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“What is your why?” with Christyn Byrd

Christyn Byrd is a sophomore biology major at Oakwood University. You can connect with her on Instagram 

From a young age I have always wanted to be a doctor (I know a lot of people say that but I took this thing as seriously as a five-year-old could back then). I was constantly found helping my sick and injured family members and friends. Early on, I developed a love and understanding for math and science, which also heavily influenced my decision to become a doctor. In addition to my love for helping people and passion for STEM subjects, I was driven by the tragic loss of my older sister Caitlyn. She passed away from major injuries suffered in a car accident at the young age of four months old. I have always wondered if she was given the best care or if she could have been saved. 

Although I’ve always been very sure about my career choice, my road to pursue medicine had not always been a walk in the park, and has been filled with so many challenges, fears, and doubts. Upon entering college, I sat in my first science classes almost rethinking my whole life, and questioning if this was the right path for me. As a person who prefers to have their entire life planned out years in advance, not knowing exactly what my next move would be did not sit well with me at all. 

 Many people told me to “find my passion”, to “find what I love”, to “find a career that would make me happy”, etc. the normal stuff people say to encourage you. While this advice is inspirational and should be followed, for me it way easier said than done. I had a lot of interests and it was difficult choosing such a monumental, life-altering decision with little to no exposure to all the fields and careers available. I began to wonder what career I should pursue, what major I should choose to study, etc. With much prayer, counsel, time, advice, and consideration I decided to major in Biology and chose medicine, for real this time. 


After my first year as a bio major, it was clear to me that I had made the right choice. I was excited to attend class, my eyes would light up at the sight of the human body, and I was thrilled to learn about the advances in medicine. Once I came to this decision, it was easier to stay motivated. This was and is super important because as a Biology major the nights are late, the work-load is heavy, the schedule is demanding, the material is rigorous, and the social outings are few (as you probably can attest to). It takes a lot of discipline and dedication to stay focused and on track, even when these doubts find their way in the mix.


The past few months have made me more confident than ever that I am on the best career path for me. COVID-19 along with the wrongful killing of George Floyd have both served as motivating factors, for different reasons. 


Amidst the horrific pandemic of COVID-19, I have seen doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers risk their lives every day to save or help other lives. This is not just the change we write about to make our applications look good, they put their lives on the line for others. This year, I have witnessed the possibilities and the potential that medicine has to change our world through recent breakthroughs and strides that are made every day to learn more about the virus.


Watching the killing of George Floyd was heartbreaking and infuriating. It was an unsettling reminder that racism still exists in our world. The recent events also reminded me that this has been the horrible reality of the healthcare provided to (or deprived from) Black community for hundreds of years. I can sit here and talk for hours about how Blacks were unethically experimented on in studies like the Mississippi Appendectomies and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, but I hope that by now (after months of protests and pushes on social media for education on the topic of racism) you get the point. The mistrust that has been passed down generation to generation translates into the physician-patient dynamic between non-black physicians and black patients today. I say all this to say that representation is crucial, especially at a time like this. As a double minority, all of this hit home (literally) and so pursuing healthcare is me helping to restore what has been broken in my community.


Whenever I am feeling discouraged or doubtful, I remember my “why.” I think of my sister, I think of the scientific advancements, I think of the racial disparities in healthcare, and I am reminded that I can be the physician that makes a significant change in not only my community but in my world. My “why” inspires me to make a difference and to be a part of the positive change I would like to see in the field of healthcare. 


To anyone questioning whether or not your career is right for you, I would challenge you to question what issues bother you? What things are lacking in your community? What pulls at your heartstrings enough for you to want to do something about it? What problem in our world would you like to solve or combat? How do you want to implement a change? After asking these questions, choose a career that allows the answer to those questions to be you. 


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