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PracticeMatch Empowered Physician Scholarship: 2022 Winner

Congratulations to our 2022 Winner!

Jessica Weeks 2022 winner
Jessica Weeks

I am honored to be named the winner of the PracticeMatch Empowered Physician Scholarship! Psychiatry is my passion, and with these funds, I will be able to feel more comfortable pursuing fellowships in both child and adolescent as well as addictions. Thank you again PracticeMatch for this opportunity, I am very grateful!

… My simplest, yet most crucial strength (…) is that I have never viewed a life as wasted.…

He was only fourteen, but this was already his second eleven-month stay in the juvenile detention center. We were supposed to be finishing his math homework, but instead were bonding over music. He was reciting a new song he wrote when he suddenly turned and attacked the young man walking behind him. My heart was in my throat as I watched my mentee being held to the ground by the guards. I had been mentoring him for months, and I knew he saw no hope in his future. Volunteering in juvenile detention centers opened my eyes to the deep pain people can carry, and seeing it so intensely made it impossible to turn away. Society gave my mentees nothing. As a college student, I became determined to acknowledge and help them without knowing exactly how.

Throughout medical school, I recognized within many patients the same pain my mentees hid. It was in the ninety-two-year-old war veteran's kept secret of sexual abuse during enlistment - the young woman's heroin relapses - the high-school student's first psychotic episode and his family's grappling to understand. Many people with mental illness, whether incarcerated, homeless, or silently suffering due to stigma, often have an unmet need to have their pain validated and know their lives are valued. While my mentees never directly spoke of it, it was clear that they wanted to matter. They, just as many people with mental illnesses, longed to be seen. I saw my mentees, and because of that, I will now truly see my future patients.

It was my time on the child and adolescent psychiatry floors that finally pieced my path together. One day, I was helping a ten-year-old patient play bingo. We had just won for the second time, and he asked me which temporary tattoo I would like as a prize. I picked out a Batman design that matched his shirt and told him to keep it. He thanked me and excitedly shoved it into his pocket. He was admitted five days earlier after his foster parents had read his diary. They found details of how he would burn their house down. He had been diagnosed with autism and felt like the world ignored him. I realized he had the same story as my mentees, and that through psychiatry I would acknowledge and help them.

It is interesting how a fulfilled life is different for different people, yet it tends to have a similar theme. The string between their stories is using their strengths to support the well-being of our world. I am compassionate, non-judgmental, and thoughtful. My simplest, yet most crucial strength, however, is that I have never viewed a life as wasted. This was the gift that allowed me, as a nineteen-year-old, to voluntarily walk into the detention center and discover my passion. It allowed me to see, face, and refuse to ignore our country's mental health crisis. Most dear to me, it led me to medical school and the patients I would treat. I now know that as a mental health advocate, I will fight for the rights of discriminated populations. As a therapist, I will help people free themselves from their past. As a doctor, I will prescribe life-saving medications. As a psychiatrist, I will stand with those our society often turns a blind eye to. Sometimes, I will think of the song my student was reciting before attacking the young man behind him. Its lyrics spoke of violence, drugs, and wanting a different and powerful life. It was a cry for help that is often misinterpreted in our world. I thank my mentees for helping me see. I thank myself for refusing to turn away. Finally, I thank psychiatry for showing me how my passion will truly be fulfilled.

Jessica Weeks

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