Morsani College of Medicine Alumni Society

Third-year medical student thanks class scholarship donors

September 22, 2022 11:47 AM By advance
Berwin Yuan, MS3

Thank you very much for your incredibly generous scholarship. Your generosity has greatly moved me. It is very reassuring to know that I have your support and belief in my abilities. 

I was born in Detroit, Michigan to two Chinese parents who recently immigrated to America. My parents encountered some struggles while raising me. My mother often apologizes to me for the childhood I experienced, recounting the days where only one of us could eat; she often chose not to eat so I could. A large part of my upbringing was influenced by the contributions of our community. Even when the members of the community had nothing to give, they tried to give everything they could. From them I learned to offer help, or at the least a smile. Offer to everyone because everyone lives a complex life and only they and the people close to them know what makes their life complex. Those times were scarce for food but rich in food for thought.

About a decade later, our family moved to Maryland. Education differed, health differed, culture differed. I realized how deep those disparities I had faced impacted my lifestyle. I wasn’t even a high school student yet, but I had already begun to understand the real implications of disparities and how people’s lives are negatively impacted. Introduced to new lifestyles and feeling judged for mine, I noticed still we didn’t change much. We didn’t think it necessary. That was when I realized when approached by opportunities for improvement, not all people will accept that change. There exists generations of values and beliefs so deeply instilled that can make acknowledging change difficult. When thinking about barriers to access, there are physical and invisible barriers: consider the factors that influence a person’s decision. There are ones constructed by others, and ones constructed by us. Some are institutional, and some are relational. Charts and statistics don’t provide the same understanding as experience. We need this knowledge though, replete with evidence.Why don’t people seek help when they need it? Do they know who to reach? Do they trust the “help”? Do they know they need help?

For much these reflections, I started community service in middle school and continued to participate in as many volunteering opportunities as I could, graduating high school with 1800+ logged hours of community service; even when it was not necessary to report everything I had done. I wanted to meet and understand the members of this new community. I continued with this mindset, engaging in as many opportunities as I could all throughout college as well. Even during breaks, I would return home and try to engage with the community as best as I can, such as when I helped with a documentary about the racial segregation and progression of my local community, “The Quince Orchard Project.” All these past experiences taught me the importance of addressing disparities and providing service to the community lead me towards a career of medicine and law. I had been very eager to apply to MD/JD schools. However, I chose USF because of the SELECT program’s emphasis on value-based patient centered care, as well as the opportunity to join the law and medicine scholarly concentration to study under Dr. Wolfson—a lawyer I had learned about during my independent studies who acted as the guardian ad litem for the Terri Schiavo case. The biggest highlight of my second year at USF was learning about the Terri Schiavo case from Dr. Wolfson himself, and NBC had been recording the entire lecture to incorporate into a documentary. Of course, I had to get in contact with them and see if there is anything I can do to volunteer and help with their production. USF seems to be offering me nothing but opportunities to expand on myself. With new reflections on life, I no longer hesitate to accept these opportunities.

I spent a year after college further motivated and happy to spend each day at a pediatric office, Olney Peds. With the advancement of medicine, there is an advancement of pediatric diagnoses into the adult population. Hence, my interests lie in Peds or Med-Peds. Though I am very excited to begin my rotations and see what other opportunities there are! Surgery has so far been an excellent experience. Every experience has been engrossing and I absolutely believe the reason why I am having such a great time is because of the culture and the type of people who work at LVHN: Not just the doctors, but the nurses, the custodians, the front desk staff—everyone. I feel like I belong. I wake up early every day energized and ready to show up beforehand to prep, learn, and interact with patients. Some of the preceptors I’ve had have become such amazing role models and I’m very grateful to be a part of such a community.

Although I often find myself spread too thin and very stressed, I will still be able to push to the end and accomplish what I had planned. In Tampa, I tried to involve myself with the school in as many ways as possible and received the Culture Coin. I’m a founding board member of Medical Mandarin, aiming to teach USF students Mandarin and be able to take a history and communicate with our patients in another language. And in the Tampa community, I did volunteering with many organizations such as Meals on Wheels and ICNA. I vividly recall the days where my mother and I were hungry and were not guaranteed to eat a meal a day. I try my best to be able to provide food as it is one of the basic necessities. I hold those experiences close and try to pay forward the kindness my community showed me. I hope to be able to find more of these opportunities.

Since moving to Allentown, I was notified recently that I am the new vice president of the pediatrics interest group here. I also have been in touch with a few local organizations, such as Turning Point of Lehigh Valley and Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, hoping to set up regular volunteering. For now, I volunteer with LVHN events when possible, like with Juneteenth at Bethlehem, or volunteer with Steelstacks.

Though I enjoy everything I’m learning in school and everything I am involved in, I think it’s important to keep some time separated so I can stay involved in some introverted activities that make me who I am. I listen to music whenever I study, whenever I volunteer, and whenever I drive—and I drive very often, providing transportation for my friends, doing grocery shopping for them and others as well, and driving to all the other activities I am engaged in. But more importantly, I enjoy making music. I started making music in college as a way to make organic chemistry more fun, but it developed into a hobby and eventually a self-employed job, performing for various venues. I find the creative thinking and final product very satisfying. Being a medical student requires lots of deductive thinking, trying to narrow down a differential. Making music practices expansive thinking. I can listen to any genre as I find there’s always something worth learning about. People enjoy making these songs and people enjoy listening to them. It’s worth learning about and discovering more about what aspects of music can elicit certain emotions.

With the scholarship you’ve provided me, I’ll be able to provide more for the community. One of the biggest challenges with my volunteering was gas cost. Reflecting on the juxtaposition of barriers, I hated admitting it. I continued with everything I had been doing and I have had a huge spike in my bills, especially with the gas prices this summer. When I looked through finances, I found one major culprit—Netflix increased their subscription! I joke. I drive often. I drive to every volunteering event; I drive my friends so they don’t have to pay for an Uber and I know they’re safe; I drive back to Maryland to take care of family. Community can be found anywhere. It becomes as we build it. And I intend to continue building each community that welcomes me. 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to continue caring for my communities. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you again for your generous contribution. I greatly appreciate you and your support!

Best wishes and stay safe,

Berwin Yuan