Unexpected Inspiration: How My Daughter's Diagnosis Led Me To Medical School
“Atrioventricular canal defect” said a voice.
“Atrio-what?” I said, sitting dumbfounded in Seattle Children’s Hospital. How could such a foreign phrase have anything to do with something so close to me? As a new parent, barely out of high school, I couldn’t understand my daughter’s diagnosis.
In time, the scariest moment of my life became the spark that carried me here.
I specifically remember witnessing the importance of teamwork in what was referred to as grand rounds in developing a plan of care. Numerous doctors, spanning a variety of disciplines — social workers, pharmacists, nurses, and nutritionists — worked together to develop an effective plan of care for the most important thing in my world and, in turn, changed my world forever.
A few months earlier, as a high school student, I had zero intentions of becoming a college graduate. I didn’t outscore my peers on the SAT. In fact, I didn’t even take it. I had no idea of the importance of a GPA. I was so unconcerned, in fact, that I almost dropped out. Looking back today, I am thankful for the guidance I received, which pushed me to finish my general education in an alternative program in preparation for a lifelong career in the military.
Then my daughter was born, and my vision of a military life faded away. Instead of bootcamp, I was challenged with taking on a variety of medical tasks at home. I didn’t receive any combat training. Instead, I quickly had to learn to balance medications and insert nasogastric tubes, along with all of the other duties that come along with fatherhood.
As my daughter became medically stable, I gained full-time employment as a security officer with a company contracted out by multiple local hospitals. Soon I was exposed to a broad spectrum of patients from all walks of life, and my curiosity was ignited.
I could often be found in various medical departments accomplishing non-security tasks such as grabbing ice packs, cleaning exam rooms, and helping transport patients. All the while, I asked the medical staff as many questions as possible. They explained, and demonstrated, the individual roles that a variety of medical staff play in a multitude of unpredictable scenarios. Soon I was shadowing a variety of healthcare professionals, including laboratory technicians, radiology staff, and nurses. Mesmerized by the work done, and the concept of teamwork in each context, I found myself pondering my own place in the bright new world of healthcare. I knew one thing for sure: I belonged in medicine.
While still working full-time, I began taking coursework that would apply towards a healthcare career. Eventually, I obtained a Washington State license to practice phlebotomy and landed a job as a laboratory assistant in direct patient care at a 25 bed, rural healthcare facility.
As a lab assistant, I observed the manner in which physicians adapted, collaborated, interacted, and communicated in various situations. I witnessed the individual commitment to each and every patient the physician displayed, and even witnessed the birth of twins.
I was spellbound, watching the physician change lives as naturally as a musical conductor, orchestrating the medical staff and producing a beautiful harmony of effective, ethical, and holistic medical care. I was inspired by the selflessness of physicians; blown away by their willingness to involve themselves in multiple aspects of medical care; motivated by their reliance on teamwork to accomplish a plan of care. Ultimately, the experience led me to Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.
My grandmother had a saying that still echoes within me: “If you know somebody is hungry, make them a sandwich.” The words “atrioventricular canal defect” sparked the greatest hunger I’ve ever experienced. Today, I’m proud to say that I’m collecting the ingredients I need to not only feed myself, but to satiate the hunger of everyone I’ll go on to serve.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd year (OMS II)
College of Osteopathic Medicine
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences