Poor No More
by Steven Bentley, MD

"I realized for the first time in my life, that the road in front of my house was connected to all of the other roads! It occurred to me that if I began to travel those roads, then I could go almost anywhere in the world."

Steven has much to be grateful for in life. Born as a baby-boomer in a small town of Georgia, his congenital condition—Kartagener syndrome—affects an early childhood already rife with poverty and abuse. Memories recalled of this period are "fragmented and dim." Burdened by his parent's divorce, his nearly absent racist father drifts in and out of Steven's life as he witnesses the personal destruction of his alcoholic and promiscuous mother.

Tormented by painful and harrowing years spent in an orphanage and later with his father's new wife, Myrtle, whom Steven unabashedly refers to as his "evil stepmother," he escapes by means of travel, exploring parts of the country that are wholly new and exhilarating to him. Everything changes for the better when Steven enters college and eventually medical school, whereupon he discovers the emerging world of the "red-headed step child of Medicine"—Emergency Medicine. Yet through all of this, Steven faces surmounting medical and physical challenges while afflicted with a kind of survivor's guilt and experiencing a series of setbacks that nearly cost him his career and even his life.

Set against the backdrop of the 1960s through the 1990s, the title of Steven's memoir becomes clear, as he thoroughly recounts the years spent traveling and discovering not only the world, but himself. His is not a life of the financially wealthy doctor, but one that is enriched by worldliness and a maturation from the despair of his early life. Awakened by his travels and privileged with a profession in emergency medicine, his account imparts a certain cathartic effect onto the reader. We are not just invited to share in Steven's story, but rather we are called on to reflect deeply on what it truly means to survive and find purpose in this complex world.

Return to USR Home