Alison Dormer (1st Quarter 2007)

1st Quarter, 2007
Medical Professions Scholarship Winner
Alison Dormer

“A little about me: I’m just beginning my third year of medical school at Emory, and have just finished my first clerkship in obstetrics and gynecology, which is one of the fields I’m most interested in. In the past few weeks, I’ve finally had a taste of what it’s like to be a part of a medical team, assist in surgeries, and (finally) I’ve been able to deliver some babies. It’s been a wonderful experience, and I’m very thankful for the great teaching I’ve had here so far.
I came to Emory from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I grew up and then went on to undergrad. I graduated in 2005 with a BS in biology and German; while going to school, I also worked as a waitress and as a medical assistant in the Dept of OB/GYN at Michigan. The highlight of my undergrad years was my time in Germany, where I took language classes and was a student at the Benjamin Franklin Charite Hospital in Berlin for a summer – that was my first “real” medical experience, and I’ll never forget it.

When I’m not at the hospital, I like to work on my new apartment, explore my neighborhood, go to concerts, and I try to make it to the occasional yoga class. I’m also working on rock climbing, though continuing to struggle with my fear of heights! In terms of my career plans, I plan to apply to the CDC Experience program for medical students this fall, where I’m hoping to learn some fundamentals in epidemiological field work. For now, though, I’m just really enjoying my third year of med school, and finally having a taste of so many fascinating areas of medicine.”

A Portion Of Allison’s Winning Essay:

Alison Dormer

I chose to pursue a career in medicine because it is what I have wanted to do, more than anything, for my entire life. My mother is responsible for introducing me to this passion. She was in nursing school when I was a small child, and everything she learned was novel and exciting to her.

Once she graduated, she became a labor and delivery nurse, and often came home excited about patients and the babies that she had helped to deliver. Hearing her stories and seeing her uncontained excitement, even as she came home exhausted after a night shift, made me think as a kid that I might want to do something like that myself one day.

Some of my earliest memories in fact revolve around this goal. I remember waiting in line to sign up for a dance class, when I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old. A woman waiting next to us was making pleasant conversation, and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I told her I wanted to be a doctor, she smiled and said, “That’s great. You should remember that you wanted to be a doctor as a child, because when you grow up and become something else, it’ll be fun to look back on what you thought you’d become.” I smiled back at her, knowing that she was wrong, but I did follow one aspect of her advice: I do remember that moment, and I relish the fact that I knew what I wanted to do at such a young age, and that I am, in a sense, beginning to live out that dream in med school now.

In this way I’ve been lucky, because I didn’t have to do any soul searching to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I applied to med school, one of the most difficult questions to answer was the simple question, invariably asked by interviewers, of “why medicine?”

Certainly if I think about it, I can come up with a litany of reasons: I like the physical and mental demands of the profession, the honesty and genuineness inherent in the patient-physician relationship, the opportunity to share private, important moments with people and to help them endure the unendurable. I like the mystery of the body, the privilege of exploring it and trying to cajole it back to health when it misbehaves. No matter how hard I try to explain this career choice, though, nothing feels complete. On some level, my love of medicine is as intrinsic to my being as my love of reading, the Rolling Stones, and chocolate.

So the real answer to the question of “why medicine?” when all the extraneous stuff is stripped away, is simply “because it’s who I am, and who I’ve always been.” This feeling has only been strengthened by my adventures in medicine so far, both before and during medical school.

When I was in college, I was anxious to get started with seeing patients, so I chose one of the only avenues open to me, which was becoming an EMT. I learned skills during that course that I still use in med school, and am proud to say that I was one of two women who graduated from the course in my cohort of twenty or so students. I discovered the adrenaline rush of riding in ambulances, as well as the calmer satisfaction that comes with transporting sick patients, who often needed simply a listening ear or a hand to hold more than any medical care I could provide.

Later in college, I was able to travel to Germany on a scholarship from the German Department at the University of Michigan, and worked in the Benjamin Franklin Charite Hospital in Berlin. On my first day, I was thrown in with the medical students, all of whom were much more experienced (not to mention more fluent in the language) than I. I rotated through different wards in the OB/GYN area of the hospital, rounding on gynecological oncology, assisting breast cancer surgeries, and on happier days, C-sections. The faculty there treated me as a regular medical student, giving me supervision, but also a level of autonomy.

One of the best experiences of my life happened in my time at Charite, ironically, during the worst medical emergency I have witnessed so far. A pregnant woman was brought in bleeding profusely, and needed an emergency C-section. It was my first day on labor and delivery, I wasn’t confident with the language, and I had never assisted a C-section before. I assumed that I would, at most, stand by and watch as the physicians took care of this poor woman. Instead, I was ordered by the head of the department to gown up and assist. I looked at him, and he must have seen the terror in my eyes, because in that moment of chaos he stared back at me, and calmly explained in German, “You can do this. You will be fine. I will stand by you. Hurry up.” I did as told, he stood by me, the doctors had the baby out 6 minutes from the time the woman arrived, and mother and baby were fine. I remember standing in the operating room, literally drenched from head to toe in the patient’s amniotic fluid and blood, and feeling the most intense relief of my life.

The next day, I saw her holding her newborn, presenting him to her three older children for the first time. As I walked by, she had no idea who I was, or that I had participated in her care. But the privelege of helping her during the most vulnerable time in her life, and then seeing what joy came out of it, was one of the most satisfying experiences I can recall.

Why doesn’t everyone want to be a doctor? Now that I am on my way to this goal, partway through my second year of training, I often ponder what I will do with the tools I’m gaining now. Without taking myself too seriously, I also think it’s important to take a step back, even as a young person, and try to think through what it is that I want to accomplish with my life. My overarching goals are fairly typical: I want to leave the world a little nicer than how I found it, to be a positive influence on those around me, and to work hard and contribute.

At this point, I plan to pursue a career focused on women’s health issues. As I’ve pursued this interest, I’ve become increasingly aware of the importance of public health efforts in improving maternal-fetal health both nationally and globally. It isn’t enough to simply care for patients, because to truly serve them, I think it will be necessary to act as their advocate. Too often now, medical decisions are being placed in the hands of lawmakers, without enough input from the medical profession, and this is to the detriment of everyone.

My ultimate goal is to work to ensure that policy-making and public health measures will benefit as many people as possible. I would like to advocate for more access to preventive care, for insurance reform, and to be a voice for patients who otherwise might not be able to find their own.

My immediate plans include applying for a one year fellowship at the CDC, which I will apply for during the fall of next year. The CDC offers a program to teach medical students applied epidemiology, and which gives some exposure to practical issues in the field of public health. I hope to have the privelege of participating in this fellowship, because it would provide me with research tools, as well as invaluable experience with highly esteemed professionals at the CDC.

If I am accepted for the fellowship, I will take a year off of medical school to complete it, and return with a planned graduation in 2010, and apply for OB/GYN residencies to continue pursuing my goal of contributing to improvement of maternal-fetal health in this country, as well as globally.

Copyright 2009, All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top