Learning To Be A Doctor, As A Michael's Cashier

Posted by Padmaja Murtinty on May 1, 2017
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[Below are some comments I had shared at the Healing+T circle last week.]

What inspired me to become a physician was watching my twin cousins suffer through Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, which is a very severe, debilitating and mostly seen in boys. They grew up with that. As a child, I just saw how their mother would care for her two children, and it really propelled me to go out and really help people who needed it.

In my third year of med school, my uncle contracted glioblastoma, very severe brain tumor. As I entered my clinical years, I was very enthusiastic that I would be able to cure his condition. But unfortunately, it was a very aggressive tumor and before I knew what was happening, I lost him.

Post med school, my journey brought me to the United States. I struggled to get into residency for some time, and then had to put it all on pause. I went through a very terrible divorce, and became a single mom.

During those trying times, I took up a job at Michael's Arts and Craft store. Nobody even knew that I had this medical background. But one thing I learned was about connecting to people. That was my first formal job, and the way people connected there and the way they listened to each other, it really did feel like family.

What I learned was your title wasn't all that important. It didn't matter that I was a doctor. What mattered was that I could connect, that I could relate to that essence of being human and being related to each other's happiness.

My journey continued on -- I got some scholarships, got certified as a medical assistant and started working in many clinics. Today, I am being trained as a Physician's Assistant, currently working with a geriatric doctor. Yet, I still carry my experience at Michael's store. People skills, art of listening, I continued to savor all those lessons, and didn't get lost in the world in rat race.

I now notice the subtle things. Recently, I was with a 98 year old patient, who just lost her eyes. Because of cataracts, she lost her vision. But as soon as I entered her room, the smile I saw on her face was incredible -- I can't even put it into words. Her resilience and joy just shifted something deep within me, reminding me that we are much more than our body, mind, vision and our senses. There was something else that was shining through her.

You know, it's easy to skip over these nuances of the doctor-patient relationship. The doctor I'm working with is trying to make both ends meet, and I often see the stress she has to endure -- to make the finances and what not. That really compromises her capacity to connect, one patient, one moment at a time. I keep reminding myself of the lessons I learned at Michael's -- to not get caught up in the finances, and lose the essence of what means to serve patients.

Thank you so much. I'm so very grateful to share this deeply sacred space with all of you.

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Comments (1)

  • Trishna Shah wrote ...

    So beautiful to hear of your journey from medical student, to Michaels to a PA serving each patient with love and holding space for connection. So refreshing to hear your intention of being this way in a medical environment, where many tend to be like the doctor you work for, lacking time and space to connect in that moment. Grateful for your share!