Friday, February 7, 2014

Growing Pains and Gains

Well, it begins again… Soon, I will headed to study in a new foreign place. Familiar, huh? However, a lot has changed since my fabulous and frivolous semester abroad in Australia (that I wouldn’t change at all!), and I am in a different place in my life, especially with my educational goals.
As a young college student, I originally shuffled into biology because I knew I liked science, and, honestly, I liked the idea of being in the hardest major. I had no idea what I wanted to do with a Biology degree, but at the time adamantly refused to consider medicine. Reasons like the time it takes, the money it takes, and the sheer effort invested into a medical education made me quiver. Until, by chance, I ended up in this interim of medical internships. As a preface, usually interim is a period of the school year where academics and class preparation take a back seat to relaxing, partying, and socializing. It is the one time in the Wofford school year where students can sit back and do very little. Clinical Internships, however, were very different; my days were spent waking early to meet physicians at their practices or hospitals, and going home when they went home (which is usually after 5 or 6pm). Over the period of the month, shadowing 5 days a week, I think the average student amassed over 120 hours in clinical settings. The experience was invaluable, however, and convinced me that a career in medicine would be fulfilling, worthwhile, and suitable for my gifts and strengths.
I’ll never forget on my first day of shadowing: in the Pediatrics ER. The most serious thing I saw all day was a child with a broken arm (most children in the ER were brought in for tummy-aches or runny noses, it seemed), but the doctor I worked with left me with some wise words. He told me that not everyone was capable of being a doctor, and if I was capable, I should consider it more seriously, because the capability to pursue a career in medicine is a blessing.
Over that next month, I got to witness some amazing doctors practicing some amazing medicine. Watching both vaginal deliveries and a caesarean section of TWINS was eye-opening to me of how amazing our bodies are, and how amazing life is. Seeing infectious disease doctors with no fears for their own health, only dedication to their patients’ well-being and healing, showed me that the practice of medicine is truly an art. One of the most serious and life changing moments of my life was when I sat in with the surgeon explaining to a woman, with her family sitting alongside, that she had a enormous and malignant tumor that was seriously threatening her life, and that she would need swift and aggressive treatment if she was to be saved. Personal, powerful, and intelligent actions made by doctors to bring about healing persuaded me that a career in medicine was attainable and worthy of my time and effort.
So, my senior year when I returned from my semester abroad, I finally started the non-biology core courses required for medical school. In the spring of 2012, I embarked upon my hardest semester at Wofford… Organic Chemistry II, at the same time as a legendarily hard Anatomy course. During that same semester, my beloved Granddaddy unexpectedly passed away after being admitted into the ER only 6 hours earlier, after over 45 minutes of failed resuscitation attempts. His death took me by such surprise that I doubted what I wanted to do, where I wanted to be. He was such a grounded figure in my life, always offering me direction and support. Did I really want to practice medicine at all? Did I really want to feel responsible if I ever lost a patient, or, worse, if my humanity ever allowed me to be negligent? I had more than one doubt about why I should keep memorizing anatomy, and reactions, and science…

Graduation that following May was bittersweet- leaving the comfort of college, your best friends (many who are also attempting to enter the medical field), your supportive professors, and relative lack of responsibilities is scary. Especially when you aren’t sure of the next steps you should take in life.

That fall, I was blessed with a position teaching Environmental Education at Barrier Island on Seabrook Island, SC.  A loving Christian community surrounded me in a beautiful, healing, place, and it was there I was able to re-examine my priorities, plans for the future, and even my years in college.  Teaching children came easy for me- I enjoy explaining complex ideas to people, and children require such simplicity that I was able to sharpen my communication skills.
The day after I taught my first class I took my MCAT in Charleston. The results took about a month, and really weren’t what I was hoping for. My strong background in biological sciences and organic prepared me well for the biological section, but on the physical section I struggled. The immense feeling of failure when receiving a score lower than the one you need is just pure frustrating. I will admit, I wasn’t studying those last few weeks during my job training as I should have been, and it was all my fault that I didn’t score higher, but it still felt like a reason to give up on medical school. Not doing well that September meant having to wait a whole extra year to apply, and I was in such an unnecessary hurry, the thought of that just frustrated me even more. So, I stopped thinking about medical school. I threw myself into the job I loved, teaching kids about science and the world around them, and started brewing up other ideas. Nursing school seemed to be the simplest route to get me into the medical field. Or there was always a becoming Physicians Assistant, or Anesthesia Assistant, or Occupational therapist… the options seemed endless, but I have to admit, never truly satisfying.
At the end of the school year, this past May, I moved with my boyfriend to Jackson, Wyoming, for the summer season. We each were placed in seasonal positions, back in dormitory housing. It is obvious to me (writing from my dormitory now) that I have grown a lot in the last year since my college graduation. I am no longer as enthusiastic to party and socialize as I was in college, instead preferring to read or enjoy some quiet time. College was a big distraction for me from my studies, and as a young adult I realize that I needed a little time to grow out of my partying tendencies. I am in a much better place to enter into any academic setting, especially one as rigorous as medical school.

Those reasons culminate to the point of my whole rambling- I will be attending medical school soon, hopefully in Saint Martin at American University of the Caribbean. The purpose of this blog is to not only keep my regular blog readers updated (who am I kidding?... this is only my parents and grandmother), but to also shed light on what this experience looks like from my perspective- young, southern, female, Christian, in-a-relationship, science lover. I will be honest about my experiences, I will try and explain the whole process as I participate in it, and I will share my own struggles along the way.