My decision to apply to medical school was motivated by a broad range of factors stemming from both my academic and extracurricular experiences. My work first as a mentor and later as program coordinator for STRIVE, a program for teens with sickle cell disease (SCD), offered me insight not only into the lived experiences of those with SCD, but also those of their families. Speaking to the parents of the mentees taught me the enormous burden of raising multiple children with a chronic disease. At the same time, I learned the ability of patient stories to help counter prevalent myths. Before working with young people with sickle cell, I viewed it with enormous fatalism as an insurmountable barrier. Now after three years, though I have seen pain crises and accompanied a student to the ER, I have far more often been regaled with stories of athletic and artistic performance.
The importance of allowing people to tell their own story is perhaps best embodied by the exercises we complete each year in annual training, in which we examine how pediatric SCD patients’ priorities are perceived by MDs, parents, and the children themselves. Despite having lived the experience of SCD beside their children and patients, both the parents and physicians largely underestimate pediatric patients’ maturity and awareness of their condition. My work with patients in treatment and survivors of the condition through Globemed allowed me to gain a similar view of Tuberculosis and global health. While I can of course never fully comprehend my mentees or the Globemed partners’ lived experiences, the opportunity to lend the credibility granted to the medical profession to their stories is one I view as invaluable. Inspired by this perspective, I wished to gain the social capital allotted to physicians to more effectively bring to the medical decision-making table the diverse voices and perspectives I have had the privilege to engage with.
My perspective as a historian and bioethicist also drives me towards medicine. Both skilled physicians and students of history must be able to analyze the enormous intellectual legacy of their predecessors and critically evaluate precedent to innovate and ultimately improve the human condition. I firmly believe that my training in melding medicine and history has prepared me to put to proof William Osler’s assertion that “to study the phenomena of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all.”
Lastly, medicine will allow me to continue to pursue my love of teaching. From my first experience working with children as a teaching assistant at my local Kumon, the role of mentor has been one of the most fulfilling I have ever assumed. Teaching formed a central part of my college experience. In my role as GHU coordinator in Globemed, I instructed my colleagues and the campus on a variety of global health issues. More directly I served as program coordinator for STRIVE and taught ACT courses in reading comprehension and writing skills to local high school students. This latter experience was perhaps my most meaningful as a teacher.
While I know I fostered positive academic growth in all my students, my interactions with one student stand out. Although he began the course with the lowest scores in the class, his hunger to improve was plain. Over the course of 3 months, he not only raised his section score by 10 points but also developed a greater awareness of his own potential. At the course’s conclusion, his mother informed me that he had come to view me as a role model and been inspired to return to the program and hone his skills further, I was moved. This experience taught me not only the way in which potential can bloom if given the right conditions, but also that I held the ability to foster such an environment and carry on the legacy of supportive and engaged teaching that has been so vital to my own academic success.