Over the summer of 2017, I was fortunate enough to participate in the STEP program. I was involved in an undergraduate research position at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, working as an undergraduate research assistant in the biomedical engineering department. Through the course of the summer, I work on proprietary project contracted with the CDME. I also worked on private material testing for the engineering center.
While I was at the CDME, I finally realized what I wanted to do with my career. Over the past two years, I have always been conflicted about whether to follow an engineering or medical path. After working at the CDME, I felt a strong calling to follow my path with the medical profession. While performing engineering work was incredible in its own right, the strong themes of patient interaction and public health were missing from that scene. I have always felt passionate about those topics and without them in my future profession, I would feel lost in a way. My love for person to person interaction and the betterment of my community are a part of me and need to be practiced in my future career.
A couple of reasons led me to the conclusion to pursue medicine instead of engineering. First, I can truly say that engineering work does not interest me as much as the idea of practicing medicine. Practicing medicine is very active and personal while performing engineering tasks, to me, are much more slow paced. Engineering projects are detailed beasts that have to be completed to perfection and must satisfy all requirements set by the contractor. This makes the project go by slowly and delays lead to complete pauses in the project. There were many times where I wanted to continue to pursue a project, but was stopped due to a need for clarification of machining limitations.
Furthermore, I mentioned that patient interaction was truly important to me. Engineering does feature business interactions but as implied, the conversations were business oriented. In medicine, you are testing to see if someone is healthy and at times, people are not. This can be a very vulnerable subject for the patients and as a medical professional, one needs to be able to be approachable and comfort the patient. Being a doctor requires empathy, a skill that I have and use to the best of my abilities.
Lastly, my STEP project taught me a very valuable lesson about myself, I want to be directing situations, not being directed. As an undergraduate student, I have to work under professionals in order to learn. Moreover, engineers are a part of a team and work under the project manager. I cannot see myself in the future simply working on my portion of the project that I was assigned. I want to be making my own decisions and directing myself as I go. As a doctor, you are still not always the boss, however, you have some autonomy over your decisions and how you want to treat your patients.
This change in my desire for my future career path has solved many confusing questions in my life. As mentioned before, I have been questioning myself about engineering or medicine since freshman year. Now that I have answered this question, I can finally devote myself completely to the pre-med track. This means committing the MCAT and applying for med school in the coming year. Thanks to STEP, I have realized where I want to end up and can see myself happy living a life in the medical profession.