Updated: Jul 13, 2020
| 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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 in me, and they helped pay for me to go to a 10-week board preparation course in Chicago. I went, of course, but the road ahead looked dim. I began wondering if this really was the path for me—I mean, how could it be?
While in the city, I saw a man throwing up on the side of the road, and my first instinct was to check on him to find the problem. It was in that moment that I realized I couldn’t quit, despite the failures. I was meant for this. Being away from everyone helped clear my head, and I returned, ready to try again. If I failed this time, I didn’t know what I’d do.
Since I had failed a rotation, I had to go to a meeting with the committee for student progress. This was no run-of-the-mill academic court. Doctors phoned in from all over the country. All my professors, the dean of the college, and a scribe was there to seal my fate. I was on-edge, waiting to get reamed.
The meeting began. One doctor spoke up with a comment, “You know we’re not here to tear you down, we know how hard it is, we want to build you up.” What? What did she say? I was in shock. These people were worried about me and gave me the help I needed.
After the meeting, I was sent to a doctor to be evaluated, and they found that I had ADD and depression. All this time, I just needed help focusing. I was given medication for my ADD, and the results were astounding. I took my board exam for a second time while on the medication. Not only did I pass, but I did so with flying colors! It blew my mind. After being medicated, it felt like the air had cleared and I could finally become the good doctor I aspired to be.
All those years of struggling could have been solved if I had been diagnosed earlier. Though when I look back on my experiences, I’m glad it was so hard for me. I became a fighter. I feel that if I was always medicated and the work came easier to me, I would have become an arrogant and condescending doctor. From working the janitorial job, the carpenter assistant job, to all the times I failed exams, I gained endurance and experience. Through it all, I was able to see all kinds of perspectives, and that is what will make me a better doctor that is empathetic, and patients can relate to.
In my fourth year, I interviewed for residency at a few practices while I prepared for my second round of board exams. Since I had fallen behind from past failures, I was applying to places that expected my second board exam scores already. I thought because of this, no one would want me. I was incredibly surprised when my school of choice offered me a residency position. They gave me a chance.
In September 2016, I began working at the clinic and, I’m still currently there working my second-year residency of three required before I can practice on my own. I love helping families through this clinic, and all the hard work to get here was worth it. I am better because I have been humbled by my journey.
This is the story of Joshua Bryant
Joshua “JB” Bryant is in his second year of residency at the Holzer Clinic is Gallipolis, Ohio. Despite failing his MCAT and board exams multiple times, Joshua never gave up his dream of saving the world by becoming a doctor. Since being put on ADD medication, he is striving toward his dream with less speedbumps along the way. He plans to stay at the clinic at least the next few years even after his three-year residency is finished. He feels he is doing incredible work in Gallipolis and is not ready to leave yet. Joshua loves puzzles, reading, and is very sentimental. He likes to keep every card he ever receives. In 2015, he started teaching Zumba classes on the side during medical school. At a party, you can bet that he’s the first on the dance floor having a good time. Along with his love for helping people, he has a strong faith in God. Through his life, he was heavily involved in church groups, hoping to lead others to the faith. Joshua has learned that worrying isn’t worth all the stress. He knows that through hard work and faith, things will work out.
This story first touched our hearts on April 27, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editors: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |