From a Broken Arm to a Bone Doctor

I received this letter from my current chief resident, Joshua Schwind, who will be graduating this year. I found it inspiring and entertaining and thought I would share it with you/the public. Dr. Schwind is being considered for a full time faculty position at The University of Toledo Medical Center.

When I was four, I looked on in excitement and anticipation as my dad finished putting together my playset. It was glorious. There were swings, a rope, a clubhouse, and monkey bars. One of the dowel rods was missing, so he made sure I could swing myself into the clubhouse from two rungs out. I did a couple of times, no problem. So the next day, I could hardly wait during the ride home from Kinder-Care. It was my first full afternoon with the playset. I got up on the monkey bars and swung across. I built up momentum to swing myself into the clubhouse, but when I swung this time, my foot caught the wood below the door and I fell. All I knew at the moment was that my arm hurt. So I held it and ran into the house. I told my mother, “Mom, my arm hurts really bad.” When she took my hands away to look, her scream of terror told me that it was serious. So she whisked me away to the hospital. I don’t remember too much after that, except waking up from anesthesia, crying for my mom. I also remember going back for a couple check-ups, getting my cast off, and talking to “the German guy,” who was my treating surgeon. That was my initial inspiration for being a doctor.

So I grew up, and my interests changed. I really liked reading and arguing, so on the interest inventory forms that we had to fill out in elementary school and middle school, I wrote that I wanted to be a lawyer. But I was drawn back to my first interest, medicine, after taking an anatomy class my senior year of high school. I told my counselor, “You know, I think I want to be a doctor.” He laughed and informed me, “Josh...you’re smart, but you aren’t ‘doctor smart.’” If there is one thing that can motivate me beyond anything else, it is being told that I’m not intrinsically good enough, or talented enough to do something. So, I went into college with a firm resolve to prove this counselor wrong. And I did. I worked diligently, and graduated summa cum laude, and got accepted into medical school. I was going to be a doctor.

Being a washed-up jock, having to work out in high school and college, I had an interest in bones, muscles, joints, and the way the human body moves. That didn’t change as I progressed through medical school. Everything was fascinating, but the only thing I was passionate about was the musculoskeletal system. I had no other focus except being an orthopedic surgeon. Through fate or coincidence, I was accepted at the medical school at the same hospital I went to as a 4 year old with a both bone forearm fracture. And the chairman of orthopaedics and program director of the residency was the same surgeon who treated me 20 years before. My first day on my rotation through his service, I went up and introduced myself, “Dr. Ebraheim, my name is Josh and I am a third year medical student interested in ortho. Actually, I was once your patient.” And before I finished my sentence, he picked up my left arm, the one I broke, and says, “Look at that! It’s straight. I did a good job for you.” That was it. That cemented it. I was going to train under this man. If he can remember casting a 4 year-old’s fracture 20 years later, there was something I could learn from him. I also learned that he was Egyptian, not German (cut me a break, I was 4.)

And now I sit here, typing this story as his chief resident. Ready to graduate and go onto a spine surgery fellowship. I reflect on this journey that I’ve been on, almost three decades in the making, and I am amazed that I am in the position that I’m in. I have been incredibly lucky. So few make through every step of the process. I can recall many classmates of mine that wanted to do pre-med, but the classes were too difficult. Then there were the ones who couldn’t score high enough on the MCAT, or didn’t get into medical school, or didn’t have the board scores to be a competitive candidate for ortho. I don’t think that I have any intrinsic trait that makes me better than any of those people that fell off along the way. I was just always motivated by that first encounter, that dream, that aspiration. I wanted to help people like I had been helped, and no obstacle was so overwhelming that I would not overcome it. I appreciate you being a mentor to me these five years; I am forever in your debt, for both your knowledge and inspiration. Thanks.

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