Editor’s Note: This is an entry in our Scholarship Contest for Patients and Caregivers to attend the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit Oct. 17-21 in Rochester, Minn. See this post
for more details on the contest, and please cast your votes by liking or commenting on the candidates you think would be best.
Here is Jeff Cohen’s essay:
My career path and life dedication to medicine dates back to age four. This life-changing point in my life was the period of time before receiving a bone-marrow transplant. I was receiving heavy doses of radiation and chemotherapy. This harsh and painful regimen left me with no immunity, but ready to accept the “harvest” of my unrelated donor’s bone-marrow. I was in isolation as my life bordered close to death. For two days, I screamed, kicked, and twisted in a great deal of pain. I yelled that I couldn’t take another second of the “bright light” that I saw, even though the lights were off, the door was closed and the shades were drawn. Specialist after specialist entered my room, examining me from head to toe, and could find no medical explanation for the “bright light.” I believe that the light that I saw was G-d’s light, and that I clung stubbornly to life, in this near-death experience.
Those many days I spent in hospitals, and the lessons that I learned, have shaped my approach to academics, and to my life. I learned that no challenge is too great and every goal is worth striving for, despite the odds. Although my prognosis for survival was very poor, I refused to give up. Doctors who did not think that I would survive now call me a miracle. I hope to one-day call each of those doctors “colleague”. In addition to all of the doctors that have overseen my care, it is with comfort that I look to four of my five uncles as medical doctors and mentors. Their guidance, recommendations and inspiration encourage me in my pursuit.
Much of my childhood was spent around doctors and hospitals, undergoing invasive treatments. I had a central line in a vein in my neck and chest from ages two to five, to allow for the frequent delivery of medications, blood withdrawal, transfusion of blood, blood products, and nutritional support. Prior to receiving the central line I suffered all of the numerous, often daily, pricking with needles, to the point that it became difficult to find a vein which would accept another needle. I learned a side of medicine first-hand that many students choosing a medical career path have not. This side has taught me compassion and perseverance that is difficult to learn any other way.
I am extremely fortunate to be one of the few to have survived a rare form of cancer. Consequently, intensive chemotherapy and radiation that was used to save my life has, caused many harsh side effects. These include, among others, endocrine issues relating to growth, thyroid and diabetes. I deal with these issues in a positive way, and continue to overcome any adversity put in front of me.
I devote every opportunity that I can to gain experience in medicine. Summers have afforded me the opportunity to shadow several doctors in their plastic and reconstructive surgery practices, and a general surgeon and radiologist. Surgery is an area in which I have a great deal of interest. There is an excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud, that reads “… And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” I aspire to make my own small contribution to that noble purpose.
Communication and compassion play key roles for patients and health care providers. In today’s technologically widespread social media, the convenience of reaching out to one another is at our fingertips. Important prevention measures for one’s health, like educating the public about the importance of a colonoscopy, mammogram, routine exams, cholesterol screening, diabetes and blood pressure and the significance of exercise and caloric intake can all be readily and easily conveyed.
The Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit can help me and others build bridges of communication and knowledge between health care professionals to transport a world of knowledge that can, like the excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud … can save the entire world