Why I Chose Medicine: Complexities of Health Care Drive Me To Be A Physician

“Why did you choose medicine?”

I get that a lot. In fact, these may be words that medical students and doctors hear the most. Well, maybe second only to “I was googling my symptoms and I think I may have...”

I mentioned in one my previous posts that I grew up in a rural farm town in Northern California before being admitted to the College of Human Medicine. Yup, California is more than sandy beaches and a coastline.

Growing up surrounded by farms meant that I was able to see the fruits ripen and flowers blossom all around me. Kiwi and strawberries in the winter/spring, peaches and plums in summer, and grapes, almonds, and walnuts in the fall. If you are a fan of the Mediterranean diet, this is the place to be.

I watched as the farm workers pulled ripe fruit off trees, one by one. Many wore hats to protect themselves from sun exposure, with no air conditioning in their immediate future.

Sweat dripping down their faces and clothes full of dirt, they climbed ladders trying to reach every bit of fruit to fill large bins—they had to fill a certain amount to get paid and the pay was little.

They worked for every penny they earned.

After a long day’s work, they would finally be able to go home to their families, only to wake up at 5am and do it again the next morning. They didn’t complain though. They did what they must to provide for their families, to put their kids through school in the hopes of a better life.

It was an enlightening experience. Those sights will stay ingrained in my mind forever.

With each harvest, I got to see hard work in action. This was one of the reasons I focused so heavily on my studies. Whether I was sitting inside a cool, air conditioned room during the scorching hot summers or in a heated, dry room during the cold, wet winters, studying was always a privilege.

After long days at school, going home to study doesn’t sound like the most appealing activity. As soon as I returned home, I worked with my dad, a mechanic, fixing agricultural equipment such as tractors, trucks, cars and machines.

I worked alongside my dad every day. There was nothing more motivating to get my butt inside to study than having to work long, physically grueling hours outside. Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I was constantly reminded of the alternative career choice should I not seek higher education.

That motivation to study definitely contributed to helping me get to where I am today, but there’s more to my journey to medical school than that. As I grew older, I naturally began realizing some of life’s complexities.

One such complexity was our health care. When I was completing my bachelor’s degree at the
University of California, Davis, I realized the health care my family and I received growing up wasn’t the norm.

What? You didn’t have to wait all day to be seen by a doctor when you were sick? You could just log onto a portal and make an appointment and pick your favorite provider in the time slot that worked best for your schedule?

This was a drastic change from which I was accustomed. Why was there such a discrepancy between the health services provided back in my small farm town…and my college town?

I soon began to realize that my small town is considered “rural,” meaning that resources aren’t readily available. I should’ve known this. We didn’t even have a Walmart within 30 minutes, so why didn’t I see this sooner?

All joking aside, health services were one of the resources not readily available in the area. If one wanted to go see a specialist, they would have to travel out of town to do so. If you were sick, the soonest the family medicine doctor could see you was two-three weeks.

Looking back, I realized my parents never really went to see the doctor. I also realized my parents were part of the population I just described, that worked long physically grueling hours for little pay. They couldn’t take time off to go see a doctor, let alone travel out of town to see a specialist.

They literally worked through their illnesses.

My interest in medicine really grew when I began learning about different illnesses and treatments in class. My parents weren’t going to see the doctor when they were sick, but at least I could share with them what little knowledge I had learned in school.

The more I dove into medicine over time, the more my interest continued to grow. The few times I remember my parents going to the doctor were when things got really bad. During these times, they were fortunate to have rural physicians and community clinics around, though understaffed with insufficient resources.

I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for my parents hard work—I was able to stand on their shoulders to achieve my dreams. 

So why did I choose medicine?

I chose medicine because it will allow me to go back and help the rural population that I came from. I want them to be healthy and keep working hard to provide for their families. Whether it is a rural population in the small farm town I grew up in or a rural country abroad, I hope to give back in some capacity.

With their parents in good health, I hope to give a child a chance, such as I was given, to break the cycle of working long, physical labor. I want to give them a chance to do something greater and, perhaps, even become a doctor one day.

Harminder Sandhu is a second-year College of Human Medicine student from California. As an Office of Admissions blog contributor, Harminder offers an inside look at the college from the student perspective. Read more of Harminder's posts.  


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