In June of 2013, I started my summer job as a teen intern for the Hilliard Free Summer Lunch Camp, which was a program that provided children facing poverty in our area with a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the long summer break. This helped spare their parents from worries of where to obtain their next meal and focus on their jobs to raise their family. The Hilliard City School District provides these children with free or reduced-fees for breakfast and lunch during the school year, but when the school year ends, the parents have to use their savings to feed them.
This program allows the parents to save their money so they can use the allowances for other bigger expenses instead. In addition, the children can be fed hearty meals instead of cheaper foods high in sodium, unhealthy fats, toxic chemicals, and refined carbohydrates.
Although I had so much fun with the children during the internship, I also became deeply concerned for their future. Whenever their parents were out working, the children must look for food on their own without the parents’ watchful eye. Children are probably not concerned with the nutrition facts on the labels, and they probably do not have shelves stocked full with whole-grain or protein-rich products since they tend to be on the more costly side. Junk foods like this are not only correlated with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases, but they are also related to conditions such as ADHD, depression, and other behavioral problems. The parents are already stressed from financial troubles, so adding these physical and mental conditions on their plate could strain them beyond imaginable, not to mention the additional costs for providing medicine for the children’s illnesses (which is most definitely not cheap).
It made me furious that these children were developing the risk of preventable illnesses every day at their home, yet the parents could not do anything about it because they simply lacked the financial resources. The Free Summer Lunch Camp was an excellent way to nourish them with healthy meals, but I knew that there were millions of children out there still feeding themselves with toxic foods and growing in stressful homes.
According to statistics, an estimated 50 million Americans live in households that are unable to consume nutritious foods on a regular basis. This includes over 16 million children, so approximately 20% of American children go hungry at some point during the year. I know that the government is working to reduce these numbers, but clearly not enough work is being done. I decided that when I became a physician, I would devote my life in serving my community by saving children from risks of mental and physical diseases and helping reduce costs of healthcare fees to spare families of additional financial stress.
Speaking of healthcare, I think that it is ridiculous how wealthier homes are already in lower risk of developing disease, yet they receive much better healthcare than those less fortunate. America is leading the world charts when it comes to the most expensive healthcare per person. In addition, poverty is racist; minority groups tend to have higher numbers of families facing poverty. I firmly believe that there is medical injustice in this country. In the future, I hope to use my platform to destroy this inequality.
When I was little, I always dreamed of becoming a successful surgeon and rolling around in my riches. However, the Free Lunch Summer Camp truly opened my eyes to reality, and I realized how foolish my old dreams were when I should have been thankful knowing how fortunate I was compared to millions of others drowning in debts. I want to use my career to teach families about nutrition and how to manage their money wisely to find the perfect balance in managing their expenses and making sure that their children are eating proper meals. However, this would be difficult without having the government step in to help with lower costs in healthcare and providing more welfare for these families. When I become a doctor, I hope to use my power to lift the financial and health troubles from those suffering day to day.
In the summer of 2015, I started shadowing Dr. Trevor at his dental clinic. At first, I simply expected to learn his daily routine at work and how to use his dental tools, but I learned something much more valuable. The most important lesson was how he treated each patient. I noticed how he always started a conversation with each patient because he knew that many were either scared or stressed when going to see their dentist, and he wanted to make the experience much easier for them. He also knew what signs to look out for because each patient had specific risks for tooth or gum disease. Because of Dr. Trevor, I learned that caring and empathy were values that would determine my true passion and reason for becoming a physician. I realized that doctor-to-patient interaction is one of the most important part in medicine when treating people. If a physician were to do his or her job with no empathy or a sense of looking out for the patient, he or she would have failed at the job. Medicine is not simply about biochemistry or technique. It is about giving your best interest to the patient in order to make the quality of his or her life the best that it can be.