Being aware of community concerns and being active both locally and globally has become increasingly important to me in recent years. I have gained new perspectives on the world, and on the importance of community in our lives through involvement in community based initiatives both locally and internationally. These experiences have strengthened my desire to be a physician and have been instrumental in shaping who I am and who I am becoming personally and professionally.
After completing my sophomore year at UMBC I spent what would have been my junior year in Swaziland, a small country in southern Africa. Though Swaziland is a country of only about a million people, about forty percent of the adult population is HIV positive, ranking this small kingdom ahead of nearby Botswana as having the highest rate of HIV infection in the world . I lived there for one year with a Swazi host-family as a participant in a program called Serving and Learning Together (SALT) and volunteered with a team of young people who were educating their churches and communities, as well as themselves, about HIV/AIDS. Their message was and is one of caution and hope where so many are dying and so many are contracting HIV each day. Despite the overwhelming nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I saw their hope springing from faith and from the resilient strength of communities who join together to respond to tough times with truth, love and a lot of hard work.
The importance of community involvement was not something I learned first in Swaziland. I recall, one winter when I was a teenager, a snowstorm collapsed the roof of my uncle’s dairy barn. When I went with my father and older brother to help clean up the mess, I was struck by the outpouring of support from other local Mennonite and Amish farmers who dropped what they were doing to lend their hands in help. That day is only one of many reminders of the vital role of community in our lives.
Additionally, before beginning my undergraduate studies at UMBC I served as a full-time volunteer at Mount Clare Christian School in southwest Baltimore City. Working with middle school students, from a part of Baltimore City that I still call home, was instrumental in opening my eyes to a world I had never known as a child—a world where students are often afraid to go to public schools because of violence, where students with special needs do not get the attention they need and where, all too often, parents involved in cycles of drug and alcohol abuse are unable to provide the nurture their children need. Nonetheless, this small community school was a symbol of hope. Hope was evident in students who were excited about learning, in parents and grandparents who played an active role in their children’s lives despite the challenges set before them, and in the teachers who chose to participate in these students’ lives.
Furthermore, in the few years that I have worked at the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, also in southwest Baltimore City, I have participated in and seen firsthand the hard work and cooperation required for the care and rehabilitation of critically injured patients. At Shock Trauma, teamwork across all levels—housekeeping staff, doctors, nurses, aides, technicians, etc—is essential to the treatment of patients requiring immediate or constant attention. Reflective of the surrounding community, the hospital staff and the patients brought to Shock Trauma are from many different backgrounds and my work there has required patience and an ability to communicate clearly in an often stressful and emotional environment.
Now, about a year from completing a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences, I am beginning the process of applying to medical schools with the intent of pursuing a career as a physician. I believe health care is a vital part of any community, and the role that all health care professionals play in providing care and education is invaluable. For me, becoming a physician is a way to meld my abilities, and my love of learning, teaching and serving, together into a career that will keep me involved as an active member of whatever community I may live in.
update in progress