My name is Patrick O’Brien and I have been volunteering at the Children’s Healing Center for the past four months.

I completed my undergraduate degree in 2019, checking all the boxes for a strong medical school application: good grades, published research experience, and stellar recommendations. However, as application season loomed, I realized that I had only answered the question of how to get into medical school with my accolades, and never bothered to answer why I was pursuing medical school. Namely, I struggled to answer the question, “Why are you passionate about medicine?” Without a strong answer, I knew that I was not prepared to submit applications. I was proud of my college accomplishments, but I knew that I needed a spark to passionately pursue a career in medicine.

I knew that I needed a spark to passionately pursue a career in medicine.

I learned about the Children’s Healing Center in 2019 when my girlfriend began volunteering and interning. She raved about the center: the community, the programs, the facility, and (most importantly) the kiddos. She called me every single week after her program, gushing about the kiddos and the joy of serving with them. I was happy for her, but I did not realize how impactful these same kids would be in my life.

The COVID pandemic changed my lifestyle dramatically. Overnight, I transitioned from spending all of my time out and about in large groups to spending every single day alone in my tiny studio apartment. I was diagnosed with asthma at a young age, and I knew that my lungs would struggle to combat the deadly virus. I was fortunate enough to continue working from home, but that did not alleviate the depressive monotony of spending every day alone. After several months of lockdown with scarce trips out, my girlfriend Gabriele suggested that I reach out to the Children’s Healing Center. What better way to employ my extreme precautions and isolation than to volunteer with kiddos and families who need volunteers to take their conditions seriously?

The smiles and laughs we share motivate and inspire me and my work

Volunteering at the Center sparked my passion to serve vulnerable members of my community as a medical professional. What I thought would be a fun, fulfilling way to spend some evenings quickly transitioned to a formative adventure in good, clean, fun service. I learned that my motivation for pursuing medicine is not the chemistry and biology, or the medications and tests. No, my passion is helping, supporting, and serving people who need it, like the friends and families I have been privileged to join at the Center. The smiles and laughs we share motivate and inspire me and my work. When I apply to medical school next year, I know that my Children’s Healing Center experience will underscore my commitment to service.

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