Anatomy of an Open Mind: My Discovery of Medicine
August 4, 2010 § 6 Comments
Since thinking long and hard about becoming a doctor, especially after announcing it to other medical students, I’ve heard this phrase time and time again: Just keep an open mind.
I don’t have a problem at all with an open mind, and in fact, I’ve kept one my entire life. Shall we begin the journey?
From the time I was 3 until the time I was 19, I was convinced that I wanted to become a teacher. The type of teacher changed, but one thing always remained the same: I would teach. Certain things got in the way of that happening once I got into college, but there’s no time for that now. We must explore just how open my mind has been. Let’s take a more in-depth look now!
After a disheartening journey with the education department, I had briefly decided that I would make a career of writing my entire life. When it got down to it, the only thing I was writing were these blog posts, that, comparatively, very few people read. And I would have to probably resort to teaching, which, at the time, I decided it just wouldn’t be healthy for me to launch something into teaching so quickly after such a negative experience.
Let’s take a flashback to more than four years ago. I sat next to my friend in a physical science class. My teacher had asked me whether or not I had considered the medical field. At the time, I was scared to death of it because I had been around it for all of my life and knew that the training doctors go through was just way too long and tiresome for my physical capabilities. But, okay, so my new friend was in the class, and at the time, she wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. “Whoa! Cool!” I instantly muttered to myself. Since the first specialty my teacher had mentioned was neurology, I thought I’d play along. Who couldn’t resist working with their best friend for their entire life? Sounded pretty amazing to me!
Eventually, the dream lost its spark because I was discouraged. Science and math weren’t my strong points, and there was no way I’d get through any of the requirements to become a doctor.
Senior year rolls around, and I’m living the high life, or so I thought. I was accepted into a Teacher Apprentice Program for high school seniors in my county. I was lucky enough to secure a placement in special education at my high school. So what did this mean for me? For me, I would only take 4 academic classes, as opposed to the standard six. They included Algebra III, which was the biggest waste of my time, AP Spanish, British Literature with a monster for a teacher, and Government and Economics. Most of the classes were wonderful. There is one thing I regret about my senior academics, and that is not taking advantage of our AP Psychology course and the Anatomy and Physiology course. Everyone loved the content and the teachers, and I was certain that I would, too.
My internship was one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t talk about it much anymore, as the thought of me teaching again just frustrates me. I was in two different settings with students with mild to severe learning difficulties. The two settings were a “resource” classroom and a “collaborative” model. In the resource setting, the focus is on one subject, the class sizes are very small (usually <15, dependent upon the school and system, of course), and the class is taught by a teacher who is "highly qualified" in both special education and another academic concentration. On the other hand, in the collaborative setting, the students who receive special education services are integrated with their peers, and a special education teacher provides support for them in the classroom.
Both settings were an absolute joy, and yes, they all had their advantages and disadvantages, as does anything, but my absolute favorite part was, when, for the last half of the year, I took over most of the responsibilities of the teachers, and the students were mine. I prepared their lessons, attended meetings on their behalf (with the approval of the parent, of course) and functioned as closely to a teacher would as you can imagine. Those students are such joys, and to this day, I think fondly of them.
Throughout this period of time, I began thinking that though teaching was a way that I was most definitely providing a service to them and assisting them, there had to be something more. By the time I graduated, I was uncertain. I declared a special education major because that was what I knew how to do. Again, I love the students dearly, but I always found myself aching for the ability to do more for them, and I wanted to find the answer to that.
Once I got into college, I volunteered with students and children with disabilities on a nearly weekly basis serving as a tutor and mentor. There was still that void.
I'll never forget the night I laid in bed weeping, not understanding the more that I had been called to do for these young lives. It was miserable. With it being November, I had finals looming overhead and a much-welcomed month of respite from the world of academia.
I got through it, and I'm still unsure how.
Then, it happened.
It was a cold, dark December day, and I was lounging while reading my latest Facebook news feed. I see that a message has popped up. Clicking, my mind slows. I'm unsure of the name, but I read on. A doctor introduces himself as a resident physician in Boston who had read my blog and really enjoyed my writing. "Nice compliment," I mutter to myself. He goes on to say that if I hadn't considered a career in medicine, I should give it thought.
"There it is," I say quietly. Racking my brain to figure out the next step, I take a deep breath and wait. I navigate to the school's website, find their listing of pre-medical advisers, and click the second name on the list.
Days pass, and I receive a return e-mail that says that he will be out for surgery until February. "Perfect," I say to myself. "Time to think, time to make the right decision." Anxiously awaiting the date of our meeting in the library, I don't think a grin left my face until then, and even after, it was plastered.
I was going to become a doctor.