“People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.” This was one of the several statements Dr. Duarte Machado, Assistant Professor of Neurology, said to me as I shadowed him during my time at the 2012 Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at Yale School of Medicine.

One of the several factors that have always drawn me to a career in healthcare is its ability to show genuine compassion for another human being. In a world filled with so much suffering, sometimes the most essential treatment an individual can receive is a simple act of kindness- an expression of love. It wasn’t hard to see how much Dr. Machado cared for his patients as I watched, on another occasion, the sweetest elderly Italian couple I had ever seen, present him with a loaf of fresh baked bread after their visit.

For me, being a doctor is so much more than providing patients with the right prescriptions. It is about cherishing this beautiful gift we have called “life” and using the knowledge and tools acquired through medical training to ensure that your patients are able to live out their lives to the fullest.

I am so grateful for the opportunity I was given to participate in the SMDEP Program. From the many wonderful people I met to the many nights I spent in Harkness Hall without an air conditioner, I made memories that will last for a lifetime! What I appreciate the most, however, is the much broader perspective it gave me concerning medicine. This alone has greatly impacted the way I view the human body and has more than influenced the type of medicine I hope to practice.

My advice to anybody, no matter what field you hope to enter, is to ask yourself the deep questions, stay open-minded, and never, even for a second, doubt your ability to triumph in whatever endeavor you decide to set your mind to. I grew up in Albany, Georgia, where graduation rates were always below the state average. My family has never been wealthy. Being both a first-generation American and college student, life seemed more difficult, as I was never able to ask my parents for the advice I felt I desperately needed.

I’ve faced my share of struggles, but despite it all, I would not have had my life any other way. Why? We are meant to learn from each of our experiences, so life becomes better only when we change the way we view these experiences. The truth of the matter is that I chose to see the advantage in my disadvantage so that I could begin to live my life.

The journey, that is a career in medicine, is one that is extremely trying and discouraging, but I strongly believe if you persevere and fill yourself with hope, love, and faith, nothing can ever stop you.