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PracticeMatch Empowered Physician Scholarship: 2017 Winner

Congratulations to our 2017 Winner!

Oliver Sroka-2017 Winner
Oliver Sroka

I would like to thank everyone at PracticeMatch for honoring me with this incredible scholarship! The money I receive will be going towards paying for my tuition here at the University of Florida College of Medicine. This award will help me continue my medical education as I learn how to give the highest quality of care and become a great physician. The financial burden of a medical education can be stressful at times, but this scholarship will allow me to spend less time on worrying about finances and more time on what truly matters, my patients.

…Every Second of Every Day is an Opportunity to Make a Difference…

We've all done it. We wake up with some strange physical symptoms and go immediately to Google to see what might be wrong with us.

Often, no matter how minor our symptoms are, we read something about 'cancer' that scares us and makes us wish we never did any research. Typically, the symptoms subside with time and rest, but I was not that lucky. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 19 on March 26, 2014. Looking back, cancer has drastically changed my views on life and has invigorated my passion to be a physician.

Even though I had already been working toward a career in medicine, it was at this point that I started to better understand the impact great physicians and medical care can make. As one can imagine, young college aged guys don't think much about getting cancer. My family and I were in a state of shock. Fortunately, I was able to get in right away to see my general practitioner, immediately have an ultrasound and bloodwork done, and then have a series of appointments with my urological surgeon to remove my testicle, in no more than a week's worth of time. My medical team's quick action and proficiency was not only impressive, it gave me a sense of peace during an extremely tumultuous time. This sense of peace unfortunately only lasted until my follow-up MRI scan was done, which had shown lymph node enlargement on the right side of my pelvis. The cancer had actually spread before my surgery. The news was simply devastating.

Trying to decide about your academic future while not knowing if you'll actually live through it was not what I thought college would be like. Chemotherapy was my best option, but it would be very intensive to the point where I would not be able to go back to school for at least a semester. Those months of chemotherapy were the worst days of my life. I was embarrassed to have no hair, frustrated about my situation, and scared for my future or lack thereof. During those months, I had many conversations with my oncologist, Dr. Tan, about what it meant to be a doctor. I was very curious about how someone could intentionally choose a specialty so grim. When I asked him about it, he told me "Every patient comes to me with thoughts of imminent death, but I am here to tell them otherwise. Even if I have to give bad news most of the time, the times I get to give good news far outweigh the bad." Along with my family and friends who had given me so much motivation to fight, my doctors and medical staff were there every step of the way, never letting me give up. The genuine and focused desire to help others displayed by every person on my medical staff inspired me to stay positive and work hard to get better so that I could do the same for others in need. Their commitment to my recovery made me feel like no matter what happened, I would be in the best care possible. The faith my doctors, family, and friends had in me to beat cancer was what really gave me the strength to get through chemotherapy, and I have had no signs of cancer in over a year.

After going through such an experience, I have realized that every second of every day is an opportunity to make a difference in the world. I know that becoming a physician would allow me to seize those opportunities to help others and be strong, supportive counsel for those who are sick, no matter the diagnosis. That would bring me the greatest satisfaction in life. While cancer was by far the worst thing that has ever happened to me, I truly consider my battle a blessing in disguise because it also showed me what really matters. It further confirmed my passion for caring for others, for making a positive impact on my community, and for striving to be the best physician I can be.

Oliver Sroka

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