Written by Karl in January of 2004 for medical school applications.

When I entered college, I felt that I had a strong sense of what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to medical school because of two remarkable experiences I had in high school, which started me on the road to thinking about medicine as a career. First was a car accident where my brother and I helped two people with severe spinal injuries. My brother is an EMT and as he checked vital signs, he needed me to help stabilize the necks of the victims. This led to the second experience, not long after, when I decided to volunteer in an emergency department in downtown Detroit. I spent a full year volunteering at Sinai-Grace, and I was able to observe all the traumas. This convinced me enough as I entered college; I aimed to go to medical school.

The first few years of college I did not have many medically related experiences. I was busy exploring other aspects of life and also trying to do well in my classes. However, my senior year I was able to attend a surgical trip down in Honduras. Not only was it the first time that I had been to Central America, it was also the first time that I had been in an operating room. This trip introduced me to the idea of surgery, but more importantly to doctors that help the people of the third world on a regular basis. I had only heard about programs that help the people in the developing world; I never dreamed that I would be able to witness it so soon. The surgeries that I witnessed in Honduras were so much more severe than anything in the United States. We helped people with gallstones the size of prunes and kidney cysts the size of footballs. Every operation seemed incredibly imperative for the people. Acting as a scrub nurse and observer, that surgical trip made me realize how much I could help not only the people in the United States, but people all over the world as well.

After graduation last December, I was able to spend three months in the villages of Guatemala helping at free-clinics. I had the opportunity to assist the medical team as they set up and managed the clinics within the local villages. The people of the harsh developing world needed so much assistance, and it was very satisfying that we were providing it.

I will never forget one specific day in the clinic…

The rays of the sun as well as sounds and smells of the village permeated through the warehouse windows, which acted as our temporary clinic. It was a little dark and dusty, but sufficient for our purposes. Chickens ran aimlessly, children played soccer, and families ate lunch around the village. This simple lifestyle is fulfilling to the people of Guatemala.

When the little girl came to us, she walked with a heavy limp. She was around ten years old with a cute round face, long dark hair, and tears in her eyes. Her left foot was swollen to about the size of a softball with a three-inch laceration on top. A log had fallen on her foot two days ago, and the laceration was incredibly dirty; it is hard to keep things clean in Guatemala. Despite her dark skin, it was obvious that the entire foot was black and blue. Although she held her tears and never cried out, it was clear how much pain she was in. Guatemalans are pretty tough when it came to dealing with their harsh surroundings.

The doctor assessed that the foot was not broken but the laceration was infected. I washed her foot in iodine and then washed it off with water to clean the laceration. The family was told to keep her foot elevated to help with the swelling, and the doctor wrapped her foot in an ace bandage.

After that she needed to go home, but before her family left, they all thanked us profusely and told us how grateful they were of the free-clinics. Everyone who passed through our clinic was very appreciative of our help and made a point to make that known to us. The help we offered made life a little easier for the Guatemalan people, and they were always grateful for it.

The following month I had to return home before the team revisited the village. I did not get a chance to see the girl and the follow-up on her foot. I missed being able to converse with her and her family, and as I thought about their future, I thought about how much human suffering exists in Guatemala. I thought about how much difference a doctor makes in the lives of people there. I thought about the gratitude of the little girl and the gratitude of the hundreds of other Guatemalans that we helped in the free-clinics, but human suffering is not limited only to Guatemala. It is one common factor of all the people in this world, and the difference that I could make is why I want to be a doctor.