Each story is unique, intimate, and powerful. Readers, please come open-minded and ready to engage with the following stories. More importantly, be ready to interface with an intimate space and allow yourself to step inside someone else’s life. The following is the narrative of Taylor Daniels, a second-year medical student at KUMC.
Can you share a one-minute summary of your life?
I am originally from Overland Park, Kansas. I grew up here my whole life. And then I graduated and went out-of-state for [college]. So [I] moved 12 hours away to a brand new experience, which was definitely where a lot of my personal growth began. From there, I knew that I wanted to do medicine. So I knew that I needed to push myself because there were a lot of very intelligent and driven people at my university who all wanted to go to med school. So that was definitely a humbling moment. But then I got into [medical] scribing and realized that I loved medicine. And I absolutely had to do that as a career because it was the only thing where have a passion that can carry me for decades. I’m the oldest child in my family so I’ve always carried a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, not necessarily that other people placed on me, but that I’ve placed on myself. I’ve always wanted to do a little bit of everything. So having to adjust to be very invested in a few things that I’m really passionate about was something I had to transition into. And now, I’ve just finished my first year of med school. I’m going to be doing research over the summer. I got a dog this past year. She’s great; one of the best decisions I ever made. Right now, my focus in life is putting myself first and enjoying the moment and being able to do what makes me happy and not let life pass by.
If you could choose only one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why? Growing. The past couple of months, I’ve gone through a pretty tough time. I was able to grow a lot. It wasn’t always fun, but I’m getting to the point where I’m inspired to continue growing and to not be afraid of change and to be willing to look at myself and say, Hey, here are your strengths, your weaknesses; how can we strengthen those weaknesses? And knowing that I don’t necessarily have to do it alone, and not be afraid to ask other people for support or help or encouragement. A lot of that I’m not sure if I would have necessarily been pushed to do if I hadn’t gone through this experience this past year. So I’m definitely still growing and I think I always will be. But this was a period of a lot
of rapid growth. It was hard for a while, but I’m getting to the point where I’m enjoying the process and being able to focus on myself.
What do you do in your free time?
So in my free time, I love to play with my dog. I love hanging out with my family and friends. Being close to home again has been amazing, especially going through this whole experience. I go home quite a bit just to say hey to the parents and stuff, see how my siblings are doing. I love to bake when I’m stressed out. That’s always fun. And then try not to eat the whole pan of brownies. I also really – this one’s kind of embarrassing – but I love reality TV. It’s just nice to come home and turn my brain off. I love Bravo shows. So like Real Housewives is like one of my favorites. I always describe to people, like if you see drama, if you get your fix of drama on TV, you’re not going to bring it into your life. But those are one of my things that I’ve slowly come into be like, “You don’t need to be ashamed of it. Just love it.”
What are you passionate about?
In terms of, like, career, and it’s kind of collided with my personal life now. For me, it’s like empowering women, encouraging them to follow their dreams, whether it’s in like a male-dominated field, or whether it’s in something where society is kind of like, “Oh, of course, you want to go into that, you’re a female”, and I want to just empower women to seek out what they want and to not be afraid to be themselves. I actually see a lot of that stemmed from my passion for women’s health and the stigma that society has built around it. Talking with my friends, I realized that they don’t like to go to the gynecologist because it is so uncomfortable and things like that. I want, in my practice, to be able to change that approach and to make it more of a welcoming, safe environment.
I was recently reading a book, and it’s like, you don’t need to be afraid of the things that make you you. So being able to encourage other people to accept those things and not be ashamed of them. To also not be afraid to be vulnerable with other people, whether that’s physically in a doctor’s office or emotionally with your friends. That’s something that I’ve really become a lot more passionate about, not just in medicine, but in my personal life as well.
What is something that most people don’t know about?
This one’s hard because I’ve been a fairly open book with people, like about my reality TV obsession, my love for all things Harry Potter.
So this kind of stems back to what I went to the counseling services for. About a year ago, I was sexually assaulted. That was something that I kept to myself for nine months. I didn’t tell anybody. So when I went through a breakup and finally started opening up to people about what I went through, and what I was going through at that time, I finally got help, like professional help, and I’ve just finally started letting people in. It’s a story that I’ve been very selective in who I shared it with. And eventually, I want to get to a point where I don’t have to be afraid to talk about it. And I’m getting to that point. This is probably the second time that I’ve talked about it where I haven’t cried.
So I know that I’m getting there. But the experience that I went through was terrifying. I was so afraid of other people’s judgment. I was ashamed. I felt like it was my fault. When KU had their Sexual Assault Awareness Week, seeing all those flags out there that represented each woman at KUMC [who had] been assaulted in some way, shape, or form, and knowing that I wasn’t alone, one, is scary because it sucks that it’s so prevalent, but also very comforting to be like, you know what, you’re not broken. You’re not defined by this. It will always be a part of you. But what you choose to do with this is solely up to you. In that way, I feel like I’ve been able to really look at the worst parts of myself and no longer judge myself for those things that I’d always been so ashamed of.
What inspires you?
Watching other people succeed. It inspires me [to] just see how proud they are of themselves, that they are looking back and knowing how hard they worked and knowing that it was all put towards something that they could achieve. I loved watching Match Day. It was just so powerful to me. I was like, I cannot wait. I was like, when we get back from spring break, I’m going to study so hard. Just being able to watch other people pursue their own dreams in their own way is very inspiring to me because you can really do anything you set your mind to, within certain limits. I’m just recognizing that a lot of the ability for me to succeed rests in my own hands. And being reminded of that is very inspiring today.
What is your journey into medicine? So I first wanted to become a doctor in high school, I started out wanting to be a physical therapist, and then everyone wanted to do that. So I was like, I’m not gonna do that then. Then I was like, why don’t I just be a doctor? I know me. I always go above and beyond. I always want to be the best. That would be a great place to do it. So I started taking more science classes and just fell in love with science and biology. It stemmed back to [me being] in the room when my sister was born. I got to watch that. And that was the coolest thing ever. I was like eight years old and it’s still ingrained in my brain. If I could do that every day, if I could bring joy and happiness and a feeling of comfort to people, why wouldn’t I? So I knew that I wanted to do medicine in high school.
I went to college knowing that I wanted to be pre-med, which is why I didn’t play soccer because if I’m going to give
something up, I’m not going to give up a career because I’ve always been very driven in that sense. I always was going to be pre-med, but my major changed all the time. I ended up going with biology because that’s where my passion truly lives. It was definitely humbling when I got my first B and things like that, but essentially, learning to not being afraid of failure, in the sense of not being afraid to apply to medical school out of fear of not getting in, overcoming a lot of that was probably the biggest challenge for me in my journey.
Then when I was a scribe, I was scribing in the ER, so I saw everything under the sun. That was a really great experience, to not only learn from but also give myself that reminder that I needed all the time when I was so scared that I wasn’t good enough.
What are your hopes in medical school?
Since my passions lie in women’s health, I really want to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology. I’ve always felt this like pull towards maternity. So being able to be a part of that process, one of the happiest processes for a lot of couples, being able to bring that joy to them and be with them through that journey. My hope is that I can always be that source of comfort and security, someone you can celebrate in good times with, [and be] foundational and a strong support in the bad times.
I just want my patients to feel comfortable coming to me about anything, that I can always be a doctor that they think of when they say, “You know, here’s someone going into medicine. I hope you’re like that doctor.” So I just want to be more than just a physician to my patients, I want to be a companion and somebody who’s going to go through these things with them and not just tell them what’s going to happen. So that’s my hope for myself in medicine, is just pushing myself to be better on the personal side because I think med school is hopefully going to adequately prepare me for the academic and intellectual side of it.