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Alexandra Villagran, Scholar

The Greater Northwest Chapter works to improve the quality of life for people affected by MS in Alaska, Northern Idaho, Montana and Washington and raise funds for critical MS research. Join the movement toward a world free of MS.

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Alexandra Villagran

I believe that my mom's multiple sclerosis, and more specifically my observation of the way in which she handles it, has made me a stronger, more aware, and less judgmental person. She has inspired me to excel even in the face of difficulties; I have watched her refuse to let MS hold her back, even though it is by no means easy. There have been times that we haven't been able to afford my mom's medications, and she recently had to go back to work (a job that requires her to be on her feet, which can be hard for her) to help support my family, yet despite all of this she very seldom complains. In everything she strives to be her best and in doing so she has inspired me to do my best as well and to work hard even when it hurts. In another sense, her MS has made me stronger because it forced me to learn how to overcome uncertainty and fear to focus on doing what must be done. I had to continue focusing on my studies and achieving my goals: to get a 4.0, to be accepted into a good college, and even to gain early acceptance into medical school. Thus, my mom's MS not only inspired me to be stronger and to work harder, but also taught me to do these things through my own experiences.

My mom's MS has also made me more aware of MS and other invisible disabilities. Before I found out about her diagnosis I had no idea how prevalent MS was, especially in the northern part of the country, which is where my family lives. Knowing about MS has also opened my eyes to the fact that many people around me may be suffering in ways I cannot even see. My mom has a disability placard because there are days when she desperately needs it, but even on these days, we often get judgmental looks when we use it because any bystander would say that she looks just fine. Of course, they don't know that the heat is affecting her much more than it's affecting them, or that one of her arms or legs is, at that moment, numb or tingling. No one knows how tired she is because of her MS, or how hard it might be to keep her balance, or how much it is hurting her to walk. By experiencing secondhand the perhaps unintentional judgment of others for something as simple as using a disability placard in a parking lot, I have been able to see a small glimpse of how an invisible disability can make a person feel alone and misunderstood; this has made me less judgmental, more understanding and patient with others. I hope that this understanding I have gained will help me be a better doctor: that while I may understand every physiological and scientific aspect of a disease, there is no way I can truly understand how the patient feels, physically or mentally, and that the best thing I can do is listen and try to see things from their point of view. An MD may indicate expertise, but I know that I will always have plenty to learn from my patients. In this way my experience with MS has made me a more humble person. Thus, MS has had a positive impact on my life. Of course, I wish that my mother did not have this disease, and it is my hope that someday a cure will be found. Even so, I feel lucky to have grown through my secondhand experience of MS and am proud to say that it is my mom who has inspired me and helped me to grow in all of these ways.

GOALS/ASPIRATIONS

Because of the ever-growing nature of the scientific field, I have always known that I wanted to work within it. It is my dream to become a doctor because it perfectly blends my love for science and learning with my passion for helping others. For me, medicine is about people; the science and medical achievements are important, but just as important to me are the opportunities to share compassion and build relationships along the way. I want to be a physician because want to heal people-whole people-not just bodies or diseases.

My mom's MS played a role in my choosing neuroscience as my major and in my previous consideration of a career as a neurologist. I continue to be intrigued by the study of MS and other neurological conditions, but since coming to college I have also developed a passion for pediatric oncology, and at this time I plan to pursue a career in that field. Of course, whatever specialty I choose, my goal is to make a positive difference in the lives of my patients.

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