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Sometimes I like to tell people that my father knew I wanted to be a doctor long before I did, but the truth is that the idea of becoming a physician has probably been gestating within me in some form or other since an early age. There are childhood scenes involving my father, who is a pediatrician, that are indelibly etched in my memory. When I was eight, for example, a young woman came to our door with her first baby, who she thought was dying. My father examined the infant, reassured the mother that there was no serious problem, and sent both away in a state of relief. I also remember, a few years later, being in a restaurant where a woman was choking. ”Is there a doctor in the house?” someone asked. My father came forward and took the appropriate steps to help the woman in distress. In both of these instances, as well as many others through the years, I was impressed with my father’s capacity to apply his knowledge and skill in a way that made such an important difference in others’ lives. He seemed powerful, not in the same way as men who run companies or nations, but as someone who could provide comfort, quiet fears, touch a life, resolve a crisis.
I idolize my father and admire his commitment and contributions, but this alone would not be enough to make me want to become a doctor myself. As I matured, I had a chance to weigh other options and to take a long, hard look at myself, my capabilities, and interests. What I discovered, in time, was that medicine was indeed the most appropriate career path for me, the one best suited to me intellectually, emotionally, and otherwise. For the last four years I have worked one day a week in my father’s office, which has given me the chance to interact with patients (and their mothers), observe my father at work, and better understand the dynamics of his practice. Just as when I managed a sandwich shop in high school and had to learn to deal with the public, within his office I have also had to be diplomatic. I have had to relate to many different types of people, often at very vulnerable moments in their lives, and do so with sensitivity and compassion. Two summers ago I worked as an orderly in the operating room at a hospital in the Los Angeles area. I was there a minimum of 40 scheduled hours a week, and was on call each weekend. My experience at the hospital also gave me exposure to the constant pressure of emergency situations, in which there is little tolerance for error or indecision. And I was pleased to discover that I was more fascinated than repelled by the actual sight of surgery. I saw the delivery of babies, the treatment of gunshot wounds, hysterectomies, and a host of other procedures. I was spellbound by what I saw, and I returned to my premed studies with even greater enthusiasm and focus.
I have always been a very inquisitive person, as well as one who delights in taking things apart and putting them back together. I cannot help but wonder if these aspects of my personality do not somehow relate to my interest in medicine. I know for certain that I am highly attracted to the intellectual component of the profession and the fact that constant learning is such an integral part of being an effective physician. I also happen to find great pleasure in the company of other people, and I like the one-on-one facet of the physician’s work.
As directed as I am in terms of my career, my life would be empty without my family, my close friends (most of whom I have known since high school), my girlfriend, and the sports in which I involve myself with great regularity. These are vital elements of my existence and help me to maintain the balance I need.
My family is very warm and loving, and I think they have nurtured in me these same qualities. Each has taken very independent and ambitious paths. My mother has recently become a lawyer; one sister is becoming a psychologist and the other sister a lawyer. My feeling about the future is that if, for any reason, I did not become a doctor, I would be wasting something-namely, my compassion, commitment, energy, and potential to contribute.