Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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A24 horas@ the nightly news program was on in Peru. A report about a group of American surgeons that were volunteering their services in one of the poorest parts of Peru was on. The purpose of these doctors in Peru was specifically to treat rural kids with facial abnormalities whose family lived in poverty and could not afford the expensive operation. I remember watching as the kids grabbing their mother=s hands went into the operation room scared, not knowing what was going to happen next; however after the operation they had a smile on their face and a sense of gratification toward the doctor. The next morning I woke up thinking about the great service the doctors were providing the kids with, and the great feeling these doctors might knowing that their work gave these kids a chance to smile again. That morning I thought that one day I would like to do the something as significant as those doctors did; I wanted to feel what those doctors felt when they saw their patients smile again.

I wanted to become a medical doctor. However, at that time I was only fifteen and I didn=t have a clear concept in what it was like to be a doctor. I needed to make a decision on congruent ideas and firm beliefs. That decision came when I started volunteering at the free clinic near my university community.

I started volunteering at the clinic my sophomore year and since then my whole view of a health provider changed. I believe now that I can appreciate better what is like to be a doctor. Volunteering at the clinic provided me with valuable insights into what the medical career requires of you and the opportunities and reward it carries. I remember calling the patients= name from the office, and taking them to the triage room so I could do input their data in the computer and take their vitals. I remember many of the patients telling me what was ailing them, and asking me what can they do to make it better. Of course, at that time I didn=t have the medical knowledge to tell them what was wrong with them. However, I learned that if I could just listen and give them my sympathetic understanding on what is like to be in their position their whole perspective about the illness would change for the better. I remember an event that had a great impact on me which happened at the clinic. It was a Friday afternoon when AMrs. Smith@ came to the clinic for a routine check up, like always I would call her name and she would accompany me so I could triage her. However, this time was different, she seem sad and agitated, I asked her why did she seem so agitated, she replied AI=ve been having chest pains at night@. Immediately she started to sob telling me that she was scared because she was a single mother with two kids and didn=t know who was going to take care of her kids if something was to happen to her. Even before she finish what she was telling me I started relating to her situation, because my dad died of heart problems when I was young and my mom was left taking care of me. I tried to calm her down, telling her that everything was going to be alright and that her kids were going to be fine and she had nothing to worry about. She eventually took comfort on my words and smiling at me she said AThank you, I sure hope you are right@..

Volunteering has proved to be a big step towards understanding what is like to be a doctor, nevertheless working for Dr. Fajer and his research team at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory has also been a learning experience. At the Laboratory I have learned to use the different apparatus useful for my experiments, like the UV/vis Spectrometer, BioRad Electrophoresis, the Ultra Centrifuge to name a few. Most importantly I have learned laboratory techniques that have made me use my critical thinking skills to solve obstacles presented through out my experiments. I believe these critical thinking skill will become very important at the time of diagnosing an illness and prescribing a treatment.

I realize that the journey of the medical field is no easy task, however I am prepared to assume the responsibilities to achieve my goal. This constant drive to reach my goal at the end will give me personal fulfillment which is one of the aspects I am working for in my journey to become a medical doctor.