Thursday, December 22, 2011
This morning, I spent a tremendous amount of time going through, cleaning out, and organizing files.  Lots and lots of files.  I hadn't put ANYTHING away since moving 6 months ago, and decided it was high time I find my desk under a small tropical forest's worth of paper.  Mission: accomplished.

In all the wading, I stumbled upon lots of old things I hadn't read in a long time.  Letter from friends, cards, old graded papers and tests.  Among those things, I also found my AMCAS application for med school.  I submitted that application on 8/5/2005, just after my 20th birthday and shortly before starting my junior year in college.  In the 6+ years since writing it, lots has changed.  And lots hasn't.  I was only halfway through college when I wrote this personal statement, thinking I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, traveling the world, figuring out who I was.  I actually wrote it on a plane flying home from South Africa, using a little journal of handmade paper that only halfway opened, and a red pen.  I thought about writing a big analysis of how my life is now compared to what I expected of myself back then, but I decided it would be more fun to just throw it out there and let you all make your own judgements.  Enjoy...

(ps...  I didn't edit this at all, even though I wanted to change some grammar and wording.  That would have been cheating...)

In his book, "God Has a Dream", Bishop Desmond Tutu writes about a way of thinking known as Ubuntu theology.  He claims that all people are connected, that "I am because you are."  This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to the small country of Lesotho in southern Africa.  It was in Lesotho that the meaning of Tutu's theology challenged by dreams for my future.

During evening discussions, the students and I questioned one another in hopes of understanding our experiences.  I struggled with the injustices of the poverty I witnessed that threatened the lives of my new-found friends.  If Tutu is right, and "I am because you are", what is my role in changing the injustice facing humanity?  What can I be to help the "you"'s of the world in their individual struggles?

When I first thought about these questions, my nicely planned life was rapidly turned upside down.  I thought that in order to be the person Lesotho and its people inspired me to be, I would have to make some frightening, dramatic, and unknown shifts in my future plans.  The impact the people of Lesotho, their stories, and their reality had on me was unfathomable.  I participated in a worship service with over 300 people, momentarily oblivious to the fact that, statistically, over thirty percent of them were HIV positive, and most made less than $300 a year. 

Reflecting on these realities, I began to question my own path, my own future.  I could not continue to be ignorant or apathetic to the plights of those with whom I share this world.  I took on a hemisphere's responsibility in a single evening and did not know what to do or where to start.  My mind and heart wrestled with Tutu's, "I am because you are".  What if I am the "you are"?  Do my thoughts, decisions, and actions directly impact human reality?  Is the status of each orphaned child and homeless family in Lesotho a result of who I am?  The lives of real people across the world may rest on my incapable shoulders.  I struggled with how to handle that realization.

I could not at first see how my pursuit of a career in medicine fit into this quest for justice.  I didn't know how living out my dream of being a surgeon could balance the equation of the Ubuntu theology.  But as I began to explore the possible meanings of Tutu's words, I came to the realization that they are fighting words, a challenge calling every person to the responsible for the whole of humanity.  "I am because you are."  The wrongs of the world can only be changed by magnifying and utilizing the individual gifts of every person.  We, as members of a global community, are blessed with gifts as diverse as the people who possess them, ans as important as the power that provides them.  These gifts allow Ubuntu theology to work.  If I am who I was meant to be, you can be who you were meant to be.

In an ideal world, people would discover, understand, and utilize their gifts to the highest potential.  However, this world is far from ideal.  Some are not given the opportunity to be who they are meant to be.  The injustices and inequalities of life in Lesotho and many other countries across the globe stifle the unique potential of each human being.  Simply being born in a certain place robs them of a choice, traps them in the life of generations before them.  at the same time, equally gifted men and women take their opportunities and choices for granted, and sacrifice their gifts for prestige, status, and appearance.  In an ideal world, choice would be standard and injustice would be rare.

I was faced with the sobering reality that my choices, these decisions about my life, were my chance to change the world.  Ubuntu theology had led me, though on a disturbing and challenging path, directly back to that overturned life plan.  Because I am who I am, I have a choice.  And because I have a choice, I have a rare chance to embrace my gifts and make my life what if can be.  My gift, my passion, is medicine.

People have never been shy about telling me how they think I should life my life.  I have been told I should be a teacher, paramedic, researcher, even a minister.  While each of these vocations would utilize one of my abilities, they fail to capture all that I am and who I can be.  My personality requires interaction with other people; an exchange of ideas and feelings and skills and hope.  My mind craves constant challenge; technical and difficult, new and always changing.  I am a problem solver; social, scientific, and personal.  The only career, the only future, I can see for myself is medicine.  While I was in Lesotho, I had a spontaneous desire to stay and make things right.  However, sacrificing my passion and gifts for something more "helpful" or "righteous" might be as harmful as choosing to remain ignorant would have been.  Where exactly medicine will take me is as uncertain as the future of Lesotho.  But I do know that if "I am because you are", I am meant to be a physician.  I cannot choose to ignore that gift.


Anonymous said...

Great personal statement, Dude! I am voting that you get into medical school. Something tells me that it might just work out!

Dr O

Robidoux said...

Wow. Way better than my statement ( I wrote about wildfires for some reason? )

About Me

I am a Family Medicine intern at a community hospital in Indiana, navigating the new world of being a physician. I am privileged to work in a field I love, where every day is a new and unpredictable challenge.
I am not only a doctor, but also a cyclist, runner, DIYer in the making, lover of the outdoors, traveler, and human.
Human, MD is a glimpse into the world of a young doctor who is just trying to stay true to herself through the grueling whirlwind of residency.


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