Treating My Patients Like Family

(Photo above by Neonbrand / Unsplash)

While supporting his father through cancer, Jonathan Teran becomes a doctor of the people.

Ten years ago, when I was in college, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I was moved by how all the medical staff, including the physicians, cared not only for my Dad but us, his family.

To them, my Dad wasn’t just another patient but someone with a family, a family who also needed support and care as we went through the difficult process together. Though they had a demanding schedule, they never made us feel like a bother for one second.

I started to think, I want to become a doctor who can support other people when they’re going through some of their most difficult times.

But as a child who had moved from Venezuela to the U.S. due to my Dad’s job, I was not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, which made it nearly impossible for me to get into medical school.

I decided to believe in my limitless potential that I experience every time I chant.

After college, I was teaching science and biology, and on track to be sponsored for my green card. But this process could take up to 10 years. I started to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo seriously to not put my dreams of going to medical school on hold because of my circumstances.

Without feeling restricted by my own ideas of what was possible, I decided to believe in my limitless potential that I experience every time I chant.

Within one year, through a series of unexpected events, I became a permanent U.S. resident and got accepted into a medical school in Texas!

I started medical school in fall 2016 and continued to deepen my Buddhist practice by supporting fellow Buddhists in my local community. I knew I had to study harder to be an example for others. These efforts paid off when I received a competitive score on my first of four board exams.

In order to complete my medical training, I had to continue on to residency, but in September 2019, I learned that I had failed my second board exam. I couldn’t believe it; all of my friends had passed and, on the second try, I still failed. When program directors reviewed my scores, they replied that they wouldn’t be able to accept me.

I had to retake the second exam, but there weren’t any openings in the time frame I needed due to COVID-19, and it wasn’t clear when a new time would open. Around the same time, my Dad began facing serious challenges, and he entered hospice care.

I was consumed by my self-doubt and kept talking myself down about why I wasn’t able to pass. I didn’t know how much time I had left with my Dad and, more than anything, I wanted to show him that I got my residency. It took everything I had to continue, but I refused to give up.

On March 23, I received news that I matched to a residency program in Tyler, Texas, located in a rural part of the state, one of my top choices. They waived my most recent exam score due to the pandemic, and I was able to start my residency right away. It was as if the self-doubt from before just melted away in that moment. My Dad was able to see me graduate and hear about my stories as I started work.

It took everything I had to continue, but I refused to give up.

In my small town of Tyler, Texas, I’ve supported many families who have lost loved ones during this pandemic. I treat each patient like they’re a part of my family, and I’ve done everything I can to support the families so that they feel connected while without meeting in person.

This past August, my Dad passed away, surrounded by his family, having lived a beautiful life. My family has always been close, but we’ve become much closer during this time, as we check in with each other. Each of us continues to move forward, determined to build lives of which my Dad can be truly proud.

Jonathan Teran (front), with his mom and siblings (l–r) Nicholas, Vincent and Ritsuko. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Teran

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