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Why I Became an Orthopedic Surgeon

Jacob R. Adams, MD

The saw blade tore through the wood with an awful shriek. Sweat poured from my brow and seemed to collect in front of the blade as if guiding its direction ― another scorcher. I looked to my father as if to find refuge from the intense heat. He grinned back at me, “Aren’t you glad you get to do this for the rest of your life…”

My long family heritage of carpenters and construction workers brings with it the privilege of passing the family business from father to son. I have watched my father work hard every day of his life to build up his construction business knowing that he fully expected that I would take it over one day. Although I respect my father and the other men in my family for their diligence and hard work in their professions, I have chosen to take the path less traveled by those before me by becoming an orthopedic surgeon. Unlike many, my choice did not come as a result of a single life-altering event. It came through a process of personal reflection and collective life experiences; such as that sweltering day with my father.

Little did either of us know at the time, my father’s simple statement was about to change my life. “Dad, I want to go to college,” I said. “I don’t want to swing a hammer for the rest of my life.”

My words seemed to pierce my father like a sixteen-penny nail driven through solid oak. I had spent years by his side and knew my father thought I would be by his side for years to come.  Day after day, he had taught me critical thinking, teamwork, resolve, and a strong work ethic. Determined to make use of these tools and unshaken in my decision, I enrolled in college.

Initially, my college experience could have easily been compared to striking a finger with a hammer. Many would have found it to be very painful. Fortunately, it rapidly changed becoming one of the greatest experiences of my life. Fascinated with science, particularly biology and physics as they apply to human function, I quickly realized my passion and learning strengths lay here. However, I was still naïve towards choosing a career path. My interests in human function drew me towards medicine. I remembered volunteering in hospitals in Bolivia as a missionary. I cherished my time there and loved working with and caring for patients. With this in mind I volunteered in a local Emergency Department again finding myself inspired by the experience. Within no time, medicine became my passion.

With the proper blueprints in hand I began to construct my educational edifice. Determined to build upon the foundation of devotion, service to others and dedication to higher learning, I enthusiastically began the next stage of my life. My medical school experience and a desire to further my knowledge of human mechanics provided the framework that led me to orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic surgery offers the important qualities I desire in a career: service, critical thinking, teamwork, life-long learning and even a little manual labor.

It is not the type of manual labor my father thought he was teaching me. However, I know he is proud of me for becoming the first in my family, both immediate and extended, to achieve a college education. He rarely shows it, but he has on occasion he speaks of my motivation and the hard work he has seen me put into accomplishing my goals. It was this motivation and hard work that was my driving force toward success in residency and continues into my career as an orthopedic surgeon.

My experience in orthopedic surgery residency provided a sturdy roof atop the foundation and framework already constructed through my previous endeavors. My desire to become an orthopedic surgeon has always been genuine and real. It is a remarkable opportunity to be in this profession, and I will always strive to uphold the necessary values and ideals needed to thrive in this rewarding career.

Surprising in my quest for a profession I discovered that I am and always will be a builder at heart. I now desire more than anything to swing a hammer the rest of my life. Now with the swing of my hammer, I am able to offer life-altering changes to patients in need of restored form, function and quality of life.

For me, there is no greater reward.