During my gap year, I had the privilege of working for an AmeriCorps organization called City Year. It is a one-year commitment to 1,700 hours of mentoring and tutoring inner-city kids. I was placed at South High School in a 9th-grade math classroom in Columbus, Ohio. It is difficult to describe entirely how this year has changed me, but one word helps sum it up: ubuntu. There is no such word in the English language that fully encompasses the meaning of ubuntu. It is the deep connection to humanity itself. There’s a quote by Desmond Tutu that states “bringing people together is what I call ‘ubuntu,’ which means I am because we are. Far too often people think of themselves as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” When times would get difficult during my service year, I would think about these South African words to keep myself grounded.
Ubuntu is a concept that deeply connects to the medical field. Although the road ahead will be long and filled with hours and hours of intense studying, I know remembering that one day I will be treating mothers, sisters, brothers, and fathers will help me keep going. I hope I can study not just to pass the next exam, but to be able to retain the information so I can apply it to my patients. I challenge you to understand and apply ubuntu to your career and life.