Friday, March 13, 2009


So I decided to try to go back to college, and eventually medical school. Here is the essay I wrote for the admissions folks about my decision (some information redacted!):

The decision to change careers was not an easy choice to make, yet in a way, it was the easiest one I’ve ever made. During my undergraduate work at [some NYC school], I had one main goal: obtain my engineering degree then find a solid and stable position to begin my professional career. I succeeded in achieving that goal and for the past two years, I’ve been happily engaged as an engineer working for the government [doing stuff] in the City and State of New York. My work is secure and interesting. It is challenging and often rewarding. However, I feel that my career is just a job and I quickly realized that I could never, truly be passionate about engineering.
In retrospect, it probably should have been easy for me to listen to my passion from the beginning and set goals that were worthier than simply trudging down a career path that lead only to job security, but no zeal about my future or my work. In fact, all along I’ve been walking down two paths simultaneously. These paths led side-by-side for a long, long time, but when they finally diverged, I realized I was stuck on the path that led to the place I find myself now, a comfortable but unfulfilling existence.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I “suddenly realized” the path that I wanted to follow, or that I had a “revelation,” because I really knew the truth all along. I knew that I wanted to enter the field of medicine, go to medical school, and become a physician for a long time. Starting from the first semester of my first year in college, I have been involved with EMS, the Emergency Medical Service. By the end of the term, after taking the class on campus, I was certified as an EMT. My involvement with EMS has been a large and constant part of my life ever since. I started as the low man on the totem pole at my college’s volunteer ambulance, and upon graduation, I had achieved the highest rank there was in the Corps: Crew Chief. But it went beyond that – during my summers off, I worked as a volunteer from my parent’s house in Upstate New York with the local fire department. I also became involved as the [big-wig? no thatr's not right] for a non-profit organization: the [some EMS organization].
After I earned my degree, one of the first things I did was to enroll in Paramedic school, an intense 12-month educational experience. The process of becoming a Paramedic was eye-opening. I learned to practice a new level of clinical medicine and I loved it! I did observations in nearly every department in the hospital, and learned skills like starting IVs, intubation, reading and interpreting EKGs, treating heart attacks, and giving medications in response to a patient’s distress. It was also during this year in Paramedic school, through interacting with doctors on a regular basis that I finally knew that I could never work as an engineer for the rest of my life.
My current place in life has me again walking two paths. I now work full-time in my regular and non-changing engineering job. I am also working part-time in [hem, ahem!] in the dynamic setting of a Paramedic. I enjoy being a Paramedic, but I am eager to learn and do even more. There are now people alive on this earth that would not be here today if I hadn’t been beside them. There are also people who have died because I wasn’t able to intervene, because the training of a Paramedic is limited and the skills and procedures that we perform do not address every situation.
Becoming an engineer was difficult, and an arduous journey itself. It was difficult deciding to turn my back on a promising career. I am aware of the challenges that await me. I know that a high-level of academic achievement is required. However, I will succeed. I have never felt more determined and eager for the future. It is time for me to leave the path that is warm, comfortable, and smooth all the way to retirement, and return to the path full of potholes, challenges, and excitement – the correct and true path. I know that every obstacle I overcome is a step in the right direction.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Happy Birthday!

My Dad turned 58 yesterday. He’s an engineer and currently works apart from the family in Saudi Arabia. I remember when I was a lot smaller we were all sitting down one weekend afternoon for a nice lunch of hot dogs. I started choking. My Dad called 911, started the Heimlich Maneuver (abdominal thrusts!), and a minute or so later, out popped the chunk of meat that had been plugging my trachea.

So, Thanks Dad: Not just for giving me life, saving my life, and raising me into a man, but thanks for just being here. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

'THE' EMS Convention. No, not that one.

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the National Collegiate EMS Foundation's annual conference. As one of the mid-level volunteer administrators for the Foundation, I had an very interesting and very unique view of the event.

NCEMSF is a group formed nearly 20 years ago to address the specific needs of an under-served part of the EMS community: the scores of volunteer first-response and ambulance corps that operate on our country's college campuses. This year, nearly 900 participants traveled to our nation's Capital to attend lectures, participate in discussions, and learn how to advance each individual group's missions.

The college-based EMS group is unique. There are very few ALS providers, and the majority of providers are new to the field. Almost all are volunteers, and for many, participation on a college EMS squad is their first exposure to the field of EMS.

Campus squads also face many unique challenges: money is certainly an issue. Very few receive federal or state grants. Training is another concern: with the high level of turnover associated with graduating students, experienced providers often barely reach an level of excellence before leaving the scene. Also associated with this transient group are issues of recruitment, retention, and motivation. Myriad other challenges also stand in the way of the success of a campus EMS group.

Yet, this past weekend was inspiring. As facilitator of the skills competition, I saw providers struggle with some very challenging scenarios. Some failed miserably, others were competent, but many rose to the occasion, and probably provided care that would be unmatched elsewhere. In the ten minute time window, I was groups recognize immediately a case of possible bacterial meningitis; something I myself probably would not have done, even with my ALS qualifications and six years of experience. On the ALS competition, the rare and tricky beta-blocker overdose provided a challenge, but many treated the patient successfully.

Collegiate EMS is not really an end in itself. It is really just a beginning. A nation of healthcare providers and leaders grow out of this one-of-a-kind community. Being a part of this community and helping nurture it was a rewarding and significant personal experience. I received my start in EMS as a freshman in college back in 2003. The ability to begin to serve not just my patients, but now the next generation of EMS providers is truly special.

PS, Congratulations to my alma mater for winning this year's Collegiate EMS Organization of the Year Award!