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Monthly Archives: December 2014

Christmas sneaked up on me this year. There is no snow in Wisconsin to remind you that we’re in the deep of winter. The lights wrapped around houses and trees lost some of their brilliance against snowy backdrops. And I’ve just been wrapped in a whirlwind at work. I haven’t had a chance to pause and reflect on the Christmas holiday.

O Holy Night is my favorite Christmas carol (and I especially love how Scott Cash performs it). At Christmas Eve church service, I learned about the history of this old poem. Written by a French winemaker, put to song by a Jewish composer, later condemned by the French Catholic church, and introduced to America in her abolitionist era, the song’s melody, lyrics, and history empower the haunting glimpse of what Christmas meant and means.

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A religious minority group living in the vast empire of Rome awaited a savior, someone to rescue them and to fill their lives with hope. Their ancestors were displaced refugees and slaves, and they hadn’t tasted the sweet wine of hope since their exile from home. Each day they carried this story on their shoulders–until the night they received word that a king was to be born unto them. Within the confines of a dirty stable in a dismissible town, Christ’s birth was both a promise fulfilled and a bastion of hope for this people.

It’s hard for me to understand the need for a savior, one man or woman that would carry all my hopes. I imagine it is hard for most of us to understand that feeling too. Do I really need someone to save me? Am I really without any hope?

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The Milwaukee Bucks have been mired in a flux of mediocrity for over a decade. In early 2000, they had some glory days with the likes of a young Ray Allen and a promising Australian center in Andrew Bogut. But rocks fell and winds passed, and the Bucks never gathered a legitimate contender’s moxie… until Jabari Parker (and arguably Giannis Antetokounmpo) was drafted in 2014.

Jabari Parker is a great example of a savior in our world today–not only because was being sent to a needy franchise that risked being moved to a new city, but also because the hope that he provided can be quantified by the devastation that swept over the NBA and the Milwaukee Bucks following his knee injury. Jabari was, for the Bucks, a bastion of hope, and the symbol of a promise of return to the early 2000s.

In a similar way, this is what Christmas means to me. It is a time set aside for me to recall why I am filled with hope, to consider how Christ is my “Jabari Parker”. It is a time, as O Holy Night lays out, for me to consider what that night in Bethlehem must have been like for two new parents and a whole community. Christmas is when a promise was fulfilled and when a banner of hope was raised to its apex. I am thankful to have an entire season to celebrate all of this, and a holiday to remind me of what it means.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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There I was sitting in Anatomy and Physiology I in the north side of Milwaukee with Top ADC NA Eric Yang. I look down at my phone and a notification pulses on my screen: “Missed call [unrecognized number]. New (1) voicemail.” Earlier that morning I almost had to skip class to cover a shift at the ER, and so I figure this call was someone calling to let me know they couldn’t work. “Whatever. I’ll listen to it after class.”

Two minutes pass and I decide to check the phone number’s area code: 344. “Alabama? That can’t be right.” Top ADC NA Eric Yang sees and tells me to search the entire phone number. Time stops.

Gimme a second.

I’ve thought so hard about this–about what I wanted to say, about whether I should even say anything. But I think I would be remiss to be silent because this isn’t about me at all. This goes back to before Sussex Family Practice and the ER; to before I moved into 1530 West Wisconsin Avenue at Marquette; to before the Spartans off of North Lily Road; to before the Homie G’s and sleepovers every weekend; to before Fairview Elementary sent me off to Brookfield; to before the second month of 1990. This goes way back.

Class ends and I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that we need to go find somewhere relatively quiet so I can return this phone call. He takes me outside for some reason. It’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and this kid takes me outside. I dial the number that the voicemail told me to call, but I misdial because I’m so nervous and it’s the beginning of December in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I tell Top ADC NA Eric Yang that I need a piece of paper and he produces a small notepad for me to jot the phone number down onto. I tap the screen on my phone 10 times. The phone starts to ring. Time stops again.

It’s surreal. It’s your dreams becoming reality. The overwhelming sensation I had was, “Is this really happening to me? Do I really deserve this?” There are thousands of applicants to medical schools every year–thousands even just for this one school–and I was chosen out of that group?

The man on the other line of the phone introduces himself as the Associate Dean of Student Services at the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine, the school I had interviewed at 1.5 weeks earlier, and, after some small talk, eventually addresses the very happy elephant in the room: “Nathan, the reason I’m calling you today is because the admission committee has recommended you for acceptance to the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine.”

Gimme a second.

I’m honored, humbled, and so grateful for this opportunity, but I would not be here today if it weren’t for all of the amazing people in my life. The list is endless and I have vaults of love for you all. In particular, I’d like to recognize and esteem my 4th grade teachers, Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore, and my incredibly supportive family. Ms. Kindness and Ms. LeFlore poured so much of their efforts into my development and education as a young man in the Milwaukee Public School system. Their efforts exemplify the type of investment I want to make into the patients and community I serve as a physician. I can’t remember exactly what they taught me in terms of lesson plans, but what I do remember is their character and love. For my family, there is not enough that can be said. With two incredible sets of parents, growing up with the best (and “favorite”) sister in the entire world, gaining two more wonderful siblings when I was in high school and college, and having all of these opportunities before me–I know that I am blessed. I know that my life could have easily been someone else’s. None of this didn’t have to happen to me.

That’s why I share Lecrae’s track, “Gimme A Second“. There is one line in his second verse that goes: “And I’m so blessed, look at what he did to me! How could I keep this to myself? Somebody bled for me!” Those lines are why I want to share with you all news of my acceptance into ACOM.

This opportunity to train to become a physician is not to puff myself up. That’s the last thing I hope it does to me. Instead, it is to reflect and rejoice in what God has brought me to. I have this unique chance to enter a storied and prestigious profession. I will be offered a glimpse into some of the most vulnerable and hurting parts of our lives. I will be taught the delicate intricacies of our bodies and the maintenance of our systems. At my disposal I will have the inventory to fend off death and disease as best as we know how. These are all awesome things, and I did not earn this on my own. I worked hard in college, studied twice for the MCAT, and learned as much as I could about medicine–but the only reason I am here is because of God’s grace.

Christ bled on the cross atop of Golgotha so that I might live to love and find joy in him. By God’s grace I am given this opportunity to enter medical school, and, joyfully, it is my mission to serve in the same way that Christ served all of humankind: by considering the interests of others before my own, and by being obedient even to the point of death. In the same vein is one of the more impressionable quotes from medicine’s history attributed to Paracelsus, a physician during the European Renaissance: “This is my vow: To love the sick, each and all of them, more than if my own body were at stake.

I am very excited and so very grateful.