Every little kid gets the asked the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ For some, that question sparks imagination of one day becoming a mermaid or a superhero. For others, the more practical answer seems acceptable such as doctor, lawyer, or police officer. Regardless of your answer at the time, the point of this question is to spark a dream within a child. Obviously, for many the answer changes with time and experience. However, the answer has never changed for me. Since I was a little girl, I had a calling towards medicine. I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I’d sneak around past my bedtime to watch surgical reality shows and dream of myself in those scrubs holding the scalpel and commanding the room.
As the years went by and I grew older, I realized that becoming a doctor was going to be a lot harder than just what the bare timeline shows. Fours years of college, four years of medical school, even more years of residency and maybe a fellowship. In between that you have to do extremely well in school, ace the MCAT, pass everything in medical school, take four boards exams, match into residency and so on and so forth. When I entered college, I had no guidance about being a pre-medical student and was left on my own to figure it out. That lead me to make a ton of mistakes along the way. Unfortunately, those mistakes have been branded onto me like a scarlet letter, which held me back years in that timeline.
Regardless of my shortcomings, I tossed my hat into the ring in the 2015 application cycle. I applied only to osteopathic medical schools. I did this because I was constantly having the door shut in my face by allopathic (MD) medical schools. I’ve had deans and admissions counselors from countless schools tell me not to bother sending them my application, to switch fields and to find an alternative. Osteopathic medical schools seemed nice enough to say they viewed me as a holistic candidate and encouraged me to apply. I got rejected by 20+ schools that year.
I then took a step back and evaluated my transcripts and experience and decided I would really work on becoming an even better candidate. I worked a full time job as a nutritionist, volunteered, retook five chemistry classes and the MCAT, and completed a masters degree from Columbia University with a 3.9. I even took graduate level electives in neuroanatomy and pathophysiology. After the three year break to work on myself and build my application, I applied in 2018 to another 20 schools. I was granted one interview in the middle of April, which was extremely close to the end of the cycle. In the beginning of May I found out I was rejected yet again.
I was flooded with a sense of disbelief and agony. How could a student like me, who has poured her heart and soul into this, continuously be turned away? When I asked why I was rejected, they told me my GPA was not to their standards and I needed to take even more classes. I had already poured thousands of dollars into my bachelors and masters degrees plus taking post-bacc classes. I refused to take anymore classes. My only option was to retake the MCAT within 5 weeks because my score, which was higher than most students who were accepted to medical school, had expired. In short notice, I retook the MCAT and scored less than my previous score. I felt absolutely hopeless and I gave up.
I sat down and cried as I was trying to evaluate the entire course of my life. I had been dreaming of the day when I knock on a patient room and introduce myself as Dr. Rebaza and now that dream had disappeared. Every day felt like a funeral. As if I was burying my dream once and for all. The months of June and July were extremely rough. I walked around mourning all day and night. I was trying to find something to distract me and find a different calling in life but nothing gave me the spark. For me, medicine was my first and only love, my soulmate, my best friend. Even with the ups and downs, there was always an exhilarating feeling of shadowing doctors, volunteering in clinics and getting good grades in material I loved. In order to process my grieving, I posted a video explaining why I would not be applying to medical school again. I explained how it’s not that I didn’t want it, it’s that I didn’t have the energy to continue to be a pre-med student at age 27. I needed to more forward or find a way around. This video was seen 11,000 times, which was way more than I was ever expecting. It was comforting to know that so many people supported me no matter what but it didn’t fill the void in my heart.
The idea of not becoming a doctor was more intense than my worst romantic heart break. It was heart shattering. Like a lover in distress, I fought and fought the idea of getting back into the pre-med lifestyle until I finally caved. A love so intense, I couldn’t help but come back to it over and over again. I told medicine I would come back to them but only if they would take me as I am. Medicine took me back in its arms and said yes. In January, I’ll be off to St. George’s University School of Medicine to officially become a first year medical student.
This acceptance is the most surreal feeling I have ever had in my life. A pure euphoria that is unexplainable and I hope you’ll join me on the journey through it all. Thank you to everyone for your endless love and support. In the video below, I explain a bit more detail about my process of deciding to pursue medicine again and how I chose St. George’s University.