In my junior year of high school, each student in my Biomedical Research class had to give a presentation on what they aspired to be. Before then, I’d only spent about two minutes in my entire life contemplating what I wanted to do with it.
First, I thought about being a carpenter like my dad. Then, because at the time, I was an ardent guitar player, playing for hours each day, constantly writing and recording music, I thought about being a sound producer. But when I took an inventory of my serious academic interests, I realized that I particularly enjoyed all of my science and history classes, and I enjoyed an academic challenge. After some research, I decided I’d do my presentation on becoming a doctor.
I gave my presentation with confidence and excitement, but later that week, I noticed that I felt even more captivated about the field of medicine. Sure, I learned a lot about medicine from all the articles I read, blogs I perused, and videos I watched. But I had not experienced firsthand what a medical environment was like.
After more research, and talking to some friends in my classes whose parents were doctors, I dedicated almost an entire school break to shadowing an anesthesiologist. Little did I know, my shadowing experience would have a huge impact on me.
My first day shadowing, I was scheduled to observe an open heart surgery. I found the floor I was supposed to meet the doctor on at 7:00 AM sharp and was handed some scrubs. I was advised by about every single nurse and doctor I saw to not touch anything blue in the OR I was to be in—anything blue is sterile. And spoiling the sterile material and zones in the hospital really makes for an unpleasant experience, especially if you’re the culprit.
Although I was shadowing the anesthesiologist, she let me hang around any doctors I found interesting on her wing; she knew them all so I was fortunate to make several connections,, I found that I could not wait to get to the hospital each morning. In all, I ended up shadowing five different anesthesiologists, a thoracic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a cardiologist, two ENTs and to end it all, a neurosurgeon. It was quite a full week!
In between cases I would sit in the doctor’s lounge and chat with the various doctors representing quite an amalgam of specialties. After some coffee and trying to decipher words like “ductus arteriosus” and “tetralogy of fallot” or “ciprofloxacin”, which made me thoroughly confused, I would head off with one of the doctors to observe the wonders of the next case.
After watching a thoracic surgery on an infant, I asked if I could follow the anesthesiologists to where they were going to take the child while he recovered. I, along with the unconscious infant on a massive, rolling hospital bed, and the two other doctors made our way down six floors on the elevator. As soon as the elevator doors opened, I noticed a group of about twelve people who, all in unison, turned to us, trying to look composed; however, worried trepidation was plastered on each person’s face. They noticed the patient on the bed the doctors were pushing and they all rushed to it. It was the child’s family. I was not expecting this to happen at all. As soon as they swarmed around the hospital bed, almost each person burst into tears. Several of the family members hugged the two doctors. After leaving the child in the post-op room, we also left behind a family that was full of elation, joy and hope, for they had a child who they feared was going to die, but who now had a shot at life.
I knew shadowing was going to be an interesting experience, but I had no idea I’d witness something so personal and emotional. I knew that medicine made a difference, and I had heard stories about lifesaving surgeries. However, I’d never seen firsthand a family in distress for a loved one with an ailment. It was amazing seeing the moment that the family’s worry changed to joy. That surgery gave that family and child hope—something I didn’t expect to see shadowing my first time.
After that week was over, I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue. Seeing so many different cases and patients successfully treated moved me. This was the true impetus for my pursing medicine. When I feel unmotivated or question why I’m pursuing medicine in the midst of a chaotically stressful semester, I look back at that week with nostalgia and wonder. Remembering the looks on the family members’ faces revives more excitement in me about what I’m looking forward to one day, namely helping people turn worry and fear into hope.
About Weston Eldridge
Weston Eldridge is a pre-medical student at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, graduating this December with a BS in Chemistry Medical Sciences and Biomedical Sciences. He grew up in Flora, a small town in central Mississippi, and he plans to practice rural medicine one day. He is a Mississippi Rural Physician Scholar and will be attending the University of Mississippi Medical School in Jackson, Mississippi next fall. While not studying for his classes, Weston enjoys spending time with his wife and writing for his blog, sundryreverie.com. He is an ardent reader, lover of fishing, and hopes to write for the rest of his life.