Greetings again. I just wanted to share an amazing experience I had a few weeks ago. I was lucky enough to be invited to the yearly fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House, called the "Bag Lady Luncheon," by one of the organizers.
I had been looking forward to attending because of my own experiences with the Ronald McDonald House and its impact on my own life. When I was in High School I started volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia, taking the lead from my mother, who had been a volunteer for years. It is my understanding that the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia was the first one opened, and is/was affiliated with CHOP (the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia).
I remember the House in Philadelphia was very different than the one in Charleston. It was formerly a mansion built at a time when that particular area of the city was very affluent, and the owner had the faces of his children engraved in the banisters of the staircase. But more importantly than the physical house, I was more impressed and impacted by the resiliency of the amazing children battling horrible diseases like cancer.
They were an inspiration for me; in fact, they inspired me to become a physician.
While sitting at the luncheon table, I happened to make the statement that "the Ronald McDonald House was the reason that I became a physician."
The statement caused a few of the other attendees to inquire what I meant. I briefly explained how I had spent time at the Ronald McDonald House in high school, and continued to do so through college, including at the David's House, a similar organization at Dartmouth's Mary Hitchcock Hospital.
Theses experiences pushed me towards medicine and the desire to help children like the ones I came to know. I was asked to stand up and tell this story to the entire crowd, and without even thinking, agreed to do so...anything to help the fundraising effort! I had totally forgotten that just the day before I had undergone a microneedling treatment with Leah, so my skin was a bit red. As I walked up to the stage, I hoped that Ginny's emergency makeup session before I left the office was still holding up! Up on stage, I elaborated on how I actually went off to college as an Engineering major, but after freshman calculus, quickly realized that it was not my calling! I spent the next few years searching for my career path. My major actually ended up being Government modified with Economics, keeping open my options for a career in business or the law. But by my senior year, I realized that I was was being drawn to medicine. I never lost my love of the sciences, and I kept thinking about the children at the Ronald McDonald's House and David's House.
My younger brother had also been diagnosed with diabetes at a very young age, and I grew up knowing first hand the impacts of chronic childhood disease. I took the pre-med requirements my senior year and on graduation day, I moved to Washington, DC (with my liberal arts degree), and started working at the National Cancer Institute at National Institutes of Health. I worked on drug therapies for cancer patients, including pediatric patients. The experience at NIH reinforced that I was making the right decision to pursue medicine, so I took the entrance exam for medical school and started the application process.
Always passionate about those children battling serious diseases, I was firmly committed to pediatrics with a sub-specialty such as oncology, but during my third year of medical school, everything came together. I was attending medical school at the George Washington University. I was assigned to a surgery rotation in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the Children's Hospital in Washington, DC, and was exposed to some amazing surgeons with expertise in craniofacial disorders like cleft lip and palate. I realized that Plastic Surgery was the perfect specialty for me: it combined my new found love of surgery and working with my hands with my original goals to help transform children's lives. After I completed medical school, I moved to back to Philadelphia for my Residency training, where I was able to work at CHOP (the Chirldren's Hospital of Philadelphia), where the journey began! After my little speech, I was followed on stage by a mother who shared the heart feIt and moving story of her daughter's battle with Sickle Cell Disease and how invaluable the Ronald McDonald House has been to her and her family. I am pleased to report that the silent and live auctions at the event raised more than $160,000 to assist those families with children battling horrible diseases like cancer and Sickle Cell. I strongly encourage anyone with a desire to volunteer to become involved with this wonderful organization! Feel free to call the House to get involved, or you can call my office with any questions. Their number is (843) 723-7957 Click HERE to visit their website. I hope everyone has a great week! And until next time.... Heidi Williams, MD