Pursuing My Passion: How I Knew Medicine Was the Right Choice
By Michal Klepadlo
As a pre-med student at Touro College School of Health Sciences (SHS), I was able to excel in topics such as genetics and organic chemistry because of the “love to learn” environment established by my professors.
So I can handle the school work but how did I know if really wanted to be a physician? I began to understand the essence of a career in medicine quickly after joining a volunteer fire department as an emergency medical technician. (EMT) Even more so after volunteering on a medical trip to Lima, Peru. The benefits of these experiences were two-fold – I was able to provide a service to these communities while they provided me with light to find out more about myself and the field I was interested in. Whether it was during the countless hours spent in the back of an ambulance or on the way to a mobile clinic on the outskirts of Lima, two main concepts resonated within me – teamwork and the ability to listen.
Just as any other field, healthcare is a multi-faceted operation that needs to be running smoothly in order to be effective. Regardless of being in the northern or southern hemisphere, the ability to work as a team is paramount in providing patient care. This is evidenced by various roles seen in the emergency medical system. One phone call will bring a host of professionals to your aide - from a dispatcher, EMT, triage nurse, attending physician, etc. Being part of this system early in the cascade highlights how important my work is to the rest of the team and more importantly the patient. It is my role to effectively communicate how the patient presented, their mechanism of injury, or cause of illness because this can significantly affect the patient’s treatment plan.
In the non-emergency setting of Lima, Peru, teamwork was necessary to accomplish anything. To physically set up the mobile clinic, it would take a minimum of twenty people but to adequately provide care to the community it would require a team of physicians, obstetrician-gynecologists, dentists, pharmacists, and nurses. The trip was sponsored by an organization called MEDLIFE – Medicine, Education, and Development for Low-Income Families Everywhere and has chapters at universities nationwide. Captivated by my experience, I teamed up with fellow classmate Alisha Mascarenhas to establish a chapter at Touro College SHS. She worked tirelessly in communicating with the volunteer chapter coordinators in Peru while I established a recruitment campaign at the school. We were able to have thirteen students from Touro go on their first trip in January 2016. I always stress this is a true feat of teamwork. This would not have been successful without the participation of my classmates.
Not being formally trained in medicine, going abroad to assist in healthcare or transporting a patient to the hospital can be difficult at times because my scope of practice is limited. Often times, the only thing I could do is listen. Oddly enough, that is what the patient was looking for in those moments. Recovery from illness is the main objective, but I’ve learned that a patient also wants someone who actively listens to their plight. From the patient’s perspective, the ability to share their story to someone that will listen is life-changing - now they have an advocate who understands what they have gone through and that advocate will stand by their side. In addition to teamwork, these foundational concepts learned from community service are ones that I will hold close to me and grow upon in my years of training as a future medical student.
Michal Klepadlo earned his B.S. in Biology from Touro College School of Health Sciences in 2016.