Walking into the clinic around 8:30 a.m., I see nurses and medical assistants already buzzing about, gathering supplies, rooming patients, and taking their vital signs. In my mailbox—awaiting my review and signature—are a stack of papers: prescription refills, insurance forms, lab results, and imaging reports. I look down the hallway and see red flags outside closed doors, indicating patients waiting to see the doctor. I sign in, grab my stethoscope, and get to work.
There is very rarely a boring day at Brown University’s Family Medicine Residency clinic. As one of my mentors states, “We treat patients from womb to tomb.” In the morning alone, I might check on a mother and her newborn, conduct a school sport physical, biopsy a suspicious-looking mole, treat a pulmonary flare-up, place a birth control device, and prescribe a treatment for substance abuse. Three years from now, when I have completed my residency, that will be considered a slow day.
On one especially hectic day recently, I met a patient who had just had a portion of his colon removed due to a large cancerous tumor. He did not have a primary care doctor and spoke only Spanish. I was relieved when he arrived at the clinic, as patients often miss their follow-up appointments. During his visit, we talked about his life and health. He had moved to Rhode Island from his home country looking for work after losing his closest family members to illness and an accident.
I explained how he could prevent further cancers and then conducted a head-to-toe physical exam. His brown, weathered hands reminded me of my late grandfather and my own family’s journey toward a brighter future. In the 1950s, my grandfather, whom I called abue (short for “abuelo”), left his home in Mexico. He ended up working in a blue-collar job at General Motors for years before saving enough to move his new wife and baby daughters to Michigan.
My passion in the medical field is to serve vulnerable populations forgotten by our larger society. Too often, patients are stigmatized and do not have access to health care. Working against those disadvantages, and fighting for my patients, is the most rewarding part of my job.
I credit my ability to follow my dream of helping others to my scholarship from LEAD. I cried the day I opened the acceptance letter. Being able to attend U-M and study neuroscience opened my world. I then attended Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine with my fiancée, a fellow Wolverine! We married in 2014, halfway through medical school, and in 2017 both matched for residencies at Brown (where he is in radiology). We are now happily living and working in Providence with a house full of rescue animals, a greyhound and two cats, all of whom lovingly greet us at the end of another busy, yet gratifying, day as residents.
The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.