Hearing the Call: A Feature on How Physicians and Medical Educators Came to Understand their Vocation
By Janet Piskurich
I grew up in a small steel town not knowing about the immune deficiency that caused me to spend more time in my family doctor’s office than most girls my age. I still remember the mirror on his forehead, the way his mustache moved when he examined my throat and that he always remembered to ask about the high school football game where I had spent too much time screaming cheers. My mother was busy at our house and didn’t always accompany me. The doctor’s office was only a few blocks away, and I could be trusted walk that far and not lose the five dollar bill she gave me to pay him…
I distinctly remember one time when my mother did come along. She told him I was interested in science and of her plan to send me to the laboratory science program at the local hospital after high school. I remember that he stopped, turned to the both of us and said no, I should go to the new local branch campus of the state college that would be opening soon. Girls in my town didn’t go to college. Typing and home economics were not my best subjects, not by a long shot. Because of the advice of this well-respected man, I did go to college. I graduated first as a Medical Technologist and later received a PhD in Immunology. I have worked as a federally-funded researcher, faculty member, advisor and mentor at two medical schools. The styles and technology are different now but I can still see my family doctor’s face in the faces of my students. I hope that they will someday do for others what this man did for me, which was so much more than soothing my sore throat.
Janet F. Piskurich, PhD, is Professor of Immunology and College Master in the Department of Medical Education in the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center