Short Stories

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Paging Dr. Powell

By Ruth Keyso, Director of Alumni Relations & Giving

When Dr. Ernest Powell ’03 was 12 years old, a teacher assigned him and his classmates a special project: to paint portraits of their future selves.

Under Ernest’s masterpiece he wrote the words, “anesthesiologist.”

Fast-forward 19 years. He wasn’t too far off the mark.

In his fourth and final year of medical residency at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Ernest is fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. Working in the field of obstetrics and gynecology—the rotation he feared most during medical school—Ernest says he cannot imagine a more suitable or fitting profession. For someone who gets bored easily, the fast pace of his job and the constant rotation of new people and new medical challenges keep him on his toes. As for the long hours and the sometimes-frenetic nature of doctoring, Ernest says he doesn’t mind the grind.

“I’ve never minded hard work, staying up late, following up on things,” he says. “I enjoy when it’s hectic, chaotic.”

Ernest works most days from 6 a.m. til 6 p.m. and is on call every other weekend. While delivering babies and diagnosing illnesses, he is developing his bedside manner. Ernest says he strives to be direct yet empathetic with his female patients. He says it’s easy to “become cold” as a doctor when you see women not taking care of their health or doing things that adversely affect the health of their babies. But he is learning not to judge and to let go of biases when working with his patients, while at the same time making them feel at ease in his presence.

“It can be hard for [male gynecologists]; you can’t make it seem awkward,” he says. “I think my personality allows people to be comfortable with me.”

When asked about advice for aspiring doctors, Ernest says to make sure you’re choosing the profession for the right reasons.

“Don’t become a doctor for the money or because your family wants you to,” he says, noting that those things won’t get you through the long nights of studying, or help you recover after a hard day on the job. Become a doctor because you’re passionate about the profession and know that it’s how you want to spend your life, he advises.

So far, life as a doctor has been good for Ernest: the heady feeling of delivering a baby, the thrill of saving a life, the moment when a grateful patient sends a thank you card for a job well done. Ernest looks forward to completing his residency in less than one year and going into practice full time. In reflection, he’s proud to have stayed along the path he planned for himself as a young boy.

“I’ve always enjoyed learning,” he says. “Little did I know how much learning this would be.”

Ernest is a 2003 graduate of Lake Forest Academy and a 2007 graduate of the University of Illinois, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in economics and pre-med. He also holds a master’s degree in biotechnology from Roosevelt University and his MD from Case Western Reserve. He lives in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood.

Posted by Ms. Grace Kim in Fall 2016 on Tuesday October, 11, 2016 at 01:14PM


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