I was 10 years old when I decided that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. That was the year when Lucy, from the cartoon “Peanuts”, set herself up to give advice for 5 cents, noting: “The Doctor is IN”. That was also the year when my favorite TV show, “Robin Hood” (with the romantic Richard Greene in the title role), went off the air. It was two years before my mother came down with rheumatic fever and was in bed for a whole year, during which time I helped care for her, and her doctor, who made house calls, taught me to give injections into an orange.
I can’t remember just what it was that prompted me to write in my diary that day, “I will be a doctor when I grow up!” I wanted to help people and take care of them. Nurtured by my hero who “robbed from the rich to give to the poor,” I developed a strong sense of social justice even as a child. A Jewish upbringing and education impelled into my very bones the sense that giving to those in need is not charity, but justice. Living in the shadow of the Holocaust, we knew that during our parents’ lives, six million of our people, along with so many others, were senselessly destroyed, wiping out a whole culture. As a child, I was determined to fight for my life and the lives of others, and never to submit passively to anyone’s destruction. Aware of oppression, my sense of commitment grew as I did, that I would stand on the side of life and liberation, and make a difference with my life and work.
So my path toward doctorhood seemed clear and obvious. I never considered bumps and obstacles that waited around the bend in the road.