Beyond The White Coat
Posted on 04 November 2016
An awesome post by Maria Elizabeth. Read the interview below to check out the interview which includes great tips for current and future medical students!
"I never realized how much negative stigma there is by the general public toward the profession I have chosen. Quotes, memes, and countless articles that only portray doctors as money hungry, self-praising, I’m-in-it –for-the-status, insensitive egocentric people. Others will say, “I don’t think he/she knows what they are doing,” in a way belittling the years and countless hours you have spent studying about the human body and its intricate workings. There is little to nothing inspirational out there about/for doctors and it’s kind of disturbing. After day two of going on absolutely no sleep and constant stress, I sat there wondering, what do people really know about becoming a doctor?
The truth is that if you have not been through it, or seen a love one go through it, you cannot understand it, let alone appreciate it. And so on the verge of this semester ending, I do want to pause and take a moment to say something positive to encourage my peers.
It isn’t easy and you are entering a field where what you do will rarely be appreciated and you will be constantly criticized. But you’ll do it anyway. Not because you are in it for the money, the status, or whatever other reason people want to believe. You’re in it for the right reasons. At the end of the day you just want to help people and you value a stranger’s life more than your own, that you are willing to sacrifice all that you have for the sake of others. I know the struggles you face on a daily basis. I know that it’s hard to stay motivated. I know that sometimes you just want to sit down and enjoy a good movie, but the constant guilt you live with when you are not studying won’t let you enjoy even the things that you try to do to feel that you have a semi-normal life.
I know the tears you have probably cried out of frustration with med school and dealing with life on the side. Because even though you are in medical school, life keeps happening and it doesn’t wait for you. Some of you have lost loved ones, some of you have gotten married without being able to plan out a proper wedding because of your studies, and some of you have even had babies. Life keeps happening. Yet you have to sacrifice yourself day in and day out so that you can prepare yourself to be the best physician, not for the baby you just birthed, but for a stranger who someday will probably tell you to your face that they hate you and you have no idea what you are doing. But you sacrifice yourself anyway.
By now you have probably learned how to push your own needs aside to make room for everyone else. You have learned to give yourself five minutes to cry it out and to suppress those feelings (whatever they may be) and keep going. I’m sorry you have to do that, but you know there is no other way to keep it together and make it through this profession. But just know that all these things are building in you a stronger character so that one day nothing will shake you and definitely not break you.
And while there is so much more that could be said to encourage you, I’ll just end with this. What you are doing is worth it. Not because of any satisfaction it may bring to you to look back and say “I did it,” but it will be worth it because you and I know that the lives you will be saving someday are worth it. It was never about anything else.
From one peer to another, thank you for what you are doing. I cannot help but to take my hat off to that, because beyond that white coat there is a person, with a heart so big, willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of others. And if they don’t appreciate you for it, don’t worry. Keep sacrificing, keep pushing, keep studying…you never needed validation anyway."
- Written by and published with permission from the author, Maria Elizabeth
After reading your piece, we realized we had to reach out to you and understand who the person is behind the scenes. It is a truly inspirational piece for individuals that are not only pursuing medical careers, but for current doctors as well. Thank you for sharing this with us!
- Obviously, you’re on your way to becoming the best doctor you can be. What stage are you currently at in your pursuit to becoming a doctor and which school do you currently attend?
I am currently a second year medical student and I am attending Ross University Medical School in Dominica.
We always hear that students who have a dream of being in the medical field somehow incorporated it into their childhood. I personally played the game ‘operation’ and would always run around hospitals as my dad did his rounds. What inspired you to become a doctor? Did you always imagine yourself becoming a doctor as you grew up?
My initial inspiration to become a doctor was watching my dad as he went through the process of medical school in Argentina. I have always wanted to become a doctor for as long as I can remember.
- Deciding to attend a medical school overseas must have been a difficult decision to make. Take us through the decision making process you undertook in deciding to go to a med school abroad.
I had never considered going abroad for medical school, but after being introduced to the idea by a friend and later finding out that a good college friend attended Ross and had positive things to say about it, I decided to expand my options. After some thorough investigation of the medical program offered at Ross I decided it would be the best fit for me.
- Did you feel like your level of education was up to par?
Definitely. When you are learning from professors who are renowned physicians and educators worldwide due to their contributions to the medical society, you begin to appreciate your education on a completely different level. When your Biochem professor is the author of the textbook most medical schools require, or when your professor has been a mentor to Noble Peace Prize winners, or when your professor has been the genius behind the development of Oral Rehydration Therapy…you could say my education has been to par. ;)
- If you could go back in time, would you choose for things to still be the same way?
I’m not sure how to answer this question. But I can say I have no regrets. My time in Dominica has been beneficial and rewarding.
- Being in graduate school, we understand the sacrifices you have to make in order to succeed. What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to accommodate med school abroad?
Medical school in itself is a sacrifice regardless of where you go. Time, money, health, loved ones and etcetera; it is a career where you invest everything that you are and sacrifice everything that would get in the way of achieving your goals. One of my friends put it this way; “It will test you on all levels—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.” Medical school is a huge sacrifice alone, and what I can say is that medical school in Dominica is definitely not for everyone. Let’s just say it requires an extra layer of skin, if you know what I mean.
- It must have been difficult adjusting to life overseas while leaving the life you have been used to on “hold” so to speak. How were you able to adjust leaving your family and friends behind while you studied abroad? Were you afraid after you returned that the people in your life would have moved on or were you always able to keep in close contact to your friends and family?
I thank the genius who invented the worldwideweb. If it were not for virtual communication the journey would be a lot more difficult than it has been. Honestly, I cried on my plane ride down to Dominica, because leaving behind everything I had ever known and those who I value most, was beyond difficult. I arrived in Dominica on the cusp of the New Year and had to spend it alone in my room eating Ramen. The internet was so bad at the time, that I could only connect for a few seconds, long enough to wish my family a Happy New Year and call it a night. However, cyber communication is not always this challenging there, it just happened to be especially terrible the day I arrived to my “new home.”
- We’re sure you have heard the phrase that you are living in paradise while in the Caribbean. It must have been a blast when you were able to enjoy the little free time you had. In order to help you succeed in your schoolwork, what kind of study tips can you give to fellow med students that you feel have helped you out?
Yes that phrase is classic! Funny thing is that the question that would follow that phrase, most of the time, was “Why are you still so white?” Lol. Because I was inside studying! Jokes aside, I will be candid with this. Most medical students do not take any time off studying. But just like the physical body needs a break to rest, so does the mind and the soul. Throughout my medical education on the island, I would take an entire day off each week to rest and do something enjoyable on the island. I found that during the week I was much more productive because I had a “mini vacation” to look forward to at the end of each week and I also felt mentally, physically and emotionally rested. I also took these days to catch up with my family and friends back home.
- Do you have any words of advice for students in your position? Would you recommend them applying to Caribbean schools as well?
If Medicine is your dream, do not give up. Time passes by anyway; you might as well be doing what you love. I would recommend applying to a Caribbean school if you feel that you are strong enough to survive the experience. If you do, you will be a much better physician for it.
- If you could provide 5 essential tips that have helped you throughout your medical school progress, what would they be? Whether they may be adjusting to life outside of the US or even tips to help you succeed, we want to hear the top 5 thoughts that come to mind.
These are the things that have worked for me in medical school and in life:
Keep God first, best, and last.
Take life in strides, sometimes things are not as serious as we make them out to be. A sense of humor is essential.
Be humble. Never look down on anyone.
Always do your best no matter how big or how small the task.
Never give up on what you love.
- We know how difficult medical school must be, but what do you do in your free time – as in what’s your escape from it all?
- Working Out
- Reading a good book
- Connecting with loved ones
Thanks for all the information. We’re glad you were able to give your input and give students in your position an idea of your life and what medical students abroad encounter. We wanted to ask you about this awesome post you wrote.
- What influenced you to write this piece? It shows a lot of emotion, so what’s the background behind writing it?
I wrote this post right after spending my Thanksgiving holiday far away from home and friends in my apartment alone studying. I was in, what I consider to be, my hardest block in Medical School – Neurology. I was feeling a bit discouraged and overwhelmed with the amount of information I was required to learn in such a short amount of time, and I wanted to find some encouraging words to read that would help me to push through. As I browsed the Internet, all I could find were memes, articles, and jokes about terrible doctors. I frowned in disbelief and was instantly motivated to provide something positive for someone who might be in my shoes someday and needs a simple word of encouragement to help them push through.
The article was originally meant for my peers at Ross, but as I soon found, it quickly spread globally as I had people writing me across the globe thanking me for sharing my thoughts and words. It was rather humbling, and I feel thankful to those who have shared my article with others.
- Do you feel that because you studied abroad you were able to find the passion to write this piece, or you would have written it if you attended a school abroad or within the US?
I believe the sacrifices I have made for this dream have been my motivating factor for writing this piece. It is because of this dream and vocation that I have moved abroad away from my family and friends. It is because of this dream and vocation that I have poured countless hours of my time into studying. It is because of this dream that I have put my relationships on hold. It is because of this dream that I have given up other personal goals for now, like completing my book, doing a triathlon, and traveling the world. Nevertheless, I do not regret any of the sacrifices I have made, if anything, I count my temporarily losses as gains for the sake of this dream.
If you have any final thoughts you’d like to share, please let us know!
Thank you for your time and for this lovely opportunity to interview with you, Cheers!