Dear, young people transitioning out of foster care or any person navigating their way through hardships and challenges. In the laws governed by physics, gravity can only work downward. It is up to the body, to pull itself back up again. This law can also be applied to everyday life. Although life has a natural tendency to pull us down, we have to stay alive in the face of opposition. Our ability to get back up plays a key role in our potential to rise up again, against the forces of tension and gravity.
Vectors, relative to physics have a magnitude and a direction. Without direction, a quantity is merely just a scalar. Failure allows us to reassess our direction and magnitude toward a point, particular goal or outcome. Allow your failures to be your teachers. Never be afraid to fail.
Khadija and myself became involved with New Yorkers For Children, an organization dedicated to helping foster care youth successfully transition out of foster care after completing high school, in 2009. Upon expressing our interest in medicine to representatives at New Yorkers For Children, we were introduced to our mentor, Dr. Jennifer Mieres who provided guidance to both of us during our undergraduate educational journeys by giving us a tour of Hofstra Medical School and also providing individual financial support for me to study abroad in Chile. Five years later, Khadija and I reunited to present the 2014 Nicholas Scoppetta Child Welfare Award, to the President and CEO of North Shore L-I-J Health Systems, Michael J. Dowling who partnered with New Yorkers For Children in 2013 to establish Futures in Motion: Youth CAN! Youth CAN! is a 12-week training and career counseling program that prepares youth for sustainable employment. During the award presentation, Khadija and I also announced our acceptance into competitive premedical programs.
Khadija is now a PA candidate at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and I am now enrolled in the Premedical Post Baccalaureate Program at Sage College. Our drive to pursue a career path in medicine comes from our experience in care and a strong desire to reverse the poor health outcomes that particularly devastate minority communities worldwide. Over tears and the exchanging of our stories and journeys in the privacy of a restroom, I said to Khadija “I have a strong feeling this is only the beginning of our stories… ” She replied “It is…” This moment in our lives has only reassured us that dreams in fact do come true and that we shouldn’t be afraid to pursue our passion regardless of staggering statistics and demotivating people who told us it would be impossible because of where we came from. We were also confronted with challenges associated with being in foster care but we will not let that stop us. Impossible separated is “I’m possible”.
I remember the smell of empanadas and corn humitas. I remember the smiles on the faces of the patients I helped and interviewed during my medical internship at the Kinemed Clinic in Santiago, Chile. The calm breeze that grazed my skin and made my hairs stand up in the morning while I walked to school, the graffiti art that decorated the streets, the music and the trees. Studying abroad in Chile was by far the best experience I’ve had thus far.
Learning in college shouldn’t be limited to classrooms or lectures. A full college learning experience should be encompassed with intimate classrooms and lectures as well as different learning experiences in different locations around the World. Learning outside of a classroom allows you to develop a sense of self and serve as an asset to whatever goals you wish to accomplish in life. Study abroad plays an integral role in this experience. As a child, I always dreamt of becoming a doctor and traveling to different foreign countries all over the World to help people in need of health services.
After facilitating a college tour for former foster care youth, I had a discussion with one of my colleagues about language and science. While in Chile, along with participating in a medical internship, I also took a course in medical Spanish terminology. Although language and science may seem very distinct, one cannot exist without the other. Language serves as a medium in which science is communicated to the public. I realized that if I really wanted to pursue a career path in medicine, language shouldn’t be a barrier when communicating with patients or providers in related fields. Language plays a key role in our identities, our cultures and defines who we are and how we interact with others.
A patient is more inclined to trust a medical provider who attempts to remove those barriers and establish a connection beyond the regular patient/ physician interaction. It shows that the provider is willing to take the individual’s social and cultural lives into consideration in order to provide them with adequate care. A distrust in the medical system has only contributed to poor health outcomes for minority and underserved populations and in order to reverse these trends, we need social and culturally competent minorities in physician roles. My goals to become a physician are rooted in overcoming challenges in achieving health equity for all regardless of a person’s race, color, gender or creed.
Aspire to be all you can be. Use your goals as your focal point. In life there are many challenges but how you deal with those challenges will determine your success. People have different reactions/responses to adversity. Letting it consume your thoughts, actions, ignoring it completely or pretending as if it doesn’t exist will only repel you from your goals. Instead, approach your challenges with a positive attitude and use it to fuel your drive. Stay positive.