At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on.  The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me.  After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.



I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.



I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind).  One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.


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from his grandmother’s chimney when she passed away.

We began to make our way back over and down the hill, carefully side-stepping holes and poison ivy. I looked down at my feet to better navigate the challenging hillside when I found my compass. A worn, faded, and dirty penny. I couldn’t believe it. My great-uncle Jack began telling me that my Paw would place pennies in the trees and try to shoot them out with his .22 rifle. Somehow, I had found a token of time. A penny that was lost to my grandfather many years ago, possibly when I was his age and my father was wearing diapers. As tears filled my eyes, I tried to read the date. “1940 something”.

With my lucky penny clasped in my hand, I hopped into my Dad’s truck. The penny had followed me to the place where my family began. It had withstood 50 years of weather and the changing of the seasons to prove that I was where I was always meant to be, never to be doubted again. All my questions about my identity were answered that day on that hill.

I may not be deserving of the new title of “doctor” yet, but I now know who I want to help. I want to help my family. I want to help my friends. I want to help the people who made me. As long as I keep them in mind and squeeze my penny in my hand, I will live up to the title. I have to live up to it. I want to do it all for them. They have given me everything and they deserve the world.

 About the Author

Torie Osborne is a 4th year medical student at the University of Kentucky. Torie was born in the mountains of Virgie, KY. She hopes to return home to practice as a Pediatrician and Child Psychiatrist.

I am defined by the people who made me. I am my Mother’s determination and my Father’s inquisitiveness. I am my Nanny’s empathy and Paw’s selflessness. I am a proud daughter of Eastern Kentucky and its beautiful quilt of mountains, fried chicken, and fiddle music. Throughout my life, I’ve often taken pride in the title of “student” and now, with the transition to “doctor,” I question whether I’m worthy of the title.

There was a time when I questioned my worth concerning any title. In 2017, before medical school started, I was racing away to Florida in an attempt to find out who I was on my own. It was during this time that I discovered my knack at finding pennies, or rather it may have discovered me. I prayed that God would send me pennies, one a day for an entire week, to show me that I was on the right path. I easily found a penny the first three days, but when day four came and went without a penny, I became discouraged. Days five and six passed me by and I became further disillusioned. On Day seven however, I found four pennies scattered about a vacant parking spot.

Since that day, finding pennies has become my touchstone. I followed my path of pennies right into the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine and they haven’t led me astray yet. Abraham Lincoln’s copper face has guided me through exams, patient encounters, and tricky attending physicians. Now, they begin to guide me through another set of big decisions.


If you had asked me five years ago where I would end up practicing medicine, I would have told you I didn’t know. I have skillfully avoided the question, “Are you coming back home?” on many occasions. A blessing in disguise, COVID-19 interrupted my regularly scheduled medical school programming and I found myself scouring First Aid in-between home cooked meals and much needed family time. As I sat in my childhood room, I looked around and realized that there is nowhere that I would rather be. I wanted to be home.

On a hot summer’s day, I found myself, and the rest of my extended family, surrounding a tree at my Father’s childhood home. This was the first time I had been there. It was tucked away in a holler. A winding gravel road wound around until eventually coming to a stop at the top of a hill. My family had made tha hill  trip to help lay my Father’s aunt to rest. She had passed away on Christmas Day and her final wish was to have her ashes scattered around the pecan tree that she loved as a growing girl. We waded through the informal ceremony. At its end, my Father asked me to join him in the overgrown raspberry patch where a rock wall was barely visible in the foliage and the shade. “Your Paw made this by hand,” he said. He plucked a rock from the crumpling wall and explained that he wanted to put the rock into our landscaping at home, beside the one he picked