From Patient to Physician: A Personal Journey | U Magazine | UCLA Health

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EPILOGUE From Patient to Physician: A Personal Journey By Leigh C. Reardon, MD (RES ’11) Photos: Courtesy of Dr. Leigh C. Reardon There sometimes comes a moment when you realize that what you’ve always believed to be your greatest weakness is in fact the source of your greatest strength. For me, that awakening began to flicker when I first considered entering medicine as my college years were coming to a close. I had been studying literature and economics, and I figured I would probably end up going to law school or into academia. I was working summers as a lifeguard, and to boost my pay, I decided to become an emergency medical technician (EMT). On the first day of class, the woman sitting next to me noticed the scar peeking out from the top of my shirt, and she began to cry. “You had open-heart 52 U MAGAZINE surgery,” she said, as she leaned into me. She was right on target; when I was 5 years old, a surgeon cut into my chest to enlarge the narrow pulmonary valve that controlled the flow of blood from my heart to my lungs. “You don’t know what it means to me to see someone who is in their 20s going to college and doing well,” she said, telling me that her young daughter had a severe form of congenital heart disease and was about to undergo her third heart surgery in a few months. The woman was in the EMT class to learn what to do if her daughter had a medical emergency at home. After a couple more classes, she asked if I’d be willing to