After a career in computers and then an era of travel and leisure, I decided to become a family physician in my small town (pop 2,000). As a non-traditional non-trad, I acquired quite the eclectic collection of Extra Curriculars. In addition to the cookie-cutter premed checkboxes like shadowing, tutoring, small town EMT, and an Americorps service project, I included bullet points like these:
professional scuba divemaster spent a summer walking from mexico to canada endowed a scholarship at Johns Hopkins (lol, I don\'t qualify for my own scholarship, besides I never applied there :-) climbed the tallest mountain in each state lived on my boat for 5 years, sailing from Nova Scotia to Alaska via the Panama Canal
Hopefully it will make for some interesting interview conversations!
Personal Statement: I waited for radio silence, and then keyed the microphone on my ski patrol vest.
\"Dispatch, we have an eighteen year old male, complaining of difficulty breathing, vitals are heart rate 72 strong and regular, G.C.S. 15, respirations 24 regular and extremely labored. Eighteen year olds at rest, even at 8,000 feet, are not supposed to be breathing like this.\" I wanted to add that this situation looked really bad, but that isn\'t appropriate on a public radio channel.
My transmission had the desired effect. A paramedic on the mountain was called in to take over the scene, the patient received advanced life support, and he was quickly transported off the mountain and into an ambulance to receive definitive care at the nearest hospital, an hour away.
The system worked and the patient received the best possible care, but I was left once again with an empty feeling. As a mere EMT-B in my EMS service, every time an interesting call occurs I am pushed to the sidelines. When patients complain of chest pain, I\'m not the one handing out aspirin and nitroglycerin. When patients complain of asthma attacks, I\'m not the one administering albuterol. When patients bleed and have diminshed level of responsiveness, I\'m not the one monitoring vitals. Without a doubt, patients in my unincorporated rural district receive fantastic prehospital care, but due to my limited training and our abundance of ALS providers, I feel like I am underutilized. I want to become a physician so I can put my skills and talents to their best use helping the residents and visitors of Big Sky, Montana.
I have been seriously pursuing a career in medicine for two years now. However, I feel like medicine has been pursuing me for a lot longer. When I took classes in storm avoidance and boat emergencies, the maritime institute provided a complimentary first aid class too. When I became a PADI Divemaster I was required to become a rescue scuba diver first, and learn the unique issues of providing aid on (and under!) the water\'s surface. When I wanted to join the ski patrol, I had to become an EMT first. It seems that whether I am below, at, or far above sea level, I always explore an activity in sufficient depth that some aspect of patient care rears its head.
In 2009 I was in paramedic school when yet another person, a professor this time, encouraged me to become a physician. The more I thought about it, the more it actually made sense for me. Due to a combination of state laws and county policies, it was unlikely I could ever practice as a paramedic in Big Sky. We have no nurses nor physician assistants in our small town. Truly, if I want to upgrade my medical skills and practice in the town I love, then the natural next step for me above EMT is to become a physician.
Of course as a part of exploring this significant new career goal I shadowed doctors. When I shadowed doctors in Big Sky, I got to see the life of a small town doctor, one who knows his patients and their families well. I felt the excitement of a new pregnancy. I felt the frustration of managing a chronic illness. I helped out stitching up the results of a work mishap. And, like the doctor, I knew these patients personally too. While I certainly have not been exposed to all of the medical specialties, my shadowing taught me that being a small town doctor is something I would enjoy.
What I did not expect to find in my mountain village was the constant education in such a remote medical clinic. At Big Sky we have many rotations for residents and medical students, so the clinic is a constant exchange of medical knowledge and latest techniques from across the country. I have been active in education as a student, mentor, tutor, and donor for much of my life, and I am glad that even in an isolated town of 2,000 I will continue to learn and educate.
My experiences in mountaineering, long distance hiking, and especially international boat travel have taught me a measure of self sufficiency, which will serve me well in isolated Montana. Visiting medical students are often surprised that doctors in Big Sky take vitals and do their own blood draws. Once when I was shadowing at the county health clinic in Billings, the X-ray machine died. I helped a doctor jury-rig a sterile sonogram so he could find a piece of shrapnel in a patient already prepped for surgery. I enjoy a can-do attitude and solving problems with what\'s available, whether I am in the woods or in a medical clinic.
As a non-traditional student, I capitalized on my opportunity to explore much of the world, but my explorations led me right back to Big Sky. In my journeys I learned that I naturally integrate some type of medical assistance into almost everything I do, but I am dissatisfied with the amount of care I can currently provide. I also learned that while I am comfortable with being self sufficient, I still enjoy the regular exchange of ideas. My diverse range of experience only confirms that I would be a natural fit as a physician in Big Sky.