By Daphne Metellus, MD
Do you know what I think is the hardest part about fulfilling a dream? Making the conscious decision every day, despite whatever obstacles you may face, to not give up on that dream. Like every other child, I had many ideas of what I wanted to be when I grew up. First, I thought I could be the next Janet Jackson. Her voice and those dance moves; definitely would not be challenging at all, right? Or maybe a teacher, like the many who taught me by making learning fun and interesting. While those options came and went within a blink of an eye, once I said I wanted to be a doctor, that dream stuck with me. This dream initially began with my desire to mimic my older brother, who at the time said he wanted to become a surgeon. Although that was a short lived goal for my brother, with every year that passed, every science and math class I concurred, that goal remained for me.
One of the first challenges that threatened to deter me from my goal was the infamous undergraduate course required for every Pre-Med/Biology major…yes…ORGANIC CHEMISTRY. Organic Chemistry was the course known to force students to reflect and often times reconsider their choice of major. After the first semester of Orgo, the number of Pre-Med students in my class was reduced in half, while the remaining students continued to question if this was worth the hassle. Myself included at times. Getting through Orgo was unnerving, however, I continued to push forward.
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Next up on my journey was the MCAT. I continued to be challenged with the remaining science courses; however, I remained steadfast in my major so that I could accomplish my dreams of becoming a doctor. Typically, students who intend on applying to medical school take the MCAT during their junior year of undergraduate studies. Keeping with that traditional timeline, I studied and prepared to take the MCAT around the same time with my peers. Then, the results came back and I was crushed. While my family and friends encouraged me to proceed with applying, my college advisor thought I should look into another career altogether. That crushed me even more. To think that all of the years of hard work I invested in this dream could be rendered useless by one score! So, I combined all the thoughts and opinions from my family, friends, advisor, peers and myself and devised another plan—two words…gap year. During the summer following my graduation, I took a MCAT prep course to help guide my studies and prepare me for the second round (…and final round as I already started to feel discouraged and decided that I would not take the MCAT a third time). I registered for the MCAT and endured the stress and anxiety of testing day. Time went by, the results came back, and I decided it was time to…send in my applications!
The application process introduced its very own challenges. Researching schools across the country and determining which ones to eliminate in order to establish a final list. Then, of course, there was the personal statement. I cannot even remember how many versions and drafts of each version I made or how many times I sent them to my list of editors. With each new version I made, I wondered if it captured who I was as a person and how my experiences shaped me enough to make the admissions committee want to invite me for an interview. Eventually, I made the final edits and changes to the version I felt most represented my personality, passion and determination. The applications were submitted, along with any secondary applications I received and I prepared to interview at several schools across the country.
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I will never forget that moment and how I felt when I first listened to that voicemail. I was working until 7 p.m. that night (at the Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Office), so the waiting room was empty as the last remaining patients were being seen. Cellular service in the back office was never the best and rather than hear the phone ring, I simply received the notification that I had a voicemail. Something told me to listen to it immediately, and I am grateful I did. It was the dean calling to personally notify me that I had been accepted into medical school! A squeal of joy escaped my mouth; even at work, I could not contain my excitement!
All those years, all those courses, all those exams and papers, all the highs and lows culminated in this moment that I almost gave up on reaching. I held on to that dream and that night, I let out a sigh of relief. Things in life will not always be easy, but when your dream comes true, all the obstacles you faced, lessons you learned, and the spirit of perseverance you maintained will not be in vain.