Updated: Sep 12, 2019
Heyyy y'all! Welcome to my very first blog post. As most of you know, I just had my white coat ceremony, and I start my first day of classes tomorrow at SIU School of Medicine. However, what most of you don't know is everything it took to get to this point... I'm really not sure where I should start this blog. Do I go all the way back to elementary school when I would walk around saying I'm going to be a doctor? Do I start in junior high, when I started doing summer medical programs? How about high school, when I was trying to decide where I wanted to go to college? Or maybe even in college, as I was taking courses and studying for the MCAT? Honestly, all of those are amazing testimonial stories to tell... but I think the best place for me to start would be last year, when I first started the medical school application process.
I'm not sure exactly how much each of you knows about the process, so in brief basically you apply in 3 parts:
1) The primary application on AMCAS- This is where you select which schools you want to send your application to, fill in your extracurricular activities, upload your transcripts, and submit your personal statement.
2) Secondary applications- Each school that you qualify for will send you back a secondary application, consisting of multiple essays for you to expound upon your experiences. Most schools will send you a secondary, but getting to the third step is the real hard part.
3) Interviews- after the schools review your secondary applications, they will decide if you are a good fit for their school on paper. If you are, they invite you to come in for an interview to evaluate you in person. Once you get an interview though, you're 2/3 of the way to being accepted... you just really need to WOW them in there.
Out of the 16 schools I initially applied to-- I applied to 16 because I was given the AMCAS fee waiver, which allowed me to apply to 16 schools for free-- I received 15 secondaries. Out of those 15, I only actually completed 14 of them. NOTE: Please do not be like me. Do ALL of your secondaries, and DO THEM EARLY!! The sooner you submit, the better your chances are of being invited for an interview.
Out of the 14 secondaries I submitted, I received 3 interviews. My first interview was at Indiana University. It was my very first interview, so of course I loved it (at the time)... but to be completely honest, after attending my next two interviews, I realized that IU wouldn't have been the best school for me anyway. I guess here is a good place to note that interviews are not only them interviewing you, but also your chance to interview the school. You have to make sure you're in a place that feels right for you, and will really help you to thrive.
My second interview was at University of Illinois College of Medicine. My interview was right in the heart of downtown Chicago, and it honestly seemed like a dream to be able to go to medical school right at HOME! I loved it. The school seemed fine, but the location seemed even better. And on top of that, at my interview, they told me there was basically a 70% acceptance rate post-interview. I just knew that I would be in that 70%. They told us that we should hear back in December, so naturally, I waited. I mean, what else could I do?
During this waiting period, I got invited for another interview at SIU School of Medicine. The interview was all the way in Springfield, IL. If I am being totally honest here, I did NOT even want to go. I was certain that I didn't want to end up living in Springfield, and tbh, I was just completely unfamiliar with SIU. I told my mom lets just skip it, and she's the one who forced me to go lolll. Well, I'm so glad she did, because I FELL IN LOVE WITH SIU THAT DAY. You know when you just get that feeling that you're in the right place? Everything & everyone felt so welcoming, the problem-based learning style seemed like it would truly mold me into a great physician and work with my learning style, and then my actual interview really sealed the deal.
I remember this day like it was yesterday. They told me I had to go into my interview early, because the woman who was interviewing me needed to leave early because her daughter was sick. This woman was Dr. Wendi Wills El-Amin, and she truly changed my life. She is a black woman physician, who was sitting on the board of the admissions committee. We connected on so many levels- from the fact that she wanted to attend Emory University, to being an AKA, to our views on life. I told her all about my time in India, and how I wanted to somehow integrate western medicine practices with holistic healing methods. She told me about another Black physician, Dr. Pamela Ross, who was practicing exactly what I had just described I wanted to do. My ideas seemed very far fetched to me when I walked into that room, and I left feeling like my goals were truly tangible. I told her about my interest in spirituality and positive thinking, and she showed me some books that I would love. And for the first time in an interview, I brought up my organization, Beauty and Brains. I guess I had avoided talking about it thus far because it hadn't really become anything yet. Yes, I had given my first scholarship, but I still wasn't even quite sure what I was doing. However, she believed in my vision & saw the need for what I was creating; for the environment I was trying to provide for young, Black women; for the opportunities I was trying to create for us. She allowed me to see the depth of what I was doing, and how amazing it truly was and had the potential to be.
Now look, whenever you get interview prep, they are going to tell you to firmly shake the hand of your interviewer when you walk into the room, and as you're leaving. This interview was different, though. I felt like I was home. Dr. El-Amin and I gave each other a huge hug before I left her office, and she told me that regardless of what school I end up at, she would love to be my mentor. I literally walked right out that interview, cried, and called my mom. This was the place. This was the school I wanted to go to. Scratch that, this was the school I NEEDED to go to. Going through my masters program, there were so many times I felt discouraged, but God sent me to meet Dr. El-Amin at the right time. This was the inspiration I needed to keep going. This was my confirmation that I was on the right track.
SIU told us that we would hear back in January... so again, I waited some more. December came around, and I got notification from UIC that I had been deferred. I was a little sad, but I honestly didn't care too much because I was really just waiting to hear from SIU. Finally, January rolled around, and I still heard nothing. February was going by pretty fast too, and still nothing.
At the same time, there were a lot of changes going on in my home & personal life. My mom had just quit her job, started this new workout journey, and was really becoming a new version of herself. I was dealing with the depression of a failed relationship, and wondering how I could have gotten to this point. School was hard too, and I was just questioning if anything I was doing was right. Is this the right path? God, what am I doing? Please send me a sign. Am I wasting my time? I remember days walking out of class in the middle of lectures because I just couldn't hold back my tears... I guess its no other way to put it, I was truly depressed. And I'm not the type to let anybody know that, so it was something I struggled with on my own. Just me and my prayer journal.
Eventually, my days started to get a little better. I wasn't crying quite as often. I had made a decision to release anything negative in my life that was only holding me back and making me sad. I was reclaiming my life, and getting back to HAPPY. My birthday came, and I was surrounded by all of my friends and family at dinner... and this was the moment I remembered that I am blessed, and life is good. I felt happy again. The very next day, I received an email from SIU that said "This letter was returned to our office as undeliverable. Just wanted to make sure you received it." ...and of course attached was my AWPA letter, that they had attempted to send out back in January. Wow. God is funny like that, right?
I bet you're wondering what is AWPA... lol. Everyone is. So, SIU is a bit different than other schools, being that essentially everyone gets waitlisted. After your interview, everyone gets a letter in the mail that you've either been rejected, selected as a ranked alternate, or placed on the AWPA (accept when place available) list. AWPA is the highest possible ranking you can receive, and from that point you just wait to get accepted. So again.... I waited some more.
Months went by, and I still heard nothing. Everyday I was checking Student Doctor Network, watching other students get accepted, and just wondering, when will it be my time? Are they even going to accept me? Am I gonna have to reapply? Welpppp, the months kept going and eventually school was coming to an end... and then, that's when life hit me again.
It was a completely random night, and my mom came home saying she was sick. She's always super dramatic when she's sick, so I really paid her no attention at first, but something this time was different. She was walking around the house moaning in pain, going from the bathroom, back to the bed, to laying on the floor in my room. I knew something was seriously wrong. Then, she said that she had blood in her stool. OH NO, OH NO, OH NO! IDK WTF THAT MEANS BUT I KNOW ITS BAD. WE ARE GOING TO THE HOSPITAL. So we went... Ofcourse, this was a night that my 20page research paper was due the next day and I had procrastinated until this very moment. BUT, my mom's health was the priority. So I took her to the ER, sat in the room with her all night, while working on my paper, and simultaneously talking to the doctors. At first, they didn't think it was serious and said she might just need to see an outpatient doctor... but then they did the CAT Scan. The doctor came back with this worried look on her face and told my mom they have to admit her because they saw "something" on her scan. Her next words were, "I'm not saying it's cancer, but it could be." ...and with that sentence, my entire world stopped. Cancer? My mom? What? God, what is going on? I tried to be strong in front of her, but I went to the bathroom and called my dad in tears. He assured me that I shouldn't worry, and reminded me of the law of attraction. I cannot think negative thoughts, because I will attract negativity. I just have to keep a positive mindset, and know that she's going to be okay. So it was hard, but I tried... And I pulled that all nighter and got the 20 page paper done in time, with all this on my mind. Not quite sure how I did it, besides God must have been working through me, fr.
The next day they told us that my mom had stage 2 colon cancer, and that had she not been on this workout journey the past few months, they probably wouldn't have caught it. You see how God works? They then told us that they were going to perform an emergency surgery to remove the mass, and guess what? The day of her surgery was the day after my graduation-- meaning, my mom would not be discharged in time to attend my graduation. One of the main people who brought me to this point, couldn't even be there to celebrate with me. I was heartbroken, fr, but I honestly just wanted to make sure my mom was ok. Right after graduation, I went right to the hospital and spent time with her. The next day was the surgery, so I came back and layed in her hospital room waiting for her to be done.