“What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some, this question creates an overwhelming sense of anxiety and indecision. However, my answer to this question has been the same since I was five years old. “I want to be surgeon.” When I was in kindergarten my nana gave me $50, and as any little kid I was ecstatic. I began jumping around on my bed but soon fell off, fracturing my wrist. The next day I experienced my first (of many) visits to my orthopedic surgeon. Normally, five year olds wouldn’t be amused about being in a doctor’s office. But I wasn’t a normal five-year-old. I loved the orthopedics office. My head was on a swivel as I tried to fathom the various diagrams of skeletons, knee joints, and vertebrae. “What is that, what does this mean, is that what a bone looks like?” I asked my parents. I got a bright blue cast on my wrist that day, but I also gained a new obsession. Once I got back home my dad showed me his gross anatomy textbook from college, and his medical anatomy coloring book. While everyone else was coloring in pictures of Sesame Street and Blues Clues, I was coloring in the 33 different vertebrae or the ligaments and bones of the human hand. I was completely infatuated with the human body. That day I even calculated that I would have to wait 25-30 years before I could finally become a surgeon. That didn’t matter to me though, because it’s all I ever wanted to do.
As I grew up and learned more about myself, the one thing that remained constant was my goal. During my senior year of high school, I experienced a career ending shoulder injury abruptly ended my baseball career. This was depressing point in my life, but also quite revealing. It felt like I was in and out of the Orthopedic office every other day. Despite being in a dispirited mood, I oddly enjoyed being around those same posters of bones, muscles, and ligaments that amused me back when I was five. One thing that amazed me was how compassionate and understanding my doctor was. He somehow found a way to console me, even though I would never be able to play baseball again. I never understood how he could make me feel happy in a time like that, but I realized that’s what a good doctor should be able to do.
Once I got to college I was excited to embark on this new step in achieving my ultimate goal. Two days after I turned 18, I enrolled myself in an EMT course. The minimum age to take the course was 18, and I was also a first semester freshman trying to acclimate to collage. The course instructor called me personally, questioning if I would be able to handle the workload. I assured him that I could handle this class. This was the first time I was exposed to this type of material, and was excited to be able to call myself a healthcare provider. I was the youngest person in my class, but that gave me more motivation to get my EMT license. Five months later, I passed both my written and practical exams and became a New York State EMT. I was once step closer on my grueling journey to becoming a physician.
During the summer following my freshman year, I traveled to Honduras as part of the Stony Brook Global Medical Brigades club. This trip was an enlightening moment in my life. I learned how privileged I am, and what true medicine is all about. The Honduran citizens were some of the poorest individuals I have ever seen, but ironically some of the most pleasant and kind. During the brigade, our group established makeshift clinics to screen, treat, and give out free medication to poor Hondurans. Despite having barely anything to their name, the Hondurans always had a smile on their face. They even offered us some of their own food, which they most likely struggled to afford. At the triage station, I took vital signs of 100s of incoming villagers. I was excited to put my new EMT skills to use to help people who barely have access to even the most rudimentary levels of healthcare. The best part of the experience was seeing someone smile because I was helping them. It made me feel like nothing else has ever made me feel. Our time on this planet is quite short. What matters the most the me is making a difference, even a small one.
After the triage station, I shadowed a native Honduran doctor as he consulted a plethora of patients in an elementary school classroom. It was in that tiny, decrepit room where I learned what medicine is all about. One of the patients we saw was a 16-year-old mother and her 4-year-old son, and 1 year old daughter. I learned that her baby was sick, and would most likely not live much longer. I frantically tried to find a solution in my mind for this innocent baby, but there was none. Dr. G (The doctor I was shadowing) explained how medicine worked in Honduras. The nearest hospital was hours away from this isolated village, and the people definitely could not afford to see a doctor there. Moreover, the main hospital in the capital did not have many good doctors. This was because most Honduran doctors got their license in Honduras, but then migrated to the Unites States to make more money. Dr. G was not one of these people. He was volunteering with us for this entire week, and made a grand total of $0. Why did he do it? He believed in real medicine, as he called it. He wanted to give back to his people, and he wasn’t concerned with the money. All Dr. G cared about was helping as many people as possible, in whatever way he could. On my flight back to New York, I pledged to myself that if I am lucky enough to become a physician one day, that I will be an ambassador of real medicine. I also promised myself that I would volunteer abroad as much as I could.
In my final year of college, I was hired as an Academic Associate by the Stony Brook University Hospital Emergency Department. As an intern, I screen emergency room patients, obtain their consent, and enroll them in clinical trials or studies. This experience showed me how vital communication is in the field of medicine. Being able to connect with patients is an invaluable skill that any good doctor must acquire. I hope to perpetually keep improving my communication skills, and this internship allows me to develop this skill before I truly enter the field of medicine.
I am currently in my finally year of my undergraduate career at Stony Brook. By no means am I close to becoming a surgeon, but I am working towards this goal every day. With every class I take, or every patient I talk to in the emergency room, I am preparing myself to be a better person and more well-rounded future physician. Sometime I question if I will be able to achieve my dream, and it is those moments where I find the internal motivation to keep going. The two people who brought me into this world serve as my biggest motivation. My parents migrated to America from Guyana when they were just 18 years old, with barely any money in their pockets. They didn’t know anyone here, yet they put themselves through school and became successful U.S citizens. Luckily for me, the two most hardworking, genuine people I know also happen to be parents. My father was accepted to several medical schools, but could not attend because he needed to find a job immediately to support his family. Their work ethic is something I have aspired to adapt. I am proud to be called their son, and their journey in this world gives me motivation to become someone that makes a difference in this world, one patient at a time.