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I’ve wanted to be a physician for most of my life. In the beginning, the reason I always gave was that, “I liked helping people.” I was convinced that, with my skill-set and personality, medicine would accomplish my goal of one day helping as many people as I can.

Let me not mislead you, this is not a change of career prospects story. I will still become a primary care physician because I enjoy the type of work they do and I like the idea of the intimate and continuous relationships formed with the patients. This is more of an eye-opening experience and affirmation for me. I am a lot less naive about my capabilities and my ability to help.

This week, I did my first intake interview. I’ve been sitting in on a few every week, so I had a pretty good idea of how I would approach my first one. I saw some things I liked from previous intakes that I’d shadowed and other things I’d do differently. But when the time came, I was more excited than nervous to go through with it. To me, doing intakes was the closest I would get to doing something related to being a physician in this seemingly pre-law DukeEngage program.

The intake solidified some things for me and challenged me in ways I didn’t expect. For one, our client thought my partner (another DukeEngage student) and I looked too young and it showed in her tone toward us. We were spoken to quite condescendingly and called belittling names, disguised as compliments. This was a challenge for me to overlook because I expected to be treated with the same respect I was giving the client. I was naive in thinking this because I do look very young and in the perspective of the client, if the law firm sent two apparently young and inexperienced law clerks to solve a problem, she would be (justifiably) upset. The difference is that we were trained well and we helped the client with her issue.

Keeping my cool thankfully came easy. In the end our client didn’t end up seeing the attorney. After the intake we took the facts of the case back to the attorney and were instructed on what to tell the client to do I order to resolve the issue.

My ability to remain personable and kind in a difficult situation such as this one is something I anticipate will be helpful in my future. And as for my limited definition of how I can help others, I was able to expand it this week. To help others, I just need to meet them where they are and offer my service. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a hospital, or even a law firm but these experiences I’ve had up until now have, and will continue to help me approach engaging with different people that will come across my way.