“Maleeha, take care of your parents. Take care of others around you because there is no reward greater than helping those in need.” My uncle and I were having our last conversation. I was twelve and he was dying of pancreatic cancer. Looking back, I didn’t truly understand the situation, but I did know that it was bad. Hadn’t I just seen my father, the rock of our family, break down and cry?
Although I shortly lost my beloved uncle, something good did come out of that last conversation. To this day, I can still hear him saying those words – “no greater reward than helping those in need.” Throughout my life I have followed this path, taking care of my family and those in my community. I have found ways to support others through charity and my time. I want to continue to take this path of helping others, set before me as a child by my uncle, by joining the medical profession.
If this experience were all that supported my application for admission, it would admittedly not be enough. After all, it’s a pretty common story, wanting to become a doctor after watching a loved one die of a terrible disease. But the reasons for admitting me to medical training are much more than that. First, I have succeeded in obtaining a college education in science with superior results despite, or maybe because of, my background.
My family is one of humble means and limited resources. I came to the United States at age seven and grew up in an immigrant family founded on values of responsibility, hard work, attention to detail, and giving back to the community. Those qualities are a fundamental part of me and, if chosen, are qualities I will bring to the medical field. Having these values instilled in me at such a young age is a gift my family gave me, and it is one I have worked to repay ever since. For example, I’ve had jobs from age fifteen. I went to a nearby college on scholarship rather than more expensive choices. Instinctively I knew that by supporting myself through my efforts, I was also helping others, namely, my family.
Since high school, I have given to others in need by raising money for cancer research. The tents and costumes and camaraderie of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer are something I look forward to each year. But it is the survivors I meet and the teams of walkers, there for someone fighting cancer or for someone who is gone, that are the true inspiration for me. Each time I am moved by their unique yet somehow all similar stories, just as I hope to one day be moved by the stories of strength and perseverance in face of disease from my own patients.
I have also given back to the community in my work with children through the United Activities Unlimited (UAU) program in my own neighborhood. I have seen the benefits of simply instilling the value of making school and homework a priority, something that they may not have received at home. Through advice and my own personal experiences, I gained their trust and friendship so we could focus on homework but have fun afterward. Here I saw firsthand the need for better healthcare. I did what I could, sharing preventative measures such as washing hands, using tissues, and covering coughs. But I knew there was so much more I could be doing with the proper training, such as what I would receive with further medical education.
When facing the end of his life, my uncle taught me the value of helping others. I know that life is finite, filled with choices small and large, that all add up to what you ultimately accomplish. I want to be the first person in my family to earn a graduate degree. I want to take my values of responsibility, hard work, and attention to detail into a medical career. These qualities are essential to being a good doctor and I plan to build upon these values with the scientific knowledge and personal compassion required to become a true helper of others in need.
The summer I worked in the Clinical Pharmacology department at Johns Hopkins I thought I had selected the right medical career as an academic scientist, but I learned I was wrong. This experience focused me on what I truly want to achieve with my career and where my real passions were found. Instead of an academic job, I seek the patient interaction, community involvement, and primary role in helping others that only being a doctor can bring. By doing this with my life, I can meet my uncle’s wish, as well as my own.