Colton in Dallas

Colton is a junior Hunt Scholar majoring in biology, with minors in chemistry and Spanish, in Dedman College. For summer 2010, he has been selected to participate as a Collegiate Fellow in the summer internship program at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital.

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What it takes to become a doctor

As I sat there trying to stay awake on this early summer morning, thoughts of doubt slowly began to creep into my mind. The table I was sitting at suddenly groaned under the weight of yet another victim, who had just unwittingly drifted off to sleep on the table with his mouth open. As the speaker glared at him, I weakly nodded my head toward the speaker in a false sign of support. With newfound confidence, the speaker looked back down, at what seemed like an endless pile of notes, and began to speak with even more determination.

Today was my first day at Parkland Hospital, and before I could begin my job, I had to find a way to sit through a week of Parkland’s new employee orientation. I had to admit, I was already beginning to have my doubts about how I had chosen to spend my summer.

As another speaker stepped to the podium to talk about retirement plans, I quickly envisioned myself retiring at the ripe old age of 20. “Eh, not bad,” I thought. I visualized myself in a warm Caribbean destination, sipping a cool drink by the ocean. “Ahh,” I thought, “Now that’s retirement!”

As I sat in the auditorium trying to at least act like I was interested in the new topic of insurance policies, my thoughts continued to build like a summer thunderstorm in the Midwest. If I was already questioning how to spend a summer, the next big question I had to ask involved how I had chosen to spend my life!

Against my will, my mind suddenly flashed back through the previous two years of college. Shuffling through each flashback, I tried to remember the last time I had “gone out” or had a good time at school. I came up with a couple of memories, but the overwhelming majority of memories involved sitting late into the night in the dimly lit Fondren Library at SMU.

I quickly came upon the realization that the most exciting adventures I had experienced in the last two years of college had been reliving the crazy and wild stories of my – let’s just say, “not pre-medicine” – friends.

Suddenly, I knew what I had come to Parkland to do. My summer at Parkland was going to determine my future. I had two major questions that needed to be answered, and I knew that Parkland was going to be able to answer both of them within the first week.

One, could I handle the “blood and guts” that accompany the prestige of being a doctor? I had shadowed countless orthopedic surgeons and watched them perform surgery over the past couple of years. None of the surgeries had been a problem for me. In fact, I was so interested in them, I was pretty sure that was the direction I would be taking in the medical field.

But, I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle seeing a human being lying on a table with organs spread all around the body on the table. The thought of the heart or liver being operated on just didn’t sound appealing in my mind. I couldn’t imagine actually wanting to partake in a surgery that involved major organs.

Two, did I actually want to commit myself to the life of a doctor? Everyone always sees the nice cars a doctor drives as well as the nice house a doctor may choose to live in. However, the time and dedication that are required to get to that point in life are astronomical. Oftentimes the cost is a doctor’s youth and family. By the time they are out on their own and have established themselves, they are well into middle age. Many doctors have also reported that their family time was so limited that it cost them their marriage and family.

All of these questions were unknowns at the moment. The only certain fact that I could be sure of was that I was at Parkland Hospital. Parkland Hospital is a teaching hospital for UT Southwestern Medical School and is also considered one of the nation’s top public hospitals. With this in mind, I was certain I would see things that I never could’ve imagined at Parkland. I knew all of my questions concerning my future would be answered soon enough.

To be continued ….

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