Describe an interest or activity that has been particularly meaningful to you.

The smell of twenty-seven kinds of chili and one style of barbecue wafted through the air at the Palo Alto Chili Festival. It was a perfect day on a summer weekend, one of many I had spent volunteering for the Palo Alto Fire Explorers. The morning was quiet as usual – a few Band-Aid cases and requests for sunscreen. Sprawled on an assembled cot under the shade of the booth, I was thinking of getting myself lunch when my radio started squawking: “Unknown medical emergency, respond Code 3 to field.” I grabbed my trauma bag and jogged out of the booth. “10-4,” I said. “I’m en-route.”As I ran down the gravel path, the pounding of my feet matched the beating of my heart. Medical terms and images from my Red Cross textbook floated through my mind. Memories also hovered – the simulated emergency scenarios I passed, my top score on the final examinations, the moment I was “knighted” with trauma shears by Tony Graham, chief advisor to the Palo Alto Fire Explorers. The recollections reassured me, but they could only partly bridge the chasm between uncertainty and confidence – for the rest of the distance, I would have to trust myself and jump.I burst through a hedge of bushes and onto wet grass. A young boy was kneeling, doubled over in the center of a crowd. He was crying. As I bent to examine him, Tony Graham and another emergency team member arrived on bikes. Tony began questioning the boy’s relatives. Apparently, Bryan had injured himself while playing some sport. I inspected my patient. “Okay, his clavicle is broken,” I said, turning to my teammate. “Can you grab me the splint?” When we finished immobilizing the boy’s injury, the paramedics had arrived. As the boy was lifted onto the stretcher and carried to the ambulance, I waved goodbye. “Don’t worry, Bryan, you’ll be fine,” I called after him, smiling. He looked at me uncertainly at first, but as he was carried away his face changed. He stopped crying, and though his face remained clenched with pain, I distinctly saw his lips curve up and form a brief smile.Bryan was one patient that inspired me to stay three years with the Palo Alto Fire Explorers, which provided quality emergency response at cultural festivals and athletic competitions across the Bay Area. After undergoing a two-year training program that covered first aid to fire science, I was offered a spot on the leadership council, on which I took on the responsibility of educating second-year Explorers. Although I scheduled paramedics to give biweekly lectures, my favorite memories from the Explorers came from times when I was teaching myself. I remember one such class, Patient Care and Bedside Manner, which I concluded with the following words: in every interaction, think about what you have done for the patient, but, more importantly, what the patient has done for you – what have you gained from the encounter? The answer goes beyond simple medicine.

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