Pre-med Hospice Experiences of an Aspiring Biomedical Researcher

I have been seeing the same patient, Catherine Glenn, since November. She is 97 years old and has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She has some short-term memory loss but is often quite coherent and enjoys talking. My most meaningful interactions with Catherine were when she remembered me for the first time and when she expressed appreciation for my visits. At first, she would consistently forget who I was or why I was there. Now, she remembers me and expresses a desire for me to return again soon. Building a friendship with Catherine was one of the most rewarding parts of my experience in hospice.
Hospice has made me more reflective of my personal values and attentive to the needs of others. Hospice was a unique experience that allowed me to become involved in work that was more for the benefit of another individual, rather than myself. This shifted my perspective about my priorities. Coming from a competitive environment, mostly everything I do inside and outside of school is for self-betterment, however hospice was a place I could go where I could step outside my problems, and assume the more important role of helping someone with theirs. This reinforced my more collaborative, rather than competitive tendencies, and highlighted the importance of volunteer and altruistic work to me.
In the future, I hope to pursue a career path that has a similar altruistic premise because I have come to greatly value that quality during my time in hospice. It is my hope that by going into biomedical research my work will benefit terminally ill, such as those in the holisticare hospice program.
We talked a lot in reflection meetings about how death is not necessarily a bad thing, and may even bring solace in certain situations. However, I believe that the situations in which people die, due to disease and medical complications, can be avoided or improved upon with directed research-based approaches. I think our issues with accepting death in the United States needs to be addressed in the medical field, however I also believe a lot of headway has yet to be made in understanding medicine and how we can apply it to individuals in these situations. Because of my experiences with death and disease, both in hospice and in my own family, I intend to dedicate my career to that pursuit. Most worse-than-intended outcomes in which patients suffer unnecessarily in their last years or months are a result of inappropriate applications of our current understanding of medicine. Recognizing where our abilities are limited in this capacity is important in order to see where we need to improve and focus our research efforts. There were many strengths in this program, in particular providing volunteers with the guidance of a chaplain and a space to discuss the difficulties we were wrestling with.