I have always loved the life sciences and knew that I wanted to use this passion in the service of others. However, it took me a couple of years after graduating from Oregon State University to fully understand how I would do so. Little did I know that instead of applying to medical schools or physician assistant schools as I had initially thought, my experiences as a scribe would ultimately motivate me to apply for a Ph.D. program in biomedical research instead. 

Eager for Healthcare Experience

As a first-generation university student growing up in a Vietnamese-American family, I had very limited exposure to western medicine and science as a child. I knew that if I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare, I needed to better understand the many roles and responsibilities of different healthcare professionals to see if I might fit in somewhere. 

Unlike me, my best friend had always been sure that she wanted to be a doctor since we met in middle school. When I told her about my growing interest in healthcare, she encouraged me to apply for a medical scribing position with her once we graduated to gain clinical experience. We both ended up working in a dermatology clinic as our first scribing placements. Although the fast-paced nature of the clinic was challenging, I was having a lot of fun learning about different skin conditions and was even able to use some of the information I learned while scribing to take care of my own skin concerns at home. 

The Pandemic Creates Challenges & Opportunities

Unfortunately, my experience in dermatology was cut short when the pandemic forced the clinic to close.  However, I considered myself very lucky that I was able to work with Scribe-X staff to transition into remote scribing at a family practice clinic which allowed me to stay safe and continue learning about clinical practice. 

Lockdown was such a difficult and uncertain time for many, and working in a healthcare setting during a pandemic was definitely an experience unlike any other. Despite those challenges, I am grateful that all of this eventually led me down my path towards graduate school. 

As the COVID-19 vaccine developed, I followed and discussed the new research with my providers as they counseled and educated their patients. During visits, I found myself wanting to better understand the mechanisms of the many diseases and conditions I encountered. In between patients, I talked to my providers about the new experimental drugs and therapies they mentioned. When I eventually decided to apply for a Ph.D, in comparative and molecular biosciences, my providers were not at all surprised. I was actually amazed by how supportive they were, going so far as to meet me for coffee while they were in my area of town to give me application advice and interview tips. 

Excited for What’s Ahead

Although it was not where I initially thought I would end up, scribing allowed me to explore all of the different ways that I could contribute to improving human health and helped me better understand what kind of role I wanted to have in medicine. While I won’t be seeing patients face-to-face, I am excited to begin pushing the boundaries of medicine through research on vaccine and drug development. Hopefully one day, providers will counsel patients on new therapies that I contribute towards and patients, in turn, will benefit from my work.

-Sydney Phu