After having been a loooooooooong time lurker, I finally made an account today. And I finally get to put my post here, in the non-trad success stories, a thread I have been reading since 2010-2011. This will be a long one people, so settle in if you are going to read this post.
I would say I am about as non-traditional as it gets. In the socio-economic gradient I come from (blue collar- think truck drivers and farmers), higher education is not really a thing. Most people graduate from high school, maybe do some college, and get comfortable in a middle class job until retirement. Which there is nothing wrong with. Unless, of course, you are me, graduating from high school many many years ago, and dreaming about medicine. The thing with coming from this kind of background is that there is no cultural capital to support you through learning the ropes of higher education. If there is one thing I have learned over the years, is that this “vertical transmission” of knowledge is implicit in many (most?) premed students, who have usually had the (implicit) knowledge that after high school, you go to you university, get good grades, make connections with professors and mentors who can support you. Obvious, right? Not for me, it wasn’t. I knew I wanted medicine, I knew it was my calling. But I didn’t know how to get there, and without the support of anyone, at 19, it was difficult to know how to do this. Here’s a quote from the high school career counsellor when I told her I wanted to go into medicine: “Mmmmm… I don’t know… why don’t you become an elementary school teacher instead?”. So I believed them. I believed those who said I could not make it, and after high school, I took a different path in another field.
My career in this other field was successful in many ways: I have gained a profound emotional intelligence, I have learned to overcome obstacles, get back up and keep going when you hit a wall, I have learned to connect with people in a way that builds quality long lasting relationships and memorable short encounters. But this path ran its course, and it’s at 29 years old that I realized that it was time. I was yearning to be a doctor. But what were the odds? Here I was, low-income, with no degree, at an age where most people are graduating with a MD. But I had suppressed the part of me who wanted to go into medicine for long enough, and now it had resurfaced in a way I couldn’t ignore. So I started a degree from scratch. I had all the doubts in the world, but I had to at least try.
I did well in my degree. Actually, I did well in the last few years of my degree. The return-to-school after a decade of using your right brain (my past career required a lot of creativity) and letting your left brain shrivel did no good for my first and to some extent second year grades. I was seeing the dream fade away. So I put my head down, and studied. Hard. I lost all my friends because I missed all their birthdays/baby showers/stags. But “I had a dream”, as they say. And I had to gamble it all, live in poverty while my peers were getting mortgages, lose all my friends, just in case it was worth it. Just in case I could get into medicine. And in 2012, after all these years of hard work, I was ready. I applied to medical school, hopeful and confident. And I failed to even get an interview. It was crushing.
What med students and posters on this forum tell you when you don’t get in is to live your life as fully as you can, and do something that you find interesting. And I did. I completed a Master’s in a topic I loved (medicine-related), and found a job I thought would be great. And then another job, because the first one wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. And then another one. The problem was that all these jobs really felt, and were, like plan B, and medicine kept gnawing at me. I was in my early thirties by then, I had met someone, and I felt the societal pressure of it was time to get a job and get on with it. But you know what? Deep down, I knew that if I wouldn’t give it one more try, I would always wonder “what if”. My MCAT was still eligible for one more year, so I applied. And got rejected pre-interview. So I studied the MCAT again (while working full time), and I did well enough (not awesome but not awful) that I could apply again. And I did. And finally, finally, after 4 application cycles, got an interview. This was the most exciting news of my life. I prepared, read, practiced, bought new clothes. But mid-May came, and with it, my rejection post-interview. Damn. What a blow. And I am not getting any younger here.
So the next application cycle (my fifth), I applied across Canada, and received 3 interviews. Mid-May came around, and this time I had a rejection from my home school (again), a waitlist, and… wait, what…is this… an acceptance?? “Dear medschool40&cool, on the behalf of the admission committee, we are pleased to accept you in our program”. My life flashed in front of my eyes at that moment. Me, in high school getting the highest grades but a scoff when I brought up med school. Me, in my early to mid twenties, living under the poverty line, and with no knowledge of the academic world. Me, with a dream. Me, rebuilding myself up, learning the ropes, developing relationships with mentors, writing first-author articles. Me, finally, getting into med school. Passing the threshold. Changing world. Getting into med school the closest I have ever been to a religious experience. I will, after all, be a MD. (Take that, guidance counsellor from high school).
One last note: It is unusual to get into med school this late in life (I'm 39 now). And I would lie if I would say I am not worried. I am worried about the stigma, for one. I am worried about fitting in to some extent. I am worried agism will play in whenever Carms comes. But I'll keep posting here and let you know, if you're interested, how this all plays out over the next 4 years.