20: A Medical Dream

20: A Medical Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

A Medical Dream

In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.

~Marcus Tullius Cicero

There was a little girl who wanted to be a doctor. She wrote it in yearbooks and textbooks and anywhere she could. She seemed to have no other ambitions, and every action was on the path to this goal. Her grandma said to her, “I knew you were going to be a doctor as soon as you were born. I’m telling everyone. Just wait, one day you’ll do it.”

When she was thirteen, she got into a selective school that was known for its high rate of graduating students being offered places in medicine and law. It was the most prestigious school in the state, and many families believed that acceptance into the school guaranteed success later in life.

During the four years at the school, she met girls who were acclaimed artists, multilingual volunteers for the UN, representatives to government committees and accomplished scientific minds. The girl had none of these talents. She could debate well, but she wasn’t a member of the Australian Debating Team like her friend was. She was good at writing, but she hadn’t won a national writing competition and been published like her classmate had. The school liked her and thought she was involved and committed, but no one thought that she was particularly clever.

After a while, she stopped telling people that she wanted to get into medical school. The girls around her were much smarter, much more studious and far more likely to become doctors. She wasn’t even very good at science.

When she was sixteen, the school organised a lecture to explain the complicated process of getting into medical school. They gave out pamphlets and advice and the girl carefully kept them in a folder labeled “University: medicine.” After the session, the students crowded around to share doubts and concerns, but the girl went to library to study. She didn’t have a photographic memory like her best friend, and never quite understood concepts as well as the teachers would have liked.

In July that year, she took a 6 A.M. train into the city for the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Test (UMAT). It was a three-hour exam feared by all the students, and the girl had been preparing for the past two years. It was a horribly cold morning, and her menstrual cramps were almost as bad as her nervousness. When the test was over, she phoned her mother, took the train home, and went to sleep.

During the many months she waited for the results, she applied to every medical school in the country. Some rejected her straight away. “Physics is a prerequisite.” “We offer priority to students from rural backgrounds.” “We prefer students from our own state.” “Your predicted final marks were not enough to obtain an interview.”

Some, however, were kind enough to wait for the UMAT results. She got 281 out of 300. The letters came dribbling in over the following weeks; she was offered interviews at five of the six universities she was eligible for. At school, there were girls who didn’t get any interviews at all, and assumed that she was equally unfortunate. The girl still didn’t tell anyone her results, and celebrated with only her parents and brother.

Soon, the high school final exam results came. Her marks were high, but not high enough for medicine. Some of her friends obtained such perfect marks they were offered scholarships straight away. Her parents asked the girl if she had considered any back-ups. She had not.

Still, her mother took her to an expensive store and bought nice clothes for the interviews. Her father bought plane tickets and took her around the country, waiting in corridors until the interviews were over. They were encouraging, but prepared for reality. It was very unlikely that the girl would get into medical school.

At the interviews, the panel asked her questions like: “What would you do about the issue of binge drinking in the younger populations? What are your best friends like? What do you think is the hardest part of medicine? When did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor?”

When the process was over, there was nothing to do but wait. And then one day, a letter came. We are sorry to inform you... The girl’s parents made a promise to not show the letter to their daughter. They decided to wait for the next one. We believe most students prefer a place in a medical school located in their home state, and so we will not offer you...

After a few letters came bearing the same message, the girl knew her dream could only be achieved by acceptance into the medical school located minutes from her house—and one of the hardest to get into. Her parents became more worried, and her mother started to research alternative pathways to study medicine.

One day, the letter from that university came. The girl was waiting at the letterbox for the postman. Over the year, he had become accustomed to the mother waiting at the gate for him in desperation for acceptance letters.

The girl opened the package, knowing that her life was about to be defined in the next few seconds.

“We are pleased to inform you that you have been offered entry to the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery course.”

She called her grandmother—she was going to be a doctor.

~Pallavi Prathivadi

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