Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old, in with the New!

I can’t believe it’s the last day of 2013, but I have to admit that this was an amazing year for me! It was definitely a busy one, and a lot of my time was spent studying, working, shadowing, volunteering, and trying to find the time to be a good parent. I also had to deal with medical school applications, MCAT re-takes, and everything else in-between.

Fortunately, I believe that you should play just as hard as you work, and 2013 definitely allowed for some new adventures. I took a hike in a rainforest and learned how to surf in Puerto Rico, went zip-lining for the first time ever in the Dominican Republic, enjoyed the many different tastes of New Orleans, and I learned so much more about myself in the midst of it all.

I feel so extremely blessed and I am happy to say that 2013 was a good year for me. I now have a graduate degree, some clarity in my future path, I remain in good health, my child is happy, and I even have an acceptance to medical school!!!!

I will not be going out tonight to celebrate because I like to close out the year with solo prayer and reflection. To those of you who will be celebrating, I pray you have a good time but stay safe in the process. I also hope that the year was just as good for you all as it was for me, and I know 2014 will be just as awesome (if not better). The best is yet to come, and I look forward to the ride. See you next year! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pursuing an Online Degree

****My apologies in advance for the super long post and any typos you may come across****

Most people will tell you that with a low undergraduate GPA the best course of action is to pursue post-baccalaureate studies or a special master’s program (SMP). A post-bacc typically consists of attending an undergraduate institution as a non-degree seeking student and taking advanced science classes as a way to boost your undergraduate GPA. A typical SMP takes place over a year, and it involves taking medical school classes or advanced science classes and receiving some sort of certificate afterwards. There is no guarantee of acceptance into medical school after completing either program, and as far as I know, the certificate offers no benefit to employment opportunities.

 As a non-traditional student and single mother, none of these options were desirable or financially feasible for me. Pursuing a post-bacc meant that I would have to pay out-of-pocket for classes that I had already taken before getting my bachelor of science degree. As a biochemistry major with a minor in chemistry, there were very few advanced science courses that I had not taken (or re-taken for that matter), and it felt like it would be a complete waste of time. An SMP would have allowed me to take advanced classes, but with no guarantee of an acceptance to medical school and not much to show for it other than a certificate, I thought this was also a bad idea. I had a friend who completed an SMP at a medical school with hopes of being accepted, and despite good grades, unfortunately she was not and did not know where she would go next. This further steered me from the SMP route.

I decided that it would be best to obtain a master’s degree in biochemistry, but I needed something that was a bit more convenient. I work full-time at a university doing research and as an employee I am entitled to six hours of classes each semester tuition-free (only three of those hours can interfere with work time). Unfortunately, most of the classes I needed to take were offered in the morning, and this is the same time I am heavily doing experiments. I am also finished with my day by the time my daughter gets out of school, so evening classes were also out of the question.  

I did an internet search for online graduate degrees, and it was extremely hard to find one in biochemistry. As a matter of fact, I think the school I attended may be the only one to offer an online graduate degree in biochemistry or it was the first. Below I will talk about pursuing a graduate degree online, and I will also address some of the questions I have been asked.

What online school did you attend?

I attended the University of Saint Joseph located in West Hartford, CT. This is an actual institution that was founded in 1932. I do not believe they offer undergraduate degrees online, but they offer some graduate degrees online. This is mostly to benefit those students who may be overseas serving in the military or others who may not be able to physically attend an institution. The link to their online graduate degrees can be found HERE (scroll to the bottom). They say that the program can be entered to at any time, but the classes I took all followed the university schedule with set start and end dates. I took the non-thesis track since I live in a completely different state, but they also offer a thesis track.  

How were you able to enter into the program without meeting the minimum GPA?

For the USJ Biochemistry MS program a 2.8 GPA is required, and for the Biology MS program a 3.0 is required. Like I have previously mentioned, my undergraduate GPA was a few points below a 2.5. Thankfully, the school took pity on me and allowed me to enter into the program on probation. I had to take six hours of courses and do well, and I accomplished this by starting during the summer semester with cell biology and biochemistry I. I passed each class with an A-, submitted my letters of recommendation, interviewed with the program director, and was finally accepted into the program.

How did you pay for the program?

For the first semester on probation, I was not considered to be a matriculated student for financial aid purposes. Because of this, I had to pay out of pocket for my first two classes. I took out a private loan for $5000, and this gave me enough to pay for classes, books, and a new laptop. After I was accepted into the program, I qualified for federal loans, and that is how I paid for the remainder of the program. I just want to note that if you can avoid taking out private loans, then do not go that route. They are a horrible beast when it comes to interest rates and payment plans.

How do medical schools view online courses?

From what I have found, most medical schools do not accept online classes taken as an undergraduate student. My undergraduate degree was taken in the traditional way, so I did not need to worry about any medical schools rejecting my prerequisite courses. I did run into a few medical schools that do not accept any online coursework at all. Some of the people I spoke to in admissions held the belief that there is nothing better than actual classroom learning, but I think this is a completely backwards way of thinking. Everyone has a different way of learning, and I do not believe people should be penalized for doing what works best for them. If you are concerned about whether or not a school will accept your online coursework, the best thing to do would be to call them directly. Even though my transcript does not reflect that my courses were taken online, I fully disclosed this in my interview. For me, it would have been extremely hard to hide the fact that I live and work in the South but attend school in the North so I put it all out there.

Are online classes easy?

ABSOLUTELY NOT! My online classes were the first time that I’ve ever had to work to get a good grade. You constantly have to log in and engage in discussion, and there are assignments due every week. This past semester, I was literally submitting 5-7 page essays every week on top of discussion board posts, and essays in my other course. I also took my comprehensive exam this past semester, and that was two days of pure torture. The funny thing is that in addition to my online classes, this semester I also took a regular class (virology) at the university where I work and it was so easy! I attended every class, zoned out, studied a day or two before each exam, and did great! The university course also gave multiple choice exams which is something you don’t get very often in online courses, and I found these exams to be super easy. It really made me wonder where I went wrong in undergrad.

To give an example of how hard online classes can be, I’ll use my chemical thermodynamics course. This was a calculus-based class that involved things such as deriving the Gibbs free energy equation and other well-known thermodynamics equations. I had not taken calculus since 2006, so I had to use outlines to help me with integrations and everything else in the course. Also because it was an online course, we had to figure out how to draw out all the equations using computer programs. It became so frustrating to me that I started handwriting everything and just scanning it in and submitting it. I am thankful that my professor allowed some of use to do this. The class also involved entropy and other calculations. There were definitely times I wanted to cry in the course, but I pushed through and made out with a B+. I learned a lot though, so I would say it was well worth it.

Online courses require a commitment like no other, and many people find that it is not the right route for them. I am more of a self-directed learner and do better when I have to take control of my learning. With traditional classes, it is easy to put everything off and just cram for exams, but online classes do not allow this. Also, I never really bought any textbooks during undergrad because the questions mostly came from powerpoints. For my online classes, I bought and used every single required textbook. There were no lectures and only a few of my classes had powerpoints, so I had to use Youtube and other sources to fully understand the material.

Did you have to find a proctor for exams given online?

For the most part, exams consisted of essays and term papers. For classes that required mechanisms or equations, we would use computer programs to do this. My pharmacology course had open-book exams that consisted of half multiple-choice half essay questions, but even with the book right in front of me it was hard. As a matter of fact, a lot of my courses had open-book exams but I definitely had to know the material to answer the questions correctly.

The only time I did need a proctor was for my comprehensive exam. The exam consisted of six individual closed-book exams given over the course of two days. It was required for me to be able to officially graduate with my master’s degree. For this, I was sent a really cool robot proctor, which I attached a picture of above so you could see for yourself. This thing took my fingerprint, had a 360 degree view of the room I was in, recorded sounds, and locked my computer from accessing anything other than the exams. It would be easier to cheat in a traditional classroom setting than with this thing!

Why I chose to get a full degree

I learned with applying to medical school that nothing is guaranteed. I wasn’t going to spend thousands of dollars and not have much to show for it. I also figured that if I received a full master’s degree then I could seek better employment opportunities due to having an advanced degree. I was prepared to take however long it took to try to get into medical school, but I had to be smart and think about my child as well. Also, research grants end and renewal is not guaranteed, so I wanted to make sure that when that time came I would be equipped with all the skills to move into other fields. Now I no longer need to worry about that, but it feels good to have the extra credentials. The experience has also helped me learn a lot about my learning habits, and hopefully it will be of benefit to me when I enter medical school in the fall. 

Thank You!

I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who has read my blog, posted comments, and e-mailed me to ask questions and offer advice. Less than two weeks ago, I had never written in any blog and really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t even think people would take the time to read it. I figured it would be slightly therapeutic to document my journey, and believed that if I could just inspire one person then my goal would be accomplished. So far, my inbox has shown me that I have accomplished this goal, and I look forward to kicking it up a notch. Also, I will do my best to make posts addressing all the questions I have been asked, so please be on the lookout for that. I guess I’ll end here, but again, thank you so much for your time and I look forward showing you more of my journey into becoming a physician.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Persistence is Key

Just thought I would give a little encouragement and inspiration to those who may need it. Someone sent me this quote after my fourth MCAT attempt and it really offered some perspective and helped me feel better about my situation. It’s easy to get discouraged by the whole application process and want to give up. The funny thing is that one week before I was given an interview invite, I was really starting to doubt myself and thought that maybe I should give up. It seemed that every time the notification went off on my phone it was yet another rejection e-mail.  I had also just received back the MCAT scores from my fourth attempt, and I had a Skype interview the same day with the pre-med committee of my graduate school. They decided in the interview that despite having a high graduate GPA, my low MCAT scores and undergraduate GPA would prevent them from writing me a pre-medical committee letter of recommendation. This basically meant I would be automatically rejected from the few schools I applied to that absolutely required this. The year 2013 marked over five years of applying to medical school and doing things to make myself a more competitive candidate, and I was just tired!!!! Fortunately though, I just could not see myself doing anything else in life (and trust me I’ve done a lot). This quote reminds me that nothing in life comes easy. You’ll face plenty of rejection, and the path will not always be straight-forward, or work out exactly as planned, but these are the things that add character and truly test an individual’s ability to succeed. It will all be worth it in the end.

I hope this helps someone as much as it has helped me. 


One of the questions I get asked a lot is what I did to prepare for the MCAT. I realize that I am probably not the best person to ask about this, but I figured it would still be useful to write about my experience with this dreaded test. I have taken it four times, and have tried my best to remove it from my mind, but I will do my best to remember everything. I’ll also break it down into different sections to make it easier to read.

What resources did I use to prepare for the MCAT?

I first took the MCAT in 2008, and I only used Examkrackers at the time. I studied for it during the spring semester and I only took 14 hours of classes (one of my lightest semesters) which included microbiology, cell biology, physical biochemistry, a literature course, and physics lab. Looking back, it probably would have been better to wait until the semester was over and take an August exam, but I thought May was when everyone took it. I did the 10-week at-home study program which you can find on their site, but with my course load and other obligations, I was not able to finish the program. I ended up with a score of 21M (9VR, 6PS, 6BS).

When I re-took the exam in 2011, I combined the examkrackers with the Berkeley Review. I will say that the TBR material was very in-depth and was great preparation. I also took the AAMC free practice test along with practice test 11 (and 2 others that I don’t remember). I took the exam the first week of August and ended up with a 22Q (8VR 6PS 8BS). I was very disappointed with this score, but I’ll get into why I think I scored this despite all my studying in a bit.

For my 2013 exams, I used examkrackers, the Berkeley Review, AAMC practice tests/assessments, and the Princeton Review Hyperlearning Science workbook. For the first exam I took in July, I literally only used the Princeton Review Hyperlearning science workbook (my focus was on increasing my PS score). For the one I took in September, I would say that I relied mostly on the EK material, TPRH, and AAMC assessments. I do not think I practiced any verbal for either of the exams (I didn’t practice in 2008, so I thought over-practicing was decreasing my score). For the July exam my score was 20 (6VR 7PS 7BS), and for the September exam my score was a 21 (7VR 6PS 8BS).

Thoughts on each resource

I think examkrackers is pretty good if you have a firm understanding of the content. A major problem I had in undergrad was that I would just learn what I needed for the upcoming exams and then forget the material. I don’t think I really developed a firm understanding of the material in undergrad to a point where I was able to connect and tie together all the different subject matter I learned.

I thought the Berkeley Review was pretty awesome, but you really do need to take the time to go through it. Unfortunately, this was time I did not have. I do remember taking the MCAT after using TBR, and I could have sworn that I saw some of the exact same material and passages. This is why I would recommend it. A suggestion for biology would be to only do the passages and use Examkrackers for content review though.

The Princeton Review Hyperlearning science workbook was extremely helpful too. I was so focused on content review that I did not work out a lot of problems. Had I had bought this book from the start, I probably would have scored a lot higher. I received it two weeks before my exam, and since my focus was only on physics, that is what I used it for. I increased my score by a point in that short timeframe, so I would definitely say that everyone should have this resource.

I think it goes without saying that the AAMC practice tests and assessments are extremely useful because they are made by the people who create the MCAT. Nothing beats true simulated testing conditions.

Why I think I did so poorly

I would say that having too many other obligations and not focusing my energy on the test was a major part in some of my low scores. I also tended to over-study for the exams. For the MCAT that I took in 2011, I devoted 3 months to studying for the test and was doing at least 8-10 hours a day. I would come to work and study for most of the day in between doing research, and then I would come home and study until I couldn’t take it anymore. It got to a point where I couldn’t even think about the exam without becoming sick (literally). I also think that taking advanced science classes may have hurt me as well. The MCAT tests just the basics, and I think it is really easy to overthink things when you have learned more than what an introductory course teaches. I also could have benefitted from doing more practice problems instead of trying to re-learn the material. I was too busy trying to learn the material that I never really learned the test.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I am so glad that I never have to worry about the MCAT ever again! I was prepared to do a January re-take when I got my scores back a week before I received an interview, and now I have one less thing to worry about. I have met other great physicians who admit to scoring poorly on the MCAT and scoring high on the boards. This makes me wonder how indicative the MCAT is of one’s success in medical school. Only time will tell if it has a negative impact on my time in medical school though. I really wish the MCAT would not be as regarded as highly as it is, but I guess that’s life. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Osteopathic Medicine

I will be attending an osteopathic medical school in the fall, and people tend to have a lot of questions about the type of education I will receive and what it means to be an osteopathic physician. This post will be my attempt to clear up a few questions I’ve been asked since my acceptance.

What is an osteopathic physician and how does this differ from being an MD?

There are only two types of fully licensed physicians in the United States: Osteopathic physicians who bear a D.O. after their name, and allopathic physicians who have an M.D. after their name. For the most part there really are no differences between the two. Osteopathic physicians are taught to view medicine in a holistic manner, which means if you come in for a stomach ache then the general idea is that a DO will look at all areas of an individual’s body rather than focusing on the single area of concern. I believe the osteopathic philosophy is to “treat the person and not the symptoms”. It is one of the things that I admire most about DO’s, and I do feel that it makes for a better physician. This is not to say that MD’s don’t do the same, but I believe osteopathic medicine places a lot more emphasis on this. DO’s also have an added step in their training that consists of OMT (more below), but that is pretty much it for the differences between the two. DO’s are not naturopaths or anything else that involves alternative medicine. It is just that a lot of people assume when they go to the doctor that they are seeing an MD, and I believe this adds to many misconceptions about DO’s. Plus, I have noticed that a few DO’s only refer to themselves as Dr. and leave off the DO part of their titles. I believe this also adds to the problem of the public not properly being informed about the types of physicians that do exist.

What is OMT and do all osteopathic physicians use it?

DO’s also have to learn osteopathic manipulation treatment (OMT) in medical school which is basically just using your hands to diagnose and treat a patient. This is mostly useful for patients who experience chronic pain such as muscle aches and the like. In my opinion, OMT is like combining the skills of a chiropractor with a masseuse.

Not all physicians use OMT though. In my shadowing experiences, I have never seen any of my mentors use OMT. I am mostly interested in surgery, and in this field I do not see it as being much of a benefit. Maybe some surgeons find a way to incorporate it beforehand, but I have personally never witnessed it. The only time I ever saw OMT being demonstrated was at a medical conference a few years back. I volunteered to be a dummy for it at the conference, and I must admit it did work. A couple of pulls, cracks, and body contorting and I didn’t have any shoulder pain for a few weeks after the conference.

Does an osteopathic physician receive training in a hospital?

Believe it or not, my boss asked me this question when he first found out where I was accepted. I have no idea where else a physician would be able to receive their clinical training from, so this is just a weird question to me. Like MD’s, DO’s attend school for four years with two years of classroom training and two years of clinical training. Yes, the clinical training does take place at hospitals and does include hospital rotations just like our MD counterparts.

Is it harder to specialize or gain acceptance as a DO?

I have not yet completed medical school to answer this question fully, but from my readings I have found that there are some obstacles in specializing in competitive fields, but this is mostly due to there still being a few misconceptions about osteopathic medicine. I believe that if an individual works hard and achieves high board scores then any field is possible to attain.

As for the acceptance, looking at forums such as the Student Doctor Network, it would appear that there is a strong bias against DO’s. Oddly enough, in my interactions with MDs they have been very accepting of DO’s and told me that they are happy to work with them. One told me that a doctor is a doctor, and I shouldn’t be concerned with the negative stuff that I have read. The DO’s that I know have also expressed the same, although they did say that there was a strong bias a long time ago but this is no longer the case.

Why I did I choose DO?

For me, it never really mattered what initials are behind my name. I want to be the best possible physician that I can be, and osteopathic medicine seems to offer more of this for me. I love the holistic approach to medicine, and the DO’s that I do know are highly respected. I also like that osteopathic medical schools take a holistic approach to viewing their applicants. I am more than just my numbers, and I love that the osteopathic medical schools take this into consideration. I am also into breaking down barriers and exploring new heights, and osteopathic medicine will give me the chance to do this and gain more recognition for osteopathic physicians. There are a multitude of other reasons why I prefer the DO over MD route, but I think this pretty much sums it up for now. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

The best gift that I bought my daughter in my opinion, but she's currently obsessing over all her Hello Kitty gifts lol
Just wanted to take the time to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!!! I sincerely hope it's a day filled with love, laughter, and joy :-) I'm currently enjoying the time with my family, but will have more posts in a couple of days.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Personal Statement

4/11/2014 - My full personal statement has now been posted. CLICK HERE to read, or go to the "Applying to Medical School" tab to access it and other helpful posts related to the application process. I hope it helps!

I was in full mommy-mode yesterday and didn’t have a chance to post, so here is a second post for today J

When it comes to writing personal statements, I think the advice I hear the most is to answer why medicine and not highlight flaws or any other negative information. It took me a few years to really perfect my personal statement, and I chose to mostly follow my heart when writing it.

The first thing I would say is if you have a low GPA or MCAT score, then absolutely discuss it! While I did not specifically mention any of my low scores, I did bring up the fact that I encountered many obstacles that at times prevented me from doing my best. I went on to mention how these obstacles in retrospect were blessings in disguise, and I highlighted how I benefited from them and grew as an individual. I did not dwell on the negatives, but I did address the fact that I was aware of the issues that may concern admissions committees. It’s also important to make sure that your personal statement reflects you, and that you are not simply trying to please the individuals writing them. Write about what makes you different from other applicants, and about what you can bring to the school and the field of medicine in general.

Answering the “Why Medicine?” question was probably the hardest for me. I have literally wanted to be a physician since childhood, and I didn’t really have that defining moment that so many other people claim to have. I also did not have a compelling story outside of being a single mother. If you do a quick search for personal statements on the internet, you will quickly find stories of people dealing with family illnesses, going on extraordinary medical mission trips, or having other experiences that really put them on the path to wanting to become a physician. I can’t say that this was the case for me. I have always had a desire to serve my fellow man, a fascination with the human body, and a pressing need to be apart of something greater than myself. I also have the obvious reasons that I’m sure everyone else applying to medical school has, so I tried to avoid mentioning those in my personal statement.

Another thing that I should add is that I did mention being a single mother in my personal statement. It was something that I wrestled with, but one of my mentors made a good point. He said that if a school does not like the fact that you are a parent, then you should not want to go there anyway. My child is a major part of my life, and to hide that fact would be doing a disservice to the both of us. If you are a parent, I think it is important to attend a school that will be able to help you achieve a good balance between the two. I’m not saying to only apply to family-friendly schools, but it is good to keep this in mind. There may be times when you will have to miss class due to a sick child or other circumstance, and it would be nice to be attending an institution that is willing to work with you.

I think that is all I have to say about the personal statement aspect of the application cycle. Make sure to make yourself sound awesome, be honest, don’t put up a front, and you should be fine. Also, make sure you get multiple people to read your personal statement for you, because they can offer some very valuable advice. My application is still open so I will not be posting mine just yet, but I plan on doing so sometime after May. Feel free to let me know if I missed anything or if you have any additional questions about writing a personal statement. Until next time!

The Re-Applicant

After 3 application cycles, I cannot stress enough how good it feels to finally have an acceptance into medical school! I first applied in 2008, and you can definitely see the growth in my applications from then and now. The first time I applied, I could not afford to apply to many schools, and I was lucky enough to receive an AACOMAS fee waiver. This allows for an individual to apply to three osteopathic schools for free, so I picked my three very carefully and hoped for the best. I have no idea what I was thinking applying at the time though because there was nothing notable about my application. While I did have shadowing experience and a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician, I had very little extracurricular activities, research, or volunteering experiences mentioned in my application. I think I may have even mentioned job experiences and extracurricular activities from high school. On top of that, my MCAT score was only a 21 and I had a GPA that was below a 2.5. I received rejections from all three schools around May of that year, but due to not passing a biochemistry class that was only offered once a year and having to extend my graduation date, I would not have been able to attend anyway. Needless to say, I was still very upset and not quite sure about my future.

After graduating in the fall of 2009, I took a job working full-time in a somewhat medically-related research field and I also worked on building my resume. By the time 2011 came around, I felt that I was ready to re-apply to medical school. This time, I applied to three allopathic schools and they were all HBCUs. I also re-took the MCAT, but my score literally only increased by one point. I think the only noteworthy thing about my application was that I included all of my experiences, and I completely re-vamped my personal statement to really reflect me. Unfortunately, I was also rejected this cycle without any interviews. Looking back, I can say that my main problems this cycle were the fact that I definitely did not apply broadly, I took the August MCAT, I applied somewhat late, and I still had not proved to the schools that I could handle a heavy course load and succeed.

Fast-forward to 2013, and this time I was going all in. On top of all the extracurricular activities noted from my previous years, I also upped my shadowing experiences, started volunteering every week at my local hospital, and now had research publications under my belt. By the grace of God I was accepted into a graduate program in the summer of 2012, and I was doing better than I had ever done in my academic career. This was a risk in itself because graduate courses are not considered in the same fashion as post baccalaureate classes, but I wanted an extra degree to fall back on just in case this application cycle did not work out as well. My graduate classes were not easy either and I think taking classes like chemical thermodynamics, pharmacology, and toxicology really raised some heads. I re-took the MCAT twice this year (yes, that makes a total of four times), but my scores still remain low with a 20 and then a 21. I also applied very broadly within two weeks of the application cycle opening, and I submitted all of my secondary applications within two weeks of receiving them. This cycle, I have applied to 26 schools total, and these include both allopathic and osteopathic schools. As of today, I have 1 acceptance, 2 holds, 13 rejections (plus 2 never sent a secondary), I withdrew from two, and I am complete at the others and waiting. I interviewed and was accepted to my first choice school, so I can say confidently and happily that the application cycle is over for me. I have chosen not to withdraw from the other schools that I am still waiting to hear from because I would like to see where this goes.

I am living proof that anything is possible despite any shortcomings that you may think you have, and my advice to any re-applicants is to not give up and keep pushing for what you want. If you cannot see yourself doing anything else in life, then don’t be afraid to take risks and go for it. You’ll be happy you did.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Finally! A Break!

Overall, this has been a fantastic week! Grades came in for my final courses and I finally achieved a 4.0 semester! That brings my overall graduate GPA to a 3.7, which is pretty awesome considering I never even managed to have as high as a 3.0 semester in undergrad. Grad school has definitely not been a walk in the park, but I pushed through and it has been so worth it. I’m just happy that I no longer have to deal with weekly assignments and essays, and I have a good eight months to somewhat relax before I start medical school J On top of that, I had a chance to go watch my child sing this morning in a school holiday performance and I finished up everything that I needed to do in my lab. I am officially off work for the next two and a half weeks (the perks of university research), and only one thing is on my mind: SLEEP! lol I’ll also take some time to work on my blog and add some more posts, so stay tuned! 

Becoming a Single Mother

One of the best decisions I ever made was to change my status from being a married mother to a single mother. Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but read a little more and you’ll see why.

I was in the second semester of my freshman year of college when I first found out that I was pregnant, and it was a complete shock. I was 19 years old and absolutely did not want to have a child at the time, but I was already engaged to be married and everyone else was so happy. I considered abortion, but when I mentioned it to those closest to me I was criticized and told that I was being selfish and uncaring. So despite my feelings at the time, I decided to go along with the pregnancy. I was also in a long-distance relationship, but we got married a week or two after I completed finals and moved in together.

The few months of marriage were decent, and I gave birth to my child towards the end of the year. The semester I gave birth was crazy to say the very least. I was under the impression that school becomes impossible when you have a child, so I took 19 hours of hard science courses during the fall semester even though I was due to give birth a few weeks before finals. I thought it would be a good idea to get them all out of the way before the baby came, but I must have been completely out of my mind! Most of that semester is a complete blur, but I do remember the day I went into labor. I woke up, went to class, felt miserable, and decided to come back home later that morning. I figured I would take a few days off, so I dropped my organic chemistry class when I got home so that I wouldn’t have to worry about failing it. The feelings got worse progressively throughout the day, and I eventually went to the hospital later that evening and gave birth about an hour later. I took the next week off of classes, but then I had to go back because finals were approaching. A lot of people thought I was crazy, but I somehow managed to pull it all off. For the most part, the first few months of being a mother weren’t all that bad. Newborns tend to spend most of their time sleeping, so there was plenty of quiet time to study.

What most people don’t know is that my marriage was turning into an extremely abusive one. This was never the case when we were dating, but after marriage it turned completely sour. It started off with name-calling and possessiveness, but then it became physical. The first time was a push, and then it became so bad that even my nose was broken at one point. The jealousy issues also negatively affected my professional relationships, and I would receive calls from colleagues saying that my now ex-husband had threatened them. Most people would ask why I didn’t leave right away, but I was a full-time student with no job, and I was completely dependent on my husband at the time. I was told by the local police that my best bet would be to move into a shelter, but I just could not push myself to take that route. When it finally became too much to handle, I made the choice to resign from school and move in with my parents who lived out of state. This was one of the hardest decisions that I ever had to make, but it had to be done.

I stayed with my parents for a few months, but I was determined to come back to school. I registered for the summer semester, and left my child with my parents out of state while I got back on my feet. I also received a restraining order against my spouse. I brought my child back with me for the fall semester, and pretty much for the remainder of my college career I had to deal with being stalked by my ex-spouse along with other drama. I think the only time I felt peace were those moments that he went to jail. Crazy huh?

I was lucky enough that one of my jobs was a student worker position at a legal office, so I was able to get a good start on my divorce. I also received sole custody of my child with no visitation granted to my former spouse. Two weeks before I graduated from college, I received the signed divorce decree from the judge and I was so happy! This was also when I officially became a single mother.

Even before becoming a single parent, I had to work to balance my time between school, work, and motherhood. It was not easy working multiple jobs, going to class, finding time to spend with my child, and studying, but it was definitely worth it to be removed from the previous situation I was in. Now my child just turned seven, and I’m used to being able to juggle everything. It has its ups and downs like anything in life, but I would not change it for the world.   

In terms of entering medical school, I am absolutely blessed to have built an amazing support system that will be instrumental to my success in medical school. I was extremely lucky to be accepted into a medical school that is in a state where I will have family and friends close by. I also have a wonderful man in my life who has offered to make the move with me and help out with parenting and the other things that I won’t have time for. I still have months to go before I enter into medical school, but I am definitely hopeful for the future.

I guess I’ll stop there for now, but I’ll make sure to keep everyone updated on my progress along the way. And of course all of this is a condensed version of what I went through, but if there’s anything you want to know don’t be afraid to ask.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Non-Traditional Student

Typically a non-traditional medical student is one who did not enter into medical school directly from college. I am a non-traditional student in this aspect, but there are other aspects that make me non-traditional as well. Another is that I am also a single mother and I have been working ever since I graduated. I also consider myself to be non-traditional because I do not have the typical stats of accepted applicants.

I graduated from my state university in December 2009, and starting working full-time in research a few months after that. Fast-forward to almost four years later, and I am still working full-time at the same institution. My research is somewhat medically-related though, so I haven’t been completely out of the loop.

I first applied to medical school in 2008 and was rejected. After graduating and having one year of research under my belt, I applied again and got the same results. I knew that my GPA was a huge factor in my rejections, and Sallie Mae was killing me so I decided to enter into graduate school. This was not easy due to the fact that I had a GPA below a 3.0 and I also needed to work full-time to support my child. I researched possible online programs, and I was able to find an actual brick and mortar institution that offered graduate degrees that could be taken completely online. Although I did not meet their minimum requirements for matriculation, they allowed me to take two courses under a probationary status. When I aced the courses, I was then able to officially matriculate into the program. It has been extremely hard, but so worth it and I am glad that I am officially done. I can now say that I have a masters degree, and an excellent GPA to go along with it. I will go more into online classes and how medical school perceives them in a later post.

Being a single parent makes me non-traditional because unlike other students, I will not only have myself to worry about once in medical school. As an undergrad, I worked two jobs and attended school full-time in addition to being a single parent, and I believe it really impacted my grades in a negative fashion. Right now, I am in the process of setting up a massive support system because I refuse to encounter the same obstacles once I’m in medical school. Of course, I will have more posts on being a single parent and having to master the art of multi-tasking, but I will also save that for later.

The funny thing is that even though I am a non-traditional student, I think it will actually help me out in the long-run. I know what it is like to have to juggle finances, school, a child, and everything else that comes in-between. I have also had a few years to really take the time to enjoy life and have fun from time to time. I know without a doubt that medicine is something that I want to pursue because I have pursued other things and something about it has always called me back. In a way, I see the past four years as being a mini-vacation. I have awesome memories to look back on, and I’m ready to pursue the next chapter of my life. They say your 20’s are your best years, so I guess I’m kind of glad that I had the chance to experience many of the things that my traditional counterparts haven’t. Plus, I get to enter into medical school with a little more age and wisdom. Who knows, it might just come in handy ;-)   

Hey Instagram Buddies!
Thank you for stopping by and welcome to my blog!

For those who don't know me, here's a quick intro: My name is Danielle Ward and I am currently completing my intern year of residency. I am also a single mother to a 12-year-old daughter who is currently staying down south for the year, so that she can have more stability as I balance the insane work hours of intern year. Throughout medical school it was just me and her, so I'm definitely proof you can make through medical school as a single parent. 

I started this blog to highlight my journey as a premedical student when I couldn't find individuals like myself who had made it through medical school with unique life circumstances. Over the years, this blog has evolved into my journey as a premedical student, medical student, and now resident physician. It has a little bit of everything ranging from posts to inspire and help you get into medical school to my crazy day-by-day musings.

On this page you will find links to my most frequently asked questions, but if there is anything else you would like to know, feel free to ask away. Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Changing the Face of Medicine

Welcome to my blog! I have to admit that this is my first time ever blogging, but after recently being admitted to medical school, I thought it would be nice to document my journey through medicine. After searching for blogs that I could relate to, I realized there aren't many written by women such as myself. I am a 26-year-old African-American single mother who graduated from college in 2009. As of this past Friday, I now have a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry, and I'll be entering into an osteopathic medical school in August 2014 (was accepted last month!!!!). I wanted to start a blog that would encourage other young, minority females considering medicine to not be afraid to go after their dreams, and I also wanted to have a blog that recognized minority women in medicine. I'm not sure about the exact direction that this blog will go, but if I can inspire and encourage others then it will be a success. I guess you can say that I'll be changing the face of medicine, one post at a time ;-)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...