What does it truly mean? Why do we do it?
As future doctors, we’ll be asked to sacrifice time, sleep, energy, and resources but many of us will voluntarily rise up to fulfill the need. We all have different motivations and noble intentions that drive us towards becoming physicians; however, my meaning and motivation for sacrifice starts a few generations back.
My great-grandfather was a farmer in Bangladesh whose children helped to grow crops. However, he sacrificed his yield and profit to send my grandfather to school even though education wasn’t going to help the family farm. My great-grandfather had the foresight to sacrifice present gains for future prosperity. Every day at 10am, my great-grandfather would go out to the field and bring an early lunch for my grandfather and my great-granduncles so that my grandfather could run off to school while my great-granduncles were busy eating.
Because of his education, my grandfather went on to become a business owner while the rest of his cousins continued to farm. This emphasis on education continued with my grandfather and my father. My father tells me stories about how my grandfather wouldn’t even buy new socks when the old ones ripped; he’d just fold over his socks so the holes on his ankles would be covered. When my dad would come home from engineering school, he would see my grandfather’s ripped socks and ask him why he didn’t get new ones and my grandfather’s response was, “why should I spend the extra money on myself when I can pay for you and your brothers’ college tuition?” Although my grandfather had the ability to buy something as simple as socks, he chose to sacrifice that money to help my father succeed and become an engineer.
This dedication and sacrifice for education continued with my parents. Although my dad could have lived a very prosperous life in Bangladesh, he and my mom chose to immigrate to America so my brother and I would have the chance to pursue any education we desired. I can only begin to imagine the sacrifice they made. Leaving everything they knew and loved… family, friends, culture, food, and language while knowing that they might not have the opportunity to come back for decades. Just for the potential that their unborn children could have a life better than them.
I am humbled that it took generations of sacrifice to bring me to this point of opportunity. Without this dedication and sacrifice for education from my family, I might be a farmer in Bangladesh instead of pursuing my dream of becoming a physician. To have the ability to pursue medicine, I am standing on the shoulders of giants.
It’s one of the highest of honors for any person to be selected to study medicine and as college students we have to make numerous sacrifices to earn the spot; however, my sacrifices pale in comparison to what generations of my family have given. Looking forward, as doctors, we may be asked to sacrifice a lot of valuable things: relationships, hobbies, and leisure. Moreover, we have to understand that our patients have also often sacrificed in ways to reach out for treatment. From the mother who works overtime and extra shifts to make sure that she can pay for her daughter’s medications, to the neighbor who drives the elderly to their appointments, patients come to us in their most vulnerable hours with sacrifices that we may not ever know.
I think about my own sacrifices not as a burden or a hassle, but instead as a blessing, because I’ve had and will continue to be given opportunities to prove my love and worth as a future physician. Although I’ve had to miss some substantial events like my cousins’ weddings, my nephew’s birth, and plenty of my mom’s home cooked meals, I don’t regret my sacrifices, big or small, because I know that those experiences will hopefully help shape me to be a thoughtful physician who understands and respects that most people have an untold story of selflessness and sacrifice.
About Rafid Rahman
Rafid grew up in Springfield, IL and attends the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago, double majoring in Anthropology and Biological Sciences. He will begin medical school at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences in the fall of 2017. Rafid has been named an Evergrande Scholar at Harvard Medical School. He loves journalism and media and aspires to be the next Dr. Sanjay Gupta!
Because mentorship was the cornerstone to his success, Rafid began MedSpeak, a YouTube channel about the journey of medicine for high school, college, and medical students. You can follow him on Twitter @Rafid__Rahman and check out his blog.