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Carefully, I move the probe around the patient’s belly. Sliding it on top of piles of gel that I had generously poured until suddenly everyone can hear it…Lub.dub…Lub.dub. Tears of joy roll down my patient’s eyes as she listens to the rhythmic beat projecting from the Doppler’s speakers. It sounds more like a galloping horse than an actual heart. But to her, every beat announces the burgeoning miracle inside her body.
When I graduated from high school, my transcript did not reflect stellar grades nor my resume boast of a sparkling list of extracurricular activities. In fact, I did not even know if I wanted to go to college. My family migrated to the United States from Pakistan when I was on the cusps of adolescence. As new immigrants, everyone in the house had to work to make ends meet and being the youngest did nothing to help my cause. So I had to start working at a very early age, which made focusing on school an incredibly daunting task.
Like many with only a High school diploma, I remained in between jobs for several years. Six months of day night shifts at 7/11, four at the local grocery store and maybe a few months to a year at a clothing retail store like Macy’s if I got lucky. I was severely depressed about where my life was going and envious of the success of my peers who had the luxury to go to college without having to worry about supporting a family. Then one day, I caught myself taking interest in a National Geographic documentary on human embryogenesis. Fascinated by how fertilization occurs between a man’s spermatozoa and a woman’s egg; how organs develop from just three germ layers (endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm) and how each week signifies an important developmental milestone in the life of an embryo. It left a strong impression on me, enough to seriously consider if this sudden pique of interest meant a health-related profession could be my calling.
I used to visit a mosque nearby my house for daily prayers where I became friends with someone who, like me, had been struggling financially after graduating from High school. We regularly chatted about the job market and shared concerns about how tough it was for a high school graduate to get a decent full-time job. One day he told me that he was going to pursue Sonography, a diagnostic imaging technique which uses ultrasound to see internal structures of the body. It was a short course, only a few months, and jobs paid well. So I decided to sign up along with him, knowing little it would prove to be the moment that would change my life forever.
It wasn’t easy. The course material was downright difficult. Science was my weakest subject in high school and now I was expected to learn (and actually apply) scientific principles to be a sonographer. But perhaps the most challenging aspect of becoming a sonographer was the sheer volume of medical terminology that one is expected to retain. I remained unfazed. I had decided that I would not go back to my old life as there was nothing to lose and everything to gain if I could just get through the program. They say “good things come to those who wait,” so I waited and worked hard; staying late to study in the commuter lounge, frequently visiting professors’ in their offices to ask for help and going to friends’ houses for late night study sessions. By and By my grades began to improve dramatically and I began to thoroughly enjoy learning about diagnostic techniques such as an Echocardiogram (EKG), a test for diagnosing heart abnormalities, and Pulse Volume Recording (PVR), a study for checking arterial occlusions in the extremities. Soon, I became a top student in my class and interpreting ultrasounds became second nature to me.
After graduating from Allied Medical Professions as a Sonographer, I interviewed for an internship position at Kings Brook Jewish Medical Center. During the interview, the Head of Diagnostics put my skills to the test and after I was able to finish all the scans within 10 minutes was so impressed that he immediately offered to hire me. It was at this hospital where I did the bulk of my learning and become more confident in my abilities. A testament to this new found confidence came when one day the hospital received a new PVR machine and I was the one teaching my supervisors how to use it. Most of the patients we scanned were debilitated and it was a challenging task to manage them. But through dedication and commitment, I was able to not only do well at my job but help patients the way they deserved.
Training as a Sonographer has made me more confident in my ability to serve people but it has also made me acutely sensitive to the needs of patients. It has made me realize that I am ready to take on a more leadership role as a Physician’s Assistant, which will equip me to better understand and create decisive changes about patients’ health. If admitted into Touro’s prestigious Physician’s Assistant Program, I commit to becoming a proactive student with a passion for learning biological sciences and serving humanity.
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