Sunday, November 16, 2008

How this happened...

I'm incredibly surprised at the events of the past few months. Here's my story. You might be surprised, too.

I received my B.S. in Biology/Chemistry in May 2007. I decided that the quick fix to finding a job in this area with a Biology degree was to get my license to teach. So, I got married in October 2007 and started my licensure requirements in January 2008. It wasn't bad, really. But, it wasn't good, either. There was no challenge to the classes. It wasn't fulfilling. I had so much more to offer to the community and to myself. I trudged on through spring and summer semester, but at the end of the summer, I was spent. I was tired of the classwork -- busy work, lack of respect, and all the red tape and politics that education entails. I decided I would get my M.S. in Biology and eventually my Ph.D. in Environmental Science. I got the ball rolling by setting up interviews with a few potential graduate advisors.

The final advisor I was to meet with, Dr. B, was a wonderful, exuberant man with whom I shared a lot of common interests. During our interview, he asked me, "After all this is said and done, and you've received your Ph.D., what is your ultimate goal?" My gut reaction was, "I want to help people." I wrestled with this for a minute, How can you help people with a Ph.D. in Enviro Sci, Hope? The answer was, I can't. I can't make the impact that I believe I can make. In the end, I responded to him with, "I want to help." Leave off the "people" and it sounds good to a biology advisor, right? But in my mind, I knew that wasn't what I should be doing.

Having had this conversation left me confused because I knew that my ultimate goals could not be achieved with a Ph.D. in environmental. So, I sat down and IMed with a friend that is in medical school about my dilemma. He recommended that I apply to medical school. I had all the pre-req's. I'm smart. I'm compassionate - why not? It's something I'd always considered, but never had enough confidence.

So, in early August 2008, I decided to take the MCAT and apply to school.

This is where I was confronted with a dilemma. My parents are elderly. I'm very, very close to them and a terrible worrywart. So, I had to find schools that are relatively close. When you live in the middle of Tennessee, your closest options are ETSU (Quillen), Vanderbilt (pfft), and UTHSC in Memphis. Applying this late in the season really didn't give me much of a chance for those three schools. But, I applied anyway. At that point, I had been in the camp of people who believe D.O.s are lesser counterparts to M.D.s, so I didn't think about D.O. school. At least for a week or two. My old Organic prof/pre-med advisor suggested a couple of relatively close Osteopathic schools (Pikeville, West Virginia, DeBusk and Edward Via). What the heck. I needed to see what all the hype was about. Surely a D.O. couldn't be as good as a M.D.? Right? Way, way, way wrong.

I researched the role of a D.O. and was completely blown away. Imagine this - they actually care about their patients. They listen to them. They consider the whole body, rather than the symptoms. They get the exact same education as a M.D. aaaand, they get this really cool tool added to their toolbelt called Osteopathic Manipulative Technique (OMT). In essence, OMT is manipulation of the bones and muscles similar to chiropractic treatment but much less intense. I was all in. I was hooked. Osteopathy, I decided, was perfect for me. So I applied through AACOMAS to two D.O. schools, Lincoln Memorial University - DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) and Virginia Tech, Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM).

I took the MCAT on September 6th. One of the last dates you could take the MCAT. The entire month of August, I studied my brains out. I went through an entire Kaplan MCAT book in a month, had provisional materials and a whole bunch of other books on subjects (specifically Physics) in which I was a bit deficient. I walked out of the MCAT feeling as if I'd received a lobotomy, but I was relieved. I was done with the MCAT and all it entailed.

After I had taken the MCAT, I met with my pre-professional advisor and he gave me some information on the Universities that would be coming to talk to the pre-med students at my Alma Mater. One of the visitors was Dr. Jonathan Leo of DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was to visit our school on October 7th, the same day that I received my MCAT results.

So, I got in my Sunday Best, went to the school and bombarded him with questions about the school while all of the little froshies sat back in amazement. I wasn't afraid. I was excited and intrigued by the school. It was close, with excellent, brand new facilities and so high tech it would blow your socks off. I spoke with him again after his lecture and he told me to get my secondary in as soon as possible.

I received my MCAT score later that evening. I was quite disappointed. I made a 23P, and was told by fellow med students that it wasn't that bad. I sent in my Supplemental to DCOM a few days later, four to be exact (on a Saturday). It took me a while to regain my composure after I received my score. I swear I thought I did better than that. The following Thursday, at 8 a.m., I received a phone call from a number with no caller ID. I couldn't hear anyone on the other line, so I hung up. This happened twice. I dismissed it as a wrong number or a prank caller and went about my day. At 10 a.m., I checked my e-mail and had an e-mail from Amy (I love Amy, she's dealt with so much from me) in admissions at DCOM. She wanted to set up an interview (!!) and asked me to call her. My heart was racing as I talked to her. We set up the interview short notice for the following Monday (10/20).

Monday came and my interview was wonderful. The night before, I met with some DCOM students at Oasis (a local pizza dive). I wasn't worried. I wasn't nervous. Being at DCOM just felt... right. The next day, I was likely the most calm person in the room as the other students practiced breathing techniques and rambled on nervously about their ECs and their Alma Maters. My interview with Drs. Routman and Fitzovich went off without a hitch. We chatted about Halloween ad all sorts of things, and when the interview was over, I felt as if I'd known these wonderful gentlemen for years. That was nice. We toured the facilities, which were above and beyond the pictures that the website hosts. Wow. I was in LOVE.

The drive back to my house (2 and a half hours away) was so easy. The trees were gorgeous, and the mountains. Oh, man. I loved it there. Bottom line.

I was in love with DCOM.

After I got back from DCOM, I had to go about getting my letters of recommendation (LORs) from my pre-professional committee and an Osteopathic physician. Talk about a pain. It was awful. My pre-prof committee interviewer was condescending and rude. But I made sure to straighten him out pretty quickly. It took almost 3 weeks for DCOM to received my LORs.

On November 5, I received an e-mail from Amy saying that all of my materials were in. (woo!) Adcom met the next day and I received a phone call from Dean Stowers at 4 p.m. on Friday. He offered me a spot in the incoming class!

So, here I am. Fixing to make a deposit on the biggest change of my life. I've received rejection letters from all of my allopathic schools. Oh, darn. Hate it. And I have withdrawn my application from VCOM. I'm ready for DCOM. Beyond ready.

After seeing tremendous amounts of unconcerned, greedy, selfish doctors in the past 24 years, my motto is simple. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." And that is what I hope to do.


Passey said...

Great story. I decided on attending a DO school largely because the DO's I work with are so caring.

MammaDoc said...

Your story really resonates with me. I also want to be a force for good within the world of medicine. Best of luck to you in your studies. We'll both be new medical students this fall after taking a long meandering path to get there. Go class of 2013!