275: From Nursing to Accepted Premed, A Story of Lost Confidence

Session 275 Ayesha is a successful applicant to med school after she initially lost confidence due to poor grades and became a nurse instead. Her dream never left her. An avid listener to this podcast, Ayesha is now on the show to share her stories about her premed journey, or reboot to her premed journey after doubting herself while in undergrad, dealing with self-doubt, and then finally in transitioning from nursing to medicine. Special Announcement: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement comes out in August 2018 for the paperback version and the eBook will be released earlier than that. Stay tuned to be notified! [02:07] Her Interest in Medicine Although she thought she has always wanted to be a physician when she was younger, she really never thought it was something she wanted to do back in high school. But she knew she still wanted to get into healthcare. Her family has influenced her, being her mom who is a nurse and as well as her aunts. So she always grew up hearing stories about the different patients in the hospital. "Health is an equalizer in way. Regardless if you're a president of the free world or you're a janitor of a building, if your health is not intact, you cannot be a contributing member to society." Attending Georgetown in her undergrad, she met a lot of premed students that had strong convictions to medicine. It wasn't the same for her since she had a lot of interests such as international health and international affairs. She didn't know at that time that she could really incorporate within medicine specifically. But she knew she wanted to explore that field more. Her transition in interest from nursing to medicine actually occurred the moment she became a nurse. When working as a nurse in critical care in D.C., she worked intimately with the residents, attendings, and interns. And through interdisciplinary rounds, she got exposed to the thought process behind them in terms of management plan and treatment of care. She also realized that a lot of the questions she had was deemed out of scope of practice for the nurse since she was more into the in-depth pathology and treatment plan and management of care. "Regardless of your field, such as nursing, if it's in your heart to be a physician, you're not going to be happy with any other career." She was also able to talk with friends that were residents or medical students and premed students. Additionally, she did an introspection and began questioning her intentions whether she's going into it for the right reasons. She also reflected on some of the academic struggles she had in undergrad. She began questioning her own personal abilities. So through deep self-reflection and deciding where to go in the future without any regrets, she just concluded that medicine was for her. [07:01] Planting the Seed When Ayesha was transitioning from undergrad into a real adult life or adulting, she wanted to journal what she's been experiencing in the hospital as well as what she wanted for herself and her future. She was in Barnes and Noble and found a magnet saying "What would you do if you knew you cannot fail?" Immediately, the first thought that came to her is being a physician. This actually shocked her because she didn't know it was strong in her subconscious. So this was that point in time where she had to really dig deep into what she could get from medicine that she can't get from nursing. And she realized she wanted to be a physician to serve underserved and vulnerable populations both domestically and internationally. Being a daughter to Kenyan immigrants, she can identify strongly with her Kenyan heritage. She actually went through the different internships she did during undergrad, working with UN aids and doing clinical rotations in Ghana. Then she realized she wanted to have this ability and autonomy the physician has to provide patient care the best way she wanted to do so. "I wanted to have this ability, this autonomy that a physician has to really provide the care for patients the best way that I wanted to do so." Speaking of autonomy, she looked up other master's program for nursing being a logical transition. But through it all, she really knew in her heart that she wanted to be a physician. Otherwise, she wouldn't have been happy had she tried another career when she really wanted to be a physician just because of fear. [10:00] Self-Doubt Due to Undergrad Academic Struggles During her freshman year at Georgetown, she considered it being a humbling experience. Excelling in high school, she thought she was going to easily do the same in college. But she found herself struggling in Human Biology during the first semester. And it came a point where she had to withdraw from the course since she didn't want to end up with a horrible grade on her transcript. She thought she was a failure and it got stuck in her subconscious. So she began questioning her abilities and whether she was smart enough. "At that moment, I realized that it was me really stopping myself from pursuing medicine because of fear of not being able to perform well on the sciences." Ayesha adds that she got overly involved that it took away the time she needed to study. Having gone through a rigorous high school as well, she thought she could make through the classes at Georgetown. So she came in with a chip on her shoulder and not really evaluating that she's in a different setting. [14:00] Resources, Myths, and Ayesha talked to a lot of people. She enjoys hearing other people's stories. So she did a do-it-yourself postbac after making a connection with someone who was on the same path. Additionally, she talked to other friends who were medical students or premeds and just picked their brain. She also search for other information online. Moreover, Ayesha mentioned about some of the myths that she was able to break free from after listening to this podcast. One of those myths is that if you don't have a 4.0 GPA and a 515 on the MCAT, you're never getting into medical school. You have to be stellar in every single aspect of your application. Medical schools want excellence but it has to be genuine and that your passion must be real. They want good numbers but not really to the point how a lot of premeds talk about this. "Med schools want excellence, but they want it in a way that is genuine to you and that your passion for medicine is real." [16:38] Collaboration, Not Competition Ayesha did her postbac at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where she enrolled as a non-degree seeking student. She was interacting with students younger than her and going to college for the first time. She saw the sheer level of competitiveness that they brought to the table. This actually shocked her since working in the real world, you realize that in medicine, teamwork is a huge component. At times, this wasn't reflected in all students, although she found a great group of students who displayed teamwork and collaboration. She considers them as instrumental in succeeding in her postbac program. "Working in the real world, you realize that in medicine, teamwork is such a huge component. To get to where you want to be, you need to be able to collaborate with others and have good spirits." In finding these people and putting out the message, she would interact with them in classes in an informal way. And she'd usually invite them to study with her together in the library. So she simply goes up to someone she sees that understands the material which she doesn't. In the same manner, she does bring something to the table too in sharing her knowledge. [21:20] Fitting It All In and Making It All Work Ayesha finds it a struggle to having to fit everything in. As a nurse, she would work 3 12-hour shifts a week. There were times she would work a night shift and then have to rush to class. She lives in Baltimore and works in DC so commuting was pretty difficult too. She would do her 12-hour shift then stay up until 2 am to study so she can prepare for class the next day. It was exhausting but she found strength in time management and prioritization skills. "What really strengthened during that time period was my time management and prioritization skills. I learned how to say no and not feel guilty." Additionally, Ayesha underlines the importance of time management.As life goes on, it's going to get busier and being able to develop time management skills is really something you should hone in on. Thanks to great managers too who have supported her through this journey. She was able to transition from full time to part time during the second year of her postbac so she could better accommodate a life balance between work and school, while keeping her sanity. What she considers as the biggest challenge through all this transition is self-care and making time for herself. She was putting everything else before her, not realizing that she wasn't at her best. She couldn't be her best in all those other things she's juggling. That being said, it's hard being caught up in the premed world and med school application that you forget to take care of yourself, something which Ayesha needed to make a conscious decision to do so. And once she became more conscious and more deliberate in her actions, balancing was still difficult but it was more manageable. [25:00] The Challenges of Application: Personal Statement Ayesha found writing the personal statement as the hardest part during her med school application process. With her long commutes, she was listening to this podcast and all our other shows on MedEd Media, specifically about writing personal statements. And she was constantly practicing and saying it loud. She realized that shaping her story is difficult. She had to compress all these years of being an undergrad and transitioning to nursing and being a medical student. And putting it all together in one nice personal statement was hard. She spent months working on it, it took her awhile to get to a personal statement she was happy with. Outside the podcast, she leaned on family and friends who really knew her. She would write a ton of drafts and would ask them to check it for her. Thankfully, her friends were so honest to tell her whether she needed to go deeper. On the flip side, she also like having individuals who didn't know her too well to read her personal statement. That way, she could ask them what they were able to get from the personal statement. They could give them the characteristics and values they had gotten away from it. "Without them knowing me so well, it also helped me fine tune where I need to better improve on within my statement." Check out my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement to learn more about how you can write a better personal statement. [27:45] The Interview Process: Tell Me About Yourself Ayesha got interviews at a number of schools and she got multiple acceptances. She has read the book The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. What she liked about the book was a transcript of me working with students and when I had them redo their answer to a certain question after I have given them feedback. It's different when you're reading a book where they're just giving you the various types of questions that you may be receiving within interviews. But having that real conversation and hearing their first response, then the feedback, and then the revised response, you would be able to see the difference in how they responded. Ayesha found this to be very helpful especially when it came to the very generic yet essential Tell Me About Yourself. You can take that question in so many different ways and it could really set the tone for your interview. "Especially when it came to the very generic yet essential Tell Me About Yourself. You can take that question in so many different ways and it could really set the tone for your interview." What she also learned from the book is to be able to bring up different values or themes within the Tell Me About Yourself Question versus just reading off the resume. In her case, Ayesha highlighted the values of family and building a community, which was emphasized throughout her upbringing. She found herself always searching for a community in every place she went. She always felt the need to find a strong community that identified what she wants in terms of working for the underserved and vulnerable populations. So being able to bring this up to the Tell Me About Yourself question, it led her to talk about a lot of the community service work she did as well as the different populations she worked with as a nurse. They also got into the areas of the interview that she wanted to talk about which she wanted to highlight during her interviews. [31:10] Achieving Success: How Do You Do It? What she thinks that led to her success in her medical school application is prayer, first and foremost. Faith is a huge aspect for her. At times she felt nervous and questioning the process but she realized some things are out of your control. If you know that you put your best foot forward then you can't blame yourself. So when she got to the point that she had reviewed everything, she knew that she had put her best foot forward and God will do the rest. Being able to just not overly stress over things also contributed to her success knowing there's a higher power in place. Ultimately, Ayesha leaves us with great advice that you need to trust the process and appreciate the journey. She realized that her journey has been so meaningful because of having that strong sense of why and her purpose was clear. She wouldn't have had that clarity and that immeasurable sense of integrity if she had not gone the very non-linear path to medicine. Keep thriving and striving and all things will work out in the end. "Trust the process and believe in yourself. Surround yourself with folks who will uplift you and empower you to be the best version of yourself." Links: MedEd Media The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview

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