Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Shake Hands

I'm a Caribbean medical student. Like most people I tried to get into medicine in the states and was rejected for perfectly good reasons. Chief among them were:

1) immaturity
2) poor scholastic performance in spite of the tools to excel
3) horrible recommendations from teachers aware of points 1 and 2.

Despite those failings, I was done with mediocrity and standing still in life. After graduating I tried to find work in the medical field for a better shot at a second application cycle. The job that I eventually landed was a Patient Care Tech. in a very fancy hospital. The requirements were that you have:

1) GED / High school diploma
2) no drugs in your urine
3) no criminal history
4) no better options

I didn't even get this job cleanly, but instead with an inside man who knew my family and thought I was a good enough guy. It was one of those great times when someone in the position to help sees a little of himself in you. I was glad for it. I worked that job alongside full-time nursing students, grizzled nurses, and a revolving door of people that weren't rejected early enough.

My life consisted of 12 to 16 hour shifts at night on a Hem/Onc ward. In case your curious, the nicest hospital floors are usually on top, except in the Onc building, where everyone is trying to work there way from the ICU on floor 9 to terminal Onc on 8 down to the lobby where people are smiling because they get to go home. I spent 13 months there learning to love patients and hate patients and become used to the worst juices of the body. Like most people seeing that world with fresh eyes, I have several anecdotes about life in Term Onc and I'll write about them in time, whenever I have a slow day in the present. But we're just getting introduced now.

After 13 months of working the same job on the same schedule with the same part of your brain asleep for all of it, you learn a better answer to any admissions question:

Interviewer: "Why do you want to be a doctor?"
You predictably answer: "I feel like each of us owes something to those most in need. I enjoy helping those that are sick and knowing that I have made a difference in their life."
Interviewer: "F minus."

Now let's see what happens after hospital grizzling...
Interviewer: "Why do you want to be a doctor?"
You answer: "I used to think it was to help people, and that's part of it, but if that's all I wanted to do I'd be a nurse or a tech. I'm a smart person and I work well with stress and prefer it, and if I don't end up in a field where I am being pushed to the point of a panic attack, then I just don't want to do it. I am not going to end up as a computer being used as a doorstop. I had 13 months of that already and I just about lost my mind. I want to help people, but the best help I can give them is to go get some amazing training, study my ass off, and return a more capable physician. I'm not going to die happy having done anything less than that."

After it all I was a better applicant with better recommendations but I still didn't have the grades. Schools like to see trends. Straight Bs with straight As your last term is not a trend; it's the picture perfect of someone who could have gotten As the whole time but has horrible foresight. Every school was right to pass again. I prepared for that to happen and had a few applications out to Caribbean schools. They all accepted and so I went with the "Harvard of the Caribbean."

That' where I am now. I'm a second year student so Anatomy, Biochem, Histo, Embryo, Parasit, Bioethics, Jurisprudence, Immunology, Genetics, and a few others are all behind me. I plan on saying a little here and there about them as I move forward, but trying to tackle all of that right now is a sure-fire way to fail at the rest of life.

So that's our introduction. Nice to meet you.


At 10:27 PM, Blogger Mridula said...

Nice to 'meet' you. Greetings from India.

At 11:03 AM, Anonymous Craven said...

I punch medical school students in the face for breakfast.

At 8:08 PM, Blogger Shankari said...

Nice to meet you.

More greetings from India!!!

At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Nice to meet you. Thanks for having a blog up. Currently applying to SGU.

At 11:17 PM, Blogger Miette said...

Just reading this for the first time, but I wanted to say kudos to you for going this far in your quest to become a physician. I applied for three years before finally gaining acceptance in a Canadian school, and was beginning the steps to apply overseas (Ireland, specifically) if my efforts weren't fruitful.


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