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My Sister, Ella

Story: Chapter 4

Part 4 of my speech given at residency graduation. Formatting and phrasing reflect oral presentation.

Why Pediatric Otolaryngology?

Kids are amazing. They think outside the box and ask questions no one else would ask. They’re either practically invulnerable or entirely medically fascinating. Pediatric Otolaryngology allows me to do subspecialized surgery without giving up any major aspects of ENT.

But there’s more to it than that. My choice also stems from knowing Ella.

Internationally adopted, Ella joined my family at the age of 5. She was a larger than life kid. She cooked food so spicy, it would sear your taste buds and send you running for water, while she wolfed it down happily.

Fiercely competitive, Ella intended to be the first WNBA player under 5’4”. Or a chef, if she had to have a backup career. We teased her that she would have to call her restaurant “Ella’s Mouth Afire Cuisine.”

Ella’s presence in my life broadened my horizons. Although I had always wanted to do overseas medical teaching trips, she gave me a particular interest in her home country. Because of her, I did an international elective during medical school and learned more about providing care with limited resources.

Midway through my residency, Ella passed away unexpectedly in a car accident at the age of 13. As I sat in some narrow elbow-to-elbow seat flying home, I thought about life, where mine was headed, how absurd and unfair it was for her vibrant one to end. I remembered the young boy who helped start me on this path. He and Ella bracketed two crucial decisions in my career: choosing medicine and choosing pediatric otolaryngology.

Ella was both an adoptee and a first-generation immigrant. At the county and tertiary pediatric hospitals where I spent 2 years of my residency, I had the privilege of caring for kids and teens with stories like hers. Some of them struggled with language barriers, mental health, cross-cultural communication, or chronic illness.

Losing Ella cemented my desire to help take care of kids for the rest of my career.

N.B. Ella is a nickname.

About the Author

Single With Scalpel is a Pediatric Otolaryngology fellow who tweets about life, humor, and medical education. She blogs here when 140 characters simply aren’t enough.

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