My journey to medical school, and thus research, began at a very early age. I was fortunate to have a grandfather, father and uncle who were all physicians who exposed me to healthcare from early on. Growing up, I wouldoften hear how rewarding it was to be able to help alleviate the suffering of patients. This early exposure to healthcare shaped my goals and cemented my desire to help people in need. Although I wanted to be in healthcare for some time, I finally decided to pursue a medical degree when I was in high school. This desire stemmed from watching the movie “Gifted Hands” about the life of Dr. Ben Carson which awakened in me a desire to pursue surgery. I was fascinated by and wanted to devote my life to studying science and in particular how the human body functions. My newly discovered passion for surgery, in addition to a desire to study cancer, has led me to pursue surgical oncology.
Cancer research has been a passion of mine for many years because both of my grandfathers passed away from cancer before I was two years old. This has served as one of my main motivators for studying medicine. Before starting my undergraduate degree, it was my goal to study cancer and get my research published as an undergraduate. I have been fortunate to work in three separate laboratories at Northern Illinois University and have accomplished my goal of having my discoveries published. While at NIU, I have had the unique opportunity to study multiple myeloma and hepatocyte carcinoma which are the two types of cancers that claimed my grandfathers’ lives. I have also had the opportunity to work in a bioinformatics lab and have utilized the skills I acquired during my internship in my current project studying liver cancer.
One aspect of cancer research I have really enjoyed is the amount of self-interest patients have in the latest developments for the treatment of their disease. Patient interaction has caused me to realize that cancer research is not limited to the laboratory, but also the importance our work has on the patients and families who are affected by the disease. While working in a cancer research laboratory at NIU, patients have gladly offered to donate samples of their tissues for our use. I hope to integrate the knowledge and experiences that I have gained while conducting cancer research at NIU in my future career as a surgeon. I am confident that I will be able to treat my patients more successfully thanks to the initial foundation of knowledge I have learned first-hand while conducting cancer research at NIU.