The pursuit of a career in medicine has been a lifelong dream for me. I inherited a passion for learning and an unwavering commitment to achieving excellence from my academically focused Indian family. Encouraged by the values instilled in me by my parents, I attended and graduated from one of the most prestigious medical colleges in the state of Gujarat in my home country of India. After I completed my education, I dreamt of taking the next step in my medical career in the United States, where I could study the intricate inner workings of the human brain and have the opportunity to contribute to the global advancement of neurological care.
“This cannot happen… I just started my career. Open your eyes. Move your fingers. Wiggle your toes. Do anything you can to let them know you’re ok!” These are the things I said to myself as I heard the commotion around me. As I felt the excruciating pain of the freshly inserted chest tube between my ribs, I heard someone say, “She might need to go on ECMO, let’s call the team.”
Unlike many of my colleagues in the medical field, I took a very unconventional path through my postgraduate training. Throughout medical school, I was convinced I was destined to be a surgeon. I loved anatomy, loved my surgical rotations, and thought that this was my destiny. Then on my first day as a house officer in general surgery, I stood for 9 hours in a laparoscopic hemicolectomy, without any breaks for eating or going to the bathroom, and suddenly my life choices became much less clear. I struggled a while longer, but eventually I put away my scalpel, took up my neglected stethoscope once again, and I took up a formal internal medicine training post in New Zealand, starting on another journey. Everything started to make sense for a change. The flow of hospital medicine, the critical thinking, the lack of having to stand in an OR for several hours with a full bladder and an empty stomach, it all finally came together. As it turned out, one shake-up was not enough, and as I rotated through stroke and neurology, I found a hidden interest that I wished to take further. Being inspired by some American mentors, I decided to apply for training in the USA, and began residency at the University of Texas (UT) Health Science Center, San Antonio Texas in June 2018. After all my continent hopping and specialty changes, at last I seemed to be on the right track.