In the sweating discomfort of the summertime heat, I walked through Philadelphia International Airport with several overweight bags, tired eyes, and a bad case of Shigella. Approaching Customs, I noticed the intensity and seriousness on the faces of the customs officers, checking passports and questioning passengers. As I moved closer to the front of the line, I noticed someone reading a foreign newspaper. The man was reading about the Middle Eastern conflict, a clash fueled by religious intolerance. What a sharp contrast to Ghana, I thought. I had just spent three weeks in Ghana. While there, I worked, studied their religions, ate their food, traveled, and contracted malaria. Despite Ghana’s economic hardships, blending Christianity, Islam, and traditional religion had no apparent impact on the country's health. When I reached the front of the line, the customs officer glanced at my backpack and, with authoritative curiosity, asked me, “What are you studying?” I responded, sleepy yet politely, “Religious studies with a pre-med track.” Surprised, the officer replied, “Science and religion, interesting; how does that work?” This was not the first time I had encountered the bewildered facial expression or this doubtful rhetorical question. I took a moment to think and process the inquiry and answered, “With balance.”
I have tried to be well-rounded throughout my young life, improve in all facets of my personal life, and find a balance between my interests and social responsibility. In my quest to understand where I fit into society, I used service to provide a link between science and my faith. Science and religion are fundamentally different; science is governed by the ability to provide evidence to prove the truth, while religion’s validity is grounded on the concept of faith. Physicians constantly balance the reality of a person’s humanity and illness in caring. The physicians I found to be most memorable and effective were those who were equally as sensitive and perceptive of my spirits as my symptoms. Therefore, my desire to become a physician has always validated rather than contradicted my belief system. In serving, a person must sacrifice and give altruistically. To serve, one must lead by example and strive to become an advocate for equity.
As a seventh-grade math and science teacher in the Philadelphia public school system, every day is about sacrifice and service. I sacrifice my time before, during, and after-school, mentoring and coaching my students. I serve with vigor and purpose so that my students can have opportunities that many students from similar backgrounds do not have. However, without a balance, my effectiveness as a teacher is compromised. In February, I was hospitalized twice for a series of asthma attacks. Although I had been diagnosed with asthma, I had not had a seizure since I was in middle school. Consequently, the physicians attributed my attacks to high stress, lack of sleep, and poor eating habits. It had become clear that my unrelenting drive to provide my students with sound math and science education without balancing teaching and my personal life negatively impacted my ability to serve them. This experience taught me a lesson that will prove invaluable as a physician. Establishing an equilibrium between my service and my personal life as a physician will allow me to remain connected to the human experience, thus enabling me to serve my patients with more compassion and effectiveness.
Throughout my travels and experiences, I have seen the unfortunate consequences of not having equitable, quality health care domestically and abroad. While many take good health for granted, the financial, emotional, mental, and physical effects of illness on individuals and families negatively impact the broader society. Often, a patient’s faith is vital to their healing process. I seek to blend the roles of science and religion and see healthcare providers as caretakers of God’s children - with a further responsibility to all humanity. Nevertheless, I realize my effectiveness and success as a physician will be predicated on my ability to harmonize my ambition with my purpose. Therefore, I will always answer bewildered looks with the assurance that my faith and skills will allow me to serve my patients and achieve my goals.
Thank you for considering my application to medical school.
Personal Statement for Medical School, the Underserved