I wasn’t born with an interest in medicine. In fact I remember dismissing it when somebody suggested it to me in my early teen years thinking I would go into veterinary medicine instead. But I always had a keen interest and enthusiasm for the sciences and could be easily classified under the taxonomy Homo nerdus. Remember those chemistry sets of the early 90s, with all those “dangerous” powders that have probably been banned since? That chemistry set was one of my favourite Christmas gifts and I’ll never forget the notorious experiments I set up with my brother. Thankfully we did not burn the house down or create any explosions! I always had a fascination for anatomy and biology and would bring home all sorts of creatures for my mum’s enjoyment (or perhaps more for my mum’s disgust!). I remember my biology teacher in high school (mid-90s) being impressed with my dissection skills and commenting “those are the hands of a doctor”. And that was about the end of any discussion about medicine until 2005 when a friend commented, “you know I think you’d make a great doctor”. She was very enthusiastic about it and I thought to myself, I should give this a shot! So, after I graduated from university with a BSc in biochemistry, I sat the MCAT that year (way back when it was still the paper version and lasted goodness knows how many hours!). I did well on the science sections and writing sample but the verbal reasoning hammered me! I figured I ought to resit the exam to improve my verbal reasoning score but got slightly side tracked by life, getting married and my new job in the pharmaceutical industry.
I decided to resit the MCAT in 2008 (the new shorter digital version, hallelujah!) and did slightly better but was not thrilled with that elusive verbal reasoning score! At this point, my research career was taking off and hubby and I decided to focus on starting a family. Our first pregnancy ended in a devastating miscarriage in 2010 at which point I decided that I wanted to specialize as an OBGYN. I thought if I could not have babies, I would help others to have babies! Fortunately, our second attempt went smoothly and we welcomed our boisterous little boy into the world in 2011. During mat leave, I repeated a couple of med school prereqs that were out of date (despite having gotten As in them the first time round). That was actually fun and I enjoyed refreshing the material.
In 2012, I decided to do a dry-run application to one local medical school and believe it or not, I got an interview! I still remember the excitement I felt when I saw the notification in my student account. I was at work and called hubby on the double to tell him the good news! We spent the next few weeks doing simulations for the interview. We had a blast doing this and by the end of it, I felt confident facing the interview. The interview was not quite what I expected. There was a lot more role-playing than I had anticipated which was fun but I was not totally in my element. I felt much more comfortable at interview stations where I could just be “me”, if that makes sense. Despite the challenges of the interview, I really enjoyed the experience, particularly meeting like-minded, passionate people. I felt so privileged to be there! I’ll never forget that warm feeling when I saw my husband and then 1.5 year old son coming to pick me up after the interview. I felt such a sense of support!
After a month of anxiously checking my account, I discovered I had been put on the waiting list. I felt quite disappointed but also proud for having made it to the interview stage. It made me feel that I actually stood a chance even having been out of school for so long (I was a “non-trad”). In the meantime, hubby and I were pleasantly surprised to discover I was pregnant with our second child and our precious daughter was born in 2014. I didn’t end up getting off the waiting list but realized that God had shut that door at a good time since I was pregnant and wanted to focus on the kids.
So why medicine though? Surely I did not decide to embark on this journey based on one person’s suggestion? Well, no! My friend had planted the seed and then life experiences along the way watered that seed and allowed it to grow into a dream! I come from a family of physicians. My beloved father was a surgeon and performed the first kidney transplant in East Africa. His untimely death when I was just 5 years old was a devastating blow to our family but he left behind a great legacy for his children, one deep-rooted in respect, gentleness and compassion for others. To add to the family tradition of doctors, my eldest brother and cousin became cardiothoracic surgeons and then one of my other brothers went to medical school later in life with a family. My extended family has provided me with wonderful mentors and inspiration!
I love the idea of life-long learning, of building relationships with people one-on-one, of being the person who can alleviate health problems, and who can advocate for preventative medicine through appropriate lifestyle choices. Having grown up in a developing country, I also have a heart to give back to poor nations, particularly where I come from, and to assist medically where resources are scarce. Having seen first-hand the healthcare system here in Canada that brought my two babies into the world safely, that nursed me back to health after the harrowing miscarriage, I really want to be in a position to create that same reassuring environment for people in rural or poor areas. The Canadian healthcare system is by no means perfect but I certainly reap the benefits of this system and feel a strong desire to feedback into the system.
So here we are again contemplating med school and wondering where to go from here? Well at this stage, my 2008 MCAT is out of date so that means resitting it a third time, yup! A third time!! Not to mention that I have been having some anxieties about the amount of time I would need to be away from my kids during residency. But I feel certain that med is the path I should take. The key question is when to reapply?