I was told that National Doctor’s Day is coming up in the form of an email, while I slouched over piles of slides on gastroparesis and gallstones. Sometimes I forget (and sometimes it takes an email) to remember that in a few years, we will be doctors. Sometimes it takes a fourth-year returning to campus after interview season to remind us that there is life (and a career) after medical school.
Being incited by this email, and these fourth-years, I reflect on why I came to medical school in the first place, and how that’s changed since I’ve been here. To be honest, I never took the prospect of medical school seriously in college. I took some of the required class work because my friends were doing it, but never saw the motivation for enduring another four years of classes, and then training. So I went a different route. I became a teacher, taught high school science in Detroit, and found a passion for working with underserved populations. As we talked about the integumentary system and social constructs of race, as well as water quality and Michigan (this was before the Flint crisis went viral), I saw that many topics in science and health affected my kids. And as much as I could educate them to build a better Detroit, the root cause of many of my students’ concerns was health-based. So I considered medicine. It is a form of service. I took night classes, studied for the MCAT and shadowed in ERs, all with the notion that I would only apply to medical school once (hoping for divine providence). I loved teaching but wanted to see my impact extended. And fortunately, I was accepted and made the decision to pursue this career path.
When I first started med school, I knew I wanted to return to Detroit and work with underserved communities. But I wasn’t sure how. That was until an advisor listened to me describe my students’ experiences, and he said: “trauma.” Not pediatrics, not family med. Just trauma. This isn’t to say that those fields aren’t important; they are absolutely essential. But for me, responding to an acute concern felt more in my control than addressing the larger macro social forces. So I’ve spent some time working with an incredible trauma team, and I am only reaffirmed in my interest in the field, because I see how the team treats everybody, regardless of background, with the same level of urgency and excellence. It’s a skill I hope to acquire and take back with me to Detroit after graduation.