From Practicing Compassion to Practicing Medicine
Erika McLachlan, a nutrition science student and Ag Ambassador at Utah State, has known for years that she wants to go to medical school. But it wasn’t until this summer that she knew why.
Determined and hardworking, McLachlan devoted three months of her summer to an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador, where she worked 13-hour shifts and tended to more than 20 babies each day.
"I can't even put into words the feelings I have about it," McLachlan said. "At first, the work was hard and the shifts were long. But after a while I realized we were acting as the parents of those babies, and the work took on a new meaning."
McLachlan’s responsibilities at the orphanage included feeding, dressing and caring for infants. At one time she was assigned to care for a premature baby with pneumonia, who needed someone with her 24 hours a day. McLachlan slept over with her at the hospital some nights.
"As I cared for this tiny baby, she taught me a sense of love and compassion I had never before understood," McLachlan said. "Feeding her a small, four-ounce bottle could take two hours, but the amount of time became trivial. All that was important was that she was getting calories."
Mclachlan also traveled three hours upriver in a canoe to visit a clinic that served 35 surrounding communities. After observing and visiting with other volunteers and physicians, she discovered possibilities for service in the medical field.
"For a person with a medical degree, there is literally a world of opportunity," McLauchlan said. "As a doctor, I will be able to serve others to the best of my capabilities and participate in the type of humanitarian work I saw there."
McLaughlan, who has been busy submitting applications to medical schools, said the lessons she learned in Quito changed her, and will always be a part of who she is.
"It was an awesome experience and I was definitely reassured that my decision to pursue medicine was correct," she said. "As a patient sits talking to me—trusting me—I will be compelled to give them everything just as I gave those babies all my love. If I don’t give my all, who will?"
Story by Miaken Christensen, firstname.lastname@example.org