As I finish my second year of medical school, I have come to appreciate the lessons and experiences that I gained from the Summer Medical Institute (SMI). I initially applied to SMI because I felt that my medical education did not address how I would be able to combine my faith with my calling in medicine. Admittedly, it was naive on my part to expect any modicum of training in addressing spirituality in what is already a pressure-filled and time-crunched setting – by the end of my first year, I experienced burn out and simply could not gain any perspective as to the reasons I pursued medicine, mainly due to the fact that after years of excelling in school, extracurricular activities, and employment (I worked for two years prior to returning to school), medical school was the first time in my life where I did not reap any immediate rewards (e.g., grades, accolades, affirmations) for my hard work. At the same time, as a Christian, I knew that God wanted to teach and mold me, but at that time, I simply could not see the ultimate reasons behind His plan.
The three weeks I spent at SMI was a time of spiritual renewal, where I experienced the importance of community and finally saw what it could look like to integrate my faith and future career. From shadowing doctors at Esperanza Medical Center to talks and panels given by Christian physicians, I was encouraged both spiritually and professionally. In addition, to be able to apply the principles that I learned through Door-to-Door Outreaches on a day-to-day basis was a blessing; even though I had just completed my first year of medical school, complete strangers invited me into their homes, opening up about their struggles and issues – simply because I had a stethoscope around my neck and a diabetes glucometer in my hand. I was reminded that although medicine is very much about the science, it is also a profession that has the “human experience” at its epicenter – in fact, it was what attracted me to the field in the first place! Unsurprisingly, God further opened my eyes beyond just serving patients from a humanistic perspective – I soon realized that as a physician, I would be in a very privileged position to point my patients to the Great Physician, a lesson of which I must remind myself daily. By the end of my time at SMI, I resolved to simply be faithful with what He had tasked me, and I returned to medical school with this mindset.
Although second year has been undoubtedly stressful, I was never worried that God would not see me through, as my first-hand experiences in conjunction with my spiritual growth at SMI served as a continual reminder that I was becoming a doctor to ultimately serve God wherever He may lead. In fact, many of my classmates, most of whom are non-Christian, have commented that I seemed more relaxed and less stressed, even as we gear up to take our first high-stakes licensing exam (Step 1) this summer. In many of these interactions, I was grateful to have been able to have the opportunity to point to God as the ultimate reason for my peace. As I look forward to my clinical years in a few short months, I am very excited to see how God will use my experiences at SMI to serve the patients with whom I will be privileged to interact. At the end of the program, I distinctly remember praying that SMI would be a time from which we would continually draw new lessons and strength as we went through our medical training – although it has only been a year, I can unequivocally assert that God did not disappoint!
– Brian (SMI Philly 2012 Participant)
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