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I’m applying to medical school in hopes of becoming one of the few female orthopedic surgeons. According to the published article, “Where Are the Women in Orthopedic Surgery?” ‘’Although women account for approximately half of the medical students in the United States, they represent only 13% of orthopedic surgery residents and 4% of members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).’’ I would like to be a leader in the field of sports medicine as an Orthopaedic Surgeon. My interest in this specialized field of medicine is of course because of my interest not only in medicine but in sports.
It wasn’t until my years in high school that I started to commit to the idea of pursuing a career in medicine.
In high school, I attended the City of Medicine Academy. This school is proudly the only high school in North Carolina that incorporates medical classes into the curriculum taught my professors that are either in the medical field such as nurses, or has previous experience in the biological sciences.
I have had the opportunity to get a head start in being exposed to the medical field through classes that involved shadowing and mentoring with healthcare professionals, attending health seminars, frequent trips to Duke Regional hospital, and a focus on critical thinking and problem-solving. In order to get a more hands-on approach to medicine, I attended a certified nursing assistant program that was being offered at the school. I was able to volunteer at the VA medical center at Duke, where I was able to experience working alongside of healthcare professionals and attend to patients with a variety of health conditions.
Working at the VA medical center taught me how important the responsibility of a physician’s team can be. The majority of the patients I had the pleasure of meeting, required 24/7, round-the-clock treatment and help with their basic needs. It was all of our responsibility to make sure that the patients felt at home and comfortable as can be because the facility was their home. There was one patient I grew very fond of. My first patient was a 70 year old man that fought in the Vietnam war. He told me that he had lived at the VA medical center for about 10 years due to the fact that he was no longer able to live on his own since his wife passed. He wasn’t able to walk on his own and was barely able feed himself. I will never forget how patient he was with me my first time helping him. He told me I was natural and I told him was being too kind but he insisted that not everyone was made for this job and that I was doing better than most. My experience at the VA medical center gave me the knowledge and skills that will help in my future endeavors as a physician.
At the time my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and came to live with my mother and I. I learned a lot of skills as a CNA student that allowed me to better help take care of my grandmother. I was able to take her vital signs, help her with bathing and dressing and help transport her safely around without injuring to her or myself. My grandmother would experience memory loss and confusion at the early stages. The symptoms progressed over a few years and she soon after started to lose her ability to walk, speak and eat on her own. The most difficult of this experience was watching my grandmother suffer but I was grateful and humbled to be given the opportunity to ease her pain.
When I began my undergraduate career, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a full range of biology courses, and because of my high school background, I was well prepared and excelled academically. I was recognized at multiple University Honor convocations. These academic achievements reinforced and solidified my interest in biology. Over the years, I strived to continue to keep up my academics while having a part-time job, participate in school events and sports, and while being involved in my community through community service.
I started my involvement in Habitat for Humanity during my first year in college. I initially became involved to help my sister own her very first home but it soon became a real passion for me. I have always been good with my hands and I was able to help literally build homes for families with my hands. This experience gave me a sense of purpose and an unbelievable sense of satisfaction so much that I stayed apart of this organization in hope to continue to provide families with safe and loving homes. I learned a lot about working in a team while volunteering for Habitat for Humanities. We’d have a deadline for the homes that we help built and in order to reach said deadline, we were all expected to work in groups of 5-10 contributing our skills to certain tasks. I was particularly skilled in framing and painting so I was put in charge of a small group, teaching the basics of framing.
I was involved in many extracurricular activities during my undergraduate career. I attended taekwondo classes, practice boxing, played a point guard in basketball, volleyball, and my favorite, flag football. I also joined the biology society on campus my sophomore year to network and stay updated on new research and obtain internship opportunities. In doing so, I was able to meet my fellow biology classmates and establish friendships. As a member of the biology society, I was introduced to many programs related to my interest in biology. In particular, I was told about a program that would help me gain experience and knowledge in a specialized sports medical pathway, podiatry.
During the summer of my junior year, I was able to attend the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine Summer Internship Program, where I shadowed several doctors and participated in a research project that involved a selection of a foot-related injuries or diseases such as ankle sprain and diabetes. I was also able to experience urgent care at the schools hospital. I learned a lot from this experience. For one, podiatry is a profession that not only specializes in diagnosing and treating of conditions of the foot and ankle but as a podiatrist, one is trained in all aspects of the body. Podiatrists are allowed to perform surgery and/or work in a clinical setting. Attending this internship gave me a better understanding of podiatric medicine and its importance in diabetic research.
It was later during my junior year and the beginning of my senior year that I was able to participate in Dr. Antonio Baines’s lab, who is known for conducting research on pancreatic cancer and its association with PIM kinases. I was able to conduct research as an undergraduate assistant in his lab. I was able to work alongside a graduate student that worked in his lab at the time, whom was sufficiently impressed with my work that I was soon able to work with her on several of her projects. As a student research assistant researching pancreatic cancer, duties included preparation of cells by growing cells and treating cells, performing western blot, gel electrophoresis, pipetting, centrifugation, waste management, and collection of data. It is because of this experience that I learned many applications of lab work, time management, and the importance of natural and applied science.
Upon graduating from North Carolina Central University, I planned to take a year off, work, travel, and intern at the local hospital, Duke or UNC. I was able to travel to the United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands. The culture differences between the two countries couldn’t be farther apart from each other. In the UAE, the population is of predominantly a Sunni Muslim and the social and political structure is based on Islamic law. In the Netherlands, the population is more diverse and is influenced by many different cultures. Traveling, I was able to get out of my comfort zone. I was allowed to interact with a wide range of new people and make new experiences. It was my curiosity and spark for adventure that pushed me to travel and in doing so, I learned to be more confident, humble and like-minded.
When I returned to the states, I was offered a job at Labcorp as a Lab Assistant, had an interview set up at UNC hospital for a volunteering opportunity, I had also enrolled in a MCAT course and was registered to take the MCAT that March. Unfortunately, not that soon after I returned, my nephew became very ill.
Family is very important to me. I come from a huge muslim family of nine siblings and being a muslimah, we are taught family is important and your way into Jennah (garden; paradise). So when my six year old nephew was diagnosis with Guillian Barre Syndrome, barely able to walk on his own, I made the decision that everything else would wait. We spent three months in hospital while my nephew went through several tests because unfortunately the symptoms he was experiencing indicated several diseases similar to guillian barre making it difficult to pinpoint and treat him effectively.
For the last year, I have spent it helping my family while still trying to pursue my dream. I’ve had to have applied to over a hundred or so jobs and internships but hadn’t heard back from any of them. At times, helping my family and pursuing my dream would seem to be on two opposite ends of a spectrum. While in the hospital, I continued to study and take the MCAT classes. I told myself that I could do both. That nothing would stop me from becoming a physician. However, seeing my family and especially my nephew, in so much pain, hindered me emotionally and physically that it reflected in my studies and on my MCAT score. I will admit that seeing that score, I felt defeated and stupid but after some time of feeling depressed, I realized that I would overcome it. That that MCAT score didn’t get to determine my fate or all the hard work and effort I put into this process, that It was just apart of the process. Larry Moss, a famous acting coach, once said “Being an adult means to be able to challenge yourself with the confidence that even if you fail you still have value. It’s a terrible burden to believe that if you try and fail, than you’re worthless. That’s not true. If you try and you fail, you learn something.” I learned that this wasn’t a set back but an opportunity to take a leap of faith and try again.
I aspire to be a physician because I have always had a passion to take care of my family and those in need of help. My previous experiences and my ability to conduct research, learn and adapt to change confirms that being a medical physician is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. Pursuing a career in medicine is not just a career for me, but a has always been my life’s goal. My passion for medicine was confirmed in that hospital and in this past year while taking care of my nephew. Being a Physician combines my passion for sports as well. When I was a football coach, I felt the need to tend to the injured players where the other coaches would have their focus elsewhere. I want be an advocate for my patients like I was an advocate for my nephew, a physician who works for and with her patients to better heal them. I look forward to being that physician, who embraces and dedicates the time, knowledge and experience to a lifelong and successful career in medicine.
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