By Ali Chami, DPM (Candidate)
Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine, Indepedence, OH
Like many people in the Dearborn, MI Arab-American community, I am a first generation American. My parents worked hard to put food on the table while their children went to school, in hopes of them living better, more comfortable lives than they did. However, my siblings and I were never really nurtured to excel in academics. My parents didn’t have the time to simply sit down and tutor me, let alone speak much English. I grew up hating school, and I was never thrilled about being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. I saw the years between elementary and high school as a burden more than as a privilege. I was literally in summer school every year from 7th grade til graduation. Due to this, I was the guy who had an asterisk next to his name on graduation day. I felt embarrassed for my parents and myself. I was determined to make it up to them, and more importantly, to myself.
With my diploma in hand, I was ready to start college. I didn’t know what field I wanted to study, and worse, I had no guidance. Most parents (especially Lebanese) want their children to do something prestigious, preferably in the health sciences. Initially I chose pharmacy, but one semester into college, a high school friend convinced me to change paths and become a nurse anesthetist. During this period, I enjoyed learning as much medical knowledge as my determined brain could absorb; from symptoms to diagnoses, complications to medications. The clinical setting was amazing. I got to help treat patients and went the extra mile for them as best as I could. But despite this I felt the nursing field was limited. I did eventually complete the courses required to finish the nursing program, but I took more classes to ready myself for medical school. I decided to pursue podiatric medicine as my specialty due to the surgery aspect and the potential of owning my own practice one day.
During my clinical time in nursing, I learned so much from interacting with patients. The biggest takeaway was to be happy with the life you have because it can be much worse. I always wished my family had the luxurious lifestyle growing up, but nowadays its completely different. The reason for that is for the health of my loved ones. There are so many people who have unfortunate illnesses and would trade anything to rid of it, even if it means being homeless. This ideology stems from the six weeks I had in obstetrics, with the fortune of being able to witness a Cesarean section being performed. The procedure went well, however the newborn wasn’t born exactly “normal”. The child had 6 toes in one foot and 4 fingers on one hand. The mother was so saddened, but every clinician in the operating room was happy. Not because the child was born with a unique abnormality, but because it was a non-life-threatening defect. I’m sure they’ve seen many worse cases, and I believe that’s why they kept telling the mother “it could be much worse”. As my fiancé and I progress through our relationship, the topic of children has been brought up multiple times. It always ends in us praying for healthy children, no matter what our situation is.
Along with nursing, the clinical aspect of podiatry has taught me to go the extra mile for my loved ones as well. When you’re caring for patients, you feel like it’s your duty to give it your all. I didn’t really feel this way for my loved ones (growing up). There would be times where I would give minimal effort because I felt it wasn’t my job to. Nowadays, I find any chance I can to help, whether big or small. The reason for this was from an elderly woman I treated. She came in for routine foot care, no problem. When I was finished, she told me that she’s been to multiple Podiatrists in the area but not one person treated her the way I did. Then she asked a little bit of my background and we soon found out that she was a neighbor of my grandparents. As she started to tear, she basically told me that my ancestors and she were family. I was also told that I treated her like family the whole time, and she asked for God to keep me on this earth. This struck a cord with me. I thought to myself “this is how family should be treated, no matter what.”
From that moment on I planned to go the extra mile for those I love. Not just for the family that I currently have, but also for the family I hope to create in the near future. It is important for me to do that if I hope to have the same impact on other people’s lives as I did with that patient. I plan to carry myself this way as I start my own family, to ensure that they live the best lives possible, in the same way that my parents wanted for us.