My Journey to Medicine, Part 1
I grew up in Southeast, Washington, DC, an area notorious for high crime rates, equivalently high unemployment rates, and low-performing schools. To me, SE never felt like a place where I was unsafe, or subject to social injustice. I admit, I was somewhat naïve, and very sheltered as a child. The quiet streets of my middle class, SE neighborhood were canopied by overgrown trees, and filled with single-family, brick homes, belonging to individuals who retired long before my birth. Living in a neighborhood bounded by a national park, and a street that is shared by one of the most famous buildings in the country – Pennsylvania Ave – I suppose many of the perils that SE is known for bypassed my childhood. My parents, pharmacists, were not only consumed with my academic success, but they also ensured that I never strayed far from our tiny, quiet street unsupervised, at least not for extended periods. Activities at school and home, interspersed with out of town trips to visit family, academic summer camps, and music lessons pretty much filled my childhood. The heavy parental investment I received as a child was surely evident in my academic performance. I didn’t know that it was even possible for me to earn less than an A until sixth grade. Teachers often had to make separate lesson plans for me because I was so far ahead of everyone else in my class. Everyone in my life encouraged me, and instilled in me that I could achieve greatness.
Fast forward to 2016, and I am in my final year at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (*does praise dance*). Through years of sacrifice and hard work, I have been able to accomplish something that is forever an elusive dream for many. I have succeeded in a field held in the highest esteem by members of society. Undoubtedly, no one is able to make it to, and survive medical school without a selfless work ethic and unwavering commitment. However, throughout my journey, I have realized that my success really has nothing to do with the strength of my focus, or how hard I’ve worked. I have been able to succeed in medical school because I had parents, family, and teachers who constantly encouraged me to perform to the best of my abilities. I had resources that allowed me to focus on school, and nothing else. I was successful because people before me were successful, and bestowed their wisdom upon me through guidance.
Is success more attributable to luck or hard work? A professor once asked me this. Today, I can wholeheartedly say that the answer is luck. Had I not had college-educated parents who prevented frivolous pursuits from distracting me, or teachers who put in extra effort to challenge me, I would not be in medical school. Had I not randomly found a course in undergrad taught by a physician/professor at Pitt Med, who would go on to write me a letter of recommendation, I would not be at a top 25 medical school. A lot of kids from more stereotypical neighborhoods in SE did not have the resources and guidance, or even shear luck in situations, that I’ve had throughout my life. Many have been burdened by gun violence, poverty, and other social injustices, making SE feel very much like a place where prison or death are more likely than graduate school. So, it should be no surprise why I was able to achieve something that many around me could not. There is absolutely nothing fair about certain individuals, like me, being fortuned with circumstances conducive for success. However, I am deeply appreciative of all the blessings that I have received. As such, I see no other option but to pass along these blessings, and be a resource for those after me, who do not have the support and guidance that I received, but did nothing to deserve.