Bleary-eyed and still recovering from my ER scribe shift the previous night, I glanced at the patient census list: it was looking like another busy night. “Hey Andrew, everyone’s tied up with running a code in bed two. Can you start getting the history on Mr. Jones in bed six?” While transcribing his history of present illness, it became clear that Mr. Jones’ chest pain was a classic presentation, and the situation’s urgency dawned upon me.
I grabbed the EKG machine and placed the electric leads on his body. As he endured his pain, I held his hand in comfort and ironically found it just as soothing to me. I admired Mr. Jones’ pleasant demeanor and his underlying strength reminded me of my own father’s cardiac experience. Momentarily, I felt an inexplicable bond and connection with this stranger in bed six. However, my desire to do more for Mr. Jones was frustrating as I was limited in my capacity as a mere medical scribe. This frustration worsened knowing that nobody was available to help more. My limitation only strengthened my resolve to become a physician and be able to help in a greater capacity. I pushed these thoughts aside and was able to find an available ER physician. As Mr. Jones’ pain dissipated, his smile returned as he extended a grateful hand toward me. I asked Mr. Jones if I could visit him in the hospital tomorrow. “I would like that,” he replied.
I went to see Mr. Jones the next day and could not help but notice that he appeared unkempt, which prompted me to learn more about his personal situation. I learned that, much like my father, Mr. Jones’ heart attack was induced by stress. Unlike my father’s situation, Mr. Jones’ stress was more severe as his personal life was in shambles and his support system was completely lacking. My father had the good fortune of having a strong supportive family, and I was saddened to see Mr. Jones alone in the hospital without any attentive family members. With every visit to his bedside, I noticed his inability to understand medication instructions and difficulty navigating the hospital environment. This was an all too familiar nightly experience during my medical scribe tenure in the ER. Mr. Jones understood what he needed to do, but not why he was being instructed to do so, resulting in lapses in medication adherence. His health literacy was impaired, affecting his road to recovery.
Mr. Jones had been through enough, and I became inspired to improve community health literacy. I started Virtual & Augmented Reality Organ Systems (VAROS) Technologies Inc. to improve patient treatment understanding. It was apparent that Mr. Jones was not alone in that patients of all ages and education levels were not comprehending important yet complex verbal explanations by health care personnel. Offering customizable, immersive organ system designs across a suite of extended reality technologies allows VAROS to supplement the physician’s explanations and curb this challenge for patients. Fortunately, fellow community leaders, such as engineers and researchers, have aligned with the inspiration and joined the platform to expand our reach to as many patients as possible.
I believe knowledge is powerful in its ability to turn angst into appreciation. With a perceptual grasp of one’s health comes the removal of fear-based lifestyles, allowing one to thrive biologically, socially, and psychologically. Having seen, first-hand with Mr. Jones, how debilitating a condition can be when compounded with a lack of understanding, I wish to not only empower myself with a medical education but to do so for my fellow man. From undergraduate personal training to transcribing in the ER, and now leading VAROS, my dream is to continue growing my foundation to bring knowledge and positive change to those around me.
As I do not yet have the medical education to truly be able to deliver quality treatments with care, improving health literacy with VAROS has been my attempt to meaningfully improve patient lives at this time. Doing so has expanded my understanding of healthcare beyond the one-on-one interactions seen in the clinic or hospital. These experiences have reinforced my desire to become a physician so that I can grow beyond limitations in my ability to treat people, both personally in a clinical setting and interpersonally at the community level. My desire is to be there for those grappling with death and holding their hand as they return to health, but systemic changes need to be addressed using modern solutions. Spending my gap years working alongside patients and building these innovative solutions has made me eager to begin medical school and earn the education and training required to take my capabilities to the next level. Doing so will allow me to finally be there for people like Mr. Jones and my father; with no amount of reward comparing otherwise.