Like many other young professionals in Manhattan, I grew up out in the suburbs on Long Island hoping to one day make it to the big city. As I maneuvered through the maze of my adolescence, I vividly remember being mesmerized by the bright lights and the unrelenting energy of the concrete jungle; it was where I needed to be.
For a very long time, Emergency Medicine was the only type of medicine I knew. I would spend countless hours volunteering (read: hanging out) in the ED – all the attendings, nurses, and ancillary staff knew my name and looked after me. I quickly became fond of my EM family.
Before departing for college, when I first discussed my intentions to pursue a career in medicine with my father, he spoke fondly of a place called Bellevue and a man named Dr. Goldfrank. Though I was only eighteen years old and didn’t quite grasp what my father was telling me, to this day I can recall the manner in which he spoke – there was a sense of pride that laced his every word. Bellevue was a bastion of hope for those that many others in our society have forgotten about: the homeless, the addicted, the psychiatric, the undocumented, and the impoverished. And leading that cause was this man who believed dearly in the value of social justice – an advocate for those who could not navigate the system themselves. As the son of immigrants, this is and will always be something that resonates with me. Like many before him, my father left his native land for America to search for something better. And I think he saw value in treating a population with whom he could very much identify with.
As I look back at the past four years of my life, I firmly believe the most valuable gift a medical school can impart to its students (beyond the utility of tactile fremitus of course) is a sense of purpose. And I’m not referring to the discovery of a particular specialty, but rather what kind of physician one aspires to become. The bane and beauty of medicine is that it transects so many domains of our world: morality, ethics, the value of science and objectivity, social and financial inequity – and many others that I am surely forgetting. All of these principles inevitably affect our practice and I believe there comes a point in training when it’s necessary (and I dare say our responsibility) to ask: what is my place in society? What kind of physician do I want to become?
Since first donning my white coat, I’ve had the privilege to call NYU/Bellevue my home. I very quickly fell in love with Bellevue’s place in the community and how the valuable the ED is to many of NYC’s disadvantaged residents. As I spent more time as a third year medical student, I came to realize that I didn’t want to practice Park Avenue medicine; I wanted to be in the trenches. When pressed further about my motivation, words often fail me. However, Pasteur’s eloquence comes to mind: “One does not ask of one who suffers: what is your country and what is your religion? One merely says: you suffer, this is enough for me, you belong to me and I shall help you” – what I consider to be the unwritten credo of Bellevue.
Ask most of my friends and they will tell you that that I’ve probably romanticized Bellevue more than its due share; those who have roamed these halls will attest to the difficulty of practicing in an environment such as this. But every town needs a Bellevue. Bellevue is buoyed by it’s past, invested in the future, and continues to serve as a battleground for those who value compassionate care in an often uncompassionate world. Maybe I’m naïve, maybe it’s because I have yet to be burdened and hardened by the seemingly endless responsibility of residency, or maybe it’s because I have yet to see the dark underbelly of our healthcare system. But sometimes all you need is a little blind faith to take the jump. Come back in four years and I promise that at least some part of me will still reflect this conviction.
I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I am in fact, quite nervous to begin the next part of my career – I’m uncertain as to how I’ll respond to the challenges that lay ahead. But I do know that this specialty has already given my family and me so much. And so it’s now time to give back. After months of interviewing, quiet reflection, and frantic deliberation, I can finally come to terms with something that I realized when I first started this journey: I’m staying home.