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Dr. MJ: My Story

June 04 2015 | by By Dr. MJ

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was in 5th grade. I read a Reader's Digest article about a pediatric neurosurgeon and decided that medicine was the right path for me. What I did not understand at that age was how rocky my chosen path would prove to be.

I first applied for medical school as a college senior, but was wait listed. A few years later, I reapplied to medical school and was accepted. My dream was finally going to come true. But on the first day that classes began, I realized I was in trouble. The volume of material was like nothing I had ever seen and I had no idea how to even start. The other first year students in the library with me were initially overwhelmed, but they quickly got into the rhythm of it. All of them told me I would be fine. But in my heart, I knew I was in trouble.

I went to my professors for help, who put me in touch with a second year student who was one of the top students in her class. She tried to help me, but really had no idea how to do that. In a later blog post, I will discuss why that intervention frequently does not work. I tried to go to my other classmates, but they had their own work to do and I did not want to let them know how dire my situation really was. I felt all alone. This dream I had since 5th grade had become my nightmare.

The entire year, my grades were either barely passing or were failing. After I completed my last exam, I had no idea if I would pass first year. I returned home when the year was done and awaited my final scores. At that point, I was too drained to really care about the outcome. When I logged on to get the results, I discovered I passed - just barely, but I did pass.

After getting the passing grades, I concluded that had three options:

  1. I could go back and cross my fingers that the 2nd year would be better.
  2. I could quit and do something else with my life.
  3. I could return to school but find a way to do it differently.

When I looked at the first option, I remembered Albert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. And I knew that I could not emotionally endure another year like the previous one. So I eliminated that option.

My second option was to simply quit. Sometimes things are not meant to be and maybe being a physician was just not in the cards for me. It was certainly not worth being so miserable for three more years. My family and my close friends certainly thought I should just do something else with my life and I had to admit that they probably had a point. But this wasn't like quitting a job - this was giving up on a childhood dream. And I just was not ready to do that.

So that left me with my third and final option: I could return to school, but find a way to do it differently. I started doing some research online to see if there was anything out there that could help me. I stumbled upon The STAT program and enrolled in the 10 day course, which was starting in a couple weeks.

I had some trepidation when it began, worried that my deficits were just too severe for any help. But once the course got started, for the first time, I actually learned the mechanics of studying. I learned how to study more efficiently and effectively. I learned how to approach large volumes of material strategically, as opposed to panicking. But I also saw that I wasn't alone, that I wasn't the only person to struggle in medical school and need some help. And I started to believe that with a new study system, I might be able to succeed.

I returned to school for my second year with more confidence but also concerned that I may still not be able to get through it. Initially, the year was a bit rocky. I was adjusting to the increased volume of material and also trying to adjust to a new system of studying. However, I kept working on the new skills I had learned. Gradually, my grades started to get better and better. Classmates started to come to me with questions about the material because I knew it so well. When the end of the year came, I passed everything by a wide margin.

Now, a few years later, I am a medical school graduate and matched into my first choice of residency. I can say definitively that none of it would have happened without The STAT program. More than anything else, I am grateful that I this program came into my life when it did and gave me a second chance to pursue my dream of being a doctor.

Dr MJ is a recent graduate of an eastern US allopathic medical school who was helped by The STAT program. She is now a psychiatry resident in the Midwest. Feel free to contact her at [email protected].