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Some institutions state that close to a third of incoming freshmen start their college careers
considering a future in medicine. This number quickly drops as challenging classes are taken
revealing the select few that will apply to medical school. I am not one of these applicants.
Adversity in both my academic and personal life has, on the contrary, sparked and
developed my passion for medicine while nurturing the many qualities required of a good
After my freshman year, I took time off school to work with the purpose of funding my own
education. Becoming financially independent forced new responsibilities onto me at a
younger age than most. Quickly, I learned that mistakes were no longer as forgiving - yet
they proved to be vital for my development into an adult. To my disbelief, the saying “you
learn more from your mistakes” was true and not some motivational spiel blindly recited to
curb disappointment. Similarly, my interest in medicine was not sparked by its miraculous
healing powers but by its less publicized example of failure as I witnessed with my
grandfather. By the time of his third hospitalization, due to slow onset pulmonary edema,
his body could no longer withhold the administered medication. The typical treatment of
diuretics, beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors alleviated fluid build- up, but their prolonged use
resulted in hypovolemic shock. Understanding the cause of death had a crucial role in my
grieving process. Deepening my understanding of the chemical drug interactions while
growing my knowledge of human physiology awoke the awareness of my own intellectual
curiosity while revealing the complexity of diagnostics in medicine.
After his death, my grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) was now reliant on
our care. Despite long working hours, I made the time to be her caretaker several nights a
week. Memories from when she used to care for me as a child starkly contrasted with our
newly reversed roles. Attending doctor appointments and ensuring she followed her
medication regiment demonstrated the importance of environmental consistency with
neurodegenerative disorders. Continuously reading advancements in AD research with the
hope of new treatments, led me to include pre-medical classes into my schedule when I
returned to college. Classes quickly showed me the gap of knowledge that still exists in
medicine and motivated me to join this continuously advancing field. The prospect of
venturing down these unchartered roads, while daunting for some, excited me due to the
possibility of improving present lives by applying current knowledge and impacting future
lives through research.
In order to gain experience outside of the classroom, I decided to volunteer at Wake Forest
Baptist Hospital in the Operation Room. Holding surgical instruments and learning their
purpose by creating study material for nurses was exciting and informational. However, my
most prized memory was absorbing the high paced environment that infused this area of
the hospital at 5 a.m. Skills I had learned during my time off school - focus, organization,
stress management - all came into play in this microcosm and I loved it. It dawned on me
that no other profession could ever fulfill my drive for knowledge while providing daily
challenges like a career in medicine.

The importance of research for the advancement of healthcare drove me to join Dr.
Macosko’s drug discovery group. Their focus was on macrocycles' affinity for Src proteintyrosine kinase. My role was to analyze Next Generation Sequencing data using
bioinformatics to determine potential drug candidates. Learning how to run these tools (e.g.
Bowtie, Tophat and Cufflinks) also allowed me to build a Human Adenovirus transcriptome
for an independent ribosome profiling experiment. The heavily computational aspect of my
research did not take away from the lab experience. On the contrary, understanding lab
techniques, organisms and gene expression was crucial to produce an accurate
transcriptome. Splicing, PCR primers and contamination control were all taken into account.
Data came from transfected HeLA cells and thus also contained Human and Human
Papillomavirus transcripts. Both would partially map to the Adenovirus genome and
therefore filtering them out was necessary to improve accuracy.
Some will chose to go directly to medical school while others will further their education with
graduate studies or research first, all in an attempt to prove their dedication to healthcare.
However, with average college student debt at $40,000, I believe it to be important to
address my loans before going to medical school. Next year, I will be working as an Analyst
for Deutsche Bank while continuing bioinformatics research remotely and volunteering at
Baptist Hospital Jacksonville. This choice does not question my drive to become a physician
in the same way that taking time from college did not reflect my unwillingness to complete
my bachelors. On the contrary, I truly believe that my alacrity to invest my time in making
medical school financially viable is a culminating factor that underlines my aspiration to
become a physician in a world that is so highly driven by immediate gratification.