I went to bed last night with an overwhelming sense of excitement. It is very rare that I go to sleep early for an anticipated event the following day, but this is different. I went to bed excited and woke up even more thrilled to come to the LA Sports Arena to volunteer for underserved and uninsured patients of South Central Los Angeles. My delight lives in the fact that serving is what I will do for the rest of my life. I arrived at the Sports Arena and quickly realized my desire to serve this population strengthens my passion to serve these patients as a physician. Scrubs and stethoscopes adorn nurses and physicians and immediately I am reminded of my goal.
The reminders comes in droves. I see mothers clutching their babies as they check in to the women’s health section, an elderly man eagerly awaiting me to lead him to the diabetic testing station, and the eyes of a Spanish speaking mother light up as I try to communicate with intermediate spanish. Later I am summoned by the floor manager to go outside and help pass out waters to those waiting in line. I peak outside the large glass windows of the Sports Arena and see about 60 people waiting in line. I think to myself, “Oh that’s not too bad.” Then I proceed through the entrance doors and see over 300 people waiting in a compact section with hands extended for water to quench their thirst as they wait under the southern California sun. Who knows what health and mental health issues exist in the group of people. Will some find out news that do not want to hear? Will this be the first time some see a doctor, a dentist, an ophthalmologist, a dietician, or a nurse? Will a young child who is seldom exposed to health care be inspired become one of the aforementioned health providers?
In front of me I saw a group of people taking the initiative to take care of their bodies, and I saw a group of volunteers and practictioners on the other side ready and willing to provide their expertise.
Within the next decade, I will be able to provide my expertise as a physician grounded with social work values. It seems like such a long way away, but time is allowing me to further understand that the path I am taking will be more than an occupation. This journey of discernment has led me to a vocation. Before my shift was over, I received another powerful reminder from an ophthalmologist. After explaining to him my aspirations to him, he told me, “Keep focused on the goal.” His words concluded to my experience that day, and they left me reminded to maintain a delicate balance of eagerness and poise. I look forward to this journey, I will make certain to focus on the goal of healing and serving with the gifts that God has given me.