I’m a Caribbean medical student. Like most people I tried to get into medicine in the states and was rejected for perfectly good reasons. Chief among them were:

1) immaturity
2) poor scholastic performance in spite of the tools to excel
3) horrible recommendations from teachers aware of points 1 and 2.

Despite those failings, I was done with mediocrity and standing still in life. After graduating I tried to find work in the medical field for a better shot at a second application cycle. The job that I eventually landed was a Patient Care Tech. in a very fancy hospital. The requirements were that you have:

1) GED / High school diploma
2) no drugs in your urine
3) no criminal history
4) no better options

I didn’t even get this job cleanly, but instead with an inside man who knew my family and thought I was a good enough guy. It was one of those great times when someone in the position to help sees a little of himself in you. I was glad for it. I worked that job alongside full-time nursing students, grizzled nurses, and a revolving door of people that weren’t rejected early enough.

My life consisted of 12 to 16 hour shifts at night on a Hem/Onc ward. In case your curious, the nicest hospital floors are usually on top, except in the Onc building, where everyone is trying to work there way from the ICU on floor 9 to terminal Onc on 8 down to the lobby where people are smiling because they get to go home. I spent 13 months there learning to love patients and hate patients and become used to the worst juices of the body. Like most people seeing that world with fresh eyes, I have several anecdotes about life in Term Onc and I’ll write about them in time, whenever I have a slow day in the present. But we’re just getting introduced now.

After 13 months of working the same job on the same schedule with the same part of your brain asleep for all of it, you learn a better answer to any admissions question:

Interviewer: “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
You predictably answer: “I feel like each of us owes something to those most in need. I enjoy helping those that are sick and knowing that I have made a difference in their life.”
Interviewer: “F minus.”

Now let’s see what happens after hospital grizzling…
Interviewer: “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
You answer: “I used to think it was to help people, and that’s part of it, but if that’s all I wanted to do I’d be a nurse or a tech. I’m a smart person and I work well with stress and prefer it, and if I don’t end up in a field where I am being pushed to the point of a panic attack, then I just don’t want to do it. I am not going to end up as a computer being used as a doorstop. I had 13 months of that already and I just about lost my mind. I want to help people, but the best help I can give them is to go get some amazing training, study my ass off, and return a more capable physician. I’m not going to die happy having done anything less than that.”

After it all I was a better applicant with better recommendations but I still didn’t have the grades. Schools like to see trends. Straight Bs with straight As your last term is not a trend; it’s the picture perfect of someone who could have gotten As the whole time but has horrible foresight. Every school was right to pass again. I prepared for that to happen and had a few applications out to Caribbean schools. They all accepted and so I went with the “Harvard of the Caribbean.”

That’s where I am now.

So that’s our introduction. Nice to meet you.


15 Responses to About

  1. rob says:

    i’m in med school, too, at georgetown university. just from reading your blog for five minutes, i am jealous of you on two counts. 1. you are a good writer. i am one of those kids that has dreamed of med school for years and was so fired up to begin that i thought i’d capture it all in a blog. hell, i thought, i might even try to publish a book or booklet about med school despite the fact that many such books exist and are probably worthless anyway. about two months into my blog, i remembered why i made B’s in english – writing is like childbirth for me, and i decided to quit immediately. the only thing i wanted to write anymore was how noone outside of med school understands it. boo hoo for me. 2. you had the lack of forsight to land yourself in an awesome place to study (and ironically never enjoy daylight). i took things too seriously at the beginning of med school and i’m trying to reverse that trend now, just in time for pharm, path, and micro, which demand that i not goof around and be serious. damn it. i wish i’d gone to my state school, saved money, and chilled out a bit.

    i’ll keep reading. you keep writing.

  2. ncurse says:

    I’m also a medical student and I liked your blog. Keep up the good work! I add you to my blogroll…

  3. Kshah says:

    I stumbled upon your blog by accident. I am a parent. My daughter is in SGU and she is going through some of the same experiences you articulate so well in your writing. By reading your Blog, I am able to understand more of what she is going through. I wish more parents can read your “rumours”. Keep up the good work

  4. Rachael Smith says:

    Hi, I am a student at Nottingham university and i will be joining you at SGU in August, i am really nervous about this!! Can you give me some advice on how to make the whole process of settling in easier and could you put me in touch with some people so that when i arrive i wont feel too lonely. Thanks xx

  5. spiritualized says:

    you are awesome. thanks for taking the time to reveal your insights.

  6. steph says:

    nice letter rob.

  7. bdf says:

    I tagged you. Sorry in advance…I know these sorts of things are a bit cheesy. If you’ve got some time, I’m sure peeps would love to know more about you.

  8. p4a99 says:

    This is my first visit to your blog. It seems like its not going to be the last.
    GL with your life.

  9. AJ says:

    Holy smokes,
    I need advice. I am currently in graduate school and am in my final semester. I study at McGill University in Canada. I have been thinking about medical school for quite awhile now, but am wondering if I can handle it all those pancakes each and every day without end. However, your second response to the interviewers question about why you wanted to go to med school and become a doctor seems to fit for me. I need constant business, enjoy pushing myself and all the while need to know I am doing something worthwhile (good for me and good for society).

    How do I know if I can hack it!!???

    I don’t want to do the pancake experiment.


  10. AJ says:

    By business, I meant busyness..I hope doctors don’t have to be good spellers.

  11. Shyamali Joseph says:

    Hi topher:

    I’m currently a Caribbean medical student. I’m preparing for the USMLE Step 1. I really really want to transfer to Drexel University for my third year. I was thrilled to read all you postings related to transferring to and American Medical School.

    I live in the Rittenhouse Sq. area and was wondering if I could call you to get more details. I would appreciate any help since I feel very lost figuring out the process.

    Thanks in advance.


  12. unamuno266 says:

    Topher, why didn’t you take that year to really study hard for the MCAT? If you had received a score of 36 or higher you could have probably been accepted to a medical school. I am only asking because I am currently trying to bring my MCAT score up to the high 30’s to break free of the drag that is my cumalitive GPA.

  13. amanda kaye says:


  14. Bertie says:

    I hope you keep writing. Your site is very helpful. I followed your advise and just finished punching holes on my first aid book. You were so right, it is a lot easier to add comments (pages).

  15. Netete says:

    My son just completed his fifth semester at the AUA. He has submitted his step 1 result and documentations. It’s taking forever for his rotations/clerkship to start. He and I are frustrated about the delay.
    Your thoughts? Thanks so much for all the ideas to new comers.

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