Written by Karl for a Medical School Essay for American University of the Caribbean in 2004.

When I entered college, I knew I wanted to go to medical school because of two remarkable experiences I had in high school. First was a car accident where my brother and I helped two people with severe spinal injuries, and second was volunteering in an emergency department in downtown Detroit. I spent a full year as a Patient Representative and was able to observe all the traumas. Then, through college I did not have many medically related experiences. I was busy exploring other aspects of life and also studying hard for my classes. However, my senior year I was able to attend a surgical trip to Honduras. On this trip, I acted as a scrub nurse and observer, and every operation I saw seemed so incredibly imperative for the people. Then I realized how much I could help not only the people in the United States, but people all over the world as well.

After graduation, 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 able to provide it. These experiences, compounded together over time, increased my desire to become a doctor and laid the foundation for me to pursue a career in medicine.

On numerous occasions, I have witnessed many doctors in many settings and have always admired those who volunteer to serve the less fortunate in society, whether in the urban ghettoes of Detroit, the rural mountains of Appalachia, or the jungles of Central America. Being able to work alongside the doctors in these situations has molded my specific interests in medicine. I learned a lot from these experiences, but most of all I have learned that my ultimate goal in medicine is to take part in these situations as a doctor, not just an observer.

Physicians in society today need to have certain attributes in order to cope with the rigors of the career that they have selected. I feel that optimism, perseverance, passion, and a code of ethics are a few necessary characteristics if doctors do not want to drown in today’s negativism and momentous problems found in hospitals everywhere. Doctors must be optimistic and persevere in the worst of conditions. They have to be passionate about what they do on a daily basis, and of course, they are required to follow the highest code of ethics. If they are unable to do any of these, then not only will they not be able to help, they will only be capable of hurting and endangering patients.

Only through my diverse opportunities and upbringing have I acquired the characteristics necessary to pursue a career in medicine. On these occasions, not only did I observe different applications for medicine, but also I was able to see which skills and values are most important to the people that I am working alongside.

These two people are only examples of the numerous mentors I have been able to learn from throughout my experiences:

Sue, a nurse practitioner who has worked in the villages of Guatemala for almost four years, optimistically believes that she can reform the state of rural health care by training health promoters. Previously, the only health care these indigenous people received was from American doctors traveling down, usually for a week stay, and performing primary care medicine. She trains Guatemalans to help themselves so that they do not need to be dependant on these American doctors’ humanity. She has trained over 50 Guatemalans to be health promoters in two completely different areas of the country, and due mainly to her optimism and perseverance she is making an impact.

Dr. Ferrara is a surgeon who travels to Honduras twice a year in order to operate on many Hondurans who could not otherwise afford the procedure. The passion that he exudes in and out of the operating room motivates everybody else on the team to work as hard as he does.

Along with my code of ethics that has been slowly molded from a combination of my parents, my upbringing, and my experiences, I have learned the characteristics necessary for a career in medicine. I have seen medical workers in capacities where these values are vital to their work, and these people’s skills and values will be impressed on me forever.