When I was 5 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a doctor.
But that was before my parents divorced, before my mom struggled with depression and anxiety, and before my dad was left raising three girls by himself.
When I was seven, my parents decided to split. First, my mom took care of me and my two sisters but then she developed severe depression and anxiety and couldn’t emotionally handle the responsibility. My dad then had the three of us until my mother was better.
Living with my mom meant getting up at 1AM every night to help her deliver newspapers and then going door to door after school collecting money for the subscriptions. We also painted house numbers on curbs and baby-sat for money to help pay for food and rent.
Living with my dad meant taking care of myself and my sisters when he had to go out of town for business, even at the age of 12. I moved back and forth between parents most of my childhood years and my parents moved frequently whenever they got a new job, which meant making new friends each time and starting at different schools, sometimes mid-year. When I was about 15, my mom moved out of state, leaving my sisters and me with my dad. She left no phone number or address and didn’t call for almost two years. When she did come back, she remained distant emotionally. Still, I don’t consider myself close to her.
Toward the end of my high school career, I found myself with a lack of good female role models in my life. It was then that I was connected with the Fulfillment Fund and my mentor, Karen Baynard. She was a strong woman who had a successful career. She was interested in my goals and achievements, and she encouraged me when I needed it.
Very few people in my closest family had gone to college, let alone medical school. So, I had to research every step on my own and find my way. My mentor was a tremendous help, both financially (giving me money for books and expenses each quarter) and emotionally (believing in me when the classes were tough and the challenges were great).
My mentor met with me at least a couple of times a year when I was in college and has come to every graduation since we met (college, med school, and even residency). Most recently, she attended my wedding and plans to visit in July to meet my newborn son, Sellers. She even took me on a trip to Washington DC when I was working in Pennsylvania at a summer camp. Before that summer, I had never traveled outside of California. Seeing the national monuments and visiting the Smithsonian are experiences I will never forget, thanks to her!
Now, I am an academic surgeon at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, specializing in breast diseases. I am the first doctor in my family. It has been invaluable to have had a mentor like Karen in my life.
Dr. Christine Dauphine is a surgeon at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, specializing in breast diseases. A graduate of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and University of California Riverside, she lives in the Los Angeles area with her family.