This post is written by Christopher Zhou, a Taylor's Gift Scholarship recipient.
For the past three weeks, my living room has been an Olympics-level obstacle course. Clothes lie scattered in various piles around the room. All manners of household appliances hide in the countless nooks and crannies made by other appliances. The floorboard, barely visible, is obscured by a thick membrane of household objects. This sight is the result of my packing for the coming semester, and it serves as a silent reminder that a chapter in my life has ended. As I scramble to prepare myself for the impending school year, I cannot help but think about what I want to accomplish in the eight semesters that I’ll have at Yale. I’ve decided to keep two words as the guiding philosophy for what I want to accomplish: “Outlive Yourself”.
To me, “Outliving Yourself” means doing just that: to create a legacy that will endure long after you pass away. By making contributions to the world and helping people, one can live on forever in the memories of those who were impacted. This is the kind of legacy I want to leave behind—to play a positive role in the recovery of the patients I will one day serve would bring me a satisfaction that few other endeavors possibly could. It is with this mindset that I embrace the “Outlive Yourself” philosophy.
But how will I do so? What exactly will I do with my life to promote a long legacy of helping people and improving world health, not only from myself, but from others too? I believe I have finally found the answer.
This summer, my family and I revived our annual tradition of a month-long excursion to China. It was the first time we had been back since our last visit four years ago. I had been looking forward to reliving all the experiences we had in previous visits: eating endless varieties of exotic Chinese dishes, sightseeing in thousand-year-old historic landmarks, and even just wandering the streets without a care in the world. This particular trip, however, would be quite different, as rather than touring the largest urban centers, we instead traveled to the remote autonomous region of Tibet.
It was the first time I had ever been to such a location. Mountains stretched endlessly to the horizons in every direction, magnificent Buddhist palaces dotted the highest peaks, and the people shared a collective religious fervor so strong that it completely consumed their entire lifestyle and way of thinking. It was certainly an amazing experience; the temples, valleys, and rivers made for one of the most beautiful and picturesque scenes I had ever seen. There was one troubling element, however.
As grand and magnificent the mountains were, they did isolate the people who lived on them. It must be made clear that nomadic Tibetans are a resilient people; millennia of survival in the unforgiving Himalayan wilderness confirms this. Despite this rugged endurance, however, they are not immune to the crippling effects of disease—organ disease included. Tibetan mortality rates are only exacerbated by high altitudes, low temperatures, and low oxygen levels. For many nomadic Tibetans, isolation from large urban centers—and consequently from crucial medical services—makes treatment for such ailments to be especially difficult. It is under these circumstances that people around the world, not just in Tibet, must survive.
I consider this trip to be a turning point in my life. While I had already known that remote separation from cities was not conducive to adequate medical care, seeing the situation first-hand was an entirely new experience. I was, and still am inspired to make a difference in the lives of people who would not otherwise receive the proper care that they need. This is the legacy I wish to achieve—the way I have chosen to “Outlive Myself”. The next eight semesters I spend at Yale will be wholly dedicated to preparing me to enter the medical field and achieving this goal.
While I unfortunately cannot claim to have been personally affected by organ donation (or rather fortunately, as my loved ones and I have been spared the indescribable pain and suffering brought on by fatal organ failure), I do understand the transformative power that the procedure possesses. This is why I have decided to make organ surgery and organ donation central to the career I will one day have. Whether I am performing a crucial reparative surgery or replacing a failed organ, I know I will be contributing to the mission established so strongly by the legacy of Taylor Storch—a legacy that allows her to live on in the memories of those she impacted, thus fulfilling her dream of outliving herself. Just as she inspired me to outlive myself, I hope to inspire others to outlive themselves.
To learn more about the Taylor's Gift Foundation Scholarship program, visit TaylorsGift.org/Scholarship
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