For so many years when someone asked me why you became a doctor my answer was straightforward – “I always wanted to be a doctor. It’s simple”. Although, most physicians will have the same answer, the real story is usually much much deeper. For me it was the famous Serbian dip called “Ajivar” or the community it created.
Every fall, as the youngest son in the family, my father organized gatherings at my grandmother’s house with one goal – to prepare “Ajivar”. Dip made of red peppers. Delicious. If you ever visit Balkans, Ajivar is a must have.
I can still smell the red pepers on the grill and see my grandmother Desa, chasing us with the wooden stick every time we put our fingers in the freshly produced jar of Ajivar. For me as a child, these gatherings were the ultimate source of happiness and joy.
One time, when I was 6, we finished lunch and everyone was sitting in the backyard. I couldn’t stay still, so I’ve started running around looking for my father. I’ve entered the house and saw him in the kitchen, sitting on the couch. He was different. His face was completely pale and covered with sweat. “I need help” – he was whispering. I didn’t know what to do, I run out of house and called my uncle Raka in tears and panic. Raka was a police officer and I remember him shouting “we need a doctor, we need a doctor…” Out of 30 people in that yard, there wasn’t a single doctor. Actually no one in our family was a doctor. People in white coats came, saved my father that day and a 6 year old Pedja learned something important. Becoming a doctor meant one thing. It meant being able to save your family. Many years later, I’ve became one. More specifically I’ve got involved in public health and application of community organizing in fixing and improving the health systems. This is what I do now in Serbia on the move and with ReThink Health. Mixing the joy of collaboration and working together (like making Ajivar) with saving people’s lives.