Saint Louis University medical student
During spring break of 2006, many of my friends were headed to a beach in Florida, but I was headed to a different beach. I had organized an alternative spring break trip to Long Beach, Mississippi. The experience impacted my life in ways I never imagined, most notably by helping me choose a career path. The encounter with John was brief, but it left a deep impression on me of which I have reflected upon many times since.
The heat was oppressive as my group worked on drywall installation in the wind and flood damaged neighborhood. That evening as we made our way back to the gym that would be our home for the next week, we saw John sitting with his head in his hands. The FEMA markings in bright orange behind him revealed everyone in his home had survived. We inquired about his bloodied face and broken glasses and John explained that he had fallen off a ladder earlier that day. He was broken and could not handle any more in the aftermath of the hurricane. We took him back to the gym that night for a meal and a shower, and listened while he explained everything that had happened to him over the past few months. We also found John a new pair of glasses. They were not perfect, but they seemed to give John hope. With tears in his eyes, he told us how relieved and encouraged he felt as a result of our support. That moment made me realize what a difference vision makes in people’s lives. Simply having a pair of functional glasses meant John was ready to face the world. I am not sure what happened to John, but I often think back to my interaction with him and the newly found optimism he was given simply by a new pair of glasses.
The spring break trip impacted my life significantly, but my family has also inspired and guided me. My mom taught me dedication, perseverance, and the value of education. After college, she supported my dad as he finished radiology school. Then, at the age of 38, she completed her MBA after five years of course work. She now works as the director of a small business development program at Missouri State University, a level of success she would not have achieved without education. My dad taught me compassion, patience, and empathy. I watched him comfort and counsel patients working as a sonographer in a high risk pregnancy clinic. The influence he has on patients was recently confirmed when a family came to the office to introduce their newborn son Anderson, whom they had named after my dad. The guidance provided by my family helps me to pursue a career in medicine that I am dedicated to and passionate about.
I approached medical school with an open mind and found that my favorite course was neuroscience during the second year. I hoped the third year clinical rotations would solidify my career choice, but I only became overwhelmed. I liked pieces and parts of many fields, but none seemed to be the right fit. The “hands-on” nature of surgery was exciting and held my attention, but I disliked the lack of patient-physician relationships. Forming relationships in the family medicine clinic was great, but I needed more procedures. I felt compassion for the veterans in the geriatric clinic, but I desired a broad patient population. Thus, I continued my search for something that had it all.
At this point, I thought back to what influenced me to pursue medicine. I thought about John from Mississippi and my family. The next week I set up shadowing opportunities in the ophthalmology clinic and finally started to experience what I had been looking for. Ophthalmology allowed me to practice the full spectrum of care, including preventative medicine, medical management, and surgical treatments. I was able to form relationships with the patients with chronic disease states and offer a cure to others. Best of all, many patients were hopeful, relieved, and ready to face the world as they left the clinic.
I am seeking a preliminary year position that will provide a strong medical foundation for my career in ophthalmology. I realize the importance of this year of my training. What separates us as physicians from other specialty trained medical professionals is our vast knowledge of the entire body and the ability to recognize and treat its disease processes. I am hopeful this preliminary year will provide me with experiences that will help me to become a well trained physician who is able to recognize systemic disease processes that may also manifest in the eye. I am now less than one year away from achieving my goal of becoming a doctor and residency is the next step that undoubtedly brings challenges. I am excited to dedicate myself to the task and I look forward to what the future holds with great anticipation.