On Thursday, I got some of the best news of my life: the goal I set out to reach when I was 14 has finally become my reality, and I will be enrolling as a first year medical student in August of 2013!
So far, I’ve been offered four interviews at different schools for next fall; this school was my first interview of the season, and a top choice.
The Interview Day:
I was really nervous before I got to campus since the interview is the final step before the committee makes their decision, but my nerves pretty much dissipated as soon as I checked in and started to get to know the other applicants (there were only 15 of us, total). There was a guy that checked in right before me that I talked to before the interview day started; he was from Iowa and seemed pretty cool. This was the first interview I’ve ever been to where the candidates were actually talking and joking instead of scoping out the competition; it was a very nice change of pace.
First was the information session with Dr. M, whom I really liked. (He is also a biochemist; he told me I got bonus points for that, LOL!) He tried to get us all to laugh and relieve some of the stress. I usually don’t like introducing myself, but we were encouraged to tell stories, laugh, and chime in. I actually had a pretty good time getting to know the other applicants. I was the only one from IN; others were from CO, UT, AZ, MI, IL, and WI. I’ve never seen a group of applicants have such a good time together; it was so interesting to hear about other backgrounds. I shared that I was a published poet; others were marathoners, cyclists, career-changers, study abroad’s in Italy; it was a very diverse group. I really thought I’d be one of the few, if not the only, married candidates, but almost half were either married or married + kids, so that was refreshing.
There was a brief financial aid session before we went on tours of the simulation and surgical skills labs. The facilities are definitely top-notch, and I got the sense that the students were really proud of their education and the opportunities this school offers them. I got the feeling that all of the admissions staff that we talked to that day were genuinely happy to have us there. The Dean spoke to us and was more forthright than I expected from a Dean; he encouraged us to talk to students and ask any question we might have about ANYthing, and mentioned that he wanted all of us to find the right school that was the right fit for us. He said that if we were wanting a school that was research-heavy, this one might not be the right fit for us since they did have research opportunities but research was not as much of a focus as much as it might be at other schools.
The simulation labs were rather impressive. The med school I work with now has a massive simulation center, so I’ve seen one before; the sim labs weren’t as big square-footage wise, but they had all of the top-tier simulators that my workplace has, namely Harvey and Noelle. I’ve never seen a surgical simulation center as nice as this one. This school really knows what it’s doing in that department. During second year, we learn all of the suturing techniques as well as how to trach, insert IV’s, etc so that we are good to go our first day in surgery, essentially opening up more opportunities once we enter the hospitals.
Another selling point for me was the Global Health department. 90% of the student partakes in at least one global medicine missions trip during their four years here, at several established hospitals and with DOCARE, International. There is also an opportunity to work with the World Health Organization in maternal-fetal medicine research and to present the research at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland–which of course is right up my alley! (My proposed missions trips to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic have been put on hold indefinitely; while at first the voice was “GO NOW”, it had been reduced to a whisper of “wait”…. I think I now know why….)
The first round of interviews started at 1:15. I was in the second cohort at 2:00, so a second year student took my group on another campus tour while the others went to their interviews. He showed us one of the lecture halls, the library, wellness center, anatomy lab, and anything else we wanted to see. Another plus: all of the campus buildings are connected underground so that we can use the basement during winter so we don’t have to brave the snow and sub-zero (!) temps.
I loved the close-knit feel of the campus and how friendly all of the students were. I could tell that they were happy to be there. One of the 2nd year students came up to me while I was waiting on my interview to introduce herself, ask me if I was having a good interview day, and offered to answer any questions I had…and she wasn’t even a tour guide or prompted to do any of these things. There is also a lengthy list of electives to choose from, so you can tailor your education to meet your own goals; there are several I’d like to partake in, including Medical Spanish (so valuable if any of my missions countries are Spanish-speaking; I speak a fair bit myself already, but none of the medical terminology).
The actual interview:
My interviewers were a 3rd year student and two faculty members, Dr. W and Dr. O. I’ve heard that this school tries to match you up with interviewers who share similar interests; I’m not sure if this is exactly true, but Dr. W is a biochem professor, which is my specialty. The first thing he asked me when I walked in the room: “Do you happen to know Tracy at IUSM?” My mouth fell open! Such a small world! Dr. A was actually my first research mentor back in summer 2007, which resulted in my first publication. I was floored! It seemed that he really read my application thoroughly before I even came into the room, because he had a several notes written on a notepad for me. He was really impressed with my Master’s degree; one of the reasons I had chosen this school was because they integrate bioethics into the first two years’ curriculum. Dr. O asked me why I chose that school, and I told her that this was one of the main reasons, because during my Master’s I had seen the importance of looking beyond the symptoms and illness to connect to the patient to reach a solution that worked specifically for that person. Dr. W kept referring back to it; he wanted to know why this school didn’t have that, what the main lessons were that I learned from it, and how I had used my training to solve real-world problems. At one point Dr. W actually said “As the Chair of the Admissions Committee, I have personally reviewed 1000 applications this cycle alone, and I have never seen anything like that before.” If I thought I was floored beforehand, that was an understatement! After one of my answers, the student said “That was a really good answer! I like that!” The two faculty members each said “very good!” a couple of times, which I think really boosted my confidence as the interview went on. The interview lasted the duration of the 30-minute time slot, and it was actually a lot of fun! (I’m not kidding!) It was conversational and I didn’t feel like there was anything that they were “grilling” me on, and nothing that was unexpected. I left the room absolutely beaming, and was astonished that it had gone so well. There really was NO reason to be nervous whatsoever.
Overall I loved this school and the entire interview day. I never imagined that I would actually have so much fun while interviewing, and this school really is something special. I knew it would be rough waiting 2-3 weeks for a decision, so I hoped that it would be sooner rather than later!
Thursday morning, I heard from another applicant that had interviewed on my day, that he had received an email that morning saying he was waitlisted. My heart instantly dropped to my stomach. I checked my email on my phone: nothing. I didn’t believe it, so I refreshed the page: nothing. I still didn’t believe it, so when I got to my desk I pulled up my email again: nothing. I knew that I couldn’t be neurotic and sit at my desk all day refreshing my email, so I started on a project to take my mind off my inbox. I took a short walk over to another lab to return some equipment I had borrowed, and as soon as I walked in the door I heard my phone ding. My heart dropped again. I took my phone out of my pocket and the banner across the screen read, “Congratul…..” and that is the moment that I knew I was in. I was shaking. When I got done with my project, I went into the break room and called David; he was in class and didn’t answer, so I texted him “Accepted!!!!!!!!” Then I called mom. The only words I could muster were “I’m in.” Mom started crying; she conference-called me in with Dad, and he was beyond excited. I called/texted my closest friends who were waiting on news, so my phone was blowing up for the rest of the afternoon. David called after his class; he is just as excited as I am, and sharing this with him has been an experience that I cherish.
After work, I went home and started dinner before heading out to visit my hospice patient. Now that I knew I was actually going to be a doctor, it was such a different experience. As a hospice volunteer, it can be difficult at times to think that you’re making much of a difference, but I knew that I was, even if just a tiny little difference. Knowing that now I finally have the opportunity to help others in the way I’ve been dreaming of for over a decade has brought an overwhelming sense of peace and calmness. While I’m excited beyond belief, I have not cried (when I really thought I would), I have not jumped up and down (which I really thought I would!), but I’ve had a calm happiness that has been wonderful. When I finally got ahold of my Grandma, she cried; my great aunt almost made me cry by retelling the story of my first day of preschool when she went to drop me off and I cried.
I knew my story wasn’t over. I had prayed so many times for God to show me a different path if this was not the right path for His plan for me, but He never directed me elsewhere. Every step has guided me here, and I absolutely am overwhelmed that I have finally achieved victory with His guidance. It may have taken four applications and an additional three years of disappointment, but now all my dreams are mine to pursue. I started this blog, Paging Dr. Allie, in hopes that one day this would finally happen.
For now, the fun really starts: already making lists of things to do before school starts next fall! Planning our trip to Yellowstone is well under way, and I plan on spending even more time with friends and family. This is without a doubt going to be quite the adventure! Since then, David and I have celebrated on our own, and have celebrated separately with my father-in-law and his wife, and with my mom and dad. We are planning a party for friends and family for later, once I have went to my remaining interviews, received their decisions, and make our final decision. I read somewhere that “You don’t just wake up some day and say, “I’m a doctor.” No, someone must give you the opportunity.” This is absolutely true; thankfully, someone has finally given me the opportunity, and I plan to give it my all. I’ve already researched varieties of stethoscopes so I know what to expect when my classmates and I go to order ours next fall! (Impatient? Me? Never!)
Finally, finally, finally: I get to be a pediatrician! =D