Jesus wept~John 11:35

Why would anyone choose a career in medicine? Not me! Too much blood and guts. Too many internal organs never meant to see the light of day. And yet, for several years, I helped medical students try to articulate exactly why they had chosen the field of medicine, as I helped them work on their personal statements for residency applications to be submitted all over the country.

The forms had tough questions. What will you bring to our program? Why are you the best candidate? Why should we take a chance on you? I remember helping students grapple with putting their commitment into words, just as they completed their first year of clinical rotations. One student named Karen still stands out.

That year, she was the first to call our office. With a deadline in November, she called in April. She was attending Loma Linda University School of medicine, and at first I thought I had misunderstood what she wanted. But no, she was already pulling her papers together, and somebody had suggested that she call. Could I help her? Well, of course.

I will never forget her enthusiasm as we worked together to wordsmith her personal statement: as she described the joy of helping a family prepare to welcome their first child into the world; as she acknowledged the physical stamina her work would require; as she talked about grueling hours being overshadowed by shared ecstasy at a successful birth.

Already tapped as a talented candidate for residencies in surgery and gynecology/oncology, what she really wanted was a career in ob-gyn. And as we talked, I could almost imagine being one of her patients, even though my husband and I had never had children. I was almost as happy as she was when she finally accepted the offer of a residency right here at Loma Linda University.

We lost track of each other, as she moved into the rigors of those first couple years of residency. But I never forgot her passion. And when I became pregnant with our first child, I understood for myself what she had been talking about. Except that our son came way too early, and as my husband and I were rushed into a room in Labor and Delivery, after my water had broken at home, our ecstasy had turned to terror.

What a day that was! Early in the day, the resident doctor on call poked her head around the corner, and you guessed it. It was this young lady. The nurses were amazing. My doctor was out of town, and the physician taking call was phoning in for updates and to give instructions.

But it was Karen who became our touch point during each phase. Would they be able, would we be able, would God be able to save this precious baby? And when the answer turned out to be no, the doctor who held our son, who held our hands, who held our hearts, was Karen. As baby Eric breathed his first and then his last tiny breaths, 21 years ago, on November 24, Karen wept.

– Elizabeth Sutherland is a facilitator and writer who worked for over 27 years helping LLUSM students create their CVs and personal statements for residency applications and working with faculty members on grant proposals and research articles.