For my listeners:
For my readers:
Welcome back to The Human Side (of Medicine), unless it’s your first time here - in which case, welcome! I have missed you all!
Today is my 25th birthday. This feels important and unimportant for many reasons. To my chagrin, I found my first gray hair (thank you medical school stress) and I am also reveling in the fact that I am now, by most standards a full-blown adult. I’m hoping for another three rounds of 25 years of life :).
This post serves as the text accompaniment to my newly released podcast episode! They don’t mirror each other perfectly, but the gist is the same.
A Brief Introduction (to my arrival in medical school):
This story begins on a dreary Wednesday morning in March. I was in third grade, freshly eight years old. I discovered my baby sister, Victoire, dead in her crib—her pale grey skin marred by blue blotches. I later learned the medical terminology for this post-mortem state: livor mortis, which describes the discoloration that occurs in the superficial layers of the skin after death. My mother’s despair, her pleas for help that morning, still haunt me. So do the failed attempts of the emergency room doctors who, despite their best efforts, could not undo the cold reality of a two-and-a-half-month-old baby girl dying in her sleep for no good reason whatsoever. I learned a sad lesson far too early on: the world gets a little dimmer every time a child dies.
Sometimes, life hurts. The trauma and pain of death has lasting and damaging effects on the human soul. And yet, the way I see things now, every day that passes, even the mundane, awful, exhausting and joyous days, every one of those days spent above ground, is a gift and a call to action.
Pursuing medicine is far beyond a matter of passion or interest, at least in my case. Medicine is inextricably linked to my identity; who I am as a person cannot be unraveled from my journey to becoming a doctor. For me, enduring the rigors of medical training, no matter how arduous they can be at times (and let me tell you - there are some weird and rough days…for example, practicing how to do a digital rectal exam on a standardized patient for four hours!!!!!!! - this is when you stick your index finger into a patient’s rectum to feel for polyps, look for blood in the stool, and if they are male, assess their prostate…I actually have a funny story related to this experience…to be shared soon on the podcast and website :) !!!). Anyways, i digress….the challenges of medicine no matter how gut-wrenching they can be at times are in my opinion, magnificent because they are manifestations of my dream - one I have fought for every single day.
Nevertheless, studying medicine is paradoxically an extraordinary privilege and burden. And if we are going to talk turkey, the amount of money, time and psychosocial resources required to submit sufficient applications to medical school, to take the MCAT (I did not take a prep course, because I could not afford one), to attend college and to perform extraordinarily well in one’s undergraduate studies, the exorbitant loans required to cover the cost of medical school tuition create a nearly, if not completely, insurmountable barrier to entry for many, including myself.
For those who see value in school names, statistics, and quite frankly some hard-to-come-by transparency: I applied to 36 medical schools, received invitations to interview at 9 places (Quinnipiac, Hofstra, Brown, Harvard, Drexel, The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Oakland University William Beaumont, UMASS, and Case Western). I traveled to all of these places, presented my supposed “best self,” obliterating and over-drafting my pitiful savings account, maxing out credit cards (By the way, I was denied four times before receiving my first $400 limit secured Bank of America card) and requesting forbearance on my undergraduate loans along the way. I received no financial help from my family, and I did not expect to - the cost of merely applying was a $8000.00. I eventually was accepted to five of these schools and now attend The University of Massachusetts Medical School, in my second year.
I write this in hopes of offering a glimpse into the reality that the achievement of acceptance to medical school neither appears out of thin air, nor is it entirely my own. It is the product of a daily commitment to my future patients and their families, of the people in my life who have challenged me to become a better person, and of an eight-year-old girl’s desire to prevent other little girls and boys from having to find their new baby brother or sister dead one morning before school.
So that’s a small piece of my story, I’ll share more as we get to know each other. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, go read about the wonderful Humans of Medicine that make the long days of classes and clinic bright and interesting. Don’t forget to listen and subscribe to the podcast, follow @thehumansideofmedicine on Instagram and like the Facebook page!
Love and light to you all, take good care of yourselves.
Until next time.