In college, though I barely came out of organic chemistry in one piece, I couldn’t deny a persistent gut feeling and took a leap of faith to pursue medicine. That pursuit has been an arduous one, but that’s what has made the journey rewarding beyond my wildest imaginations. Thank you to my incredible mentors for nourishing my love for the practice of medicine and allowing me to dedicate myself towards something that gives me such deep purpose and feel so relentlessly passionate for. Medicine demands everything I have but gives back even more. The challenges and trials of medical school have honed my character and forged a pillar of strength and courage I didn’t know I had in me. I feel grateful to have learned so much and to have grown so much over these four years to now enter the ranks of this profession and be in a position to make a direct impact alongside my role models.
Thank you to the patients who have allowed me into your lives. I feel so lucky to wake up every day and have such intimate engagement with the world and meet people from all walks of society in their truest states. You have revealed the essence of what it means to be human, the common values and experiences that bind us together as a human race. No matter our ethnicity or our class, no one can quite seem to escape the tragic hand of an inexplicable fate. But it has been through these intense interactions that you have taught me what it means to live well and also how to die well. You have shown me the indomitable power of the human spirit and the acme of human potential, the capacity for humans to be brave and noble when facing the most daunting adversity, and how love can transcend even death.
From the single mother with kidney failure who cried every time she had dialysis but still went through with it because “if I die who will take care of my young daughter,” to the retired ex-investment banker with prostate cancer who had me to look out the window every morning with him to slow down and appreciate the budding spring leaves. From the father who had a heart attack and turned down open-heart surgery because he couldn’t bear the risk of dying in the OR and not seeing his adult son one more time to repair their fractured relationship, to the lady only in her 40s with metastatic ovarian cancer on her dying last days, who still held my hand and smiled into my eyes every time I saw her. You have touched me; you have inspired me, and I am a better person having taken care of you.
Now onto the next stage of my training in internal medicine residency, where I hope to continue to be challenged and grow and learn something new every day. In turn, I carry this responsibility to my patients, this specialty, and this profession to give my best. If you are going to trust me with your life and if you are going to trust me with your heart and soul, I have a responsibility to always give you nothing less than my absolute best. In residency and for the rest of my career, I will stop at nothing to master the combination of medical knowledge, clinical competence, and human understanding to perfect my craft and become the very best physician I can be.
It is the honor of my life to relieve human suffering and face life and death, together with patients and families, on their journey. To give people more time on this earth – with which to spend with their loved ones, and to find joy and beauty, each day in the magnificent gift of life; that to me is a life well-lived.
Johnathan Yao is a medical student.
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