Yer Yang, MS4, is a current TIP student at the Sparrow/MSU Family Medicine Residency Program.
by Yer Yang
My journey to today has not been a smooth sail, but sitting here in the calm, reflecting on all the events that have taken place in my life to get me to where I am today, there’s no other place I would imagine my sail taking me. My dream of becoming a family physician was planted at a young age as I watched my father, who knew no English, and little to nothing about western medicine, gradually incorporate lifestyle changes to his daily routine with his new diagnosis of diabetes, “mob ntshav qab zib” which translates to sweet blood. I can still see the determination in my father’s eyes to cure his sweet blood and I rooted for him not realizing that there was more to his health than what we could understand or comprehend at that time. Despite these modifications, my father succumbed to his medical conditions and passed away from a stroke a month after my 13th birthday. However, I am grateful for the physician who diagnosed my father, who encouraged him to make changes in his life, who started him on medications, who tried to take preventative measures to ensure my father lived a longer and healthier life possible. As I reflect today, this dream of mine was greatly influenced by the person whom I love the most. I want to become the family medicine physician who is a face of resemblance and comfort, who takes her time to know her patients and has the patience to understand them through cultural, medical and most importantly, human lenses.
My father’s story is the backbone of my journey and a constant reminder of why I am pursuing this goal of mine. He embodies the population I want to serve as a family physician and how I want to treat my patients. As one of the few Hmong American medical students, who has seen little representation throughout my medical career, I hope to be the balancing link between my community and western medicine. On my family medicine clerkship at the Sparrow/MSU Family Residency, I encountered my first Hmong patient as a medical student. During this patient interaction I was able to speak with the patient in our native tongue and gain a better understanding of what they understood about their diagnosis of mob ntshav qab zib. It was as if my father was sitting before me. I answered their questions about their medical condition to the best of my abilities and as a team with the resident physician, we were able to navigate an appropriate management plan and medications for them. Not only was this experience a refreshing eyeopener, it was a powerful reminder of the impact that I can make on my community. If I could use the knowledge that I’ve gathered from my life experiences, my background, and my academic achievements to make a positive influence in a person’s health and wellbeing, family medicine is where I want to take my sail.
I have had multiple opportunities to work alongside the staff of the Sparrow/MSU Residency Program from the very beginning of medical school. I spent ECE at the Mason Clinic which was coincidentally a shy block away from the building that held the last few days of my father’s presence on this earth, and MCE/LCE at the Sparrow Main for both in-patient and out-patient services. I spent every day saying good morning to my father as I walked into the Mason clinic. His presence guided me throughout all my patient encounters and continues to. In the midst of balancing time constraints and everything in between, we must not forget that we are caring for someone’s most beloved. The development of a relationship built on trust, communication, shared-decision making, goal orientation and professionalism are valuable qualities I witnessed within the community of this residency. I believe that The Integrated Medical School and Family Medicine Residency Program (TIP) will continue to nurture, cultivate, and define the passion and skills in me at an earlier stage in training to be able to provide such services to the diverse communities within Lansing and beyond.
As the sun starts to close in on the horizon, my sail is still drifting towards the warmth within me. Family medicine has always been a dream of mine that felt out of reach. Whether it was overcoming the hardships of academia or struggling with internal strings, embracing the “uncomfortable” or recharging my focus, the sun has never shined brighter. I bring with me every encounter, conversation and lesson of those who I have been blessed to cross paths with both inside and outside the hospital. I stand here today as an embodiment of adversity, compassion, and resilience. MSU-CHM gave me the chance to follow my dreams and the abundance of interactions with physicians and patients has contributed immensely to my growth as an individual and medical student. The TIP program would be a great stepping stone towards my passion in family medicine and give me the opportunity to strengthen my learning abilities and clinical skills as an aspiring family medicine physician.