At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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career options. He joined the cartel around age 15 and, in a gang fight, was shot in the spine and paralyzed. By the time I met him, Miguel had lost normal bowel function and one leg as complications of nearly ten years of paralysis.

As Dad cared for Miguel’s bedsores, the awareness washed over me that Miguel’s physical infirmity had, in a way, already been determined for him. Financial and social limitations pushed him into the cartel. The physical violence that this decision inflicted dragged him into an even more desperate state. My heart hurt for him and my hands longed to help, but they could not. They had no tools or experience to do so. I felt silly, useless in the face of his suffering.

A few minutes later, as I translated instructions for Miguel’s mother, I skimmed the worried creases on her forehead, absorbing the fatigue she experienced from supporting her family alone. But amidst her worry I also saw hope and tenacity as she perused her new arsenal of antiseptic supplies. She would keep fighting for her son, with or without the winds of social favor behind her. The courage that a single doctor’s visit brought her was a powerful lesson to me. Fighting for social change begins with caring for individuals.

Last year I received a brief email notifying me that Miguel had succumbed to the complications of his paralysis. I was grieved, but I wish I could say I was more surprised. From the Andes up to the Mexican border, I had fallen in love with Latin American people. But I had also seen that it is a region in desperate need of justice. Though a single person could never turn the political tides in such a complex place, I know that the undercurrents of change begin when a group of people applies proper training with passionate service. I want to be among them.

Even now, as studying and exams bear down on me, a humming in my soul weaves through the heaviness. It bubbles up through my memories, murmuring: “Remember! The doctor you want to become cares about pathology and sociology. Don’t forget! The physicians you admire care for their patients’ hearts as well as their bodies. Keep working! Keep searching! Keep thinking hard about what and why and for whom you are learning.” To this song a harmony often enjoins, intoned in the words of the apostle Paul: “I must become all things to all people  so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul believed, as do I, that deep satisfaction and joy lie on the far side of exertion for others’ sake. Though medicine is difficult and its hours demanding, it is this refrain – this great honor and challenge – that propels me forward.

It all began with bagels and orange juice. I was seven, and my dad had promised we would go to lunch as soon as he finished making rounds in the hospital. My stomach grumbled, though, so Dad plopped me in the doctors’ lounge, snacks in hand, and promised he would be back in an hour. As I waited, I overheard the other doctors in the next room, answering pages. They spoke in hushed voices laden with what I was sure were remarkable secrets. But then, I could only hear one side of the conversation.

I finally started hearing the other sides of those conversations when I began shadowing Dad. I remember the excitement when he told an elderly woman that her cancer was in remission. She leapt from her chair and hugged him with all the strength she could muster. I was also there when Dad told one of his dear friends that all his treatment options were exhausted – that all he had left was to pray and hold his family close. Peering over my father’s shoulder gave me insight into the number of roles a doctor must play. Instructor, encourager, counselor, and consoler – a doctor must be all of these, and a scientist as well. This dance of responsibilities captivated me.

Shadowing my father through college gave me perspective on the impact and sacrifices a physician makes on an individual basis. Studying the humanities during my undergraduate education exposed me to the broader reach physicians garner when they use their practices as platforms for change. As an International Studies major, I was struck by the work of Che Guevara, whose medical care for an Andean


leper colony galvanized him to incite revolution and change the landscape of Latin American politics. As a public health researcher, I received mentorship from medical doctors who had transitioned from clinical practice to preventing illness in populations they once treated. When interning on the Mexican-American border, I met a primary care physician who became mayor of his town so he could confront health disparities head-on. In each of these cases, physicians recognized that health is drastically influenced by factors outside of acute treatment. They were convicted that a proper view of health, and therefore care, should never neglect justice.

To me, justice is a spiritually charged word. As a granddaughter of missionaries, I learned early that caring about the needs and hearts of the underserved is more than a job. It is the deepest way to love others. This principle motivated me to seek out international mission experience, where my desires to serve God, pursue social justice, and practice medicine entwined into a clear passion for international medical service.

This passion crystallized one summer when my father and I visited Miguel, a 27-year-old from Naco, Mexico. Due to Naco’s stagnant economy, Miguel had limited


Kaylee Gouge is a first year medical student from Versailles, Kentucky, and is enrolled in the M.D./Masters of Public Health dual degree program at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. As an undergraduate, Kaylee studied Latin American Global Development –  an International Studies subprogram that inspired her to travel throughout Latin America, where she completed a health promotion mural project in a Mexican border community in 2016. Her experiences abroad have motivated her to pursue a career in medicine, which she hopes will enable her to more advocate for international health equity.