Winter 2024

Members & Publications


How Unexpected Changes Can Lead to Opportunity 

De Jesus circle


   Kevin De Jesus, MD
   University of Puerto Rico

Change has been a constant in my life; inconspicuous at times and quite shocking at others. It is an expression of the intertwining of circumstances, decisions, reactions and serendipity that mark us for good, bad or maybe neither. Sometimes, change is the first sign of evolution and growth and sometimes, it is just a survival adaptation. I live my days in that interplay. Let me share some of my experiences; I hope you are okay with me getting personal.

I never imagined I would end up in PM&R. Not that I was completely swayed by another specialty while in medical school, I liked everything but Pediatrics and Psychiatry, but I just had yet to be exposed to Physiatry. But by fourth-year, I was convinced I was going for OB-GYN, interested in gynecologic oncology, yet that ideation was short-lived. I did not match. However, I met my wife on the interview trail, but that is a song for another time. One month had gone by, I was soon to graduate, wondering what I would do with a residency-less MD degree. By good fortune, my friend Laura changed my life with a simple Instagram message: “My PM&R program is opening a new position for a research fellow. If you know anyone interested, let me know.” I just replied: “Well, me.” And that is when my journey in PM&R started.

But do you remember the part when I did not match? During that time, my dad was also changing. In 2017, my dad was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a dooming diagnosis. Throughout the years, his physical appearance changed, his voice started fading, and suddenly, he was not the person he once was. We now needed to help him get dressed, to be vigilant for him not to aspirate, and I was tucking him in at nighttime. The week of the match, he went into respiratory failure, needing an emergency intubation and, lastly, a tracheostomy. He then required a ventilator to breathe and was bedbound. As a family, we needed to make changes in our house to accommodate this new reality that fell on our laps.

As you can see, sometimes life takes you through unexpected paths. The key is how you decide to make those transition points of your own. I completed two years as a Research Fellow, matched, I am very eagerly completing my second year of residency in PM&R, and I am proudly part of the AAPM&R Physiatrist in Training Council Board (PHiT). During my time as a Research Fellow, I was able to commute from home and work remotely while supporting my family through my dad’s condition. My dad continues to inspire me, now working daily designing art for customized personal items (e.g., mugs, tumblers, shirts) through his eye gaze-enabled device, with proceeds from sales used to buy medical supplies for others in need. I also keep a lifelong balancing act of being both a doctor and a professional musician when my shift ends.

Life is full of changes. Those changes in momentum can put you at ease, while other times, it may bring an exhilarating opportunity. In my case, I would never have imagined that the most valuable lessons as a physician would come in my own home, enhancing my sense of empathy with patients and giving me that valuable vantage point. The journey is as important as the goal. It is what shapes us, not only to succeed in that effort but to grow upon it. Lately, I have been intrigued by the phrase “Pressure is a privilege.” For me, that means an opportunity was given to be seized. I think of change in the same way, as the chance to make something unexpected, yours.