The road to becoming a doctor is a long and difficult one. For students trying to become doctors, the road can be even more difficult as it is among the most competitive of professions with some of the best and brightest students applying, making acceptance to medical school even more difficult.
The financial burden is enormous and students have to learn how to tighten their belts and make sacrifices. This difficulty does not deter many people from going to medical school. Being a doctor is the best profession you can obtain, where people use their talents for the betterment of humankind and to be given an opportunity to ease the pain of the patient is very rewarding.
Millions of people would like to be in that position, but they cannot. I am thankful for the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of the patients and students, what a wonderful feeling.
I received this letter from one of my research assistants, John Cooper, who is currently a junior at Kenyon College majoring in biochemistry. His desire is to continue on to medical school after completely his undergraduate coursework.
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered”
I first came across this quote when reading Nelson Mandela’s, A Long Walk to Freedom in the winter of my senior year of high school, and returning to the orthopedic center this summer reminded me of it. The quote is a strong statement on realizing the self-improvement that can be so difficult to see in ourselves. When you set long-term goals, it is encouraging to take time to see the progress you have made towards achieving those goals, especially when you still have a long road ahead of yourself. My goal is to gain acceptance to medical school because I aspire to be a doctor. It is a tough path and I sometimes have doubts that I can go the distance. However, I am encouraged because returning to work at the orthopedic center at UTMC this summer has given me a chance to reflect and see the progress I have made on my journey to achieving that goal.
I am a much better student today than when I began work last summer. That point is emphasized by comparing the A average I achieved this year versus the B average I had last year. Some people might say that I was bound to do better in school this year because I was a sophomore with an extra year of experience taking college classes, because I am a year older, or even because I must have worked harder. They all seem reasonable and I think they all account for some of my improvement but I think that a mindset change caused by my work last summer accounts for most of the improvement I saw this year. My mindset towards school and work has changed from that of an average student working to get by in my classes to one that I think most resembles the professionals I worked with last summer, striving to know all I can and produce the best quality work possible. My experience working in a hospital was a catalyst for change and I would like to share exactly what I learned and how it has benefitted me.
Doing research in a hospital has been beneficial in two major ways. First, as a college student majoring in the natural sciences, I found that working in research is useful in finding ways to improve as a student. One of the first projects I worked on last summer was a paper regarding acute compartment syndrome of the thigh. I was sent a folder containing 27 papers detailing the topic. It took over a week but I carefully read each paper along with textbook chapters on the anatomy of the thigh and compartment syndrome. That experience taught me the value of approaching a topic from many different angles and carefully reading primary literature to gain understanding of a topic.
Long projects can be intimidating, especially if you are used to work taking only a day or two to complete. I collaborated on a 30-page booklet that took three weeks to complete. I learned the benefits of proper planning and diligence when confronting a major assignment. Planning how you want the end product to look and then being diligent throughout the process is important for doing your best work and staying on schedule. I used that strategy when studying for tests and working on school projects this year which is a reason why they typically went very well for me this past year.
Seeing the attitude, the professionals I worked with had towards their careers and their research projects was also inspiring. Their work was always polished and informative, and their attitudes toward work were positive. I learned that the most successful people are the ones who can rise above childish office gossip, do their work to the best of their ability, and solve more problems than they create. I try to follow their example and do my work professionally while keeping a positive attitude. I also learned to be confident about my commitment to personal growth. Dr. Ebraheim says we must become gladiators, people that face the toughest of challenges every day and succeed. Working with people who have been on the same journey that I’m on, who have faced similar challenges and succeeded is inspiring. It renews my belief that I can succeed in my goal of gaining acceptance to medical school.
I challenge all college students to find opportunities to volunteer or work with people who work in the fields they aspire to work in. You can learn a lot from people who have gone on the same journey you are on, who have encountered similar challenges and succeeded.