With blisters on my feet, in the intense heat of the Cuban summer, there I was, walking with my mother halfway through our monthly journey to prison. My father – the most honest, hardworking man that I know – was waiting to see us. He had been sentenced a year earlier for killing one of his own cows to feed his family. His fate was due to an unjust law that was mandated by the Cuban government to ensure that there was no beef shortage for the tourists, while the locals starved. During our previous visit, my father had a fever and complained of pain in his chest and muscles; we were hoping to see that his situation had improved. Unfortunately, this time it was visible that he had not been seen by a physician, and his condition had worsened. He was later diagnosed with leptospirosis and restored to health. However, I will never forget his red eyes, rash covered skin, and apparent deterioration. Seeing the lack of care that he received in prison is what sparked my interest to learn more about medicine.
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During my school years, in order to see if medicine was my true calling, I shadowed Dr. Lopez who was the only physician in our small town. Due to the political and economic situation in Cuba, many times the doctor was unable to provide everyone with the care that they needed. However, she showed humility and treated everyone in the community like members of her family. In many cases, when she did not have the resources to treat a patient, she did have the words of encouragement that they needed to hear to continue fighting their battle. I remember a day when she was working to resuscitate a two-year-old lifeless girl. We didn’t have a ventilator in the clinic and Dr. Lopez was performing mouth to mouth breathing and chest compressions with no results. At one-point, members of the team were ready to let the little girl go. My eyes began to tear up at the thought of losing someone so young, but the doctor was determined not to give up. Suddenly, the little girl started breathing on her own and I could not hold my tears back. This experience taught me that doctors not only need to be knowledgeable, they must also be caring and have the drive to surpass all expectations when needed in order to advocate for the life of those who may not otherwise have a voice and that one day I could be the one to give a little girl back to her parents.
My time spent at the clinic helped me reaffirm my desire to become a physician, and this sentiment was tested during my two years as a medical student. Despite the sleep deprivation, a hectic schedule, and being away from my family, I enjoyed the nights spent studying. I have been the happiest while pursuing my medical career. Sometimes when assisting a professor during a long shift, I enjoyed speaking to the patients, joking with them and seeing them forget their illness for a moment. What I appreciate about medicine, other than the interaction with the patients, is how intertwined and collaborative medicine is and how seemingly dissimilar concepts come together to create a coherent picture.
Unfortunately, I was forced to leave the country due to the political situation. In my country, we were deprived of some of the basic human rights like the freedom of speech. Since in our town my family was known to oppose the government, we also suffered from persecution. Despite the challenges that I faced while transitioning to the U.S. I managed to sustain a positive outlook. I made it my personal goal to learn English as quickly as possible, so that I could go back to pursue my goal of becoming a physician.
I aspire to be a physician because I want the sleepless nights, tough medical decisions, and the opportunity to serve and advocate for my patients. Working along physicians has given me the opportunity not only to reaffirm why I want to become a physician, but to solidify my drive for the medical field. My journey has been long, and my path has not been in a straight line, but I have grown and learned many lessons along the way. My experience in medical school taught me the dedication that is required in a medical student. My time living in a new country without knowing the language gave me a sense of humility and special consideration for those in the same position. To me, becoming a physician is more than a white coat and a diploma; it’s the capacity to help improve or save somebody’s life, and this is why I look forward to embracing and devoting myself to a lifelong career in medicine.
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