Class of 2020
Alexis del Vecchio
I am a second-year medical student at USCSOMG and I want to tell you about my experience. I have been dwelling on this little assignment since it was given to me, because I am an incredibly honest person. I knew I wanted to be as open as possible, but I also wanted to make a solid point. So, here is my best attempt:
All of my actions are driven by emotion. I know that for the most part this is something that doctors try to avoid, but I believe that you have to have a little heart when you decide that you are going to devote your life to building a career in something as time-consuming, stressful and emotionally taxing as medicine. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone wakes up one morning and thinks to themselves, “I’m going to study every day for the rest of my life, work long hours, dedicate all of my time to complete strangers, and on top of that risk getting sued.” There are other, more glamorous ways to gain social status and prove to everyone that you’re bright.
Now, let me get to the meat of the reflection…almost nine years ago, my older brother, Steven was shot and killed. It was devastating. It was definitely one of the saddest and most unfortunate things that has happened to my family and me. His death left me feeling lost and empty. I was confused and apathetic about life. It left a void that I wanted to fill. I missed my big brother, and I had a desperate longing for him. So, in high school, I began working with at-risk youth in an institution that fostered children in crisis. Being with these young men began to satisfy that longing that I had for Steven, because I saw him in all of the boys I worked with. It helped my grieving process and kept me sane in high school.
Thankfully, throughout undergrad I had the honor and privilege of running an organization that allowed me to work with young men in a detention center in Massachusetts. The workload of pre-med and feeling homesick was overwhelming, but coordinating activities for my boys kept me grounded. I loved them all so much. To many people, they were social outcasts and criminals. Don’t get me wrong—some of them were bad seeds—but for the most part, I found that many were misguided and misunderstood. They gave their correctional officers and staff a hard time, but they respected me, listened to me and taught me, because I respected and really cared about them. Call me selfish, but I think I needed to be around these boys. I guess that is selfish, but—I hope they found some positivity during my time with them, so it was really a win-win for all of us.
Fast-forward to medical school.
To now…what can I say? Medical school is hard. You are expected to take in all this information and know what do with it. You are overworked and you don’t get to enjoy the same things as your non-medical student friends. You’re investing so much. Too much. So, I do have my dark days. Days I feel I can’t study anymore and think perhaps I chose the wrong profession. I am really big on self-evaluation…so I saw a problem and knew I needed to do something to get out of that funk. I came all the way down here from NYC…I missed my family, and I missed my boys, and I missed Steven. So, I began to immerse myself in the underserved regions of the Greenville community. I bridged a connection between USCSOMG and an afterschool program at the Greater Mount Calvary Church and started an enrichment program at the Greenville County Juvenile Detention Center headed by medical students. So far, this has helped immensely. For me, taking on medicine requires a clear head and heart, and serving these youth brings me to a beautiful place spiritually…it fills my void.
Now, back to what I was saying before…everything I do is driven by emotion. I knew I wanted to do medicine because I wanted to make a difference. Again, I could be wrong, but I don’t think any other profession has the privilege of getting as close to people as physicians…and that’s exactly what I am trying to do—get close and hopefully inspire.
My brother is never coming back. I am, however, happy that I have this desire to chase after him. For the most part, he has led me down this selfless path. Ironically, my selfishness to be around people who remind me of him is what got me into medicine.
Take-home point: to future medical students, be yourself, be bold, be selfish, and continue to reevaluate yourselves and your priorities…if it comes from the heart, then it is a good enough reason to go for that MD.
My siblings and I were born and raised in the Bronx, New York. We are the children of Dominican immigrants who worked very hard to ensure that we pursue an education to have equal opportunity and get ahead in the United States. Throughout high school and undergrad I had the privilege of being apart of many community service initiatives from providing clothes and food to the homeless in NYC to heading enrichment programs for youth detained in state facilities. I graduated from Mount Holyoke College in May of 2014 with a double major in Chemistry and Psychology. Despite the level of difficulty, I am happy to be a second-year medical student continuing to work towards a profession where I will not only impact people’s lives but where I will also be learning a great deal about the experiences of others.
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