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Donald Allen: Going beyond comfort zones

April 29, 2015

Donald Allen is a senior from Lansing, Michigan, studying human biology in the College of Natural Science. He will officially become a member of the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine class of 2019 in June.

I grew up here in Lansing. The melody of the Michigan State fight song drifting through the autumn afternoon air was a part of growing up. Trips to the Breslin Center during basketball season were commonplace but always exciting.

Sports weren’t the only thing that was exciting. I have always had an affinity for science. In particular, the human body was always something that piqued my interest. During my senior year in high school I had human physiology and chemistry. I continued pursuing that interest when I enrolled in Lansing Community College.

The general chemistry class there was challenging but I could not get enough of it. I loved the problem solving aspect of it. I loved the feeling of being pushed. After that semester I was given the opportunity of becoming the supplemental instruction leader for general chemistry.

Helping others learn showed me the different methods instructors use to teach. It opened my eyes to the fact that nobody learns in exactly the same way. Most importantly, it forced me out of my comfort zone in a multitude of ways. I collaborated with people from all walks of life. Whether it was someone straight out of high school like myself, someone who had been in the workforce and wanted to learn something new or an international student, I learned to connect with people who I didn’t have much in common with. It taught me aspects of leadership.

The transition from LCC to Michigan State was itself a challenge of my comfort zone. As a human biology major, my classes were 10 times the size of what I was used to. I joined the Pre-professional Honor Society for Health Careers of Alpha Epsilon Delta for two reasons. The first being that I had an interest in the sciences and I wanted to learn more about the health professions. The second reason was to make this enormous campus feel a little bit smaller.

The club offered a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic. Yet again, I was taken out of my comfort zone, not only from a medical perspective but a cultural one as well. While there, I saw doctors in action with far fewer resources than we have here. Every day we traveled to a new village and set up clinics. The community service, along with witnessing doctors and nurses in action, led me to believe that medicine may be the path for me. I took it upon myself to learn more about it when I came back to MSU.

My second year at Michigan State I was accepted into the Osteopathic Medical Scholar Program. This program taught me a lot about what doctors do on a daily basis. It also exposed me to a medical school and solidified my belief that becoming a doctor is something I want to do. Aside from the always true but cliché ‘love of science’, I found myself captivated by medicine for a few other reasons.

The first reason is because medicine can be very unpredictable. Nobody has all the answers. For centuries, people have spent their entire lives to understand the human body and yet there are still a myriad of things we don’t understand. It’s called a ‘practice’ for a reason. Think of it this way; if we knew everything about the human body how would we act? If we knew that’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen about EVERYTHING we would get bored. We would lose interest. I love the variety in medicine; speaking of which leads me to my second reason.

Medicine and the human body can be predictable. Doctors rely on what they know to help people. Healthcare workers know where to find vital organs, what can cause diseases and the connections between bodily structures and their function.

Doctors build genuine connections with patients and other health care workers. People will trust us (future health care workers) with their lives. Trust is a uniting construct. Strangers can turn into family very quickly. Volunteering abroad in the Dominican Republic gave me a real taste of that. I found happiness in the service of others. Becoming a doctor would ensure that I get to do that for a profession. Consequently, I applied to the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine because of its emphasis on education and community service both locally and internationally.

This year, I studied community health care while in Mexico. I learned a lot about how medicine is influenced by culture. I also learned a great deal about medical conditions that are not common to the United States and how countries try to combat these illnesses. These are things that I look forward to learning more about while in medical school.