George Pounds '24 thought he wanted to be a doctor. One conversation led to a life-changing course correction.
The skin disorder is called vitiligo. Its cause isn't entirely understood, but it occurs when pigment-producing cells stop functioning. George noticed his first spot when he was in the 6th grade. It was just one more reason to visit the doctor's office.
"Sometimes I forget I have it on my face. I wonder why people are staring at me. I have to remind myself, when people ask, they're not asking to be ignorant. I try to educate people. When I'm at the pediatrics office, I let kids touch my skin. I try to make people feel comfortable and educate them."
Trips to the pediatrician used to be frequent and personal for George; now they're frequent and professional. Four weeks ago, George began his nursing career at Schoolhouse Pediatrics. It's the start of a career that he's been pursuing, sort of, most of his life.
"I always wanted to be in the medical field because I always had something going on. Being rushed to the hospital for an asthma attack, you don't know what's going on. You've got to trust that these people will make you better. They're the fixers. It made me love my team of doctors."
There was asthma and vitiligo and alopecia, a disorder that caused George to lose his hair in kindergarten. Most kids would have dwelled on the problems, but George worshiped the healthcare staff for having solutions. For that reason, George enrolled at Siena as a biology major and intended to be a doctor. His plans changed after a single conversation with Dr. Lisa Lally, director of nursing.
"Most of my life, I've never seen male nurses. But my friends told me about our nursing program and how it's person-centered. That's what I was looking for. I talked with Dr. Lally and she laid out my whole four years. It's exactly what I was looking for."
George is now a registered nurse and making the kind of impact that first attracted him to the medical field. He may pursue cardiology in the future, but for now, he's happy working with children and fulfilling birthday wishes (bottom). Some people still ask him if he plans to be a doctor, but just like questions about his skin, they're not asking to be ignorant. George uses it as a teaching moment (below).
"A lot of people don't know what a nurse does. They have their own idea from television. On TV, the nurse is portrayed as a doctor's assistant, but that's not the case. You're not just prescribing medication and following orders. You're treating patients, and you're creating this human connection. When they wake up and when they close their eyes, the nurse is there for them. People ask if I'm going to medical school. No, this is what I'm supposed to do."
George Pounds '23
A Birthday Surprise
One day during clinicals, as George looked over his patient's chart, he noticed the date of birth. That day just happened to be the patient's birthday. George walked into the room and offered the patient a hearty happy birthday wish.
"The patient lit up, and I could tell that the simple birthday wish really meant a lot to them."
That was enough, or at least it would have been for most people. Not George. He went with a colleague to the gift shop and they pooled their money to buy a birthday present. They picked out a little bear and had a gift shop employee wrap it with a bow.
"Sometimes patients are alone. Friends and family can't visit. It's the nurse's role to be there with our patients on birthdays and holidays. When we walked in with the birthday gift, the patient was so happy. The experience was very gratifying. I could tell the joy that came from a simple act of kindness."