I’m not going back to Nassau Hall quite yet, even though my ten year Princeton reunion is just next year (wow, I’m old!). I am going back to medical school at age 31.
I know you read my entire treatise on the reasons that I needed to leave medical school last year, and I completely stand by my decision to leave. It was the right decision at that time, and I am so grateful to have had this year to heal, reflect, take a long deep breath and survey my life from a perspective of wellness. It’s funny how life can take you for a loop, but after everything I have been through, I am coming right back to medicine. It’s my calling.
During my time off, I did work for a little bit. It was a great job with great pay and benefits, and the flexibility that I needed to take care of myself and be a present mom. It’s the career I was daydreaming about in medical school when I was preoccupied with the idea of working part-time. This job was great, but it was not a great fit for me. This job was physician-adjacent. I worked as a Medical Science Liaison, and my role was to interface with physicians and help them to identify rare disease patients in their practice who could benefit from some of the free services that our company offered. I bristled at the fact that I was hired because of my medical school experience, because I understood how doctors make some of their decisions, and I was reminded of this frequently.
My proximity to physician-hood without actually getting there kept bothering me. Additionally, the work wasn’t as challenging as I needed work to be, and I felt like I had all of this scientific knowledge and skill that was going to waste. It started crossing my mind that maybe the career of physician was more for me than I acknowledged. I took several career personality quizzes, crossing my fingers, hoping that I would get something other than doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional as the final recommendation. It never failed to recommend “doctor”.
I think one of the huge things that pushed me over the edge was my experience living in a rural-ish area of South Georgia. We moved here in the Summer of 2021, and since then, I felt the sting of the healthcare access issue. Noah was sick with an upper respiratory infection, but it got to the point where his 104F fever was not coming down with Tylenol and he was having trouble breathing well, and his lips were starting to turn blue. This is every mom’s worst nightmare.
We rushed around the house and packed him a bag in case we needed to spend the night at the hospital, and jumped in the car on our way to the emergency room. I had always taken it for granted having a hospital nearby. In my hometown and even in Chicago, you had several hospitals to choose from within a ten minute drive. It took us almost a half hour flooring it on the interstate to get Noah to the emergency room because there wasn’t one where we were staying. You also had to drive into town to go to the doctor’s office or the urgent care, because our town only had a grocery store, some fast food restaurants and not much else.
We got to the emergency room and he was able to get seen almost right away, which was great. In our area, the quality of the healthcare is great, but there aren’t enough doctors. At our family practice, you cannot make an appointment to see the doctor within a reasonable time frame. The wait can be as long as two months to have a well visit scheduled. Other urgent matters are treated on a walk-in basis, but if you come at the wrong time in the day, you may either need to wait a couple of hours to be seen, or you might get turned away because there aren’t enough providers to see everyone before closing time. It’s absolutely frustrating. I thought to myself, I have everything I need to basically be a doctor, and it feels wrong to do something else that I don’t even like, when there is such a need. Additionally, if you look around, there are very few women doctors, and I can count the number of black doctors on one hand.
This is the point when I, out of curiosity, was researching medical schools in our South Georgia area to see which ones would take transfer students. I ideally wanted to pick up where I left off and not have to reapply and retake the MCAT. I called and emailed around. Some programs would only accept currently enrolled students seeking a transfer, and because I had already withdrawn from my previous program, I had fewer options. I ended up connecting with a Caribbean medical school that does its clinical rotations here in Georgia.
The Dean of student affairs and one of the Family Medicine faculty from my previous school really believed in me and supported me because they knew I was a good student and they knew the circumstances of my withdrawal. I was able to get their letters of recommendation submitted that, along with my transfer application, allowed me to get back into medical school. Let’s go ahead and acknowledge the divine intervention at play in this situation, because the right doors opened at the right time. All of this happened over the course of a month, so yeah, it’s a lot to process.
I am staying in Georgia and I get to go back to medical school! I will be starting with M3 year again, which is great because I have the opportunity to get some fresh letters of recommendation for ERAS next year. I start in May, and I am really looking forward to getting back in the game. I hope when I look back at all this one day, my kids will see how strong I was, how gritty and determined I was to not let depression or any other life circumstance completely derail my dreams. I might have needed some time away to heal and reflect, but I kept going. It was a break, not an endpoint. I am still stuck on family medicine, and I hope to match into a program that has an emphasis on Women’s Health and OB. I want to be the doctor that I wish I had when I was pregnant with Noah. Read more about my birth story and my experience with Preeclampsia. I am so blessed and so fortunate to have had this opportunity, but even if I didn’t get to transfer, I was prepared to get into the MCAT studying to apply from scratch the next cycle.
For all of you interested in medicine, or any other career that is scary and ambitious. Keep going. Take care of your mental health and normalize going to therapy. Take care of yourself, and do not be ashamed to take breaks. There is no special recognition for getting to that goal on some rigid timeline, if it means that you are not well and you do not have time to do things that bring you joy. You have the rest of your life to be a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer, whatever.
Also — don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s and don’t allow someone else’s accomplishments to make you feel like you’re not good enough. You are accomplished in your own way, you’ll get there when you get there. Just be kind and love others well, help those who are coming up behind you, and keep going!