A Personal Story: Know Your Gut
Growing up in a household with a physician, I knew that I wanted to be someone that worked with people, helped them solve their problems, and was a leader in the community. I proceeded through my undergraduate studies with these facts in mind. My first barrier came with my first chemistry class – I just did not enjoy the fundamentals of the subject, and knew that there would be a better way to spend my four years of study. In assessing the other non-science departments, the field of Public Policy Studies caught my eye. With a background in policy, political science, and ethics, I would still be able to accomplish my goals (working with others, solving problems, being a leader). Thankfully I made the right choice as I thoroughly enjoyed each class that I took in the department.
I was accepted and matriculated into medical school with a good feeling about my background – that I had a broad education beyond just the sciences and that I would therefore serve my patients well. My first two years of the pre-clinical courses were of course somewhat tortuous, but I held on knowing that I would finally be seeing patients by my third year. Upon starting patient care in my short white coat however, I began to sense the same feeling of incompleteness. I was finally working one-on-one with patients, but yet it was not enough. I therefore made the decision to expand my education again – and enter law school. In the same vein as Public Policy Studies, a legal education would provide me with a new set of tools with which I could approach and analyze a problem.
My mentor at the time made the recommendation to take this unusual step. She also recommended that I speak with one of her mentors – a practicing physician who had also obtained his law degree. I was excited for the opportunity to pick his mind on the intersection of these two fields. However, the conversation quickly took a different direction. Once on the phone, he quickly took a very negative attitude at the decision, and gave me multiple reasons why I should not pursue this additional degree. I thanked him shortly and thought about the conversation.
What I have learned is that although he had the experience as someone who had taken a path that I wished to take, I had to truly KNOW MY GUT in order to make a final determination. I realized that he had different reasons for taking the path that he did, and that I felt strongly about the importance of taking this large step for my own career. I am now a practicing physician and an attorney barred in the state of Illinois, with a background that I believe truly helps my patients from multiple respects. Similar to changing my major to that which was possibly deemed less attractive on a medical school application at the time, I made a drastic move because I trusted my own reasoning behind the decision. KNOWING YOUR GUT means seeking out new information and experiences, but trusting your own assessment of the situation even more.