For the past 20 years now I have been working towards this dream. What started in high school as a chance viewing of a documentary on victims of acid-throwing has now brought me to this moment so many years later. It seems like only yesterday that I was planning on going to art school, having been known my entire life at that point as a budding and promising artist. You can imagine my parents’ surprise, then, to hear that I was pulling a complete ‘180’ with my plans to attend college as a premed major.
- 4 years of college later,
- 1 year of Rotary Scholarship in Spain
- 4 years of medical school
- 3 years of general surgery training
- 3 years of plastic surgical subspecialty training
- 1 year of microsurgery fellowship training….
Now that I look back on it, I don’t think I fully realized that my decision entailed 16 years of study and training. So much has happened in that time, so much hard work, so much learning, so very many patients that I can look back on.
Sometimes I wonder what it might have been like if I went the art school route. I wonder what adventures might have awaited me had I gone down that path. What successes, what failures, what kind of career might I have had. Some days I sigh, wistful that I may never get a chance to make a name for myself in anything art-related, in any creative field.
It’s usually on days like those, somehow, or some Way if you believe, that I get a reminder in the form of a patient. It’s on days like those that, in the office, I’ll see a patient who, several months prior had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ll see her, laughing and smiling, joking around with me, and I’ll think back to how scared she seemed when I first met her. It’ll strike me that she seems as a completely different person, having emerged triumphantly through one of the most trying ordeals in her life. Having been taken apart, having lost a piece of herself, and now, months later, sitting there in my office, restored and moving on with her life. And, more times than not, around this visit, nearing the end of her reconstruction and second-stage procedures, she’ll get a little teary-eyed and thank me for helping her through such a difficult time. She may say something poignant like “than you for making me whole again”. Now, at this point I’ll usually smile, embarrassed or blushing, and mumble some clumsy deflection while looking away— I’ve never mastered the art of accepting a compliment gracefully. I think my inability to do so is my natural defense against one of the things I dislike most: self-importance. But despite my awkward attempts to sidestep the compliment, truth is, it really makes me happy.
Because, at times like those, that little voice in the back of my head that questions the choices I’ve made (I imagine we all have one), that voice gets real quiet, real quick. Because, at times like those, be it a breast cancer patient, or a cleft lip patient’s parents, or a lady who I’ve helped restore bit of self confidence, at times like those I know I made the right decision. That though I’m not using pencils or paints as often as I used to, I’m still using my talents. But in a way that, to me, seems so much more special and personal. I get to use them to change people’s lives.
Thanks for visiting this page— I’m excited about the new practice; it’s the culmination of over 20 years of study, hard work, and dreaming of doing something that, I think, is pretty exciting.