next to him, I could see bone poking out of my dad’s elbow. He winced slightly
and used his free hand to push the bone back into place. He’s a surgeon; he’s
good with this kind of stuff. I, on the other hand, felt paralyzed. In seconds,
our relaxed ride along the canal had become the scene of a gruesome accident,
and my fast-thinking mind — which I’d always imagined would be good in an
emergency — was frozen in panic.
my dad, curled over in pain, I forced a few deep breaths and managed to call
enough, the paramedics found us and got my dad into an ambulance. My mom rode
with him to the hospital while I sunk into the seat of the minivan, relieved
that he was safe.
minutes later, my mom called me from the hospital.
to be okay,” she began, before proceeding to tell me that he had a heart attack
after he arrived. Unfailingly rational, she added, “You know, the hospital is
the best place to have a heart attack.”
doctors for parents is a bizarre, eye-opening privilege, to say the least.
I strove to be as calm and caring as them. More than anything, I wanted to be
that source of knowledge, comfort, and compassion for others. But at 16, my
dad’s accident shook me. I had never felt so overwhelmed.
years that followed, while I never stopped wanting to go to medical school, I
circled around the same insecurities. Was I really cut out to become a doctor —
to truly care for others, and be worthy of their trust? My ambition
was shadowed by fear. What I have ultimately learned, however, is not how to
conquer that fear, but how to embrace it. Through research, science outreach,
and clinical work, I have developed a new relationship with fear: one that has
empowered me to pursue a medical degree today.
Erica Larschan’s genetics lab at Brown University, I found a community of
mentors who pushed me to grow as a student and scientist. I remember my first
day in the cell culture room. Standing next to my mentor, trying to pipette, my
hands began to shake.
that too,” she said, “Sometimes it helps to bring my elbows in towards my
casual comment, and yet her words gave me so much comfort, normalizing and
validating my nervousness. Over time, I learned to steady my hands and calm my
mind as I performed my own experiments, dissecting countless fruit fly larvae
for my honors thesis.
was an empowering experience, and it made me want to use my skills to empower
others in turn. After graduating, I worked at the Rockefeller University
Science Outreach Program, where I taught hundreds of high school students how
to pipette, even with shaking hands. As a natural introvert, leading these
classes was another step outside of my comfort zone. But my commitment to
serving my students allowed me to push past my nervousness and focus on
building a connection.
powerful moments often happened over lunch, where we discussed everything from
cancer and end-of-life care to bioethics. Hearing the students’ stories and
perspectives reignited my pull towards medicine. I wanted to work closely with
doctors to learn more about these issues firsthand. Moreover, I wanted to ally
with patients and help them navigate these issues themselves. I began
volunteering at Methodist Hospital as a Patient Ambassador, where I realized
how much I loved being in a hospital setting, providing care to those most in
witnessed doctors’ complex relationship with fear. Shadowing an OB resident one
day, I observed a complicated C-section. From where I stood, the resident
seemed the picture of serenity as she performed the operation. Afterwards, I
was shocked to learn that she had been terrified throughout. She had never seen
such a fragmented placenta — she was taken aback when it nearly disintegrated
in her hands.
doctor I spoke to had their own versions of moments like these, and I realized
that the fear of harming a patient never goes away. Moreover, I came to
understand that fear is a vital part of medicine, inextricably linked to the
ability to care for others.
the hospital, my own fears now often fade into the background as I see
patients. I’ll never forget Rita, an elderly woman who had lost most of her
vision. Hospitals are disorienting for anyone; I could only imagine how
vulnerable Rita must have felt. When a nurse came in to move Rita to a new
room, I held her hand and acted as her eyes, explaining each step of what her
nurse was doing. Now, as a medical scribe, I see every day how a simple hand
squeeze can unravel a tangle of anxiety.
career, I know, will be filled with moments of doubt I will wrestle with my own
fears: of making a mistake, of missing a diagnosis, of doing too much or too
little. I will read the anxiety in my patients’ eyes and do all I can to ease
it. Through training, I will learn to navigate both of our fears. Sometimes, I
will fail: neither my words nor the best medicine will be enough. Nonetheless,
I feel ready to give it my best shot. Reflecting back on the day of my dad’s
accident, I no longer view my fear as a sign of inadequacy. Rather, I see it as
a reminder of what is at stake: for every patient, and for every doctor who
takes on the responsibility for their care.