning home, I quickly learned that pain would be my central reality. My independence that I took pride in was put on hold and small steps became significant achievements. I became a full-time student to my recovery from a traumatic brain injury, eight fractured vertebrae, a fractured pelvis and clavicle and shattered radius and ulna. Much like the orchestration of my rescue and the effectiveness of an emergency department, my recovery was a team effort. I gritted my teeth through the recovery process, forced to make significant changes in my life as I learned how to maximize my academic potential while managing my injuries. My recovery challenged me to confront my difficulties and find value and confidence through persevering. Support from my family and mentors during this time gave me a strong understanding of the importance of support systems for my future patients. Though trying, I value my experience and the challenges that ultimately shaped me into a better student and person. I was determined to solidify the integration of learned concepts and clinical practice and pursue my goal of practicing as an emergency medicine physician.
Hungry to persevere, I returned to my third year of clinical rotations while balancing my ongoing recovery. By refusing to let my accident dictate my goals, I maintained my studies and finished my medical education during a lengthy and often defeating recovery. Dividing my time between recovery and clinical rotations was a challenging but humbling experience that remains with me when looking at my role as a physician through the eyes of a patient. My experience showed me the transformative power of determination when faced with difficulties, and the value of integrity and character that goes beyond the workplace. Few people will experience the challenges I faced and ultimately, was shaped by and I am hopeful to use my experience to relate to patients in ways others may not be able to.
During my exposure to emergency medicine as both a student and a patient, I admired how quickly physicians recognized life threatening signs in patients and almost simultaneously have the necessary further instructions ordered. Emergency medicine physicians possess organization and skilled composure in acute, possibly fatal events. I value quickly switching gears, assessing the severity of medical conditions and determining effective management factoring in underlying health problems that may alter treatment plans. A career in emergency medicine would allow me to manage acute patients in a fast pace environment, expanding on and solidifying the foundations I’ve learned and experienced both clinically and personally. These foundations are important to me when choosing a residency-training program.
I seek a program with well-rounded training in a unified environment where I can further develop my clinical and communication skills, consistently learn from each encounter, and hone my skills under pressure and in challenging environments. I believe the emergency medicine residency program at [removed identifier] provides unparalleled training experiences and ample opportunity to learn in a challenging environment. While providing optimal patient care, the program maximizes resident education, opportunities and training; a few of the aspects I considered when determining this to be an ideal program for me. As an emergency department that sees high volumes and a curriculum that allows training across multiple fields, the emergency medicine residency program at [removed identifier] is a learning environment that would undoubtedly allow me to thrive as an integral member of the team. Secure in the knowledge that the resilience and determination I have shown will enhance my education and further shape my future successes, I am ready to take on the challenge of residency in emergency medicine.