No Blood in Prevention

When I was younger, my dream was to become a doctor.  I always knew that I wanted to help people improve their lives, and I was interested in healtcare, therefore I figured a career in medicine would be the best option for me.  I made becoming a doctor my goal and I worked really hard to make it happen.  Everything was going according to plan until one fateful day in the 2nd grade.   A freak accident during a routine art project caused me to staple a piece of construction paper to my left index finger.  My teacher promptly sent me to the nurse’s office and it was on the walk up that I discovered I would never become a doctor.  At the first sight of blood oozing from my wound, I began to feel nauseated.  I fainted right on the spot.  So there I was, a scrawny seven year old, passed out on the grass in front of the nurse’s office, with a shattered life’s dream and a piece of freaking construction paper stapled to my finger.

Fast forward approximately twenty years later.  My desire to help people improve their lives through the betterment of their health still remains.  Only now, the approach is much different.  Instead of through treatment, the improvements come through prevention.  To find answers to the questions that need to be asked, however, is a daunting and tedious task.  As students of public health, we inveribly read study after study about this or that.  Sometimes we might scoff at a sample size that we deem too small, or wonder why the researchers didn’t take a closer look at something.  It is not until we, ourselves, actually try and complete these studies that we realize just how much work actually goes into them.

A study that I am currently working on calls for data to be collected on 200 patients via written survey.  Easy enough….or so I thought.  At any given day in the clinic, the doctors may see 40 patients.  Half of them, however, usually are not eligible to participate.  Out of the remaining 20, half have already completed the survey at a prior visit.  That leaves maybe 10 eligible patients, some of whom don’t want to participate, and some of whom I miss because I am busy interviewing someone else.   Most days in the clinic, I spend 8 hours on my feet, running back and forth, trying to talk to people, only to come away with maybe 5 interviews.   And that’s if I’m lucky.   As harrowing as it is sometimes, I always leave the clinic feeling really happy.  In my mind, each and every survey is like gold.  While one survey alone may not be that big of a deal, each one is a part of something that is much bigger than myself.  Each one is a contribution. Each one is a piece of the puzzle that will eventually serve to unlock the answers to questions that may help people improve their heath and wellbeing.   And the best part is, I can do it all without seeing a single drop of blood.  That is of course, provided I don’t staple the surveys to my finger.

by Anonymous

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