When parents watch their first child head off to their first job - out of state - understandably there will be hugs, tears, and teachable moments. The night before I left home and traveled 477 miles away to start a job in Atlanta was Christmas. As my girlfriend, Emma, and I were saying goodbye to each other - there were definitely tears. And it was during this emotional moment that my Dad came over and wrapped both of us up in a hug and said, “it’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be okay.” Just another of life’s hard moments, made a little better with the sharing of a little parental wisdom.

When my parents said goodbye to me in Atlanta, I saw my Dad cry for the first time in a long, long time. I think it must always be hard to see a parent cry, but in my case, I knew that behind those tears was tremendous sense of pride in knowing that everything I’ve learned and experienced during my life’s journey had led me to this moment. My parents have always encouraged my penchant for curiosity and learning, and in that spirit, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned so far.

I’ve been in and out of hospitals most of my life and because of this I’ve always wanted to become a doctor. There have been some other career ideas along the way, but my mind and my heart have always returned to this career path. For so long it felt like reaching this point in my life was far out on the horizon, but this past year medical school finally came into view – front and center!

I studied for and took the MCAT, filled out medical school applications, and collected recommendations. But in the end, my MCAT score was not what I wanted it to be. I had to make the tough decision not to apply to medical school that cycle. It’s hard to express my feelings about this moment. When you tell people you’re going to be a doctor, they express such joy and pride! And when you explain that you’re deferring applications until you can take the MCAT again, it seems like there’s suddenly a lot of silence and awkwardness. But, I often remind myself, this isn’t failure. This is just a new opportunity. One door closed (slightly), and a window opened. So, instead of walking through the door I’d planned to go through, I decided to jump through the open window.

I graduated from University of Cincinnati with a degree in Biological Sciences this past Fall and I knew I needed to keep moving forward. So, I tapped into something that has been a big part of my life - ImproveCareNow (ICN). I’ve met many people through ICN and as they say, “it’s all about who you know.” I reached out to my contacts and found an opportunity as an ICN data coordinator in Atlanta, Georgia. I feel fortunate for this network of caring, supportive and familiar people, which helped me connect with a great opportunity right away. Now, as I prepare to take the MCAT again, I am able to gain valuable experience, working with an awesome team and continuing to support ICN!

One of the cool things about my new position is getting to see another side of ImproveCareNow. I’ve been involved with ICN since the very beginning of the Patient Advisory Council (PAC) – so about seven years. I’ve watched and been a part of the evolution of the PAC and ICN, but have spent the majority of my time raising awareness and working with patients and families in Cincinnati. My new position offers new insight into the data side of ICN, specifically the power of patient data held in the registry. It has also allowed me to take the programs I started in Cincinnati and translate them into new programs for the center I now call home.

With everything going so well on the job-front, I’d be lying if I said adjusting to a new place hasn’t been hard. I was only a couple weeks in and I was really having a hard time, and I found myself already thinking about what was next: grad school at University of Michigan, medical school, oh the possibilities. Then my younger sister Megan came to visit me, and she had so many stories about the co-op she’s doing at Goodyear. The experience was surreal because I am so used to being there and living those stories with her. I remember feeling really homesick; it’s hard living away from family. Per usual, my parents come through in hard times and dropped more of their wisdom mixtape.

They reminded me, “Alex, you’ve only been there for a few weeks, slow down and take in the current experience. You have time.” It was just what I needed to hear. When I slowed down, I noticed the great people I work with now in Atlanta. I see the opportunity I have to improve care for the patients here in Atlanta, and the doors to knowledge and experience this job will open for me. I also see all the things I can do to keep myself busy in such a big city.

What I feel like it boils down to, is the adult world is hard and being a kid is nice and easy. But I’m learning and I’m taking all that my parents have taught me and adjusting to this awesome, life-changing opportunity and experience. I’ve learned that big decisions can be hard to make, but they ultimately have a big impact on your life.

I want to encourage you to keep an eye out for these decisions as they come your way. Make your choice. Then slow down, be curious, learn and take in your current experience. You have time. 


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