MCOM student earns second place in national AOA essay contest

USF medical student Ethan Song

His illness and his passion for medicine as an aspiring doctor motivated first-year Morsani College of Medicine student Ethan Song to write the essay “Hope in Hopeless Causes.” Song’s essay recently earned second place honors in the Alpha Omega Alpha Helen H. Glaser Student Essay contest out of 74 entries nationwide.

He was diagnosed with a congenital illness called X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) at age 5. XLA is a condition, mostly affecting males, that attacks the immune system and makes the body more vulnerable to infection.  Currently undergoing treatment, his goal is to show that medicine is a selfless story of humanity and the accumulation of the efforts from past physicians – not simply knowing how to treat a particular disease.

“I hope to pay that great fortune forward to others,” Ethan said.  “Even though we as current students cannot predict the future, I consider this moment to be an exciting time where we are preparing ourselves, so that, ultimately, as physicians, we may provide the foundational context to someone else’s story.”

Background about Song’s essay as told by him:

The narrative is divided into three parts, each part detailing three people in different places and different times. It begins in the early 1950s with Ogden Bruton, MD, who classified and developed a treatment for XLA through his meticulous observations of a very ill child named Joseph Holtoner, Jr.  Ten years later, the struggling actor turned renowned philanthropist, Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude Children’s Hospital to fulfill his lifelong promise to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. Finally, I describe the story of my family and me as a constantly ill child. I would later be diagnosed and treated by a small team of physicians at St. Jude. By digging into the stories, I hoped to untangle the cosmic thread that tied all our lives together.

To read Song’s essay, click here.