Rebecca Malcolm submitted 2017-06-26

“I saved a life.”

To be able to say that sentence is more than just a career goal of mine. When you aspire to be a doctor, it goes without saying that you want to help people. But being able to say that I cheated death, that I gave somebody more days, months, or years with their family, that I saved a life… that’s a dream. It’s a dream that I hope to see become a reality through hard work and discipline. A dream that I will achieve and approach with knowledge, confidence and respect.

Saving a life is not innate. It requires education – years and years of education. Through four years of undergraduate lectures and four years of medical school seminars, your brain fills with neural connections, storing knowledge and information in nerve bundles and sending it down synaptic terminals for easy retrieval. This is the primary and most basic step in preparation to save a life. If I want to be able to bring life back into a body, breathe air back into someone’s failing lungs, and restore blood flow through a weakening heart, I need to know the biology, physiology and anatomy of that body, those lungs and that heart like the back of my hand. I need to be able to have that knowledge barreling down to a synaptic cleft with easy accessibility. Understanding physical and emotional ailments that may contribute to the need for life-saving actions is the very foundation of being able to provide that care. This means that I need to study life-threatening injuries, and be able to identify and explain them in the field. More importantly, I need to be able to repair these injuries and apply life-saving techniques in a safe, appropriate manner.

There is only so much that knowledge can do. Each life that I will save will be unique, and I will have to use what I know to improvise a solution with the utmost speed and finesse. This requires a mind-boggling amount of confidence. Not only is it vital that I know the necessary medical information, I also must trust that I know what I am doing, and garner the trust of the people whose lives I am saving. Confidence can stem from endless study sessions, grades proving that I have memorized the pathway of a single red blood cell from stem to stern, or practice through simulation. The best kind of confidence, however, comes from within. It comes from an inner morale, an unwavering courage. Utter, complete certainty that I am capable, without a doubt, of succeeding. It is this trust in yourself, this confidence in your abilities and your skills that allows you to be able to save lives. Without this assurance, the very concept of being able to stop death in the middle of its day is nothing more than a grand impossibility.

I also approach the idea of performing life saving techniques with an incredible amount of respect. I have wanted to be a doctor for years, living with this chronic ache to finally put a stethoscope around my neck and introduce myself with that elusive title of MD. I hope that years from now, when I am officially a doctor, I can remember this: it is a privilege to be able to save lives. I am not entitled to this glorious ability. I was never guaranteed that this be something I do each and every day. At just the start of my journey to becoming a medical professional, the very thought of being so blessed as to have made it to my career goal is flabbergasting. It is so very important that those who save lives, those who are able to defibrillate hearts and oxygenate lungs, remember how very special that is. I will not beg for gratitude and congratulations when I save a life. I will not feel like some kind of effervescent god that has powers beyond measure. I will feel lucky.

As a student with a long trek of carrying heavy textbooks, pens running out of ink, and tuition costs, I approach the idea of saving lives with excitement. It is the only true goal that I have. Becoming a doctor is my endgame. The idea of saving a life is what pushes me through learning absurd details about chemical reactions and endless examinations in brightly lit lecture halls. I know that saving a life requires incredible knowledge, and I plan to learn it all. I know that it will call for confidence, and I intend to grow that within myself. I also know that it is entitled to grace and respect, and I hope to never forget that. Years from now, I see myself performing life saving techniques like it’s my job. Because it will be my job, but it will also be much more than that, and I am so thankful that I have the opportunity to pursue a career in saving lives.