I’m currently finishing my Masters of Science in Global Health at Duke University, in what is an extended third year of research during my Duke-NUS MD. Right now in preparation to transition back to Duke-NUS Medical School, I have a renewed sense of self and goals. With that spirit I will join Team Healthy Kids to run the upcoming New York City Marathon this November. Your encouragement and support - whether financial, vocal, social media, or even a commitment to run – will go a long way towards this mission that is very near and dear to me. Please take a minute to visit the following link below:
Growing up in a family of physicians in Taiwan and the United States, medicine as a career choice ironically wasn’t always my first nor my second choice. But after a long journey of different experiences, the calling and desire to become a doctor became clear. Anticipating the long road ahead, I knew if I wanted to see this through, I had to enjoy the journey. How do I now synthesise my experiences, background, and my passion to chart a path that I am truly excited about? This reflection letter came about and gave me the clarity and the peace of mind that I needed.
One of the highlights and still within the honey moon period from MS1 – White Coat Ceremony
As I reflect on our relationship over the past three years I admit that at several points I asked myself whether you’re a friend or foe. Let me take this chance to share with you what I was going through before we met, how I have changed since you walked into my life, and my hope for our future.
Meeting you here and there while growing up, we didn’t really hang out or get to know each other well. Not until around January 2013 when I was finishing up a two-year commitment with Teach For America that challenged me on many fronts. I was very passionate about the work and grew attached to the mission, but I was so physically and emotionally drained that the stress had knocked me into a bad routine of a sedentary lifestyle combined with an extremely unhealthy diet. I looked forward to having a burger with a sinful overdose of melted peanut butter twice a week. Overeating started out as motivation to get me through the week and eventually I became dependent on it. It became a seemingly harmless routine, justifiable because I was stressed about tackling the daily challenge of motivating inner city kids. Then you showed up. And somehow I knew that if I planned to make a difference for people in the future I needed to break out of this loop.
Spending two years with inner city boys in Chicago was a key turning point for me and one of the most rewarding experiences prior to attending Duke-NUS
An ingredient to starting and sustaining lasting change I realised was facing your weak spot – for me it’s peanut butter and sweet popcorn
Inertia was a double edge sword. I have to thank my close friend Tuan who persistently got us acquainted. I knew that getting to know you was what I needed. But breaking the ice with you was one of the toughest things I ever faced. No matter how much I tried you just pushed me away. Was it a test of my perseverance? A couple weeks gone by and I was no better at knowing youIt was after four weeks of meeting you routinely in the gym that you finally said your first words to me. “Face the mirror and ask why you surround yourself with bad influences. Break bad bonds and have the courage to seek help.” Gradually I stopped answering the calls to temptation. No more sodas, sweets, and comfort food.
20+ kgs and 3years ago – know who you were before knowing who you will be
Days, weeks, months passed. You were so charismatic and I started to be proud to be in your social circle. You had the swagger that I never saw before. I gradually committed more time to you even as I transitioned to a new life chapter - moving half way across the globe to Singapore to pursue medical school. Even though this was a bold change I knew that if I had you I wouldn’t be alone and through you I would find my own community. I was at peace, but little did I know there was a change happening in me that would later force me to question our friendship.
One of the several run sessions around MBS during MS1
I was slowly getting too attached to you. You almost consumed my life. It wasn’t just to spend time with you but also to abide by your strict food policy. It honestly was draining more of my mental strength than everything else on my plate. I feared relapsing into the unhealthy lifestyle in the past if I were to lose you. But deep down I knew the shackles were getting tighter – almost like an addiction. We were like best buddies and travelled together to various marathon races around the world – even to Kenya. But in truth I’m not sure if this kind of relationship is healthy and sustainable. I have you to thank you, but I hope you can understand that things need to be different going forward. We still have work to do - to build a healthy and sustainable life-time relationship.
Not chasing a destination but a worthwhile lifelong journey
You have great charisma to attract and incredible potential to empower so many. Remember those times in Singapore running with kids and the visually impaired? They all had extrodinary stories and through you they became the motivation and light for many others. I open our relationship to all those who may be looking for a way out of their struggles, whatever that may be. We have an opportunity here to prevent people from making poor decisions with health in the first place.
Finally, I hope you agree that a balanced relationship going forward is the right one. Let’s take the focus away from “I”. So what do you say, will you slow down a bit and walk with me on this life-time journey?
By: Benjamin Kuo, Class of 2017