“I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubble gum.” – They Live.
Last month I turned 39. Not quite ready for a mid-life crisis, but not so far off that reflection upon my life isn’t something that I do from time to time. To say this assessment is a new thing would be incorrect. Over the last few years I have tried to make a conscious effort to evaluate and improve myself. I detest stagnation and if I am put in a position where there is little to no chance of any actual positive change, then I get antsy…if not a little angry from time to time.
For nearly the last five years, maybe more if I’m truly honest with myself, I found myself in just such a place. School, then work that was largely unfulfilling. Sure, there were wonderful moments and wonderful people, but there was no challenge, no new knowledge, no chance for growth. For many, I had achieved a dream: I had a graduate degree, a stable job with benefits, and a 9-5 schedule with weekends and holidays off. Who could ask for more!? Well, me…that’s who. Please, do not misunderstand my point here. I am very well aware of how good I had things. After spending a number of years on benefits, struggling just to find any job, I know what I had/have. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t what I promised myself I was going to do with my life.
When I was a very little kid, I used to watch reruns of a show called Quincy, M.E. It was a fun show and for me, still holds up (nostalgia goggles be damned!). Quincy was a medical examiner who was always getting himself into trouble because no one would listen to him. He was a doctor! He saw what the science and the victim were saying, but the bureaucrats were having none of it! And he lived on a boat for crying out loud! Medical dramas weren’t really my thing, with the exception of Doogie Houser M.D. but I did like the occasional episode if it came along. I’m talking about TV here for a simple reason; besides my pediatrician, it was the only exposure I had as a child to the world of medicine. Yes, I’m using that phrase loosely here, it was, after all TV, but it was something. It was a world I had no clue about. And I wanted in. I am a product of The Scully Effect, and I own that fact.
However, I am a late bloomer. Quite late, in fact. My upbringing was in a town with minimal access to medical care, and expectations laid upon boys and girls that were rigidly tied to perceived gender norms and societal requirements. The boys who couldn’t measure up as football stars were most likely headed to a physically demanding job and in many cases enlistment in the military. Girls? If you’re very lucky you can be a nurse or a medical assistant. Don’t forget to get married right out of high school and have some kids along the way. Boys, go die for your country, girls, reproduce.
My dreams had been replaced by familial and cultural pragmatism and I tried to find a middle ground. I became a nursing assistant and worked with the elderly, disabled, and provided hospice care for almost ten years. I loved much of that work and still would rather help someone with Alzheimer’s, than talk on the phone any day (Guess what I’ve been doing for the last three years?) Along the way, I managed to not develop a drug habit (common back home), not have kids (also very common back home), and moved away to complete undergraduate and eventually graduate degrees. With each move east I changed, grew. Slowly working myself out of what I had been and into something I wanted to become. And then I landed in a cubicle.
Though that cubicle may be a miserable little box, I still got to use my entomological skillz (insert sassy z). But, as stated earlier, it wasn’t enough. So, I made the most logical decision I could, I was going to become a doctor. I was no longer deluded about TV fantasy of the 1980’s and 90’s, I’d worked around doctors, communicated with them, I even had the opportunity to view a few autopsies while I was working at a funeral home and later in preparation for my med school application. I was going to be a doctor. MCAT prep done (working full time and part time while prepping is not recommended) and some night classes at a community college to redo some very unsightly D’s on my undergraduate transcript (Damn You Organic Chemistry!!!) I was on my way to completing my application for the 2019 year…and it didn’t work. One interview, no acceptances. Sort of…
Due to my not-so-great stats (I was a B-average student in undergrad) and the fact that I finished undergrad in 2009, the feedback I received from some schools was that I needed to seriously up my gpa game. And how does one do that? Night classes weren’t going to be enough, I had to go big or go home. But, how could I risk giving up my job for something that may not pan out? The solution was a program with guaranteed acceptance pending successful completion. I applied and got that acceptance.
A one year Masters of Biomedical Sciences program designed specifically to prepare students for entry into medical school is my new destination. I’ll write soon about this particular program and what I will be doing, but here’s the short version: It’s one year of intense biomedical science coursework with some field experience. Benchmarks for automatic matriculation into the associated medical school must be met. I already have some done. I just need to maintain a 3.6 or better gpa and not piss off any faculty and I am good to go. The premed/med student community calls these Special Masters Programs. Look for future posts about the SMP for info on the process.
So that’s that. For those who have followed or perused this blog and occasional podcast this is an update a long-time-coming. For new people, I welcome you. This post is uncharacteristically long and far more personal than most of them are. I will not leave my beloved bugs by the wayside. After all, mosquitoes kill more people every year than people do, so I will definitely have many opportunities for overlap. I still love Entomology and I’m not giving that up at all. But I need to do more than just rear them in a lab, count moths in a light trap, and talk on the phone while I poke at yet another Excel spreadsheet. In less than two weeks I will once again be a full time student. And by this time next year, I’ll be a 40-Year-Old Medical Student.