I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was six. That was the year my father lost his leg in a serious car accident and spent three months in the Tarrytown Rehabilitation Hospital. I was exceptionally close to my dad and accompanied my mother to visit him whenever we were allowed. While the initial site of my father in a staid, strange-smelling environment was frightening, I realized quickly that the place was positive and full of good energy. This place and these people dressed in white were going to help my father get better. I couldn’t imagine anything more wonderful.
My visits to my dad weren’t limited to his bed or to the hospital lobby. I accompanied him to his physical therapy sessions and cheered him on as he regained strength in his upper arms. I watched while he learned to operate a wheelchair and and was amazed to see him actually “walk” with the aid of a prosthetic leg. I believed that every doctor who helped my dad was a saint and that they couldn’t possibly do anything more rewarding with their lives.
When I announced to my family that year that I wanted to be a doctor, they thought it was cute. No one realized the epiphany I had at the rehabilitation facility. But I’ve worked hard for the past twelve years with the single-minded goal of becoming a physician. I’ve successfully completed every honors class in science and math that my school offers. I’ve entered (and placed) in every science fair in the state with entries that examine the effect of physical therapy on the recovery of athletic injuries. I remain fascinated by the human body and its remarkable ability to repair itself.
Two years ago I began volunteering at the Tarrytown Rehabilitation Facility, where my father had been a patient twelve years earlier. While my initial duties were limited to visiting patients and handing out magazines, I quickly advanced to a more hands-on role. My supervisior, Dr. Jennings, knew of my interest in muscle rengeneration and allowed me to accompany her on evening rounds. I began to attend the Friday evening therapy sessions of Mr. Sanders, a 40-year-old man who lost his right leg below the knee in an industrial accident. It was an honor to attend his sessions and to be taken into his confidence. His rehab program was tough, and it was not unusual for him to cry in pain and frustration. While my role was limited to that of cheerleader and enthusiastic observer, I felt immense satisfaction with every small milestone we achieved. I can’t imagine a joy greater than what I felt when I saw him walk with a prosthetic for the first time. I can’t settle for a career that gives me anything less than that.
My only frustration with Mr. Sanders was that I couldn’t do more. I wasn’t a medical doctor and I lacked the training to fully understand his injury and to plan an efffective treatment program. I want to enroll in the pre-med program at Harvard to get the best technical training in the world. Every day that goes by brings progress in dealing with spinal cord injuries and in new methods of replacing limbs. In 10 years, I plan to be in the forefront of that field and will make the recoveries of patients like my dad and Mr. Sanders better, faster and less traumatic. As I realized at age six, there isn’t anything more wonderful that I can do with my life.
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