When I first chose medicine as a career, I envisioned my future self as many things:
A scientist. An advocate. A teacher. A healer.
My imagination ran wild with the possibilities.
- I imagined myself as a super-hero of sorts with endless energy and insight into what needed to be done for my patients and my community, and I imagined I could do it.
- I imagined a caring, practical clinician with endless patience and a great sense of humor.
- I imagined providing comfort to my patients and their families during difficult times.
- I imagined myself being able to reach kids from rough upbringings and help to convince them that they were important and could succeed.
- I imagined giving strength to new mothers as they learn to cope with the difficulties of their new role.
- I imagined that I would learn something new every day, from my colleagues, my students, and from my patients.
- I imagined that I would become a voice in my community, advocating for things that will improve the lives of kids everywhere.
- I imagined becoming a role model for other little girls who may think that becoming a doctor seems out of reach.
- I imagined being able to share what I have learned with students and residents.
- I imagined myself looking for answers to unanswered questions in medicine.
- I imagined leading the fight to ensure that every child could rely on quality health care.
- Most of all, I imagined that my efforts would in some way, touch the life of another that could give them some measure of comfort, understanding, or hope.
A pretty wild imagination? Maybe. Some advisors said I should focus my efforts. “Don’t think too big,” they argued. “Pick one thing and run with that,” others advised. Now over a decade later I would have to respectfully disagree.
Just like we all benefit from encouraging a child who dreams up their future career as an astronaut, a firefighter, an entrepreneur, or the President of the United States, a wild imagination can often lead to pretty big things…and smaller things too. And at the end of the day, sometimes the smaller things are what can actually bring a huge sense of purpose to your life, and help just as many.
Some of us may speak on Capitol Hill as an advocate for child safety, while another may kindly and patiently explain to a family that:Yes, the proper car seat is really, really important, and No, immunizations do not cause autism.
One may find satisfaction in investigating the science and epidemiology behind the obesity epidemic, while countless others are more than content to fight obesity at the smallest scale, one family at a time. Some become leaders in teaching while others teach one student at a time.
Some of us may lead the national fight for teen’s access to contraceptives, while another will spend extra time really getting to know at-risk teens in their practice in order to build trust, educate, and hopefully have a positive impact on the choices they make.
Whether we head up a landmark scientific study, or spend 40 years treating a generation of children into adulthood, our career is what we make of it. We can engage in research and still have clinical time to treat the under served populations that sparked that interest in research. We can be an advocate for our patients on a local or even national scale and still be regarded as some family’s favorite doctor.
One should point out that we can also, at any point in our career, to decide to change course. We can become more involved in one aspect of pediatrics while we dial back another. Our interests and circumstances may change.
We may have aspirations of grandeur or many “mini-goals,” but the fact is that each one of us is a piece in a greater puzzle, a movement to improve the health of all children. We can be whatever part of the puzzle we choose.
Which puzzle piece will you be?
ABOUT OUR GUEST POST CONTRIBUTOR: Jessica Lazerov received her MD from the University of Maryland where she also completed her Pediatrics Residency. She is now an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The George Washington School of Medicine and works in the Southeast DC Children’s Health Centers. She is interested in health care disparities and working with underserved populations in addition to understanding and treating childhood and adolescent obesity. She enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and two “spirited” children. Read another post by Dr Lazerov here