Dr. Ripudaman Singh Bajwa, PGY-1, Internal Medicine, Saint Peter’s University Hospital, NJ
I always wondered what my life would be if not for the one I have now. What if I were a native of the Galápagos Islands or raised goats in the Himalayas or lived inside an igloo? Would I still be a doctor, and if yes, what would be different? So I decided to go on a voyage.
I set foot on the Indian subcontinent first. The five regions had everything for me. From places overflowing with treatments for lifestyle disorders to the never-ending fight against mycobacterium to regions battling to enhance addiction medicine. I experienced it all without a bias (maybe just a little). The journey then led northwest, and I reached the Middle East. I encountered some heart-wrenching experiences of shock, human-made disasters, and innovative bravery. My time in the scorching heat taught me how medicine can be sustained by volunteering and gifting. It taught me how people sitting in grand palaces play with the lives of millions who fight famine, mental trauma and death. I had to be strong-willed not to stop the escapade and keep going.
From the southern border, I reached the continent of Africa. While some countries achieved freedom from the chains of colonialism, many continued to figure out the issues of food, clothing, and shelter. Some suffered from protein-energy malnutrition, caused by the wars but also by the differences in access to resources. Even then, the continent had much more to offer. From learning strong examples of preventive medicine in virus outbreaks to learning how some places are fighting medieval diseases because the resources available to the rich never reached the place, even in 2023 and counting. It made me introspect whether I would be one of the brave hearts who are fighting the system that exists.
I took my voyage east, far east, and reached the Australian continent. For the first time, I saw an organized, advanced, and outreach system of medicine for all. I saw how every food item on the menu had a caloric count and how people were aware, not only about how to access resources but also about how to take ample care of their bodies. I learned about the toughest biosecurity controls and wondered why this wasn’t the case in other places.
Then I left the land of the kangaroos and it was freezing. Antarctica always sounded thrilling as I became one of less than 100,000 people who have actually set foot on the continent. I saw no greens, only whites. Medicine? No idea. But, it made me ponder what all hides in the lands of glaciers, ice shelves, and icebergs. I seconded the debate about what if melting ice was leading the way to a dormant, deadly disease. I had no answer to my own question.
The Americas were the next stop. Amazon taught me a lot. The tropical diseases with serious effects and the power of humans who have developed antidotes to fight them. I crossed the center and reached the north for the final stop. I saw cutting-edge resources, huge research grants, and resources for the good of most. I saw medicine being practiced as they say in the guidelines, without considerations. There were no famines, but this time the region was fighting against those who had fled wars. Lifestyle medicine became a real thing and I saw progression.
I missed some regions, but I didn’t want to visit more places than Columbus did (I think I did). I took a stop to absorb all that I had seen. However, I decided today that I would go back again one day and see what has changed. To embrace the truth and once again ponder what my life would be if not for the one I have now.