The Ability to Make a Difference

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I just returned from the 14th United Nations Association Film Festival held at the Stanford medical school campus and I feel so incredibly inspired and fortunate to have the opportunity to go into medicine.

RestoringtheLight First I watched an hour-long documentary by Carol Liu, a Stanford alum, called “Restoring the Light”. This documentary expertly weaves the stories of three families dealing with access to eyecare in rural villages in China. The film tells the stories of a young girl battling a bone disease to go to university to secure a future for her family, her grandmother who labors in the fields despite conjunctivitis and cataracts, a little boy filled with life who needs a corneal transplant because doctors gave him the wrong medication when he was one year old, and finally, the physician who has sacrifices to run an eye clinic for these patients who otherwise would not receive care.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/29801311%5D

Watching the film, I felt so touched and humbled by the patients’ undying spirits. Their lives are tough, and, as the grandmother puts it, the families can only keep going on day by day because this is their fate. The little boy with bilateral cataracts made me so emotional because he kept talking about how much he wants to go to school and have the chance to learn. His dream is to become a truck driver so he can make money for his family. Not once during the film did he lose his smile and playful attitude. Not once did he complain.

The physician sacrificed his family’s comforts and repeatedly sold his home to raise money for his mobile eye clinic. His wife is supportive but feels bad for their daughter who has to change schools every time Daddy wants to take on a new project. In the end, we learn that he finally closed his clinic and took on a job at a military hospital.

I feel inspired because physicians not only touch the lives of patients through direct care, but they also can lead change on a greater scale through working with the government to implement policy change or establishing an NGO to better access to care in rural areas. The documentary brought back memories of my service trip to Tamale where I visited rural villages to check eyesight and refer patients for surgery at the city clinic. Eye disease is easily preventable, and unlike many diseases out there, blindness can be cured. We just need to take the steps to provide the treatment.

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