Like a Moth to a Flame.

I am entranced by medicine. I am magnetized by the fulfillment of servicing others, curing crippling ailments, and developing my own medical advancements. I want to heal bodies with my hands and solve tangled medical mysteries. I know I am placed here to change the medical world. I am meant to write literature to shift thinking. I am here to change laws and revolutionize medicine. I am meant to use my creativity and dexterity to lace together broken fragments of a body, or to find the right milky concoction to cure a disease.

I crave the primitive, simplistic ingenuity of early medical innovators. I idolize the underground, nameless scientists and physicians who, after days of pacing in dark basements and rudimentary laboratories, discovered the solution everyone else overlooked. Because, in the end, medical revolutions were made from simple solutions. Feeding raw meat and gastric juices to anemic suddenly cured their symptoms. The first chemotherapy was discovered by simply realizing that if one medicine accelerated cancer, the opposite should halt it. By understanding the bacterium, we may understand the elephant. I hope to offer my attention to detail to extrapolate my own medical discovery. I hope my giddy excitement for medicine offers a novel angle to an old problem.

I want to hone in on a problem, solve it, master it, and fight it worldwide.

I want to make my mark in the scripts of medical history.

I don’t seek to avoid death,

But I want to enhance the value of existence.

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Learning.

I think any good health care provider must learn as much from their patients as they learn from you.

I cared for a morbidly obese man, and my jaw dropped to the floor when he sprung out of bed and teetered to the bathroom himself, independent of a walker or oxygen or assistance. He broke the typical mold and required no insulin to regulate diabetes, and his cheerful personality brightened my smile instantly. I learned that it is possible to defy the norm and live a happy, independent life despite morbid obesity.

I cared for a frail, elderly woman who was the pure essence of sweetness. Every time I entered her room, she welcomed me with a huge smile and I was baffled by her sweet nature and agreeableness. She was so kind and worry-free, and despite her age she walked without a walker, ate a regular diet instead of pureed foods, and didn’t require oxygen. I kept hounding her for the secrets to life, love, and her health. She insisted her health was a product of old-fashioned home-cooked food on the farm, and the secret of love was finding someone who you consider your best friend. I learned that I want to be her when I’m in my 90’s, instead of the anxious, bitter dementia patient I envision myself as: locking caregivers in the bathroom and accusing everyone of stealing her shoes.

I cared for a seizure patient who shared his whole life story with me, year by year. His past was incredulous, and I learned that some of us are lit with an inner spark of drive – to prevail despite our odds.

I have learned to enter patients rooms with intentions more than simply obtaining their vitals and fulfilling my job duties. I want to listen, hear their incredible stories, and learn from them.

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Rewiring the Healthcare Hard Drive.

I believe nutrition is the key to health.

And yet, as I was working in the hospital, an establishment dedicated to improving the health of our patients, I listened to a nutritionist who was making her rounds. She entered the room of my overweight, diabetic patient and the following conversation ensued:

Nutritionist: “Hi, I am the nutritionist and I was asked to come speak to you about your diet. Is now a good time?”

Patient: “Sure”

Nutritionist: “Okay. Are you eating okay?”

Patient: “Yes, I’m eating.”

Nutritionist: “Great. Well just make sure to eat lots of fiber and protein, and focus on fruits and vegetables.”

Patient: “Yeah, I know. I try to avoid bread and grains too. You know, because my diabetes.”

Nutritionist: “Good. Also, try to fill half your plate with vegetables. Here is a packet about eating a cardiac diet.”

Patient: “Okay. Thank you.”

Nutritionist: “You’re welcome. Any questions?”

Patient: “No.”

Nutritionist: “Okay. Have a good day.”

How does this conversation sound to you? It might sound adequate. The necessary information was given to the patient, after all. But to me, I think this conversation was worthless.

Eating styles and habits are formed over years. Obesity and diabetes are epidemics that cannot be altered by a two minute conversation and a packet of instructions. That nutritionist’s job duties should be so much more. She should have pulled up a chair with a writing pad, psychiatrist style, and asked, “What does a day of eating look like for you? How do these foods make you feel? Are they fueling an inner battle or emotions? Does your family or life at home hinder you making healthier choices?” These are the questions that need to be asked and the problems that need to be addressed. Meanwhile, I have witnessed diabetic patients munching on chocolate mousse on their diabetic lunch trays and sick patients washing down their 500-calorie pumpkin pie (Yes, 500 calories in one slice of our hospital pumpkin pie) with Coke. How does this make any sense? Our hospitals claim to be promoting health but stand as disguised contradictions. Our patients don’t get adequate sleep, because we poke and prod them every hour during the night. Our patients aren’t pressured to eat healthy foods. Our patients drink soda and sugary juices instead of water. Our patients don’t get enough physical activity. Our patients lay in bed all day watching television, maybe working with physical therapists for 30 minutes before slumping back onto the mattress.

I have witnessed a group of doctors telling a morbidly obese young woman that she was on too many sedating medications, treating her depression, anxiety, and pain. Her body was rampant with infections, bed sores, early organ failure, and the list goes on. She looked at them and told them she refused to comply with their recommendations, and to continue with her previous regimen. So they left, and she was discharged later that day.

Health care is not invasive or comprehensive. We apply bandaids to the surface of problems, then hand our patients discharge orders to go home and continue their daily lives until their deteriorating health wheels them right back into our doors.

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