Events, Life

Personal Statement

09.08.07 | Comment?

Anastasia and I are looking for residencies for her to apply to. Anastasia has selected Family Medicine as her specialty, a choice that I am very pleased with. Part of the application process, requires that she write a “Personal Statement” explaining why she wants to study Family Medicine. I think Anastasia has written an really excellent Personal Statement that shows her heart and love for medicine and wanted to share it with you all.

Please keep us in your prayers, as we seek God’s guidance in where Anastasia should do her residency.

Sometimes, a single person can change your entire view of the world, and yet when you look back, it is apparent, that perhaps they did not so much change your view as much as they simply showed you what you had been looking for all along. I grew up in a large, energetic family of high-achievers. My four older brothers entered various surgical sub-specialties from Orthopedics to Pediatric Surgery, and talk around the dinner table was suffused with their experiences. It was assumed that since I too wanted to enter medicine that I would also become a surgeon, and I vaguely agreed that I probably would. Yet, despite their truly fascinating experiences, I felt something was missing in their medical practice. In the winter of my junior year in college, I traveled to West Africa to work with a plastic surgeon. Yet, even in the excitement of being involved in his work, I was aware that something was lacking. With every patient, I wanted to know more about their lives and families. What had they suffered and what other barriers did they face to good health? I wondered who would give them follow-up care. When the plastic surgeon returned to America, I stayed on to continue volunteering in the tiny bush hospital. I began to work alongside a general practitioner. While the plastic surgeon’s work was beautiful and life changing, the GP practiced a medicine of a very different nature. Devoted to long-term service and care of his patients, he delivered their babies, set broken bones, vaccinated, dewormed, sought answers to challenging cases and was there for every major life-event of his families. With understanding and warmth, he explained their cultural beliefs and health practices, and showed me their barriers to good healthcare. Even as I struggled in broken French and Ewe, nothing could dim the growing thrill that I had found my heartbeat at last. His emphasis on long-term relationships and holistic, family-centered approach to care was radically different from all my prior exposures, yet resonated as the “way medicine should be.” Since that winter when my view of medicine was so dramatically altered through the sacrificial service of this general practitioner in Africa, I have come to realize that my past was foundational to that eureka moment.I entered the world as the sixth child of a family that would eventually expand to fifteen. Growing up in the New York City metropolis gave many opportunities and privileges, and my parents ensured that we took full advantage of these. More importantly, they also valued service among the underserved and immigrant as just as great a privilege. Chinese, Hispanic, Italian, Lebanese, elderly and young, all were welcome in our home. Still, though my parents sought to make us aware of their struggles, I had yet to personally face their world. But life turned upside down in grade school when I was transplanted 1000 miles from the east coast to a tiny rural Southern town. Instead of the Empire State and Twin Towers, our town had a single stoplight. In place of manicured golf-courses were cows, shacks and tiny homes in cotton fields. I learned to wash laundry by hand, plant, build and make do without electricity and heat. Yet, while our family’s outside circumstances had changed, my parents’ emphasis on service had not. They encouraged me as I volunteered in a food distribution ministry, taught English as a second language to Mexican immigrants, and worked to meet the needs of the community around us. Feeling the tension of a still-segregated society, and learning first-hand what it was to be considered “an outsider,” I strove to understand the culture and beliefs of those around me. All these experiences had a profound influence on me. I became convinced of the importance of context. Everyone has a context, and to attempt holistic care outside of that context, or worse in a preconceived context, will fail. I know firsthand how environment, whether it be living without running water, or in a different culture, affect health and wellbeing. I consider my “transplantation” to have been a great privilege, especially as I realize how it molded my views on the importance of holistic family-centered care.

Since returning to New York as a medical student, I have enjoyed the privilege of not only learning in an intense academic environment, but also deepening my exploration of the many facets of family medicine. Extracurricular activities such as working in a student-run free clinic for the uninsured or being involved in public advocacy for escaped child sex workers along with my clinical experience have broadened my appreciation for all that can be done as a family physician. Volunteering with the USPHS-IHS on an Apache reservation for my family medicine rotation was the highlight of my medical school experience. Finally, I was able to meld the different facets into a unified whole. Days were spent caring for everyone from babies to the elderly. I was able to practice preventative, chronic and acute care, and time spent in home visits gave me a better window into the Apache people’s joys and struggles.

My many experiences have thus solidified my commitment to becoming a family physician in the fullest sense. I am confident that Family Medicine will allow me to be the physician I want to be: caring for whole families in the context of their environments, cultures and beliefs, providing holistic care that is not dependent upon expensive equipment, large medical centers, or even a classic “doctor’s office.”

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