Before I wanted to become a physician, I was a foolish 12-year-old who believed that I was going to become a singer-songwriter. My life at that point in time was analogous to the beat of my drums: steady, rhythmic, and like your favorite chorus, predictable.
Immigrating to the United States when I was young, I can distinctly remember the humor when my family tried to converse with others with their limited English vocabulary; it was the biggest problem my family faced at that time. Six years later, I was 13 years old, shaking my mother’s house with the sound of John Mayer. However, that same year, we experienced the sudden loss of my father. My family was stunned, and at that age, I couldn’t conceptualize the magnitude of what had occurred. In fact, obtaining closure seemed impossible. Having lost a guide and a teacher in my world, I had to learn lessons taught from a father to a son, like shaving and tying a tie, by myself via YouTube tutorials. The loss of my father cast a dark shadow, but the growth I experienced in its aftermath has stayed with me to this day.
Although I found my way through, I certainly felt a void; I did not fight the grieving process because it allowed me to come to terms with the cards I was dealt. I firmly believe that this element was key to my growth. As a 13-year-old, I came to the realization that my progress, as well as the progress of my family, was going to be affected by my actions, so I made a promise to myself to not give up. Simply put, my mindset changed. The rush of ambition that woke me up every morning was unlike any other emotion I’d ever felt. Part of what drove me was the hope that I could gain the necessary knowledge to understand what caused my father’s death and to find the closure that I needed.
When I began college, I knew I would have the opportunity to dissect science/medicine down to its core. I accumulated volunteering and clinical hours, shadowed a pain specialist, observed patient-physician interactions, spent my weeknights and weekends studying diseases and their mechanisms, researched molecules, and attended lectures on cutting-edge research opportunities and new treatments. It was at this time that my curiosity turned into a crystal-clear goal: to master the art of being a physician and to use my experiences with loss to assist others in need.
The origin of my love for medicine started there. I was intrigued by the idea that I could progress through adversity, overcome its mental, physical, and emotional effects, and utilize the lessons learned from my experiences to help others through their challenges. I realized my loss had given me the ability to empathize with people on a deeper level.
This journey has tested me in ways that are seemingly unimaginable, but it has certainly blessed me with opportunities, unforgettable experiences within the clinic, and people from all over the world who have shared their stories with me. To me, medical school will be the discovery of me and the chance to practice my passion of caring for others. It also will provide me with an opportunity to reach my goal of understanding what scientifically caused my father’s death. To be able to say that I’ve had the chance to apply to medical school – let alone attend it – is a dream come true, considering my difficult journey as an aspiring physician and immigrant in this country.
About Emil Baftirovski
Emil Baftirovski was born in Skopje, Macedonia and immigrated to the United States when he was 7 years old. He’s a senior at DePaul University in Chicago and is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a concentration in Neuroscience. After graduating in June of 2018, he looks to attend medical school. Since he loves to study mechanisms of treatment, disease pathology, and trends in healthcare, he is most interested in neurology, cardiology, and pain medicine. In addition to being an aspiring physician, he enjoys spending time with family, reading, and writing.