Finding Your Purpose
So…Why do you want to become a doctor?’
This is a staple question in almost every medical school entry interview, one I’ve also had to answer many times in the past. When I was in secondary school, it wasn’t asked in the most encouraging way. It was usually asked as a prefix to statements such as “wow, seven years in university is loooong” or “Your mates will be earning money years before you do.” I even had a careers advisor try and encourage me to reconsider, because “people from this area rarely become doctors.” True story. Name withheld. Let’s move on…
The question looks simple enough, but it has layers of depth to it. It has identified a purpose, and is probing the heart behind the purpose. That is why it’s asked in medical school interviews: to unwrap the rhetoric, ego and performance of the person on the other side of the table and reveal the contents of the person’s mind and soul.
So. Why did I want to become a doctor?
Many people have a flashpoint in life. A moment where their purpose become clear as day. Mine occurred watching a Pride of Britain awards show on TV years ago. It was a standard PoB show, nothing you hadn’t seen nor heard of before. However, the closing aspect of the show changed my life forever…
The presenter introduced a heart surgeon who was to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement award. This African man, retiring following a 30+ year career, walked out and looked so unassuming. So humble. A medical giant stood before us as a minnow, Clark Kent standing where we would expect a tall & imposing Superman to be, with his red cape billowing beneath the warm stage lights.
And then, it happened.
The presenter, after presenting the award, told the surgeon that a few patients he had helped over the years wanted to say thank you. From each end of the stage rushed on 200 people of all ages, all colours, all sizes. Babies cradled by their thankful parents. Teenagers running to hi-five him. Children reaching for his hand, looking up at him in awe. Middle-aged parents, managers, people who had become successes in their own field. Elderly ladies and gentlemen, grateful to this man for a new lease of life.
The image was incredibly powerful. This humble man, by merely pursuing his passion in life, was standing here completely outnumbered on this stage by a heaving army of humanity – each person standing with him so giddy to be re-united with their hero, the man who saved their life. And this was just a minute proportion of the people he had operated on over the years.
So why did I want to become a doctor? I must admit that I had originally been apprehensive about the time it would take to achieve this. The hard work. The competition. The relentless pursuit for excellence. It daunted me in my formative years. However, it was that image, of seeing the tangible fruits of labour of a man who had dedicated his life to his purpose, which made me decide to leap head-on into the unknown and chase my dream, no matter how hard things would get. It was seeing families, friends, loved-ones indebted to a single human being for the gift of life. It was the humility of this one man, even when he was being elevated as a hero. A career in its midnight hour. One man. 200 people. Thousands more over the years. This was true success.
That image sealed the deal for me. Now, having passed through medical school and having the privilege of changing my ‘Mr’ into a ‘Dr’, people funnily don’t say anything anymore about how long it takes to get through medical school, or think about my friends having received their salaries earlier than me! And I’ve never been afraid to go far-and-wide to pursue my dreams. I’m currently practising medicine in Ireland. I go into work every single day, aiming to deliver the biggest smile and the gentlest heart to every person I meet. So every day, when people who have never met Ghanaians or been to Ghana ask me where I’m from, I leave a worthwhile lasting impression with them of Ghanaian people! That makes me happy. That in my own small way, I’m flying the flag of Ghana proudly, so people will go home and talk of that ‘lovely wee lad from Ghana’. In my own little way, I’m building my own legacy and helping people every single day – by following my purpose.
I hope the story of the heart surgeon gives you a second wind and a renewed energy to pursue your dreams and realise your purpose. But I also hope it reminds you that no man is an island. Your words, your actions, affect somebody somewhere. Always. You may not be an eminent heart surgeon, but as a human being, we all have a duty to love one another, support one another, and help each other get by in this life in the best way we possibly can. Leave a tangible impact. Let people be indebted to you for improving their life in a way they wouldn’t have managed if you weren’t around. Dedicate yourself to blessing this planet with your gifts, and by finding your true purpose in this life we live.
This is true success.
Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)