Hey, so I know it’s been a while, and I know I only posted my journey through Junior year of college or something like that, but it’s time for me to bring this blog to a close. It was a way for me to kind of sort things out in my own mind, and I think a lot of that has happened in the year since I started this thing. I may still post from time to time with reminiscences, but I’m done “living in the past.” This post will rush through the basics of where I left off last time, to now – and will conclude with a little explanation about what the title – “(Confessions of a) Recovering Med Student” means.
Ok, so I decided not to apply to med school at the “normal” time (end of Junior year) because my GPA really needed some time to recuperate. Even though I was (mostly) done with biochem stuff, Quantum Mechanics, and Differential Equations, really threw me for a loop (DiffEQ shouldn’t have been bad – but our prof expected us to remember random trig identities for our exams, which I hadn’t had since 9th-10th grade – so my grade wasn’t really a great reflection of my actual DiffEQ skills).
Summer after Junior year, I had 2 months of shadowing: June was Internal Med at the clinic in my college town. It was awesome. I saw a LOT of diabetes patients because that’s what the doc really liked dealing with. We had some interesting conversations about medicine and even just life in general. I came out of that thinking, “well, if I end up as internal/family med, that wouldn’t be so bad after all.” July was AMAZING. It was at a vascular surgery clinic in the northern suburbs of my home city. Monday-Thursday was in the clinic, with the docs giving consultations, generally for varicose veins – but occasionally there were follow ups from aneurysm repairs, atherectomies, etc. And then on Friday, I was in the OR observation room freaking watching these surgeries!!! It was absolutely incredible – and Vascular Surgery made it to my short list of specialties that I would want to do.
Senior year, academically, was awesome. Straight A’s except for like, maybe, 2 A-‘s. Maybe I got one B+? Regardless, it brought my GPA back into the good graces of society, and by the end of the year I was ready to start those applications! One of the classes I had was Comparative Anatomy, which absolutely sucked because the teacher was a visiting professor from elsewhere, who had been retired for 2 years before this gig – and really just should have stayed retired. But one thing he said was that he saw how well my lab partner and I worked together, and said he knew that would make me a great doctor. So, cool.
While senior year was great academically, socially… well, let’s just say I was ready to be done with that school.
Ok. So I finished undergrad with a decent GPA. I got on those applications like it was my job. Which, it basically was for the first part of the summer. In July, I think it was, I got a job interview to become an ER scribe! I was freaking excited! I did pretty well in the classroom portion of the training but then the practical training came around and… that was way worse. For one thing, I can’t type fast. For another thing, I’m just… not great at processing speech when it’s coming at me fast, and there are a ton of extraneous noises around me, and most importantly I am not in control of the pace or direction of conversation. I think given enough time I could have gotten the hang of it, but we were limited to 5 practical training sessions – and I was fired in the middle of my 4th due to lack of sufficient progress. Also, I think my trainer – who was an uber-extrovert – didn’t like the fact that I didn’t ooze confidence. The way I see it, when I’m learning a new skill, I’m not going to be like “YES, MY TRANSCRIPTION IS GREAT AND EXACTLY WHAT YOU/THE DOCTOR ARE LOOKING FOR!” because, well, I’m learning, y’know? But I guess she wanted me to be more assertive or something. It was a bummer, but hey, at least it meant I had more time to work on my med school secondary apps!
So I finished up my secondaries, and then the pre-interview holds and rejections started coming in. Then, within a matter of 3 days of one another, I got 2 interview invites! Both from Missouri DO schools. So I interviewed there in October – one on Monday, the other on Wednesday. The first one was sad and lonely (and rainy) and I was nervous AF. It went poorly. The second one I felt went a lot better – and I had met a guy named Jacob at the hotel the morning of, and learned that he was also interviewing that day, and the two of us were pretty much attached at the hip the entire day ❤ until the actual literal interviews tore us apart </3 We haven’t kept in touch, but every now and then I wonder whatever became of him. I wish I could remember his last name, because I’d totally look him up on facebook… (No romance or anything like that – he had/has? a bf – I was just really pleased to have an interview buddy!) THEN, on my way back home, I got an email from ANOTHER DO SCHOOL! Way more local to me, and had that interview 3 weeks later! Within a week after that 3rd interview, I had 2 waitlists (from the Missouri schools) and 1 ACCEPT!!!!!! When I got the email, I literally did a double take, started crying, and ran down to my dad, SOBBING, and gave him a huge hug. He asked me what was up, and I said, “Daddy, I’m gonna be a doctor!”
A couple days later, I applied to Target so I could make some money. Got the job, hated it, stuck it out for 6 months, quit so that I could spend some time visiting friends/family around the country before starting med school. During this time, I got 3 more interview invites. Only went to one of them – that school proceeded to toy at my emotions (putting me on post-interview wait list, then telling me what quartile of the wait list I was on, then finally accepting me off that waitlist. But after agonizing for the entire weekend (which was how long I had to get back to them) I decided to go with the guys who had accepted me right off the bat.
So, I got to my first year of medical school. It started out pretty rough. I had no idea what I was doing, and while most of my friends/comrades had a pretty strong bio background, I had a pretty weak one. The only stuff that I did relatively well at was anything that was directly clinically relevant. That stuff I actually did pretty well at! But all of the “basic science” stuff… was crap. I constantly felt like I was dying because I never got enough sleep – and no matter how many hours I studied – I NEVER got through everything I needed to get through. I tried various different study techniques and though some of them made things slightly less hellish, nothing ever helped enough. (And ironically, the study technique recommended to me by the “professional” was the one that killed me the most. Thanks, Assistant Dean. Just because that worked for you while you were getting your PhD does NOT mean it’s going to work for me, on a different degree. Also, I told you that I already tried it. There’s really no need to make me “promise” to try THAT SAME TECHNIQUE again! Ugh.) Anyway, after a year of pain and suffering and dying, and my dermatillomania/excoriation disorder getting worse and worse and worse, I finally failed enough exams to the point where they were going to kick me out of school unless I withdrew first. This revelation came precisely one week before the end of the school year. The Wednesday immediately before finals week was a physio exam that was the point of no return. When I got home, I literally threw up because as much as I hated the stress of med school, I didn’t want it to be over. I still wanted to be a doctor. But my only choice was withdrawal vs expulsion. So I took the one that would look slightly better on my transcript. But while the lovely school administrator in charge of the withdrawal process recommended I distance myself as much as possible, and that I should maybe even just skip my finals, and “definitely skip the social events with my friends/classmates” I knew I would regret it. So I still gave all I had to my finals. I made sure that I passed as many classes as I possibly could, even though I knew it wouldn’t be enough to save me. And I’m so, so, so, SO proud of myself for that. And I went to the events with my friends because they had done nothing wrong, and I still cared (and care) about them, so I’m not going to cut myself off. That would just make things worse.
My parents were actually relieved that I was forced out. They saw the toll med school had taken on me, and were legitimately worried about my well-being. Which, at the time I thought they were overreacting. The thing about med school is, you just do what you’re supposed to – no questions asked. It’s like autopilot. But looking back, I can see that I really was on a path of self destruction. Still, weirdly, up until that last week of MS1, I felt worse during my Sophomore year of college – probably because I was questioning my purpose in life, which is never fun. That questioning started back up because I knew I’d never be able to get into medical school again, after withdrawing while on academic probation (but again, I had no other option except expulsion, so withdrawal was still the less-awful thing). But after 2 weeks off, I started C++ (computer programming) classes at the community college, and in fall semester I started taking Statistics classes at one of the state schools near my parents’ house. I’m starting my Masters Degree in Statistics this Fall.
As you can probably tell, my new direction in life is to become a statistician. Preferably a biostatistician. I’d like to be “the stats guy” for clinical research, though any bio/medical research would be fine. I’d even be ok with being an actuary o.O. In an ideal ideal (yes, 2 “ideal”s were intended) world, I’d work on vaccine development… but that’s, not exactly a pipe dream, but just such a small fraction of the possible biostats jobs out there, that it’s not terribly likely to happen. So basically, while I won’t actually be “practicing” medicine, I’ll still (hopefully) be an important part of the extended team. Because medicine is what matters to me.
I still see my med school friends from time to time, and I definitely keep up with them. Over the past year, I visited campus (and even attended lecture!) probably 4 or 5 times. I went to their “bridging ceremony,” which is the transition between their classroom years and their rotations years. I still am part of the **** Class of 2019 facebook group. I moved away from home a month ago, and now I live about 6 subway stops away from one of my closest guy friend’s new apartment. Yesterday, I grabbed dinner with my closest girl friend from med school. I go to a few parties each year hosted by one of my now-doctor friends (he graduated from “my” school in May). My dad, especially, thinks that I’m just torturing myself whenever I see my med school friends… and while sometimes it brings up a few emotions, I’m largely at peace with everything that happened, now.
So why Confessions of a “Recovering” Med Student? Clearly I’m not a med student anymore. Or… am I? The way I see it, medicine is in my blood. Just like an alcoholic is never “recovered” but remains “in recovery” for the rest of their life (as long as they are dedicated to sobriety), I will never be fully recovered from my time as a med student. Yes, I’m at peace. But there are still anxieties that creep up, still times that I have to remind myself that I am NOT a failure – I am a product of my brain’s “wiring” that handles math a gajillion and ten times better than it handles memorization (which, memorization is an absolutely essential tool – at least in the med school I attended). Obviously I can’t go to an “MSA” meeting and say “Hi, my name is Lee and I’m a med student.” But with med school (or the goal of becoming a doctor) playing such a huge role in my life, it isn’t something I think I will ever “be over.” And that’s totally ok.