As I come to the end of my fellowship training, the thought of new beginnings is frequently on my mind. I knew from an early age I wanted to pursue a career in medicine. As a child growing up with a heart condition requiring frequent visits to the emergency room, I wanted to reciprocate the care given to me and I loved science. Upon entering medical school, I realized this job that we hold is so much more than just a vocation; it’s a calling. It is our call and privilege to care for patients, often in their most vulnerable time of need. This is not only true for patients in our own country but also for millions of people living in poverty-stricken nations where very little access to care exists.
I traveled internationally for the first time as a medical student with my classmates and experienced the vast need of medical care in a low- and middle-income country (LMIC). This two-week orientation into international healthcare directed my path to become a general surgeon, with a heart to provide care and explore avenues to increase surgical capacity. This journey to become a general surgeon, however, was not met without obstacles. Multiple people warned me before entering the specialty, “You’re too nice to go into surgery!” Nonetheless, I hoped to bring some light into the darkness.
Fast-forward into residency…despite the fact that I was trained by phenomenal educators, there were times when I questioned my decision. “Is this really what I am supposed to do? Am I going to get through this?” After the grueling nights of trauma-call and critical care, there were many times when that light seemed fairly dim. However, I was afforded the opportunity to continue pursuing my interests in global surgery as a resident on three separate occasions. Each time, I was reminded of the reason I entered medicine initially – to help, to serve, and to give what I have! These opportunities kept me grounded and reminded me that it’s not all about me. It’s about giving, not receiving. In an operating room in the Dominican Republic, I realized that few general surgeons had much experience operating in the neck in their day-to-day practice in the United States. Therefore, I made it my goal to pursue an endocrine surgery fellowship to gain more experience with complex endocrinopathies and head and neck procedures.
As I write today, after 4 years of medical school, 6 years of residency and 2 years of fellowship, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will soon be taking on my first academic faculty position and will continue serving in a LMIC as a part of my departmental appointment. I am excited to take on this adventure, a new beginning. The journey has been long but as Greg Anderson said, “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is not found in finishing an activity but in doing it.” For me, it’s a journey I would not change. There were detours and hurdles along the way but ultimately the challenges shaped me into who I am today. Will I continue to have challenges? Absolutely! Nevertheless, I trust that the challenges that lie ahead will also mold me into a stronger woman, a stronger surgeon, a stronger human being.