Finding Your “Why”

“Be like the bird who,
pausing in her flight
awhile on boughs too
slight, feels them give
way beneath her, and yet
she sings knowing she hath
wings.”
–Victor Hugo

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Leah Moody, Global Health Program Coordinator at Western CT Health Network/Robert Larner College of Medicine

On behalf of the Global Health Program, thank you very much for the energy that you have given to the elective activities at your host sites. Transitions in life are difficult and we acknowledge that each of you had a fast turnaround time between final exams and international departure. You are far away from your families and loved ones, immersed in foreign languages, climates, and cultures. These experiences are difficult and to that note we want to send a message of encouragement.

Each of you has everything within you to become a leader in global health. You were selected for the global health elective because we believe that medicine is more than an occupation for you, it is a calling. The journey is a severe task. It demands tolerance when you are frustrated, endurance to keep going when you have no strength left, and flexibility to adapt to even the harshest of situations. To become a leader in global health requires the astute discipline to be the best in your field and not settle for anything less. The path will never get easier. The path will get harder. The foreign languages and harsh climates will not be a temporary nuisance, they will become a way of life. Are you ready? In the moments when the body tires, you must be fueled by an internal force, which is the mission of global health. To be the voice of the voiceless, the advocate of the underserved, to uphold the art of humility within the medical field.

Physicians are healers and teachers. They are driven to continue the quest for scientific knowledge and human connection to benefit the patients whom they love. Undoubtedly there will be times when you will feel alone in your journey. It can be emotionally draining to witness tragedies like a man dying due to the lack of 15 dollars to pay for an echocardiogram to diagnose his tamponade in a resource scarce country while in a resource rich setting another man may die from complications of unnecessary cardiac catheterization. Operating in both environments is impossible to resolve intellectually, and yet we operate. The reality that a life is worth more in one place than another is incomprehensible, and yet the world revolves. It is painful and paralyzing, and yet we continue in our orbit.

These obstacles are tests to your emotional and physical stamina. Remain vigilant and endure the journey because if you do, the reward is breathtaking. You will become a better doctor, a better friend, a better human being, and above all, you will have an internal source of joy that nobody can take away from you.

Frederick Nietzsche said that she who has a ‘why’ to live can endure almost any ‘how’. Remember the ultimate purpose of why you became a medical student, the calling that is inside each one of you. Sync your thoughts and actions to oscillate to the rhythm of your inner wisdom. Find your why and nourish it daily.

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