Former Urban Peak Health Services Coordination application letter into medical school

A year ago I thought I would be in medical school. Instead I ended up in a homeless shelter. It was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. I remember the lingering sense of fear as I approached the industrial steel blue building for the first time. I expected to be greeted by the stereotypical images of impoverished teens in torn, dirty clothing. As the newly hired Health Services Coordinator for Urban Peak Colorado Springs, I had been tasked with supporting homeless and runaway youth in gaining access to medical and mental health care- from routine physicals to complex psychiatric medication management. Little did I know that this would be the place where I would solidify my desire to become a doctor.

I met a young lady whose smile I will never forget. I often think of how she, like other clients I met at the shelter, would dutifully “try” not to look the part of a homeless person. At 15 years old, she had been through unimaginable hardships. She had witnessed her parent’s murder, been raped, and bounced back and forth between multiple foster homes where she was emotionally and physically abused. She had sickle cell anemia and had not seen a doctor in two years. She had become depressed, hopeless, and spent most of her days in bed. Worst of all, this beautiful young woman had every part of her femininity stripped away as she turned to prostitution for money.

She, like many other clients I met, had lived her life on a roller coaster of pain and uncertainty and had an inherent distrust of doctors. “What do THEY know about me? THEY don’t know what I’ve been through. THEY don’t listen.” After weeks of searching, we found a doctor with the skill, knowledge, and compassion to treat her under the Colorado Indigent Care Program. Within weeks, I watched her become more grateful, optimistic, and full of hope. She was bubbly as she talked about her new team of doctors and nurses and how they all helped her along the way, even as she faced weekly infusions and a myriad of medication. For the first time since she arrived at the shelter, I saw her smile. Modern medicine had helped save her life and she knew it. All she could say, over and over, was how grateful she was for her doctors and the relationships that they built with her. She had a new found determination to live out her dreams.

As I write this essay, my eyes are drawn to the poster above my desk thanking me for my commitment and service to Urban Peak Colorado Springs. On it are photos of the youth and their handwritten, encouraging messages. By most societal standards, these kids do not look the part of success- all the cards are stacked against them. Yet they have taught me, better than any formal means of education, how one can tolerate living through all kinds of hardships to get to what you really want. The tenacity of the human spirit is incredible. It is because of these kids that I know I can survive the unthinkable, overcome adversity, and go on to live with perseverance and focus, appreciating failures along the way.

I always envisioned taking the straight and narrow path to medicine; instead I was destined to take the road less traveled. It has not been easy and I have struggled along the way. Yet, there is nothing else I would rather do. My application may not be the most stunning in the pile, but this much is true, I know that this career I am after is SO much more. It is more than rote learning and test scores. Being a doctor is about being able to relate to patients on a personal level and create a partnership with them- with the knowledge, skills, and competence that will inspire my patients to have faith and trust in my ability. It is an honor and a privilege and with fervent dedication, I can assure you that I am up to the task. I believe Sir William Osler summed it up best when he said, “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in your heart that will be equally exercised by your head.” I know that medicine is my calling and despite any obstacles that I may face along the way, I know that I have the determination to make it through and achieve my goal.