My mother was terrible at playing sick. A full six years old, I brandished my plastic, kid-sized stethoscope and faux-prescription pad, searching for the perfect diagnosis. Unfortunately, the perfect diagnosis was impossible because, well, my mother was perfectly healthy. Also, I had never been to medical school.
My passion for medicine spawned from wearing my career-day costume as a doctor in elementary school. I remember going to Costco. I was trying to decide between a hairdresser and doctor costume for my elementary school’s career day. A smile radiated from my face with my plastic stethoscope around my neck and my plastic auriscope in my hand. Since that day, I’ve tried to implement medicine in everything.
My mother tells me that your education is the only thing that cannot be taken away from you. As her daughter, it was a blessing to know that my desired career path was something that my family would accept and value. But a few questions still lingered in my head. “Am I just good at science, or do I love science? Is there more to medicine than just being capable of doing it? Will practicing medicine fulfill me?” I realized that the answers to these questions were not going to be found within myself. I would have to look at my surroundings, especially Medicine’s impact on other people.
Being an avid traveler (along with having many relatives in India), I have visited my parents’ hometowns multiple times. Culturally driven and exotic, these places satisfied me. However, they also had many poverty stricken areas, and it was evident that healthcare there was not well-regulated.
My grandfather suffers from multiple medical problems, including Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s causes a drastic reduction in dopamine levels in the brain and can emerge because of genetics, age, sex, enviroment, or a combination of these factors. If my grandfather lived in the United States, he would have access to medication, physical therapy, or even surgery. However, the only treatment option he has in India is medication, and the medication that he uses has many side effects, such as indigestion, tremors, and nausea. I have seen him before and after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I know how debilitating a neurological disease can be.
My grandfather isn’t the only one who emotionally affects me. When I travel, I always see someone suffering from a physical, medical problem. In the First-world, we recognize that many people suffer from medical issues, but we rarely internalize the severity of the disease or disorder and how it impacts their life.
By the time I was in high school, I realized that I wasn’t just ‘good’ at science, but I could also directly help people like my grandfather by practicing medicine. I started to do research on a specific type of protein (Alpha-synuclein) that causes Parkinson’s when misfolded. I spent two years on this research, testing various natural medications that would reduce the amount of Alpha-synuclein. I ended up presenting my findings at the Ohio State Science Fair both years.
I also researched alternative treatment options for Parkinson’s. I volunteered at the InMotion Parkinson’s Awareness Center in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, which is a non-profit that focuses on using exercise to slow the progression of Parkinson’s. Volunteering there inspired me to modify current treatments in disorders and to make treatments more accessible
At this point, I realized that medicine requires more than just competence and an extensive education; it requires compassion. In this path of self discovery, I was able to find my interests in my surroundings. My pathway towards finding my passion made me realize that even without the best resources, one is able to find their way to implicate their interests. From my grandfather to my project, I realized that I do have dedication and passion for medicine. I plan to take this same passion and implement it into my education in order to enhance my future career in medicine.
Yes, I am too old to play doctor with my mom now, and I cannot force my mom to play sick anymore, but I still would love to have a stethoscope around my neck—a real one. I want to have that same smile radiating from my face, but this time, I want it to stem from the satisfaction of helping others in need.
Rings by Elena Ruiz