Simple Questions

Friday, January 25, 2019

I am not exactly sure what setting nor what city I will end up in after I graduate from UCSF/SFSU.

Plans change so often, I tend not to focus too heavily on the small details of the future. What I do focus on are the simple questions: What do I like? What suits me? Where can I be most useful?

I’m convinced the answer to these questions all involve working with the underserved, marginalized, and immigrant populations in our cities.

From a young age, my favorite activities always involved both working with my hands and with people.

I loved sports such as baseball and ceramics too. I often stood clueless when adults would ask me what I wanted to do or study in college, but it was incredibly clear what I didn’t.

I didn’t want to sit at a desk making rich people richer. I didn’t want 2.2 kids or to live in a gated community. I wanted to use my hands to serve people in a tangible way, so healthcare was an organic choice.

In college, I volunteered for a nonprofit tutoring organization called RenewLA, and there I learned whom I wanted to serve.

For two and half years, I spent each Saturday morning with struggling inner city youth.

At first, we worked through math problems and practiced reading, but change was minimal.

It took time to realize that their poor academic skills were often symptomatic of deeper concerns – perhaps a lack of self-confidence, family stability, or perceived value in school.

Though our lives were extremely different, I felt immense purpose not only in offering my academic knowledge but also in encouraging their hidden interests, playing kickball, and learning of their daily struggles.

The joy I found in RenewLA was a catalyst for pursing a career that daily fought inequality through personal relationships.

Amongst the various healthcare professions, I chose to pursue physical therapy because it aligns closest with my desire to restore both the internal and external symptoms of those hurting.

It allows me to work with my hands and with people but with daily potential to empower the human psyche.

Just as RenewLA could impact far more than a student’s grades, physical therapy is fully capable of facilitating the holistic healing of patients.

It allows people to move optimally, which allows them connect with the things and people they love most.

This understanding was amplified at my first clinical rotation at SFGH, the county hospital in San Francisco. It was incredible.

Much like Saturdays at RenewLA, I’d ride the shuttle each morning and think of how proud I was to serve those with so few options.

SFGH came with immense challenges as most of my patients did not speak English, had complex comorbidities, and significant financial limitations, but work brought me joy.

There were very few things more exciting than helping a patient return to a job that their family depended on or to sleep through a night for the first time in years.

From experiences like RenewLA and SFGH, from my upbringing serving in church, from how out of place I feel in a wealthy private practice (my current rotation), it could not be clearer that I desire to serve the marginalized perhaps at a county hospital.

Many people comment on how noble, patient, or admirable this is, but I don’t think that’s the case at all.

Working at county or with patients of similar nature is simply what suits me. It’s what I like and where I can be most useful.

This is what I believe and how I plan to use my degree in physical therapy.