It’s amazing to me how some of us can be almost 40 years old and still feel as if we are still college-age. Maybe because it’s in college where we find our focus, plan our careers, and although we have not yet accomplished our future successes, are confident they will occur. And so 20 years after starting my first year at Drury, I reflect on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.
As I recount the times in my life where specific twists and turns would have led me to very different paths, the decisions I made while at Drury stand out as the most important and sit at the fulcrum of where I am today. I knew I wanted to become a physician when I started college. It was a spiritual moment when I made that decision and there was no doubt in my mind that it was my destiny. It was at Drury through the Global Perspectives program that I became interested in seeing more of the world and endeavoring to make a larger mark on the Earth. I made every decision after my first semester experience bearing this in mind.
It was also at Drury that I decided to join the Air Force. I wanted to see the world, meet new people and not have to worry about the cost of attending medical school. One of the major events in my life was when I applied for the military’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. I had scored just high enough on the MCAT to be considered for a scholarship. The summer after graduation I was accepted into the program and was commissioned as an Air Force Officer. I’m sure most of my acquaintances and professors at Drury could never envision me in BDUs or combat boots, but here I was running laps, army-crawling under barbed wire, getting covered with bruises and waking up every morning with soreness in muscles I didn’t know I had. Such was life at the officer training camp that I attended after my first year of medical school.
My career began to take shape after a pediatric residency in Kansas City and then four years of active duty in the Air Force. I had no idea how hard it would be to have a young family with another military spouse. We all have had or will have a time in our lives where we are taxed physically, emotionally or spiritually to our breaking point. For me, it was my fourth and final year of active duty. I felt I had to either “game up or get out of the game.” It was always the patients I worked with who spurred me on to finish my commitment to my country.
It was by grace that I joined the Air Force and found out later that this was the branch that was the most conducive to family life, especially for women soldiers. However, hospital administration, physician colleagues, family, children and soldiers going to war all took their toll on me that year. I was afraid of being deployed or being the weak link on the field—all very selfish feelings when I discovered that it was not only the deployed soldier who had a difficult task, but also the spouse at home juggling work and family, for months at a time, several times during a four-year period. It was a great honor that I was decorated with the Meritorious Service Medal for my commitment to the Air Force, but this pales in comparison to the servicemen and women and their families who pay the ultimate price.
The Air Force afforded me many opportunities, including my next step into fellowship in allergy/immunology. Drury built the foundation, medical school built the structure, the Air Force honed my skills and fellowship was the capstone to prepare me for my ultimate goal and current (and, I hope, final) career as an allergist/immunologist.
I learned early in life to do what you love. Do what you feel your purpose in life is, and everything else will fall into place. I am able to raise a family, be available for my children and husband, and have a busy and highly intellectually satisfying medical practice. My partners at Ferrell-Duncan Clinic in Springfield are all highly motivated and successful. We come from many countries, backgrounds, and undergraduate degrees and experiences. I am very proud of the steps I took that brought me to this place, especially the mentors and professors who encouraged me at Drury—the extremely close family that is the science department. I believe these individuals are second to none in terms of their academic knowledge and true desire to see all of their students succeed in their future endeavors.
I am excited to see what the future holds for myself, Springfield and Drury. I am now applying to be an assistant clerkship director for the Springfield Clinical Campus of the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Medicine. I hope that bringing a clinical campus here will begin a domino effect that will attract the best and brightest students to the Springfield area and to Drury for their pre-medical studies, and also for those who already live here who value the opportunities Springfield holds for their future.