With Age Comes Wisdom… and Greed?

Once a week, I work the evening shift as a medical assistant at a primary care clinic.  Last week, we had to stay in the office later than normal and a doctor offered me a ride home.  Considering the distance between the clinic and my house, I knew that the car ride was brief enough to not have to prepare conversation topics but long enough to have to engage in a real conversation.  He and I had proceeded to fill the time with general small talk before he asked me the reason for why I was working in the clinic.  I explained to him that my current plan is to become a physician’s assistant in primary care to serve in unconventional clinical settings – clinics for the medically uninsured and/or low-income populations in the US and abroad.

I know, I know.  Some of you are shaking you head at the overwhelming idealism in my goal.  I get bashful answering any questions of my career goals partly because I am not 100% sure of this path in health care and also because of the way people perceive it.  But I truly mean it.  Let me explain…

During my first visit to the doctor in the United States for a stomachache, I was captivated by how he did not perform any invasive tests and was able to prescribe a medication that instantly made me feel better.  He knew what was wrong, and he knew what to do to solve the problem.  Since then, I have been fascinated by the human body and the puzzles of deducing cause and treatment for medical ailments.

Unlike a majority of the medical and nursing students, my motive to enter the health care field is does not involve money at all.  My family emigrated to the United States when I was nearly 5 years old.  Compared to my friends’ families, I knew even then that my family was less financially well off simply by the contrasts in which we indulged on vacations and gifts.  I have always lived with little money.  Even today, I earn enough to pay the bills and monthly loan installments while I save a little bit, and that is fine with me.   Budgeting and economizing- I don’t know how else to live. I wouldn’t really know what to do with the excess money if I earned much more beyond paying off my loans.  Despite the absence of financial wealth, my life has been incredibly rich with happiness.   

In addition to delving in my interest of the human body, I am pursuing the healthcare field to fulfill my passion for travel.  I absolutely love traveling, but I do not enjoy being a tourist.  I prefer to explore destinations in unconventional ways and interact with locals.  I know that there is an immense need for medical care in global rural and urban poor communities.  The opportunities to help are endless that I would be able to combine my two passions.

So that explains my intentions.  Now back to the car ride…..

While I did not go into the depth of my path to planning this career path,  the doctor commended my idealism but the rest of his response surprised me. He said with adamant confidence that this would change. That I won’t stay there. That I will want to work in a typical clinic to earn a higher salary.  That he started out the same way.

I have only worked with this doctor for a couple of months, but I do know that he has a great heart.  He often deducts charges for patients who do come in this clinic with no health insurance.  Therefore, I highly respect him.

Now, I am terrified that he will be right. That I will change.  That I won’t stay in those clinics  for the medically uninsured and/or low-income populations.   That I will want to work for more money.  That I will follow this doctor’s route.  If this is the case, I am worried that I will look back on my life and not recognize my 25-year-old self writing this.  Will I begin to put more value on to things than experiences, knowledge, and relationships?  Will a stronger sense of materialism….materialize with time?

I realize that maybe when/if I have kids, I would be more focused on being able to provide for them and their future.  However, would I need to change operations to do this?  I suppose only time will tell, but I really hope that I do not lose touch with my current perspective on life.  Reflecting on this conversation with the doctor long after he pulled up to my door, I want to urge myself to do the same thing a former resident of the transitional housing facility at which I had worked for a year told me when I last saw her: “Don’t ever change.”

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