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From massaging his arm to simply keeping him company, I tried to assist my grandfather in any possible way after a stroke had left his left arm partially paralyzed. As I observed the multitude of treatments and therapies he underwent to revitalize this arm, I often found my eight-year-old mind wishing that I possessed the medical skill and expertise to help him. In a way, then, my grandfather was my first patient.
I harbored this curiosity towards medicine throughout my junior high and high school years and began to seriously consider making it my career when I entered college. Due to this abiding interest in science, I decided to major in biology and passionately engrossed myself in the department’s courses. Seeking practical experience in the field, I joined a research team studying the developmental effects of Ataxia-telangiectasia, a recessive genetic disease characterized by growth retardation, abnormal germ cell development, immune defects, and a high incidence of tumorgenesis. As part of my independent study project, I cloned a specific version of the p53 gene. Through this endeavor, not only did I realize the replication, caution, and patience integral to the research process, but I also garnered an understanding of the ways in researchers can employ science to study clinical problems.
Although science has always fascinated me, it is the interpersonal interaction that primarily draws me to the medical field. This persistent desire to help people culminated in concrete action three years ago when I assumed my first volunteer position in the emergency room of Mercy Hospital. My duties there included assisting with patient admissions and discharges, serving as a liaison between the busy staff and visitors, stocking supplies, and delivering patients and materials to various areas of the hospital. When not directly assisting the staff, I listened attentively to the patients’ concerns and helped to alleviate their fears.
Such interactions with patients at Mercy Hospital reconfirmed my aspirations of becoming a physician and encouraged my decision to begin another volunteer position. As a volunteer at Vitas Hospice, I have relished the opportunity to provide companionship to terminally ill patients. I have always enjoyed spending time with the elderly; nevertheless, I never cease to be amazed by the vast amount of knowledge and life experiences they relate to me. For example, Mrs. A — a remarkable 102-year-old lady — enlightened me with the details of Black Tuesday and her personal memories concerning the state of the country when the Titanic sank. Another especially memorable experience occurred on a fishing trip with Mr. C. After the doctors diagnosed him with COPD, Mr. C.’s last request was for a volunteer to take him fishing. As I still vividly recall the jubilant excitement on Mr. C’s face as he cast his line repeatedly into the open water, my memories are tinged with the bittersweet reminder that Mr. C passed away three days after our fishing trip. I always imagined that I could learn much from my patients as a doctor. My experiences at Vitas Hospice have confirmed such inclinations and have infinitely increased my love of medicine.
I am thus confident that I will achieve my goal of becoming a physician. Through my vast array of volunteer experiences and conversations with my uncles and other physicians, I have accrued a solid understanding of what a position in the medical field entails. While I understand that a career in medicine requires a great deal of work, I am certain that I possess more than the requisite commitment and stamina to meet the challenge. From the time I took my grandfather’s seemingly massive arm in my own inexperienced eight-year-old hands, to the day I recently accompanied Mr. C. on his final fishing trip, I have appreciated the dual value of providing comfort to and gaining knowledge from patients. I can now look forward to gaining a greater understanding of the technical aspects of medicine and further cultivating my interpersonal skills to improve my ability to serve.