I'm a Physician who did NOT get into med school
I woke up this morning realizing that it’s been almost 20 years since I was accepted to med school off the wait list. I like to call it my last minute decision to go to med school but it was anything but last minute.
I often tell people how I was NOT pre-med in college. I had no plans to become a doctor. Sure when I was younger my most common answer to what I wanted to be when I ‘grew up’ was a doctor. But that’s mainly because it was ingrained in me since I was little that I should become a doctor. Both my parents are doctors. My grandpa was a dentist and my grandma has her PhD. (Think about it—she was born in the 1920s and got her PhD in an age when it was rare for women.) So I grew up with my Lola encouraging me to become a doctor for her and for Lolo.
In college I focused on my writing while also finding a good Science major because it was what I was interested in. That Science major shifted from Cybernetics (what Mr. Bookworm majored in and what I still can’t tell you is about and just wasn’t for me) to some vague following of the math/physics/bio pre-reqs until I decided until I finally gave in and majored in Biology. Not Pre-med. I was one of two of hundreds (thousands?) of Bio majors who were NOT pre-med.
It was ultra-competitive and cutthroat, and yeah, I saw some cheating going on. And it was also disheartening for those fellow classmates who had the drive, passion, intellect, and heart to become an excellent physician but who just couldn’t get past O-Chem. For me, I studied hard and tried my best. The only thing that failed me was the higher level Physics, which I just couldn’t grasp. It was frustrating, but I switched to the lower level (Biology level not engineering level) Physics and was fine.
Yet it wasn’t until my last quarter at UCLA, AFTER I was already accepted to SFSU to get my MA in Creative Writing, that I decided to apply for med school. It still wasn’t that simple. I had finished all my pre-reqs for med school through my major, but I still needed to take the MCATs, ask for letters of recommendation, and actually APPLY.
So, much like my undergrad career, my graduate career was split between the Humanities and the Sciences. I worked on my writing and writing classes, I started doing research in a marine biology lab, I took classes for and studied for the MCAT, and in my second year of grad school, I applied for med school.
It was a humbling process. I can’t remember the exact number of schools I applied to, but I got interviews at 5.
I didn’t get in to any of them.
That’s right. I’m a physician who didn’t get into med school. Okay, that’s not exactly right, but I didn’t get in immediately—I was wait listed at Tufts.
So I went about my life, planning for the next year. I fulfilled all my credit requirements for my MA, except for my thesis. Mr. Bookworm and I decided to live together again—finding an apt near Berkeley so he could commute to UC Davis where he was working on his own graduate degree and I could commute to SFSU and the lab in Tiburon.
And then, in late July, I got my acceptance letter. Can I tell you that I debated whether or not to accept? I mean, thousands of applicants work so hard to get that letter, and here I was thinking of saying NO. I had the next year planned out. But then what?
I remember that day clearly. I checked the mail right before going to a reading at Golden Gate part, at the section that is in between the De Young Museum and California Academy of Sciences. There is an outdoor amphitheater there and one of my writing professors was doing a reading, along with a few other authors. I remember the distinct smell of the trees, the breeze in the air, the look of my professor as she read from her latest book. And I remember vacillating like crazy, and like driving my twin crazy in the process.
In the end, I took the leap. It’s not the last time I second-guessed myself in life decisions, but I can tell you with truthfulness that I don’t regret deciding to go to med school.
Even as I told myself that I could get my MD and not do residency….
Yes, it was likely a protective mechanism rather than admitting to myself that I had committed to another minimum seven years of hard work and studying. And it was worth it in the end. a
Because I love being a pediatrician.
If you have a patient twin (and a patient boyfriend/future husband) to hash it all out with, more power to you. I’m grateful to both people for helping me make such a big/small decision.
I mean, I got in to med school…there was nothing to do but say yes!
Tell Dr. Bookworm!
Do you have a very detailed memory of making an important life decision? Let me know in the comments!
By the way, there is a very important White Coat Ceremony that Tufts has for incoming medical students. My twenty year anniversary for that is this September and I remember it even more distinctly than my graduation ceremony. They still continue the tradition, now with the added ‘ASK’ of having alumni sponsor a stethoscope for a new first year. I think it’s a fabulous way to connect alumni to new med students while helping them along the way. Though I admit I haven’t donated yet. Mostly because I’m still paying back my med school loans—pediatricians are among the lowest paid in the medical field. So maybe I’ll sponsor a prospective pediatrician. :D