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Dr. David E. Bartlett: A strong desire to help people put me on my path to medicine

BLOG / By Dr. David E. Bartlett, Class of 2021

What a journey it has been to get to this point in my life. The path to medicine is tough, oftentimes grueling. Everyone has a back story, but for me, it has been years of perseverance, a wealth of personal growth and unwavering support from those around me. I have wanted to be a physician for so long that I cannot even remember the initial spark of interest. It is the only thing I have ever wanted to do. I did not have a physician or other health care provider in the family. I just had the strong desire to help people, and that put me on my path to medicine. I cannot think of a better way to devote my time than to help people, and what better way to help others than with their health?

​Growing up in small-town West Virginia was a rewarding experience. There really is something about the people in Appalachia, our sense of community and the welcoming culture. There aren’t many places where you can run into a complete stranger and have a conversation as if you have been friends for years or where you have neighbors who will drop everything they are doing to help another neighbor out. Being around people like this has a significant impact on a person, and I am no different. I feel lucky to have grown up in a place where going out of your way to help others is a way of life. Because of this, I did not know any other way, and for that, I am beyond thankful.

As I have grown in medical school, I have come to realize I love learning about the whole human body and what happens when things go awry. For me, no other specialties afford the opportunity to take a look “under the hood” and troubleshoot problems like radiology. Working through cases and utilizing my knowledge base to explain the pathology that is presented brings a sense of satisfaction that has been unmatched by any experiences during medical school. Although I thoroughly enjoyed every specialty, I always found myself wanting to look at imaging.

I am often asked how a people-person like me found his way into radiology. Although I do enjoy having conversations with patients, I went into medicine to help and heal people by guiding their care. I feel radiology provides the opportunity to make an impact on a day-to-day basis more than any other specialty, even if it is behind the scenes. I guess that is reflective of the communities that I come from where people do not help people to be seen — they help because it is the right thing to do and because they can.

I am excited to start my residency training and all the experiences that lie ahead. If there is one thing I have learned in my short time in medicine, it is that it is very humbling. There is always something new to learn and always someone to teach you, whether it is colleagues or patients. Moving forward, my goal will be the same as it has been these past four years — learn something new every day, and be the light that you want to see in people.


David E. Bartlett, M.D., is a 2021 graduate of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine and president of his class. A Richwood, West Virginia, native, Bartlett matched into the radiology residency at University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This opinion-editorial was originally published in The Herald-Dispatch on May 1, 2021. 


Date Posted: Saturday, May 01, 2021