If we fast forward to several years later when I was a medical student, I often wondered if I had made the right decision. I found medicine to be very routine and redundant. I felt like it was less about helping others and more about managing lab values. I began to fantasize about dropping out of medical school and becoming a pharmaceutical sales rep, owning a bookstore, and at one point I had even played the tape forward and saw myself in India married with four children. But hey, at least I wouldn’t have to finish!
It wasn’t until the first day of my psychiatric clerkship that I realized what I was meant to become. The moment a patient from the psych unit of a State Hospital threw both of her shoes at me, I dodged them like a champ and was convinced this was my calling. Working there was the first time I wasn’t hawking the clock and my day would fly by. I enjoyed listening to people’s unique stories and the compassion I felt for them was visceral.
Fast forward again to several years later, I was training as a resident and assumed I would do a fellowship in child psychiatry. But, there was one huge obstacle with that- I just didn’t like children! I had no yearning desire to be a mother; I now have two daughters and can’t imagine my life without them, but back then that was not on my to-do list. I was glad to be a psychiatrist but did not know what to focus on. Up until….(dramatic pause)…I was doing morning rounds with the Chairman of the Department and made the mistake of saying, “There are only two real psych patients admitted on the unit right now.”
I never imagined that my so-called “little mistake” would have a huge impact on my career…
Let me explain, it is much easier to admit a patient than it is to discharge them from an ER setting. I would spend so much more time discharging a substance abuser from the ER because I thought they were taking advantage of the system. Like clockwork- Get an SSI check, blow the money on drugs, come back to the hospital claiming they were suicidal for food and shelter until the next month when the new SSI check was released; rinse and repeat. You were not going to get in on my watch considering you left against medical advice, refused to go to rehab and/or follow up with any previous recommendations. Nope, not gonna happen.
Back to morning rounds, my chairman asked me if I was aware that substance abuse fell into the realms of psychiatry. He asked if I was aware that people who suffer from mental illness such as Schizophrenia have a downward drift and the likelihood of readmission was high. He then went on to explain that if I could open my mind and heart to try and help even one person with a substance abuse problem, and influence them for positive change- that person may never need to be admitted again. They could go on to be a productive member of society, have a family, maintain a job, and perhaps even become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company one day.
It was in that moment that I decided from then on, I would try my absolute hardest to instill hope in those who felt they had nothing because of their mental health or substance abuse problem. In that one “little mistake” I had made that day on morning rounds, I was actually opening my heart and mind to find my true calling. I finally felt the tug on my heart that I had always yearned to feel back in med school. I can now say that I am truly blessed to do what I do, and that I don’t ever feel like I am chasing the clock.
Helping others find hope and happiness fulfills my heart more than I could ever have imagined.
Jasmine Gill, MD
Co-Founder Modern Behavioral