More About Medicine

premedFax From the Future: I don’t know if anyone’s seen the show Switched at Birth on ABC Family, but Daphne, one of the main characters, one of the girls who was switched at birth, is deaf and is also pre-med. In general, though her disability is different from mine, I’ve found the portrayal pretty accurate. In this past season (2015), she started her pre-med classes, and I found a lot of her struggles and interactions in that world to be really realistic (well except for on an exam she mixed up cations and anions, which I don’t find realistic at all, but that’s chemistry-related not disability experience). Sometimes the show stirs me up and gets me mad. Sometimes it inspires me to want to tell my own story. Sometimes it kind of makes me nostalgic for the time I was writing about in this post, taking those first chemistry classes.

Now on to the original post:

I announced on my facebook a week or so ago that I’m going pre-med in school, which is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and want to say more about. I’ve been thinking of it as “my big secret” for awhile, but really it was more just something that was so new, and I was so uncertain of, that I had to keep it to myself for awhile.

And it really has been awhile. I first started thinking about it before my trip to India, back when I was visiting and applying to schools. I found myself really craving science, and really drawn towards medical this or that (and no, I don’t just mean House and Grey’s Anatomy, lol) in my reading and explorations. But I kinda thought I was crazy to even think about it. I mean, I’m old, or so it seemed, to make that sort of career choice. And I wasn’t one of those kids who got in trouble for watching operations on TV as a kid and didn’t people who wanted to go to medical school know it from the time they were born? It was such a difficult endeavor that I thought I was nuts to even consider it. Oh yeah, and then there’s the low vision thing. Yeah.

So for awhile, I was in this weird state of thinking about it but not even wanting to admit to myself that I was thinking about it. I was sure I was just plain crazy. But it did factor in. When I chose what schools to apply to, I made sure I could do pre-reqs there (even at Emerson) and when I visited schools I took a little notebook with me to record impressions, and along with general info and gut feelings and coincidences, and experience sitting in on classes, I noted medical-related things in my little journal as well, like Evergreen giving out a list of what medical/law schools their grads got into, or how at Portland State the tour guide mentioned that there’s a cadaver lab for pre-med students and that while walking around I heard students having a conversation about Rh factor. So it was somewhere in my consciousness enough to note those things down in the notebook.

And then I went to India, and came back, and started planning to move to Portland, and then thought about that program in Denver and at the last minute chose to start school, all the while with this on my mind, sorta kinda. But by the time I actually started school, it was more solidified. Even though it was kinda painful to do so, as it brought up all the feelings of, OMG I must be crazy, I signed up for a one-credit class called Intro Pre-Med which was pass/fail and just meant to give overall info on the process.

When I stayed w/a friend last August in Portland, I had mostly felt overwhelmed by how big the city was (after living on Orcas Portland seems like NYC) and kinda intimidated about getting around. I had taken one bus trip to Portland State and had gotten lost a few times along the way. So when I came back to actually move in, I stayed w/the same friend for a few days before my apartment became available, it was in the middle of Portland State’s orientation week and they had sent me this list of activities and one of them was for people considering going pre-med. I wanted to go, yet I was afraid to go.

I don’t know what it was, but the first morning back in Portland, I somehow felt on fire and got up early, jumped on the bus and went to my school and went to the seminar. I got a little lost on the way, and walked in late. And kinda spent the whole time waiting for someone to tell me I shouldn’t be there. Of course, that was a very self-centered way to feel. It was a crowded seminar, probably no one noticed me one way or the other. It was great to sit there and absorb the info and start to think that I could do this. And there were people older than me in the room.

I felt the same way in that one-credit class, especially when I disclosed my disability to the professors. But you know what? No one ever said anything bad. The seminar was led by the pre-med advisor and one of the gen chem professors and neither seemed fazed by it. The gen chem prof (whose RateMyProfessor made her sound really scary but who turned out to be one of my favorite profs, and definitely someone I’ll ask for a letter of rec) just said it shouldn’t be an issue because the class was based more on listening to presentations and panel discussions. The class provided lots of information and required us to write reflections about different speakers who came to talk to us so it gave me a way to think and reflect more on this possibility. And I was, by far, not the oldest person in the class. There were people from all lifestyles and backgrounds, people with previous (or current careers) in something else, people with kids and family at home, people with all kind of lives that sort of broke open my restrictive feelings of why I couldn’t do it.

And then, somewhere along the lines, I learned that there were some blind MDs out there, some that became blind later and continued to practice (with one anesthesiologist, he continued to practice after going blind, at the request of his patients) and some that went through med school blind. And then there is my good friend who is blind and a naturopathic physician. It’s definitely not a common thing, and I’m sure when I’m applying, I’ll have to deal with a lot of misconceptions and people thinking I can’t do it, but it has been done, successfully. People have found all kinds of alternative ways of doing things. I also found out recently that there is a woman with my same condition, albinism, who is working as a nurse in a pediatric ICU, and that may actually be the more challenging endeavor with a visual impairment.

What has really tipped the scales for me is how at home I feel in the biology classes. I have thoroughly loved them all so far, especially the chemistry-based parts of the classes. I love learning how the molecules look and interact in their regular ways and in diseases. And I like learning about diseases. I feel like it somehow fits better than any other college major I tried out before. I am especially drawn to the medical aspects, and loved the little crash course we did on physiology in my Principles of Biology class in the spring, and keep reading medical-related books even while taking these classes. And going into medicine, to me, seems like a great way to combine my love for the science aspect of it with the human element, a way to settle, in some ways, the right brain/left brain tug-of-war that has always been at work in the past when I’ve been in school. And, really, in just about any aspect of my life.

So it’s been on my mind for awhile. It was on my mind in India and we visited free clinics (although of course the only time I had real digestion issues in all of India had to be while touring a free clinic in Bodhgaya). It was on my mind when I was at the NFB (National Federation of the Blind) convention last summer and my roommate had a medical emergency and I went w/her to the hospital. And at other times during the conference when people would say things like, “My blindness is due to sarcoidosis,” and I had to restrain myself from asking all manner of socially inappropriate and prying questions about their medical conditions. But it was after this summer, especially after, and a bit during, my immunology class that I started to really get a more solid sense of yeah, this is what I want to do, and I can do it. And that’s when I started being more public about it.

Of course, nothing is ever certain. Who knows what I might find along the way or what new path may open itself to me, or if I get some healthcare experience and decide, whoa, not my thing, but for now, I’m pretty sure this is the direction I’m headed. And I’m really psyched about it. I also feel like this coming year will be a bit of a test of that direction, as I’ll finally be a full-time student, and will be taking a few different science classes at once, and will be doing a year’s worth of Anatomy & Physiology (which I’m so amped for, I’ve already started looking at the book, yes I’m a dork) and the year of general chemistry at the same time, which I’m also excited for. I really loved chemistry in high school, but I’m a little nervous as that’s the last time I took chemistry and it’s been awhile since I took math. A friend of mine pointed out that there’s a long tradition of physician writers (so true) and I was thinking, there’s also a tradition of physician activists.

So, I guess that’s all I have to say about it for now. In my job search, I’m trying to get a job that somehow relates to healthcare, at a hospital or a clinic or find a good volunteer opportunity that relates. The volunteer position I applied to (and talked about in my last post) was with cord blood donation, which would have been SO COOL on so many levels, esp as I find myself drawn towards things like immunology, which would have related to that program, but I did not get that opportunity, at least not this time around! So, onward to the next things.

I just found out, as of a few hrs ago, that I got into a class called The Art of Medicine for the fall term! I am really excited about that. It takes place at a local hospital and is taught by physicians (and the hospital is right near where I live, too) and to get in, I had to apply, write some essays, etc, so I am thrilled that I got in and can’t wait for the class.

To be honest, I don’t quite know what to do w/myself now that I don’t have class! I’m a little bored. In a little over a month though, I’ll be taking Anatomy & Physiology, A&P Lab, General Chemistry, Gen Chem Lab, Behavioral Neuroscience, Art of Medicine and a writing class. I will not be bored then.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this sort of thing, b/c I’m really into it, but maybe that’ll be it for now.


Currently listening:
“Winter Song” – Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson – yeah I must admit that my musical leanings seem to be more romantic and maybe a bit sappy or cheesy as of late, which is kinda funny considering my recent post that my poetry tastes are not. But whatever, I love this song.

Winter Song

This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon,
it rolls in from the sea

My voice; a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light,
to carry you to me.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love

They say that things just cannot grow
beneath the winter snow,
or so I have been told.

They say were buried far,
just like a distant star
I simply cannot hold.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love alive?

This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,
cause youre not where you belong;
inside my arms

I still believe in summer days.
The seasons always change
and life will find a way.

Ill be your harvester of light
and send it out tonight
so we can start again.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love alive?

This is my winter song.
December never felt so wrong,
cause youre not where you belong;
inside my arms.

This is my winter song to you.
The storm is coming soon
it rolls in from the sea.

My love a beacon in the night.
My words will be your light
to carry you to me.

Is love alive?
Is love alive?
Is love alive?

2 thoughts on “More About Medicine

  1. I think you will be a brilliant physician. You have compassion, and a desire to learn, and a greater desire to help. That's all you need to heal. MHO.I also admire you, the way you take on your dreams and fears, the world, and face it down like a toreador does a bull. you have so much more spunk than I, your sighted friend.A colleague, a woman named Lisa Iezzoni (google her, she is quite well-regarded in health and medicine), has her own disability. She is a pioneer in the field of disability research, and was recently given an award for her contributions. Hearing her speak moved me to tears, she is so eloquent. She has moved mountains from her wheelchair — I am sure you will do the same when you've set your heart on your dream. Peace…

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