My Grandmother, A Superwoman

What individuals have shaped your life and influenced you to pursue medicine?

My love affair with medicine started when I was seventeen. It was a time of personal discovery, and of great sorrow as well. While other teens my age were enjoying their junior and senior proms or falling hopelessly in love, I was with my grandmama, who fought illness every single day for almost ten years until she finally died, just a year shy of 70.

Let me tell you a bit about my grandmother. She was born in a little village in Penang, Malaysia two years before the Second World War broke out. When the hostilities began and Penang came under the Japanese regime, her family was uprooted to plantations deep in Malaysia, where she grew up into a beautiful and intelligent young woman. Courted by many, she only loved my grandfather, and eventually married him. It was not a perfect marriage, though. Domestic violence was common throughout their union. She suffered facial trauma and head injuries not once, but countless times.

It was my father who told me of those experiences. He omitted much of the violence, so I could only imagine what had really taken place. The painful weight of her experiences may have played a role in her development of Alzheimer’s disease in her later life.

When my beloved grandmother finally passed away, I...

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