Andrew White, Medical Student, Finalist
The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In terms of goals, mine are simple: millions saved. Impassioned by public health, I will fight for those forgotten. Vehemently, I will battle illnesses that plague those in poverty. I don’t strive for this feat out of pressure or pity. I do so, instead, in question of unfounded opportunity—especially my own.

The ink on my birth certificate was still wet, yet I was teetering on the edge of limbo. From home to hospital, my crib and stuffed-bear were swapped for incubators and spinal-taps; my newly born body passing through more gloved hands than miles in-between. Blue lips; sweltering fever; no cries; at just four days old I should have died.

Whether it was fate or luck— I’ll never know. But with state of the art care and a timely helicopter ride, I’ve been given the chance to ask: what would’ve happened had I been born somewhere else? This question fuels my future aspirations in medicine; it’s been my calling to give back in a way that embraces our gift of life. It’s been my calling to serve. After years working in hospitals and homeless clinics I soon realized how lucky I was to be born where terms like “flight-for-life” and ER were common vernacular.

For far too many of my neighbors, being born just a few rungs down the socioeconomic ladder meant being on the other side of an ever-growing barrier to necessary care. To pick between doctor visits and roof over your head, or to decide among eating and buying necessary meds, were choices I saw first-hand. They’re choices that motivate me to change this ruthless reality. I’ve held children in my arms no less deserving than myself, born with comparable difficulties, but victim to drastically different outcomes. In poverty-stricken situations, the aforementioned question is answered in an all too sobering manner: If I were born somewhere else—somewhere without quality health care—at just four days old, I would have died.

Regardless of the setting: without access, infirmities flourish. Disease takes on an entirely different meaning when it’s ingrained in everyday life. When nights are crammed with curable coughs, or diarrhea defines digestion, “good health” is as foreign as thinking there’s another way to live. But I argue there is. That a healthy, long-life is a universal ambition—that it’s an unequivocal right. Providing such to those who don’t even know it as an option, has since become my life-long goal. As medical school approaches, my “specialized” aim in healthcare has yet to be realized. However, what’s ahead will solely refine my devotion. By the time MD & MPH follow my name, I’ll have set the foundation for a career in public health. I endeavor purely to expand what my meager hands can offer to those neglected around the world.

Whether in Baltimore or Bolivia, I’ll spend the coming years applying the potential at my finger tips, looking out for those often over-looked. No matter where, I‘ll spend the coming years serving the needs of the under-served.