Nights spent stargazing pretending to be Galileo, afternoons in the backyard mixing together various leaves to create the ultimate brew, or even days spent at school surrounded by friends, are some of my fondest memories. Not mornings stuck at home with the flu or evenings forcing down concoctions my mom liked to call “medicine.” This is what health meant to me, to be able to run around, explore, and have fun. But as I grew older, my understanding of health began to adopt a new meaning. What seemed so permanent to me, wasn't. What seemed so indestructible, was from it. And that is my answer to the question: “Why do you want to be a doctor?”.
During the summer of 4th grade, I spent most weekends outside in what I called the “great outdoors” (our backyards) with my neighbor, Jason. We would climb the tallest trees always trying to outdo one another and it was our health that allowed us to do that, to explore and be kids with no care in the world. But ten feet was all it took, he fell and everything past that moment was a blur; the questioning from the paramedics, hours spent in the ER, and weeks bedside. Hearing the doctor tell us he won’t be able to walk again was shocking. I held onto every bit of hope that things would go back to normal, that the diagnosis wasn't true. But unfortunately in health, “normal” one day can be weekends climbing trees and the next it can mean never walking again.
That day, I began to understand how fragile health could be and it’s through the ramifications of that accident that took away my childlike ignorance of what health meant. No longer was it just the ability to run, explore, and climb trees. Health simply began to mean; to be able. Able to keep things as close to “normal” as we can. But whether we like it or not, health changes and so does our meaning of normal. But this is why I want to be a doctor, to have the opportunity to preserve and extend health, to help keep things as normal as possible for as many as possible.
Unfortunately, sometimes being healthy isn't as much our choice as we would like to believe. The summer of my second year at college I had to opportunity to scribe at a free clinic, helping the underserved community of Anaheim. What stood out the most from this experience were the kids. So many came in pre-diabetic, malnourished, or simply unaware of what “healthy” was. Almost every chief complaint was preventable, and that broke my heart. Oftentimes with circumstances out of their control, health really wasn’t a priority. I had already begun to see how fragile health was, but to see so little being done in the lives of these kids to stay healthy was disheartening.
These kids deserved the same access to succeed and to be able; be able to find their passions and pursue their dreams. But when you start at a disadvantage simply due to the nature of the circumstances of your environment, something then needs to change. A provider who can help wherever they can in that regard is a small step, but a step regardless. I want to be a doctor that takes these small steps because medicine is more than just miracle cures and heroic feats that were done in surgery, it’s these small steps. Those taken when giving out resources, volunteering, or advocating for youth. Steps were taken in an attempt to extend and improve life and to allow kids to be kids.
I currently serve as a health scholar as part of the Emergency Department and it was in this role that I experienced my first code blue just two weeks into the start of my rotation. It was a patient, a kid, whose face lit up when talking about Messi and his favorite soccer team. His warmth radiated and he seemed fine. I had just talked to him an hour ago, laughed with him, and assured him that he’d be home soon. But memories of his laugh were drowned out with the intercom on repeat, “Code Blue ED Room D42.” He seemed perfectly healthy, smiling, laughing, and talking with not a care in the world. Just a kid who loved soccer and wanted nothing more than to go out onto the field and score some goals. But it’s instances like these that reinforced the lessons and the understanding that health isn’t just the ability to kick that soccer ball down the field. It’s understanding the fragility of life and the necessity of medicine to help preserve not just health, but its role in protecting youth, protecting a child’s innocence and hope; hope to continue scoring goals and climbing trees.
After all, medicine represents a solution, and I know you can’t fix these complex problems simply by becoming a doctor, but what this career gives is a chance. A chance to be a provider that teaches, advocates, and serves to protect health. Whether it's through personal connections or the application of techniques and knowledge learned in school, a doctor has at their disposal so many ways to promote and protect health. What I want to do in medicine is to use this chance and the experiences and lessons I have learned to enable and provide kids with their deserved capability to be kids. To allow them to experience youth and life in its full capacity. To allow them to be able. Because for me, my youth served as the foundation in which I was able to flourish, develop my sense of creativity, and learn my passions. My health allowed me the freedom to become the individual I am today. This was a privilege, and more importantly, it was a right, a right that every child should have. With every child I help, they would be my purpose in medicine.
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