Service: The Extra Mile
Behind the wheel of the 27-foot U-haul I’d rented, with my sedan following in-tow close behind, I arrived in Yakima, Washington.
After a stressful 10-hour drive – and with my pregnant wife and kids scheduled to arrive at a later date -- I was in charge of managing our accrued belongings and moving into our new place.
I had contacted fellow members of our church in the area that I had not met, and was greeted by their smiling faces when I pulled in around 9:30 on a Wednesday evening. Having possessions that I could not have moved alone made me all the more grateful that they cared to come help. After two hours of unloading, one of them even gave me a bag of toiletries and some frozen burritos as a parting gift.
Yes, I was treated well when I arrived in Yakima for medical school, and as it turns out, those gifted burritos and helping hands were only a sign of things to come; the kindness I experienced early on has become a theme that has persisted through various people and ways ever since.
Now, nearly through my first year in medical training, I have observed this overwhelming kindness, concern and compassion from countless people from all walks of life.
My peers, our University’s upper-classmen, and those directly involved with my education have demonstrated the heart of medicine in a wide variety of unique and inspiring ways. The examples they’ve set for me have demonstrated not only their sincerity, but their genuine, selfless concern for the needs of others.
I’ve witnessed a love for others, and a pure concern for the welfare of students and their progress in obtaining knowledge, and I cannot help but feel that the particular way and extent to which this is done is quite distinctive of our medical school in here in Yakima. To me, this community truly feels like one of a kind.
The level of sincerity expressed, along with the expected scholastic instruction, left the realm of only “doing a job to obtain an end” long ago. I have seen professors stay late to help students grow, and have consistently received kind greetings and wishes for success from faculty outside of school hours. I have felt my voice be treated with the same level of respect I might anticipate as a fellow faculty member. The environment has proven to be a highly friendly and supportive place to not only learn the skills, but also the dispositions, that are important for future physicians.
I appreciate every extra step in every extra mile our faculty seems to travel for my wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around me. I have been bolstered significantly by this support.
Contemplating the support I have received and observed in others has helped me stay grounded and has given me inspiration in continuing my course, both academically and personally. The extra mile many go at PNWU makes me never regret committing to become part of this student body.
Not many people with a handful of kids are lucky enough to live nearby to a local pediatrician, especially one who displays the same underlying commitment to the heart of medicine that I seek in my own progression. Recently, some family health needs required local ALS transportation and a trip to the emergency department nearby.
Within five minutes of arrival of flashing ambulance lights outside of our home I received the following text from that very pediatrician, who happened to be home and notice the commotion:
“Hi Brandon, just saw ALS outside. Let us know if we can help in any way.”
My message back was that of a father with three sick, sleeping children, overwhelmed with worry and stress on a Tuesday night at 9:35 p.m. I received the following response:
“On my way.”
Before I could gather my thoughts there was a knock at the door.
A friendly face entered, calming my nerves and selflessly taking watch over our house and kids as I left for the nearby hospital.
I’ve since been told that the kids did not stay asleep for long after I left.
When we finally returned home, hours later, we were greeted by a pile of read-through storybooks on the floor and calm kids relaxing on our couch. Our volunteer greeted us, still smiling and compassionate. With a warm and much-appreciated hug, we could call or text at any time we ever needed anything.
I try, as a result, to pay goodness forward the best I can in my own small ways, learning from each experience. Being the direct recipient of such selfless acts of service seems to inspire this important principle. It certainly has for me.
I have enjoyed a great opportunity to be involved with the local YMCA Aspire program, mentoring and building friendships with the local youth. Over the past year and a half together I have developed a mutual friendship with these kids.
Our close-ties are only strengthened through fishing trips and long drives, discussing the challenges of middle-school and life in general. I was even interviewed by the Yakima Herald Republic about this immeasurably rewarding experience, reflecting on everything that I’ve learned through the program.
It is not easy to find extra time while in medical school, but each hour spent away from my studies guides me to remember important components of becoming the type of physician I am striving to be. Every extra bit that I can give to another reminds me of the multi-faceted process of remembering the heart of medicine, not just the facts and figures.
“Giving” is stitched into the fabric of medicine itself. If forgotten, it is not just an injustice, but a failure. Medicine requires a level of sacrifice that has provided rewards in my life that have helped me to maintain perspective, even when it is so easy to become consumed with other important and demanding aspects of education.
I’ve learned that life is always going to be busy, but the experiences within provide lessons that make the hard times seem like nothing more than additional learning experiences.
The many examples of service that I have experienced are quite extraordinary. They are not only starkly unique, but real.
These brief observances will stand as pillars in my mind.
Someday in practice, I may find myself longing for rest after long clinic days. If the virtues of being service-oriented ever begin to feel compartmentally allotted within a specific role or setting, I have plenty of reminders that they shouldn’t be.
This past year of growth has offered me many instances and examples to reflect on, allowing me to do my best to emulate the lessons I’ve learned, regardless of where I am or what I am engaged in. I’ve witnessed proof that going the extra mile matters.
I am grateful that my time in Yakima. My experiences are not only teaching me the mind, but also showing me the heart of medicine. Thanks to Yakima and PNWU, that heart will beat on in my own service.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 1st year (OMS I)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences