Going Home

October 11, 2011 Amy Disability StuffJesusMedical SchoolResidencyThe FutureTRAVEL

I gave my annual lecture at Wake Forest last week. It was a beautiful tapestry of beginnings and endings of my life.

Becoming a disabled physician is one of the greatest things I have done in my life but it also was among the most painful.  Being told that you have no right to be here either in attitude or in voice is not pleasant. Being a pioneer is life defining but it also emotionally and psychologically exhausting. At the end of my time at Wake Forest there was a series of unfortunate events, attempt to fix it and the epic fail.  I left some what devastated but determined to go out into the world of medicine and make my difference with or without my esteemed Alma mater’s support. Because while I may have failed in some regard as a pioneer I did what I set out to do which is become a physician.

I heard rumors last year that they had interviewed a disabled applicant here and there. I rolled my eyes and dreamed of telling them of going elsewhere although knowing that there were no safe places for us in the world of medicine as student doctors.  I went home and lectured last year and was welcomed like somewhat of a returning hero which was odd and bit over the top.

Then I heard nothing for a long time. I grew as a young physician in an environment where I am not entirely at home but am safe from the constant pecking at my heart that I will never be good enough although I have relapses.  I suture, I LP, I travel back to KENYA and take attending call, I get my first job offer, I move to a house and no longer feel like I am camping in exile.  I move on.

But I return home again to give lecture to another group of young student doctors who meet the cut that I apparently never quite made.  I am again welcomed. As I walk into the classroom I see something that nearly takes mybreath away.  There is a student on front row sitting with a place at the table literally (the classroom was not wheelchair accessible till my second or third year) in a power chair.  I have tears in my eyes.  In all my moving on, I had forgotten how much this matters to me, how deeply I was hurt and even though I had gotten the diploma, how much I felt like I had lost an equally important battle.

But in fact I won.  We won.

I corner the  Dean and demand why no one told me, he smiles sheepishly. I though you knew, he tells me.  I thought you knew.  I welcome the new student, she has heard so about me. She thanks me for paving the way. She applied at 31 schools, Wake Forest was the only one that accepted her despite her double degrees, top grades, from a dare I say more famous Carolinan institution with a unspeakable mascot that is percuilar shade of blue in Durham.  They chose me, she says,  and I know its partly because of you.  She has dreams of working with our tribe, of impacting children.  According to her anatomy professor she is top of her class.(a better student than I ever was…hehehe)

I give my lecture, I think the best I have ever done. The Dean says I have grown into a public speaker in my own right from being a terrified first year medical student. I look at him and I try politely to tell him that I no longer have anything to fear.

It didn’t end there, I had glorious Carolina afternoon catching up with friends, mentors and basking in the sunshine.  I sit and drink tea and laugh late into the night with old dear friends as we talk theology, justice, nostalgia and wit.

The next day, the Dean of Faculty (Dr BIGSHOT) calls me and asks me to come see him (he was out of town the day before). I show up in jeans in his formal office, he hugs me.  He immediately turns to the young woman I met the day before, isn’t it great he says. He goes on to tell me about what happened after I left.  He confronted the ED doctors who were fighting so hard to change our standards. In a faculty meeting, they gave presentation. They argued that if you asked 50 people out on the street if you want their doctor to run to a code, they would say yes.   Dr. B said, “Yes and 50 years ago people would have said they wanted their doctor to be white and male.”     That was the end of that he tells me.

We talk of global health and he gives me the finest career advice I had despite my esteemed current employer.  He tells me, pack your suitcase and go to Kenya you will figure the rest out as you go along. :)   He encourages me to follow my dreams and not be confined by the mold of the academic rat race in less I wanted to be.

But as I leave what sticks with me is that its rare in our lives that we are allowed to know the extent of impact we have on our piece of world.  I will never be able to put this on my CV or even discuss in an interview. I will never get an award for it or get my name published in a top journal.  But I will go to my grave knowing that I was privileged enough to change a few hearts in regards of my tribe.  I was able to at least for now make a safe place for disabled student doctors to study and grow and find their piece of the world to change.

A few days later in the mist of my ED shift, I got an e-mail from the Dean who told me that he overheard some first years talking about my lecture and how they would never use the word inspirational again (ha!) and how I had changed the way they think.

The movement goes on.

I tried so hard to be a good pioneer so people would wake up and take notice and now for the last year and half I did everything to just conform so that I could just be another physician.  I realize both are only fragments of the woman God has me becoming.  And finally after five years of wandering and feeling a little lost, I came home to myself an feel a sense of contentment.

One Response to “Going Home”

  • Uncle Robbie says:

    Just heard about the surgery. We will keep praying. God told me to tell you something: Don’t let go of Him. Don’t let the world lure you away from Him. No matter how good the offer sounds.

    Now my words: If He has said Kenya then go. If he offers you a choice of A or B. Seek His divine will not just His permissive will. A very wise friend said, “Go where He leads, Eat what He feeds.”

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