“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” ~Gandalf the Grey
President, astronaut, NBA star—as a young boy I dreamed big. My mother taught me that I could do whatever I set my mind to. And so I dreamed big. I dreamed of becoming someone who could really make an impact: someone with great power, great fame, or great talent. These people, I thought, were the ones who understood that it’s not the cards you’re dealt that matters, but how you play the cards. They were the ones who changed their own circumstances and the circumstances of those around them.
As I grew, my perspective changed. I faced various family and health challenges. I found solace in my faith, my remaining family, and my education. And as I continued to dream about my future, I thought about those I had previously aspired to become. It occurred to me that no president had called to inquire of our struggles. No astronaut had taught me how to do my homework. No NBA star had dropped by to coach me or refine my skills. Perhaps my “great dreams” were not so great after all.
One day, with my mother, I sat in the doctor’s office. Despite my familiarity with this process, this time was different. This time I awaited the test results about my heart. I was anxious. I was afraid. I knew a positive result in this scenario was not so “positive” at all. I knew it would mean losing the sports I loved and the lifestyle I enjoyed.
The doctor saw this; evidently, my body language betrayed my silence. And the words that he mustered he undoubtedly underestimated, because I would be forever indebted to the love he showed me that day. He could have ignored me. He had every right to move on and attend to his patients, as there were many others that needed his attention. He could have simply returned when the test was completed, given the results, and gone about his business.
But he didn’t.
He stopped what he was doing, he sat down, and he talked to me. The specialist I had just met that morning stopped to talk as if he had known me all my life. He asked how I was doing, and I inundated him with my emotions. Regardless of the incoherent rambling of a child, he did not interrupt me. He listened until the very end. He took a second to compose his thoughts, and then asked me a simple question: “Jeremiah, how old are you?” Startled at the seemingly random question, I gathered myself and answered. He then went on to explain to me that I was quite unique among his patients. Most of his patients were more than five times my age. Amidst the ones that were my age or younger, he continued, were children not so fortunate as I was. Some of these children faced life and death difficulties. He pointed out my mom, who had taken off work that day to bring me to him in the city. He brought up my success in school and my love for the sciences. He went on to lovingly remind me of all the many blessings I had, and would continue to have, even if the test came back positive. With every word I could feel his genuine concern and sincere compassion for me, a patient he had just met that morning.
Some people talk about moments in life when it’s as if “the light just went on.” I can’t say that I’ve had many moments like that in life, save this one. It was then that I realized two truths that now lie at the foundation of my desire to pursue medicine. The first is not based solely on that doctor alone but on every person—every family member, every teacher, every physician, every mentor—that gave of themselves to invest in my life. As a boy, I would not have characterized all these people as having “greatness,” and yet nothing could be greater than the self-sacrifice each invested in me. Sure, presidents and athletes and celebrities may do good things, but for the majority of us it is the loving actions of everyday people, of “ordinary folk,” that “keeps the darkness at bay.” The investments of these people in my life helped keep me from being another statistic from a broken home or a child depressed with his health condition. And the reality of that truth leads to the second: I am blessed. That’s what the doctor was opening my eyes to that day—all the things I take for granted. Without a doubt, I am blessed.
This investment and blessing has continued into my college years. Two summers ago I was honored to be offered acceptance into the MedEx Academy. During my two consecutive summers there, the amount of support and preparation for medical school I was shown overwhelmed me. I built relationships with doctors, faculty, staff, and other students while simultaneously gleaning research and patient-contact experience. But the investment didn’t stop there.
After applying and interviewing for a spot in the Class of 2018 at USCSOMG, I received a call from Lane, a member of the Admission staff, stating that I was offered acceptance into the school I so passionately wanted to be a part of. Even as someone who enjoys writing, I find it difficult to express in words the immensity of the blessedness and indebtedness I feel to GHS and USCSOMG for investing in me. It is my desire to return that investment tenfold and to represent well the countless people who have given of themselves on my account. “To whom much is given, much more shall be required.”
It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of the class of 2018, and I cannot wait to continue this journey with you all come July 2014!
“I think I’m quite ready for another adventure…” ~Bilbo Baggins
Formerly from the Baltimore area, I graduated from Bob Jones University with a degree in pre-med. Having interacted through MedEx with the faculty and students, I knew the doctor USCSOMG wanted to graduate was the doctor I wanted to become. If I’m not hitting the books, you can probably find me spending time with my better half or on the basketball court. It is an honor and a privilege to be a member of the class of 2018, and I’m excited to share my passion for global health, children’s health, and health education with my peers. “To whom much is given, much more shall be required.”
Copyright 2014 USC School of Medicine Greenville