I've mentioned in my instagram posts about being #morethanyourmcat , but my truth is that not only does that apply but also does some missteps in my undergraduate education.
Truth: I got a D in Organic Chemistry I.
This is not something that I have ever shared with anyone but my parents because who wants anyone in their world to know that they essentially failed a class not only pertinent to their undergrad degree but also to their possible future as a physician. Although I know that my closest friends would not have supported me any less, it was just a truth that I was never comfortable sharing. My own, dare I say pride, got in the way.
In large part, I have always been a good student. Of course there were occasional missteps along the way, but I had never been in the place where a failing grade was at stake. That was until Organic Chemistry I. I am still not sure what happened with that class (I did manage to do a hair better in Orgo II and pull off a C), but needless to say, I was completely dejected after that debacle so much so that I hopped on a plane and flew across the world and spent the next 6 months in Australia for study abroad. I remember leaving (not to the delight of my parents especially given my failing grade--and my parent's didn't play failure...at all) not really sure where my pre-med future would head. I remember coming back that January way back in 2007 actually incredibly rejuvenated but yet still very uncertain if I had what it took. Thankfully, I managed to put together a few really solid semesters filled with high level biology and public health courses, and so part of me knew I was still capable of doing the work but I still had a dark shadow looming with this Orgo grade.
So, I already knew that going straight into medical school was not an option for me, but I was not sure how to go about remediating that organic chemistry course. I pretty much put that failing grade on the backburner and focused on getting a job for after undergrad, which thankfully I did and it wasn't just any job, I was blessed enough to land a Clinical Research position with the NIH Stroke Team. My job at the NIH was amazing for multiple reasons not limited to the amazing team I was on and all of the amazing physicians, scientists and researchers that I was able to work with, how much I learned (I can still teach people about strokes and Brain MRA/MRIs), but also because I had this great group of doctors who encouraged me and knew I was capable enough to do it and never once doubted my ability even through that first failed application cycle. Oh yeah. Forgot to mention that.
Failed Application Cycle #1. MCAT Score Pre Cycle: 18. YEP. 18. (In retrospect, I obviously shouldn't have wasted my money and apply that cycle but we live and we learn, eventually).
I was aware that I would need to do some extra coursework somehow in order to ameliorate or remediate this organic chemistry grade, so I ended up getting accepted into a Masters program at Geisinger Medical College formerly known as The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton PA. I knew that this was essentially my time to prove to myself (because everyone else never stopped believing in me--funny how that always seems to be the case), that I could handle advanced level coursework in med school like courses. I am still not sure if it was that something had suddenly clicked in my brain, I finally actually believed in myself, or if God just allowed me to actually became smarter-- whatever it was, it worked. But I'm still trying to figure that one out. But I ended up doing well in my Masters program and finished with over a 3.5 gpa. Nevertheless, I got waitlisted at their medical school that application cycle and as I watched all of my other friends come off the waitlist, it never happened for me.
Failed Application Cycle #2. MCAT: 22. YEP.
I decided to stay in NEPA for another year, ended up working for an Eye Doctor, but my main thought was that I was so close to getting in to that school, that I would definitely be a shoe in for the next cycle. Welp, got waitlisted again. Never made it off.
Failed Application Cycle: # 3. MCAT: 22.
It was at that point that my Dad had become more sick, so I made the decision to move back home. A few months later, my Dad would unexpectedly pass away. He was my best friend. My parents are both literally everything to me (next to God of course), so I physically felt as though part of my heart had been taken away. I still feel that way sometimes but that's for another post. In retrospect, although I kept extremely busy in the months after his passing (I was working three jobs at one point), I still remained pretty stagnant. I ended up being afforded the ability to go full time at my new clinical research job and that was a tremendous blessing. I worked for a great company and became such an important member of the team, that for a while I think I became stagnant in my desire to go to Medical school. With all of the failed application attempts and the difficulty that I had with Standardized testing, I started to really second guess my career decision, whether or not I had what it took, and whether I should really be investing more money into this deferred dream. During that time, I contemplated going to Pharmacy school (I was working for a Clinical Research Group that did Pharmaceutical Trials at the time), I also seriously contemplated just continuing at my research position because I loved it, I was good at it and down the road, it could've proven to be a very financially profitable position. However, as I continued to work with my patients, the pangs of becoming a physician only became more persistent and deeper. To my reluctancy, I knew that I had to retake the MCAT. So while working full time, I studied. This was almost two years after the last application cycle I had applied to. I retook it. Still couldn't master it but I knew this was my final shot so I was all in.
MCAT: 24. Failed Application Cycle: 4.
I applied to only HBCU and DO programs. No love was given back. I even sat down with a Dean from a DO program close to home and was pretty much told that the only thing that was holding me back was my MCAT. Fantastic. So I had a decision to make. Either I was going throw in the towel completely and figure out something else to do, or I was going to try out the Caribbean route. I failed to mention that after my first application cycle, I also applied to Caribbean schools and didn't get in. That's how poor of an applicant I was at that time (yeah, clearly I wouldn't make that ill-advised mistake again). Now, a Masters degree and three+ years of working in the health field later, I knew that I should be able to get into a Carib school, but I still had my doubts. I had seen many of my friends go the Carib route and do extremely well and start residency by this point, so I knew if God could just open that door for me, it could be done. I applied to Ross, AUC and SGU, the big three. This was February/March(ish) of 2015. I received my first interview from Ross and then AUC. Thankfully, I got into both. I knew that there was no more time to be wasted, so I wanted to leave for the May semester. I ended up being granted an interview @ SGU too, but I was ready to go and didn't want to wait for August. I chose Ross over AUC mainly for the systems based curriculum, huge US network of alumni as well as the fact that without asking, my Admissions Counselor submitted my application for a Scholarship, which I was awarded. Side note: When it's in God's hands, He will always give you exceedingly and abundantly.
MCAT:24. Application Cycle 4.5: ACCEPTED.
So finally it was my chance. I vividly remember talking to my Mom in her home office about my academic goals for medical school. She actually took a video of me saying only Apples, no bananas or cantaloupe-- translation-- Only A's, no Bs or Cs. Although I didn't quite live up to that completely, God allowed me to come pretty close. There was definitely no Cantaloupe. I ended up doing well enough that I was afforded the ability to serve as a Peer Tutor my 2nd, 3rd and 4th semesters. I also made the Dean's list my 3rd and 4th semester which means that I had over a 3.5 GPA for my 2nd, 3rd and 4th semesters. You guys remember that Organic Chemistry D right? And then I obviously still had issues with Standardized testing, but not only did I pass all of the Standardized tests we took during our 1st two years, but I also passed my USMLE Step 1 with a score decently above the US average.
None of this is meant to toot my own horn because I am not here because of me. I am here in spite of me. I spoke so many words of negativity, doubt, fear, dejection and depreciation over myself in those 6 years that I spent applying to medical school that I know it wasn't me who got me to this point. I am here because I serve the most amazing God and I have the most amazing family and friend support anyone could ever ask for. But the biggest thing that I want everyone to realize that no matter how bad it seems or how horrible of a student/test taker you think you are, if there is something deep down inside of you telling you not to quit, listen to it. Imagine if I would have thrown in the towel after that D? Or all of those horrible MCAT scores? Imagine if I would have listened to the advice of the admissions counselors and pre-med advisors telling me to find a different career because I would never make it? I would have never known the strength I possessed if it weren't for my struggle. Now, this is not to say that I didn't work my butt off in Medical school because I absolutely did and I still am. I was routinely one of the first people in our student center studying in the morning and one of the last ones to leave at night because I knew how hard I worked to even be afforded the opportunity to get to that point. I went into medical school with some anxiety, fear and doubt but I also went in knowing that failure was not an option. So some would ask me what is your secret? How did you go from a subpar undergrad student to a deans list student in medical school? Prayer, Hard Work and Believing in myself. There is no special secret study method, no secret algorithm, no special venn diagram, it's just the drive and determination from knowing that there is nothing else that will provide you career fulfillment other than becoming a physician.