Lee Ouyang: The moment I knew medicine was my calling


Physicians are privileged to see patients at their most vulnerable, to reshape lives and continually revitalize the nation’s health system. In a challenging practice environment, physicians remain driven by the power of healing and the indelible connections they form with patients and families.

The AMA Wire® “When I Knew Medicine Was My Calling” series profiles a wide variety of doctors, offering a glimpse into the lives of the busy women and men navigating new courses in their careers and in American medicine. No matter their age, their specialty or their career stage, they were born to do this and they tell us why.

Share a moment with: Lee Ouyang, a fourth-year medical student at Eastern Virginia Medical School and vice chair of the AMA Medical Student Section.

I was born to: Make it work.

The moment I knew medicine was my calling: During my senior year of college, I was shadowing one of our pediatric neurosurgeons. Seeing his work in the OR and in the clinic really cemented my interest and my drive to go to medical school. As I've continued through medical school, I have had more positive and rewarding experiences that have kept me going.

An experience from medical school that kept me going: Somewhere between my first and second year of medical school when I was working in our student-run free clinic, I knew that I had made the right decision as I was working with one of our patients, who returned, recognized me, and caught me up with things that had happened in her life since I last saw her. Despite only having talked to her briefly in our previous encounter, I found that she trusted me enough to discuss her most personal issues, including the ones that were not medically related. This experience really cemented the fact that I was indeed making an impact on our patients, despite not having completed my clinical years at that time.

My source of inspiration: My colleagues. Every day I see them do amazing things, and they push me to do better all the time.

My hope for the future of medicine: That politics does not affect the direct care that we give to our patients.

The hardest moment in medicine and how I got past it: During my third year of medical school, I was part of the team taking care of a man who had been in the hospital for several months with pancreatitis. He seemed to be making good progress when I was on the service. After I was on a different rotation, I found out that he had taken a turn for the worse, and passed away from complications. I sometimes wonder what we could have done differently, if anything.

My favorite experience working with the medical team: The constant learning that happens when I work with every member of the team.

The most challenging aspects of caring for patients: Gaining their trust initially so that you learn more than what the most basic questions can turn up.

The most rewarding aspect of caring for patients: Getting to know their stories, and knowing that they trust me to take care of them in their most vulnerable moments.

The skills every physician should have but won’t be tested for on the board exam: The ability to truly listen to what patients have to say.

One question students should ask themselves before pursuing medicine: Why do you want to do this?

A quick insight I would give students who are considering medicine: Take every chance you have in school to meet people and learn broadly about the different things in medicine. You never know what opportunities will come your way.