I heard the familiar sound of the back door closing gently. My father was returning from driving his dirty, green John Deere tractor in one of our fields. Although he begins his day at 5:00 a.m. every morning, he usually returns at around 7:00 p.m. I never really questioned his schedule when I was a child, but as I entered high school I wondered how my dad could work so hard every day of the week and still enjoy what he does. He works long hours, becomes filthy from dirt, oil, and mud, and worst of all, can watch all his hard work go to waste if one day of bad weather wipes out our crop. There have been many years when our raisins were rained on, our cherries were hailed on and our apples were literally baked by the sun. The uncertainties of farming are so great and so challenging. It never ceases to amaze me when my father wakes up every morning to start work, that he does so with gusto. The life of a farmer can be laborious and stressful, yet my father continues to do his work with passionate enthusiasm. His dedication and pride mystified me throughout high school. Only after I entered Big U, did I start to understand how he can persevere and face the challenges of farming.
I entered Big U like a small child wandering through a park. Never in my life had I been exposed to anything so grandiose and dominating. Born and raised in a rural town of 3000 people, I wasn't ready for the fast-paced life and crowds of Chicago. I eventually grew into its lifestyle and learned to adapt to my new environment. I found my bio-ethics class, in which we discussed major issues in health care, especially interesting. The physician’s dilemma particularly intrigued me: Doing everything to provide the best health care possible, but constrained by limited resources when the funds just are not available.
These frustrating situations place a huge strain on physicians, and yet they persevere and continue to work long hours in hospitals, clinics and HMOs providing the best care they can.* While thoroughly aware of the long hours a physician must work and the challenges he or she faces, I am choosing medicine because of the unique satisfaction it provides — the rewards of helping a sick human being. As I think about a physician’s life, I also think of the many times I have watched my father sit silently at the dinner table, deep in thought, contemplating his options when our farm is not earning any income and the bills continue to arrive. We don't hear him complain; we only hear him leave early in the morning.
I also saw determination and tenacity in another setting while at BIG U: Dr. Steve Jones neurophysiology laboratory. In collaboration with Dr. Jack Smith Jr. at Big U II, I performed immunohistochemistry experiments to label metabotropic glutamate receptors. Research is intrinsically laborious and painstaking, but through my experience with Dr. Smith, I saw the stress, frustration, and uncertainty involved in obtaining grants. Yet he continues his pursuit of knowledge. Despite limited resources, he, like my father and the clinical physician, tries everyday to do his best to achieve his goals. I used similar drive in my research projects and am co-author of an article resulting from my research. Inspired by Dr. Smith, I will harness that determination in medicine. He showed me what it means to really enjoy a career. I can have that same enjoyment through practicing medicine — the same type of enjoyment my father has from tending to his fields.
Becoming a physician is a goal aspired to by many. As a farmer’s son, I have wakened early and returned home late from the fields after long days with my father. I have been able to experience uncertainties, challenges, and plain old hard work similar to that faced by physicians. But like the doctors in the hospitals and Dr. Smith in his lab, I can find happiness and satisfaction in helping people through medicine. Despite all the hardship doctors face, I want to help people every day. Practicing medicine is something worth stress and long hours. I finally understand my father. I now know how he can wake up every morning at 5:00 a.m. and drive his dirty, green tractor until 7:00 p.m.