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Name: Elma C.

Hometown: Hackensack, NJ

Anticipated Major: Neuroscience, Public Health

How did you discover Hopkins and why did you decide to apply Early Decision? In my elementary school, third and fourth graders had to put on a “wax museum” showcase. Everyone had to choose an inspirational figure, learn everything about them, and pretend to be them, poised as wax figures in the hallways. Many students had difficulty deciding who to chose – I did not. I chose to be Vivien Thomas’s wax figure.

A couple weeks prior to the assignment, I had watched a movie with my parents called Something the Lord Made. In the form of Mos Def, the movie exposed me to Vivien Thomas. The grandson of a slave, at Johns Hopkins, Vivien Thomas became a pioneer in heart surgery. No prejudice, no form of racial boundaries could confine his creative genius. Along with surgeon Alfred Blalock and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, Thomas developed a surgical technique to correct a congenital heart defect known as the Blue Baby Syndrome. He did this in the 1940s – a time when the only black workers in the hospital were janitors. His passion and his brilliance could not be contained. Hopkins allowed him to be what society would not.

On the day of the wax museum, I recited all of this to my fellow third graders. Maybe it meant something to them, maybe it did not, but it meant everything for me. As a third grader, I knew that I wanted to attend Johns Hopkins University and I knew I wanted to experience medicine like Vivien Thomas. I knew that Johns Hopkins would push the boundaries for me, a Bangladeshi immigrant, as it did for Vivien Thomas.

I have always known that Johns Hopkins University is the right choice for me.

Who is the most influential person in your life? My great aunt Sitara’s influence still motivates me to this day, seven years after her death. Although she was busy as a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, she found time to establish a hospital and a school in Bangladesh, to make medical care and education accessible to the villagers. As a little girl, I was witness to her humble brilliance and at that young age, I knew I wanted to go into medicine. I knew I wanted to become a doctor. Most importantly, I realized the significance of service and community involvement. Her altruism inspired me and I am who I am because of her.

Is there a quote or motto that inspires you? What is it and what does it mean to you? “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor… and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America… and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

At first glance, this quote might seem a bit melancholy, but to me, it provides inspiration. So many times in my life I have found myself wallowing in indecisiveness. I simply could not choose just one of my aspirations and let the others shrivel up. How do I choose between astronaut, lawyer, teacher, doctor, artist, poet? Plath’s words gave me perspective. No one can have it all. I cannot have it all. It helped me realize what I wanted most for myself, for my future. Her words allowed me to battle my own indecisiveness and be bold and proud in my choices. I am pursuing a path in my life that brings me joy, fulfillment and feeds my ambition. I have rescued my fig, and I hope to watch it flourish.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? (dream big!) I visit my birthplace, Bangladesh, every other year and every time I am met with the same images: shivering children lying on the streets, maimed men boiling with infection, and women with sunken. Every time my heart pangs, wishing I could do something for the people I see on the streets. Perhaps I cannot do anything for them now, but I knew that I can start with my own community. As research for my Public Policy Class, I discovered that twelve percent of my county’s residents do not have health care and that homeless individuals do not have proper access to healthcare. I want to create a Mobile Medical Unit for my county to serve the underserved. Although it is still a developing project, I plan the Unit to provide preventive care services. I have seen the images of a lack of healthcare, I want my community to have full access to medical services. This is a cause very important to me so I will pursue it relentlessly.

One of my greatest ambitions in life is to attend Medical School and pursue cardiothoracic surgery. The heart is a wondrous, life-sustaining organism. With each pump, it sends blood coursing through the body, supplying blood to the brain, so it can think, to the lungs, so it can breathe, to the muscles, so it can move. It is an essential organ; to understand its every movement, its every function to the point of blind recognition, is a dream and a privilege.

The path in front of me is long and arduous but I hold my ambitions close to my heart to fuel me, to inspire me.