Spreading my wings
Editor’s note: Bansari Mehta submitted his following personal story to Global Young Voices. You too can submit yours to us here.
“You never know what you hold in until you spread your wings.” This quote has played a major role in chiseling the person I am today.
Growing up, I was known as a lively, outgoing, and friendly kid. However, I learned early on that I could not be confined within the norms. I was friends with the bullied kids in school, and I fed the stray dogs on the streets. My parents also helped me develop an open mind, be it about religion, new activities, or food.
Through my Indian upbringing, I realized that the only limit is the human mind. I grew up in a middle-class family where hard work, honesty, reliability, and friendliness were exceptionally important, and my dad is a self-made, assertive individual who taught me that the most important principles of life are learned through hard work. Seeing my dad struggle so my siblings and I could go to the best private schools has stayed with me forever. Everyone has an idol they can relate to; mine is my father.
In high school, I chose STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) courses as I was preparing to get into Respiratory Therapy School. I had a very strong desire to work in patient service. My experience in India watching underprivileged people being denied healthcare services and frequently choosing death instead impacted my commitment to this field. Growing up, I realized that healthcare is definitely a privilege. I vividly remember my first day of Respiratory Therapy school, where I was posted in the Intensive Care Unit. There, I watched a patient go into cardiac arrest.
No one helped him.
I was shocked when I was told that the family had abandoned him due to financial constraints. This event increased my desire to become a patient care specialist. In this field, going beyond a bachelor’s degree lends credence. The only reason I came to Oklahoma was to complete my Master’s degree in Health Administration and Policy from the University of Oklahoma. I like to say I started my life at negative 100 in the United States because I came to this country with no clue of what I was getting into. I vividly remember having seventy pounds of luggage, no family support, no cell phone, no place to live, and hardly any money; yet, I was still here. Everything I knew about this country was from television and books. Very soon, I found myself to be the only international student in my class. The learning curve was steep, but I persisted and fought back.
My father’s directive of hard work proved to be accurate. I was able to complete my 60-credit Master’s degree in less than two years. I was chosen as the Outstanding Multicultural Graduate student between seven colleges. Thank you, Dad.
After completing my master’s degree, it was time to give back to the community that had given me so much love and support. I started being involved with the World Experiences Foundation. Since its founding, the organization has worked to promote issues such as cross-cultural understanding and fight racism and bigotry through unbiased education. I also work with local colleges to mentor low-income, first-generation, college-bound minorities because I can relate to their struggles.
Another cause I stand for is Shot@Life Childhood Immunization. I regularly make my stand and lobby for causes I believe in. Previously the Lead Project Manager for the Preparedness Outreach Program with the American Red Cross, I worked on promoting public education involving natural disasters. I also serve on various local non-profit boards in the community, including the United Nations Association of Oklahoma City.
I also work as a Medical Practice Administrator for Retina Vitreous Center (RVC) in Edmond, Oklahoma. We are a three-physician, five-location practice, as well as the state’s fastest growing practice. I have implemented various groundbreaking policies and procedures at Retina Vitreous Center. Senior colleagues were impressed by my activity, and I was asked to hold a webinar for the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives on how I had successfully brought about a new conduit with policies and procedures exclusive to our practice. I have been with the organization for two years now, and I have seen us reach our goals of top-notch patient care, increased profitability, and staff stability.
After a rigorous selection process, I was selected by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation as a peer mentor for the 2017 UN Youth Assembly. I am humbled to have been given a chance to share my story. It is not about how good you look on paper; rather, it is what is inside you and how you direct it to make this world a better place.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV
Photos credit: Bansari Mehta