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Doster ’20 Makes Empathy His Example

Owen Doster ’20 – Like many of the employees of the Health Department in Montgomery County, I do multiple things. For the most part, my classmates Matt Hodges ’19 and Hunter Jones ’20 are here for very specific opportunities, but I am getting more of the all-encompassing experience. Primarily, I work as a member of the Surveillance of Water and Airborne Transmitters, or SWAT team, for the health department. We are the vector control experts. That means we trap, determine the species, and send the mosquitos off to the state health department to check for carriers of West Nile virus.

Sam Marksberry and Owen Doster

Sam Marksberry ’21, left, and Owen Doster ’20

I have also experienced almost every other facet of the department: home inspections, restaurant inspections, septic inspections, county meetings, nursing procedures, and vital records. It is incredible to see how people whose families have been ravaged by drug abuse, prison time, health issues, or just overall family troubles can bounce back and continue to try and live. These powerful moments really make me stop and think about not only the people but the circumstances revolving around how they got to this point of intervention. This summer has been humbling and a true test of how I think about people and the hardships they face.

To me, the ability to be serious, professional, yet empathetic is essential to being a great physician, a medical professional, or just human. This summer has been a constant test to my empathy. I came from an upper-middle class family where I’ve never had to worry where my next meal was coming from, if I was able to shower or brush my teeth safely, or any other circumstance revolving around safe living. I don’t know what that feels like and don’t profess to. However, this is where my empathy comes in. I have challenged myself to try and understand and think more deeply about those situations involving the people we are helping and working with. I may never see that person ever again, but how will they remember our interaction? And if we do ever cross paths again, how will they remember how I treated them last time? I have two choices. I can be selfish and lack the ability to take the time out of my day to care and understand where they are coming from. Or, my second choice is to act like the human we are created as and show care, empathy, and love. Without that approach we will continue down a path of selfishness without ever making a positive difference in the community or potential the world around us.