Hard Work and Dedication Lead to Family Medicine

This essay was written for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine's Integrated Medical School and Family Medicine Residency Program (TIP), a transitional fourth year medical school experience that continues into residency.


by Lara Baatenburg

Since I first heard about the TIP program from a previous 3rd year medical student, I knew I would be the applying for it because I know that a career in family medicine in Grand Rapids is the perfect fit for me.  A few years before I entered medical school, I wouldn’t have been so confident about this fit, but the direction my life took confirmed to me my desire for family medicine and serving Grand Rapids.  After college, instead of getting ready for medical school as expected, I was packing up my bags and moving east to Detroit.  During college, I watched the Secchia Center on medical mile go up and I dreamed of being in the first class that would go through four years of medical school in this new building; timing would be perfect.  However, my perfect plans changed when I was not accepted into medical school following college.  Unsure of where to go next, I ended up starting a Masters program at Wayne State University.  Though I gained knowledge that helped me in medical school, I more importantly learned a lot about myself and the things I am passionate about.  I discovered that I was drawn back to Grand Rapids and family medicine with an even deeper and stronger desire than before. 

While one quote says “out of site, out of mind,” another says “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  This latter quote illustrates the way I felt in Detroit.  While I learned to appreciate the city and its people, I couldn’t help but want to get back to Grand Rapids, the city that had helped raise and form me as I grew up; I discovered that the city of Grand Rapids had given me so much and my desire was to live in and give back to this community.  Through service and hard work, I would be helping those with whom I celebrated with, volunteered for, and made relationships with.  As I was discovering this passion, I was also discovering a lot about my work ethic, dedication, and perseverance.  I learned that when things don’t go my way, I don’t give up.  I strive even harder to reach my goal.  There was nothing easy about my getting into medical school, but I am confident that the work that I put in made medical school more special for me.  It always surprises me how often classmates complain about the struggles of medical school.  As medical students, we should feel honored to be in the position we are in.  My dedication and hard work to make it in to medical school changed my perspective on my life.  I feel like I have been given the greatest opportunity in the world to serve others through medicine and I have never regretted my decision.

As I was discovering my passion to return to Grand Rapids and learning about my ability to work hard to overcome obstacles, I was learning something else of importance.  I was learning to cook.  This may seem like a strange place to bring up cooking but during my two years in Detroit, I discovered my passion for cooking and specifically healthy cooking.  It seems like the more I learn about the biology of the human body and medicine, the more I realize how important healthy living and nutrition are.  My Grandpa, a retired family medicine physician from rural Iowa, taught me that family medicine is preventative medicine at its finest.  Family medicine physicians are able to be the first line contact for patients and have a great opportunity to educate patients about healthy choices. Providing this education will help them live healthier and happier lives in the long run.  I want to form long-term relationships with patients and be able to help them be healthy in all aspects of their lives and I believe that family medicine is the best way for me to do that.      

During medical school, I was able to continue expanding my passions for healthy living, family medicine, and serving Grand Rapids.  One way was as the president of the Healthy Eats interest group.  This group worked with Spectrum Health Healthier Communities and The Kent County Medical Foundation to provide healthy cooking demonstrations for different groups in Grand Rapids.  I believe that medical students do not get enough training in nutrition during school.  To address this discrepancy, I created and organized a nutrition elective curriculum for first and second year students.  I was also able to be a co-leader in the Family Medicine Interest Group at MSU CHM where I helped organize meetings and activities for students interested in this field.  Being involved in these different groups enabled me to use all of my passion in different ways and showed me that I have the skills and talent to be a leader.  I have always been a quieter person.  I realized that despite not obviously trying to be the center of attention, I have the ability to make people look up to me for advice and direction.  This enables me to be a powerful, yet sometimes unassuming leader.  Though I can demand less attention than other leaders, I never sit by idly when something is important and needs to be addressed; I can certainly make my voice heard when it needs to be. 

Though my life has not gone as I originally planned it, I know that I am a stronger, better person for it.   My decision about wanting a residency in the field of family medicine in Grand Rapids is unequivocal.  There is no doubt in my mind that I want to serve the people of Grand Rapids in my future medical practice and that I have a passion for family medicine.  Being able to stay close to my family who I love and still in the city I want to serve would be an extra blessing.  During my family medicine rotation in my third year I had only positive experiences with the residents and the program.  I felt that I fit in and had great relationships with residents and attendings and would love to continue to work with them all.  I know that the TIP program will put me in the best place to have these dreams fulfilled and I know I am a fantastic candidate for this program.  The TIP scholarship will enable me to start off as a better resident.  I know that it would empower me to give back to the community that I love as an excellent physician and a strong leader who truly cares about the health  of the people of Grand Rapids.