Humbled

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

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| This is the 71st story of Our Life Logs |

You might look at my life and ask, “How many times do you have to fail?” I ask, “How many times do I have to try?”

Section Break-Mountains

I was born in 1986 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was the youngest of four children with two sisters and one brother. My parents were incredibly supportive and taught me to be happy in whatever I chose to do, and I chose early. At the age of six, I discovered that I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. The realization hit me one day, when I was watching a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers episode. One of the characters said that they had to go save the world. Hearing that inspired me. I wanted to save the world, too! How could I do that? I thought of doctors that save people like superheroes, and my dream to become a doctor stemmed from there.

Just sitting with my brother (I’m on the left), c. 1990.
Just sitting with my brother (I’m on the left), c. 1990.
Section Break-Mountains

In 2005, I started at The University of Pittsburgh, which was close enough to home for me to commute. While on the pre-med track, I found the classes incredibly challenging. Though I had been in every single advanced class in school, I was having a hard transition. The required science courses were the bane of my existence. I still remember that sinking feeling I got when I saw that I’d scored a D- on my first biology test. I tried different review tactics and joined study groups, but nothing was helping. Each failed test and each low grade begged me to quit. But I couldn’t. My parents encouraged me to continue fighting. They knew how important it was for me to pursue what I loved, so I kept studying.

With my family at a local fundraiser, 2006.
With my family at a local fundraiser, 2006.

To make extra money, I worked as a janitor for a local church, a humbling experience that improved my work. I studied like a fiend, I attended every help session available, brought index cards to every custodial shift, and I worried about my future. Despite my poor grades in the medical sciences, I was still able to pass with C’s and graduate in 2009.

However, my grades weren’t good enough to continue into medical school. The university recommended a year-long post-baccalaureate program for me to boost my science GPA. The program also helped students apply for medical schools and shadow doctors. I thought, perfect. Just one more year until I’m on my way.

Through the program, my science GPA improved, and I took my MCAT feeling more confident. I was invited to be a part of a linkage with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and if I met all the requirements, I could join their program the following year. I thought this was what God wanted for me because I had been given the opportunity, all I had to do was pass the MCAT. The plan sounded simple enough, but I found that life is not so formulated.

Being mysterious, 2009.
Being mysterious, 2009.
Section Break-Mountains

On June 11, 2010, the letter with my MCAT result landed on my doorstep. I opened the letter, and seeing the results felt like a punch in my gut. Rather than just wind being let out of the sails of my boat, the entire thing had been set on fire. My scores didn’t meet their requirements. My plan had been destroyed. I scrambled, wondering what to do since I wasn’t allowed to apply for other schools while I was a part of their linkage program.

I took a year off, working as a carpenter’s assistant as I got myself back together, you know, do something a little less stressful. It was hard work. The sun was hot, my coworkers were gruff, and my boss did not like me. Though my recent scores didn’t reflect it, I was an excellent student and the information was simple to understand. This blue-collar job threw me for a loop, and I changed. I listened better, I learned to enjoy a hard day’s work, and many times I accepted that I had cut a piece of wood wrong and took blame. After a year, it was time to go back to school.

I studied to retake the MCAT, got a better score, and I started applying to medical schools in 2011. I interviewed at Ohio University, and though they didn’t have space in the program for me, I was offered a spot in their post-baccalaureate program to boost my science grade even more. With the dream to help others still a priority in my mind, I accepted their offer. If it would help me become a doctor, one more step would be worth it in the end. It was difficult to leave Pittsburgh, but I knew I had to do this. I felt in my gut.

Section Break-Mountains

New state, same struggle. I took Biochemistry and Endocrinology that were so difficult, that I got the lowest GPA I’d ever gotten after that class was through. Heck, I almost got kicked out of the program. Well, I thought, I’ll just have to study more—though it seemed like there weren’t enough hours in the day for me to do that. Thankfully, I found time.

In 2012, I barely got the GPA I needed to get into medical school. Was I at the top of my class? No. But when I saw that number, it felt like I’d won the lottery. I wanted that moment to last forever.

Giving some “doctorly” advice to a friend, 2012.
Giving some “doctorly” advice to a friend, 2012.

But it didn’t. Medical school was a whole different experience. All the time I spent in the undergrad program was nothing compared to this. The pressure got to me, and I didn’t pass my board exam. This threw off my timeline I had set, and it was very discouraging.

At this, my parents swooped in. I think they knew the light was fading