The pursuit of the seemingly impossible starts with an eager mind and a willing leader. As I reflect over the opportunities I have sought and received in the nine years since graduating from UNCC, I am grateful. The foundation of altruistic leadership that was promoted as a Levine Scholar continues to permeate my mindset and experiences today. It is with such immense gratitude that I would like to share some of the lessons I have learned along the way.
1. Be willingly inconvenienced for the right set of circumstances.
When ambitious young people have the time and energy, I encourage them to seek internships beyond their current comfort zones. As a Levine Scholar, I submitted hours of my life learning about grant writing, resource allocation in rural Ecuador, and identifying healthcare needs in the local community. These skillsets, while at the time seemingly disjointed, led me to an internship and subsequent job at the Levine Cancer Institute. I was hired after the internship because I successfully wrote a grant that funded a breast cancer education and screening initiative. The combination of skills learned over time from a variety of experiences led to my first job. However, the mentorships I developed during that job propelled me towards my career.
2. Humbly seek understanding beyond the surface level.
As a student at the Brody School of Medicine, I quickly realized the incredible complexity of the healthcare system and wanted to learn more. This curiosity compelled me to understand healthcare administration and policy as a Leaders in Innovative Care Scholar and create a public health intervention as a NC Albert Schweitzer Fellow. These opportunities were intentional and created future leadership roles for me as a resident physician in the combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics Program at ECU Health. I oftentimes found myself observing leaders in the field and wondering if I wanted to be brave enough to create change within healthcare.
3. Be receptive to finding passion in your career.
The curriculum of a resident physician involves rotating in various areas of the hospital every month. Despite the constantly changing learning environment, I consistently gravitated towards the patients who were chronically ill and dying. It was during an inpatient Pediatrics rotation that I realized end-of-life care opportunities for children are extremely limited in North Carolina and beyond. Specifically, the opportunity for a child to die at home, if desired and medically appropriate, is nonexistent in most counties in our state. This realization sparked an unquenchable determination to discover why this was the modern reality and how I can become part of the solution. This goal became a passion by choice.
4. Create the opportunity.
Not every institution has a pediatric palliative care program. Throughout residency, I purposefully learned from patients who received end-of-life care and designed a palliative care rotation independently. The intentional seeking of knowledge and networking culminated when I was accepted to the Pediatrics Track of the Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship Program at Duke University Medical Center. As a current fellow, I am filled with gratitude to be surrounded by people equally as passionate about caring for those who are ill and dying. Throughout this year, I am also learning how to advocate for the expansion of pediatric palliative care and hospice services in our state.
5. “Grace and Space.”
To quote a current mentor of mine, all things that are worth creating require “grace and space.” Grace with oneself to learn from mistakes made along the way and continue to focus on the goal. And, space, to realize that moving mountains does not happen in one day. To add to that, I have also realized the intense satisfaction that comes with humbly embracing the mundane moments of each day. As someone who is surrounded by death and dying, I have chosen to find joy in whatever time I am given. To cherish time with family and friends, express gratitude to those who have helped me along the way, appreciate every breath, and give back to my community. In the unknown amount of time which we are all given, I implore you to pursue the impossible.