Sara Saba, 2016 Fellow

On June 1, 2013, my heart skipped a beat. In a quasi out-of-body experience, I heard the words “type 1 diabetes” and “dangerously high” bounce around me. A quick glance at the hollowed-out cheeks and sunken eyes of the boy hiding under multiple hospital blankets made it clear that every moment to follow would be fundamentally different from those that filled our lives before.

Witnessing my brother’s diagnosis as a type 1 diabetic remains in my memory as a moment of helplessness. Fifteen pounds lighter and struggling to keep up with exasperated breathing patterns, my brother body fought for his life as I was fighting off shock. However, I now understand the daily frustration and unpredictability of treating and caring for individuals with diseases such as type 1 diabetes. The disease fosters an unstable lifestyle where one learns to battle the literal highs and lows of blood sugar levels alongside emotional highs and lows—such as crying at 3 a.m. out of anger at the lack of Islet cells that should regulate my brother’s body as I calculated the appropriate insulin doses to protect him in his sleep. Nonetheless, looking into my brother’s eyes with the knowledge that I can trust in my ability to make a difference in his life, and learning to proactively care for him, elicits a passion within me that elicits a fervent calling to medicine.

As a classical pianist of seventeen years, I have mastered the art of analyzing information from multiple perspectives, aiming my emotional passion in an effective and communicative manner. My life as a musician has deeply ingrained diligence, intentionality, intense cerebral capacity for making connections, an ability to provide a polished performance, and the awareness to recognize and face my mistakes. I truly believe that nothing has prepared me more for a career in medicine than this lifelong experience. As I have spent seventeen years learning to wholeheartedly develop my physical, mental, and emotional capacities, I have pushed my personal boundaries far beyond my own expectations and become a person capable of deeply understanding others. My experience as a musician has cultivated my psyche into one that cogitates critically, receives information openly, attributes emotional importance to situational expression, and ultimately perceives not only the whole picture alongside the significance of its parts. Moreover, the way I pursue my passion is fundamentally driven by the best presentations of medical care I have observed.

After a summer immersed in medical observation, my eyes have been opened to the disparities in healthcare access, and as such I appreciate the true value of medical service. While serving at the Dove’s Nest, a women’s addiction recovery program, I observed the extent to which social and structural forces affect health outcomes. Humans have far less agency in determining their health than an inexperienced perspective would assume, and my experiences illuminated the ubiquity of structural barriers to reaching equality in health, such as persistent socioeconomic situations, poverty, and access to scarce public health resources. It is vital to the quality and constancy of medical care that physicians be cognizant of the consequences of this inequality, especially in the ever-changing face of effective medical care. From observing infants born struggling for survival in the NICU, I recognize the degree to which broad social forces also affect the dynamics of medical ethics. I have seen how my capacity for compassion as a healthcare provider depends on my ability to comprehend and navigate these social and ethical complexities. Furthermore, I believe that my understanding of these complexities empowers me for a medical career, and enhances my personal sense of morality. And as an individual with an intentional to understand the world around me, I resonate with the way the doctors I shadowed lead their lives to influence the way I lead mine.

In their book “Saturday is for Funerals,” Dow and Essex submit, “understanding how people live and love is key to understanding how and whether scientific breakthroughs will work.” more ever before, medicine demands an understanding of how human behavior and a scientific grounding influences clinical conclusions. Regardless of where my medical training takes me, I intend to be a physician who sees patients as people before diagnoses, strives to listen to the important words of those in need with compassionate and curiosity, even when time and mental energy are scarce, and who ultimately cares for body and soul simultaneously. I feel that there is no other vocation that affords a constant, direct, and positive influence on others. Therefore, there is no other vocation that will make me most alive.