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My Pet Rooster

A rooster, while a bit unusual, is one of the most endearing gifts I have ever received. Uganda was full of surprises: acres of untouched grassland to explore, opportunities for exciting research, and the privilege to learn about a new culture. Never did I imagine I would walk out of the hospital with my first pet rooster.

I had come to Uganda to study the impact of short-term international surgical teams at Lacor Hospital for my global health master’s capstone project. In between my designated work, I decided to shadow Ugandan physicians to expand my clinical exposure. I followed them through the medical wards, aiding in taking patients’ vitals, changing bandages, and escorting patients to get their lab exams. Here I met A.O., a 35-year old farmer with severe kidney disease who was stuck in bed 42 for a month. The necessary drugs to treat his condition were out of stock, and limited staff meant interns with little experience were managing his care.

After 36 days, his condition improved and he was discharged. A few days later, A.O. returned to the hospital with two roosters in hand as a thank you for saving his life, one of which he gave to me. Though I felt that I did not have any meaningful contribution to his recovery, he would not accept my refusals; so I came home that day with Tucker, a beautiful plump rooster and an annoying alarm clock. My first pet rooster was a visual representation of the impact a physician can have on someone’s life as well as a reminder of the sobering reality that it was only chance that separated me from A.O. Access to quality health care was something I did not deserve any more than he did. Tucker was one of many inspirations along my premedical path to pursue a medical education.

My experiences domestically and abroad have played a pivotal role in my motivation to obtain a medical degree. From conducting research in a resource-limited hospital in Gulu, Uganda to working in adolescent sexual/reproductive health policy and implementation in San Francisco, California, I have had the privilege of engaging with the medical field in a variety of different contexts. Having worked in diverse settings not only reinforced my aspirations to become a physician, but it made it important for me to attend a medical school that combined academic rigor with a unique breadth of opportunities to intertwine the realms of medicine and social service; a medical school that would equip me with the tools and vision necessary to marry my passions for global health and medicine, and to become part of a team of impactful health professionals at the local and international level.

As I started the long arduous medical application cycle, I remember being instantaneously drawn to the University of Michigan and their mission statement. They were different. In choosing a medical school, I was looking for more than just learning about the pathophysiology of chronic pancreatitis, the Krebs cycle for the umpteenth time, the anatomy of the left lung, etc. I knew I was going to get the same medical education no matter where I went, but it was Michigan’s investment in their students’ other passions, empowering their students to be the voice of change in health care, believing in their students to make impactful differences in their community, and promoting academic excellence alongside compassionate and inspiring leadership that made Michigan different. At Michigan I knew I would become more than just a knowledgeable physician. I would also have infinite opportunities to grow as a leader and know that I would have the support and encouragement of an entire team to become the well-rounded, cultured, and socially proactive individual I have always imagined myself to be.

I can’t capture in words alone my excitement to see how my medical school journey unfolds in the next four years, but I know that I am incredibly grateful to have the privilege of pursuing my dream for medicine and global health at Michigan—a dream that all started with a rooster from bed 42.

Yalda Toofan is a first-year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School interested in OB/GYN and global health. When she is not resisting the urge to spend her study breaks playing in the snow (it's her first winter), she can be found salsa dancing around the Ann Arbor area.