"...I think we should go on a break" (Part II)

If you can’t tell by my agenda (scroll up), scheduling has been crucial for my efficiency. My entire life has been planned since 14 and until recently, I had no intention of deviating. A month into my second year, we had a class meeting about dual degree programs and research opportunities. Midway, a lightbulb went off.

“What if you take 2 years off and the second year just train for the Olympic team?”

The schedule control freak in my mind almost lost it.

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“Take time off of school?”

“ Does that mean you don’t want to be a doctor anymore?!”

“You won’t be a doctor by 24! You basically skipped first grade for nothing.”

The Olympic hopeful in my mind responded:

“There’s no way you can go to 3rd year next year, rotate in the hospital, and fly to Europe on the weekend.”

“Maybe taking time off can still help me with my career.”

“You know what, I did want to minor in business in undergrad…and I do want to have my own practice one day…..let me look into this MBA option.”

Anyone who knows me knows once I get an idea I’m off running and cannot be stopped. I looked into the requirements (only 1 year and transferrable credits to my MD, cha-ching!!) and spoke to several MD/MBA professionals about their experiences. They had nothing but positive remarks about the opportunities this degree would create. The business school was closer to my fencing club, which meant I could train longer. The classes were less strenuous, so I could have a social life without feeling like I was throwing my career down the toilet. Within a month, I was sold on the idea of becoming a businesswoman. Finally, I had to look my significant other aka med school in the face and say, “Honey, I think we should go on a break. It’s not you, its me, and I just want to have other experiences right now.”

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The truth is going into medicine is a serious commitment. Four years of medical school plus 3-5 years of residency and an additional 1-2 years if you’re considering a fellowship. As soon as you begin school, it’s practically like an engagement and the first thing my mom taught me about marriage is never get married if you’re not ready. As a young student, straight out of college, I felt like my 20s were slipping out of my hands too quickly. The goals I had didn’t align with the path medical school laid out for me. I desperately wanted a change. And guess what?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

The moral of the story is do not let nonconformity scare you. For some reason, the idea was engrained in my mind once you pick a career path you had to stay on that road. It would never be acceptable to take a couple of side streets. You have to remember your happiness is key. If your heart is telling you something else is important, medicine will be more forgiving than you think. My deans were excellent mentors during this time when I felt like I was emotionally cheating on love of my life. They assured me I was not alone.

You have your entire life to become a physician. You can afford to spend a couple months on yourself. Not only will your newfound experience develop skills you might not have gained otherwise, but it will set you apart from your classmates. With over 41,000 students applying to residency each year, make sure your story stands out.