Here you are at the end of another school year. You’ve collected your extracurriculars and worked on your GPA like a deck of cards; an ace here, a king there, hoping to hit the royal flush. You’re looking to hit the ultimate payout, the thing that will make every admissions officer usher you into the pearly gates of medicine, with arms wide open holding a Littman stethoscope and your shiny white coat.
But here you are. You’re trying to count the cards, but coming up short. Each day you sit at the table, waiting for the dealer to turn over the next perfect card, and yet some days you feel that you’re only getting farther away from your big win.
I’m here to tell you that sometimes you need to play the game a few times before you’re going to win big. Whether it’s not being able to grasp the cyclohexane chair in organic chemistry, or fumbling your way through the 20 amino acids, there are going to be moments where you want to throw in the towel and give up on your dream. At times, these little moments of insecurity will pile up and burrow themselves deep into your mind, convincing you that the dealer is stacking the deck against you.
I’m here to tell you that the perfect card may take a while to be dealt.
So stop focusing on the game and focus on the player. 10 years from now once your name starts with Dr., no one is going to remember the failed organic chemistry lab, or the missed physics equation. What people will remember is who you are as a person. Are you kind, compassionate, and relatable? Do you care deeply about others and your patients? And perhaps most importantly, are you ready to be thrown into situations where you are uncertain and stressed for the rest of your life?
Because that is the reality of medicine. You will lose a patient, your relationships will be challenged, and your mental fortitude will be stretched to limits that you thought did not exist. Your current uncertainties and insecurities will one day be your greatest asset. As you continue along the treacherous journey, it is up to you to harness your failures and use them to learn and grow. The key to being successful in the healthcare sector is resiliency, a willingness to learn, and the ability to grow from your mistakes.
While your struggles were once dark pencil strokes marking up a perfectly white page, imagine them instead as faint pencil marks that an eraser left behind. While at one point you tried to wipe away the past as if it didn’t exist, instead try to see that sometimes your past is the only way to be better in your future.
So to all of you pre-meds, I urge you to remember this: You are not defined by your grade in cell biology and you will not be remembered for how high your yield was in an organic chemistry lab.
And yeah, maybe you had to take the MCAT 3 times so that you could be “competitive” but so what? None of the poker greats hits a royal flush on their first time out. So pull up a seat at the table and get comfortable, because life is all about using the cards to the best of your ability.