This past year as a Chapel PathWays Fellow has been wonderful in many ways. I was challenged to grow both spiritually in my faith journey and in my vocational discernment. As the year went on, they seemed to become more and more intertwined. The more I felt at ease of the uncertainty of my future and that God has a plan for my life that really is the best for me, the more His presence seemed to loom larger.
Our PathWays community helped me in the spiritual discipline that I have always struggled with: prayer. Every weekday morning we communed for about twenty minutes to pray. These morning prayers varied and broadened my views of what constituted prayer and where it could take place. Before, I thought prayer was something done at set instances before meals and during devotions. But through the year I began to see prayer as something fluid that could be done at anytime during the day and in different forms such as writing, singing, meditating, and through reading the Bible. Where it most made an impact was thinking of prayer as a powerful interceding tool for the injustices in our world. This past year with the racial/religious/ethnic issues at Ferguson to Baltimore to here at the Chapel steps, there were many obvious close-to-home incidents to put that in practice and come to this realization.
In addition, living in Christian community helped me grow spiritually because it made me aware of my “brokenness” and need for Christ along with giving me a greater appreciation of deep relationships based on doing life together. Living in the house, my bad tendencies were easily seen and called out. However, I did not feel looked down upon or judged. Rather I felt love and support in naming these tendencies and figuring out how to overcome them. I also was pushed by my housemates to take the time to reflect on Duke, and through that process I learned what to focus on in growing closer to God. I learned to practice listening to God through my own personal spiritual life and also through advice from other Christians and the importance of being open and attentive to different sources of God’s voice, thus setting up a good foundation for the near future, when I will be busier than I have been in awhile.
What I have learned this year—especially pertaining to my vocational discernment and fairly recent career switch from engineering to medicine—is that I can be uncertain of the next step but be certain of God. Not knowing what tomorrow may bring and wherever I will go, but trusting in Him and clinging in faith that I will be molded in the way that I most need to be “successful” in his goals for me. I feel as if I have become less controlling and consumed with planning—something that I definitely did a lot during the college years—and better at “abandoning myself to God” to some extent, focusing on the current task at hand, and just being. Through this process, I have been able to experience more the spontaneous joy of unexpected surprises in relationships and vocation direction that are better than anything I could have ever thought. I have also developed an attitude of expectancy and great reliance in God and wondering with excitement what he is going to do next. I currently am searching for a job for my second gap year before medial school, and the peace I have is so much more than what I had when I was searching for summer internships during college.
While this peace and reliance in God has been more apparent in my life, simultaneously the vocational discernment process has become steadily more peaceful and more focused. My spiritual growth has helped me when meditating about my discernment process and thinking through the noise of life. Now I have cemented my desire to serve people in medicine and no longer have doubts about my career change. Through the few times I was able to talk to patients at Lincoln Community Health Center, my PathWays internship placement site, I was filled with a wonder and a feeling of fulfillment. I felt like I was actually doing something meaningful by connecting, understanding, and truly listening to people when they discussed their health problems. It was a powerful yet extremely humbling experience because I was filled with a sense of awe that this could be the way I serve people in a couple years, and that they trusted me enough to talk to me. While at Lincoln, I also became aware of the policies and social determinants that affect how providers can deliver healthcare to patients, most of whom at Lincoln are in the lower socioeconomic bracket. This piqued my interested in healthcare policy and health economics, research areas that affect the funding for physicians’ care and which delve into the outcomes of health services physicians’ provide and the effectiveness of different communication methods. I believe I am attracted to these health topics because of the mathematical analysis and evidence-based best solutions part of it that I enjoyed from my engineering background. For example, these topics cover figuring out which treatments and drugs are actually better, what surgical procedures are more cost-effective (thus requiring less readmission), and which doctors are better based on their patient population and difficulty of the procedures performed. When I realized that my interest was heading down this path, I was filled with a delighted joy of understanding that God may have a better purpose than I thought for having me go through Pratt.
Plus, from my vocation discernment, it was great to see how my internship work there has benefited the community in a really indirect way. Lincoln treats patients whether they are insured or uninsured. Contrary to popular belief, services are not free, and there is a sliding fee scale. The providers at Lincoln are tasked to care for patients who are dealing with many issues like substance abuse, homelessness, living in poverty, or a combination of the aforementioned. It is already hard to have regular well-off people follow instructions to improve their health and now Lincoln providers are caring for patients who are dealing with so many other issues that could drag them down. Thus Lincoln providers are fighting an uphill battle in patient care and often do not have time to focus their energies on simple projects that could help improve the overall effectiveness of the services at Lincoln. During my time there, I was able to help out on projects where there had been a need but no personnel. Because of our twenty-five hour a week time constraint and the red tape that comes with being in a medical environment, the direct impact I could make was minimal. However, these projects were greatly appreciated by the providers and staff at Lincoln and do indirectly help the patients through improving the services at Lincoln and allowing the physicians to focus on taking care of the patients.
Overall, the Duke Chapel PathWays Fellowship program has pushed me to grow in important ways and given me the opportunity and resources to gain experiences that I could not find elsewhere. Thought it is just one year, the lessons I take will definitely be with me as I move closer to becoming a physicians, but more importantly, also as a Christian who lives out her faith.
By Debbi Chi, Chapel PathWays Fellow