2nd Quarter, 2007
Science Scholarship Winner
Aside from being the first in his family to graduate from high school, Richard Aristeo Rodriguez has also accomplished the feat of being the first, therein, to attend college. Currently attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Richard is enrolled in the School Of Science and is pursing a major in Pre-Med Biology with a minor in Philosophy.
A Portion of Richard’s Winning Essay:
The world around us has been forged into shape by the minds of men. Using logic, reason, and knowledge as their foundation, these individuals mastered mathematics, the laws that govern bodies, and applied both to practical settings. The results of their efforts are enjoyed on a daily basis. Skyscrapers (with mathematical complexity allocated to architectural design) allow for growing populations and cities to live comfortably, televisions (operating with diodes, resistors, and radio waves) do not only serve as a source of entertainment but also provide relevant local and global news, and computers (using the millennial microchip as its advent) permit a world wide connection and general betterment in technology-application. All these and more exemplify what can be accomplished with a purposeful mind and determined body.
Realizing that the state of the world is actively sustained, continued, and improved by the human mind made me marvel at its amazing potential; furthermore, at that tool which made the mind conceptually possible: the human brain. This realization soon became a fascination. In as such, I began to read and research the human mind and brain.
My inquisitions into the neurological sciences came into practical use when my mother imposed a question upon me. Because I am enrolled in my high school’s medical program, my mother often asks me for advice regarding her health concerns. Questions such as ‘What do you think is wrong’ and ‘What she should tell the doctor’ are common to me. On one particular occasion, my mother came to my room and told me that a friend thought her cumbersome “mood swings” could be attributed to a brain disorder. She confessed that she was considering seeking medical help from a “brain doctor” but didn’t know which one—or even if it was even wise to do so.
As far into my childhood as I can remember, my mother has always suffered from sudden changes in personality. At one moment she might be at peace and at the next she might either reside in a destructive rage or in a crying depressive state. Having grown up under such conditions, I had not considered her behaviors to be a byproduct of her body but, rather, a symptom of her personality. However, as of late my mother’s “mood swings” had become overwhelming sporadic and fiercer in magnitude. Granted that I was now better educated in the neurological field, I explained to her that there were two possible answers to her condition: 1) She might be genetically predisposed to chemical imbalances within her brain—in this instance, possibly an over stimulation of neurotransmitters (chemicals, such as serotonin, between and within neurons that control body and mental responses), or 2) Those years of hardship and emotional blockage endured during her childhood might finally be resurging.
Because my mother speaks only Spanish, I was only vaguely able to explain the medical jargon; she understood, nonetheless. Following what advice I could give, she decided to seek the expertise of a neurologist. The doctor confirmed my premature diagnosis of mental chemical imbalances. My mother recounted that his diagnosis was made in part largely because of one question: “Did you have this when you were young?” To which my mother responded, “Yes.” A lower blood pressure and a Positron Emission Tomography scan further validated the diagnosis and provide answers as to what medications my mother should use.
I took pride in knowing that my knowledge had benefited my mother but I grimaced at the static condition in which the drugs left her. Instead of researching the brain and its function, I began to read about the brain and its application to the medical fields. There were many medicinal answers to neurological conditions; yet these often left the patient in a peculiar state; moreover, the side effects were sometimes too troubling to bear. Surgery, which could directly treat areas in the brain, offered a better promise. I discovered that a majority of medical problems endured by my mother could have been easily corrected during childhood through a neurosurgical “fixing” of the pituitary gland (a gland which controls many hormones and cognitive responses).
More and more research into the pediatric neurosurgical field prompted me to overview many cerebral illnesses. Structural malformations, periventricular leukomalacia (a condition that damages white matter in the brain and halts activity between cells), or intraventricular hemorrhages (bleeding within a newborns brain) all had the ability to destroy a child’s life. Those conditions, if untreated or treated poorly, could result in limited intelligence and a poor muscular control (cerebral palsy).
Understanding that a child’s ability to function with the world was dependant on the brain made me recall what it was that first prompted my interest in the neurosciences. The brain allowed for the mind and body to interact. The application of a mind and body allowed for progress and social betterment. However, all is dependant on the latter. Without a functioning brain, there can be no mind, no new technology, no “breakthroughs,” no advancement, and no body to metaphysically carry out any idea or notion.
Almost immediately, it became evident what my life’s purpose would be. I would become a pediatric neurosurgeon and provide the most important people in our society—children—with a functional brain. One that would allow them to develop a mind without the troubles of neuroinactivity, neurotransmitter inefficiency, or cognitive failure. A mind with which they could enjoy life and possibly add to the edifice of human ingenuity. I do realize that many neurological conditions remain a mystery to physicians and surgeons.
For that reason, I intend to open my own practice and recruit an extraordinary neurological and neurosurgical team. My “team” will be updated with the newest technology and the most current of information. Besides routine operations, I plan to use those neurologists in my practice to discover and implement new neurosurgical procedures. With the brightest and most able of minds, I hope to bridge the gap that currently exists in the neuro medical fields. By bridging that gap (through medical journals and scientific reports) I hope to provide a better state of being for my patients, and a source of reference to future doctors and practitioners.
I find it of much difficulty to accurately distinguish between what my long-term and short-term goals are. You see, I consider becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon, a profession that will require approximately 15 years of post secondary study, and the establishment of a private practice to be essentially short-term goals. My purpose lies in the actions and results that will follow. Yes, within that process is a success in high school, college, medical school, hospital internship/residency and fellowship attainment—this is altogether evident and necessary if I intend to matriculate to the status of neuropractitioner—yet, I’d be insincere if I stated that this all I aim for. I do prioritize with these “short term goals” because they will actualize what I plan to do.
Nonetheless, in my eyes, they remain only pre-requisites and mediums, by which I shall be able to practice pediatric neurosurgery, discover surgical techniques, and, if possible, leave a lasting impression on the world and its future inhabitants.
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