There are two summers that cemented my eagerness to enter the medical field. One was a summer in an urban jungle, surrounded by ambitious minds hungering for intellect like mine. The other was spent in scorching heat, my mind vibrating with realizations about the world we live in.
During the summer before my high school senior year, I spent four weeks in Pittsburgh at Health Career Scholars Academy. I was immersed in the intense variety of the medical field. Possibilities of a career I could pursue ran through my head like bees to flowers. But it wasn’t until I sat through a lecture by a trauma surgeon that my interest in being a doctor was decided. The surgeon spoke of the unpredictability of her job, weaving in words like “triad of death” and “damage control,” which immediately intrigued me. I marveled at the structured procedures despite the chaos in those situations. I marveled at her ease in discussing words such as, “coagulation, hypothermia and acidosis.” And I knew I wanted to do what she did.
The unpredictability of trauma fascinates me. I saw this fascination develop firsthand while working at my hospital as a patient care coordinator.
The second summer that led to my epiphany was spent in the Dominican Republic. This was a volunteer experience that exposed children to the English language. My days were spent in a routine of translations from Spanish to English with words such as rojo, puedo and lapiz. The increments of teaching were broken by tours where we were regaled with the wonders of the Dominican Republic. It was on one of these tours that I noticed a woman whose face held suggestions of trauma. Upon asking my tour guide, I was told that she was a victim of an acid attack and could most likely not afford plastic surgery. Pedestrians gave her a wide berth, an unspoken agreement that this woman was invisible, unifying the strangers. To this day, I can’t get her out of my head.
Acid attacks, often associated for under-developed countries, are no stranger to modern countries. In 2016, CNN reported 454 acid attacks that occurred in England that year. Acid attacks barely get covered in mainstream media, flying under the radar on a list of horrific acts that are not discussed. In the Dominican Republic alone, acid attacks are no surprise to the demographic, but hardly published in the news. Unlike the victims in modern jurisdictions, people in the Dominican Republic do not have much access to reconstructive surgery that might make their complication a bit bearable.
Researching such instances as a result of my exposure to a victim developed an interest in the miraculous nature of plastic surgery. Plastic surgery—the restoration, reconstruction, or alteration of the human body—is a medical miracle. It is intensely intriguing to me, and something I am passionate about. This aspect of medicine has influenced me to enter the medical field to help acid-attack victims like the one I saw in the Dominican Republic. Doctors have influence in society and the skills to change one patient’s life.
Trauma and plastic surgery have made me conscious to my detest for routine. They have made me aware that I want a challenge every day. I am never complacent in a routine. I want to use medical skills to change a life. I want to use them to shed light on an undiscussed aspect of the worst of humanity. I want to find that woman and offer her a chance to possibly reverse her facial trauma, because plastic surgery is a medical miracle. I aspire to be that surgeon in the room, changing one life with every surgery.