This blog post is a finalist in the STFM Blog Competition.
On the highway, en route to an important destination, you notice a sea of red before you. Traffic is at a standstill, and you reluctantly take your place in line. Glancing at the clock, then the line of cars inching along, the uneasiness in your stomach grows. Do you trust the GPS telling you to stay the course, or your instincts pulling you toward the next exit? This was exactly the scenario I found myself in 8 years ago. I was in the midst of a successful business career when I realized my desire to improve others’ lives as a physician was more important than any size salary or fancy corner office. I trusted my instincts, took the next exit, and walked away from everything I knew in favor of the unknown winding road before me.
Initially, the angst was distracting; I could only focus on the unfamiliar road itself. I involved myself with causes and positions that felt most comfortable coming from the business world but worried I was letting what seemed to be familiar ‘landmarks’ distract me from what my true route was intended to be. I was identified as a leader amongst my colleagues, university, and community, and was called upon to serve in numerous leadership capacities. It wasn’t until I began to appreciate how I could leverage this to call attention to issues I was passionate about that I realized what an invaluable trait this was for the future leader of a multidisciplinary healthcare team. I began to trust myself and could sense I was headed in the right direction.
Throughout my preclinical years, the brief patient encounters we had made me realize I’d also excel at serving patients as the captain of their health care team. The most profound experience of my medical school career was the night I drove to the local homeless shelter as a course requirement. Growing up in a small town, I’d never even laid eyes on a homeless person, and was naively terrified I’d be assaulted or catch TB; instead, it changed my life forever. That night, I provided basic health screening and first aid to over a dozen shelter guests, many of whom signed up to see us because they just desperately wanted someone to talk to. Almost immediately, I realized my hand on their shoulder was likely the first compassionate human contact they’d had in some time, and perhaps the only time someone listened to their story. The guests reacted with such heartfelt gratitude that not only did it solidify that family medicine is exactly the specialty I was meant to be a part of, but it was also the catalyst that awoke my passion for caring for the underserved. It was the enormous billboard along the highway stating my destination was just ahead, allowing me to slow down and take in the beauty of the rest of my drive.
Until my time in medical school drew to a close, Hope Warming Center guests were the center of my world. The simple act of treating these deserving people with dignity allowed me to earn their trust, foster meaningful relationships, and contribute to their overall well-being. Partnering with patients to promote health and wellness no matter the circumstance or stage of life is the very crux of why family medicine is the greatest specialty, and why I am so thrilled to have become a part of it. The ability to meet patients exactly where they are, especially appreciating their specific socioeconomic challenges, is one of the most important traits I have to offer my patients. Each person I came to know during my time at Hope was like discovering a small business along my scenic drive, a hidden treasure known only to the locals. The quality you find within is incomparable, and from the initial visit, you just know they’re absolutely worth supporting.
As I embark on the highway for the next leg of my journey, I am thrilled to have found a residency program as equally passionate about supporting and being woven into the fabric of the community itself as I am. Similar to serving as captains of our patient’s medical team, family medicine physicians can also serve as captains of the movement to better our community. I do more than manage my patient’s diabetes, hypertension, and deliver new babies. I continue to serve those most in need here in my new home, thousands of miles away from where my journey initially started. I am grateful to have joined a program that shares these values and supports my aspirations to make my focus serving the underserved. Looking in the rearview mirror, I’m thankful for the standstill that led me to exit the highway 8 years ago because it took me on the most amazing journey. Now I look forward to the future and completing my residency training in a program that shares my same appreciation for the beautiful scenery.