Finding My Niche in Medicine

By: Madelyn Terhune

When I was younger, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I loved animals so caring for them felt like the logical choice. High school changed that. I’ve always liked science, but love for it grew when I took a medical science course in my freshman year at Henrietta Lacks High Health and Bioscience High School, a STEM Magnet School.  In that class I was exposed to so many new and interesting topics. It was my first introduction to medicine.

Throughout high school I took a wide range of science classes like advanced physiology and biotechnology. I received a considerable amount of hands on experience and gained so much knowledge. For example, in my cellular and molecular biology course, I mastered many lab techniques like gel electrophoresis, polymerase chain reaction, and western blotting. However, nursing courses were my favorite.

In my junior and senior years, I took several courses while becoming CPR certified. Specifically, my junior year was filled with courses preparing me to become a CNA and my senior year I worked in a local nursing home. This experience solidified my choice to work with people, instead of animals. It had such a great experience helping and it was heartwarming when the residents and their families would thank me for my work and service.

I knew, soon after my time there, I want to make a difference in people’s lives.

Around this time my mom was diagnosed with tachycardia. It scared me and that fear encouraged me to learn as much as I could about tachycardias and the heart in general. Exploring the heart was fascinating and eye-opening and I grew to love the intricacies of such an important muscle.  That’s when I realized cardiology would be my career of choice.

During my anatomy course I diligently studied the heart and enjoyed the opportunities I had to dissect so many. I found the dissections to be particularly interesting and that’s when it hit me, I could become a heart surgeon. Science affords so many options to choose from and I’m excited about what I have yet to explore.

Another reason the fueled my interest in medicine is the distrust of doctors in minority communities. African American bodies have been used for medical experiments without their consent for generations or been denied care because of the color of their skin. My own high school was named for an African American woman whose cells were taken from her for medical research (and still used to his day) while being denied the care needed to save her life. Still today, many of my African American friends and family have experienced either some sort of prejudice or mistreatment when dealing with doctors.

When I think back over my life, I have never had a nonwhite doctor myself. It’s a problem that I can’t find a doctor that looks like me. Children of color should be able to see doctors of all races and gender so they can see what’s possible for them in the future. I want to make a change in order to give hope and build a better relationship between doctors and people of color. Science will give me an opportunity to learn my craft, being an  African American doctor will allow me to make a difference in my community.

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