Monday, March 13, 2017


I haven't always known I wanted to be a doctor.

I've talked about my journey to where I am so much over the last six months that it's almost rehearsed. I have an answer for every "so why medicine?", "did you always want to be a doctor?", "why ob-gyn?"question I have received at interviews, dinners, and random conversations. 

Because the truth is, I haven't always wanted to be a doctor. Growing up, I always liked "science" the way most children who like science do - I asked for chemistry sets for Christmas, I had a telescope, and wanted nothing more than to go to NASA camp. In high school, I took the classes offered, but when you go to school in rural Wisconsin, there weren't always the most opportunites.

When I left my small high school class of 69 people to go to a university of 40,000 students...I was intimidated. I very clearly remember the day of orientation, they asked us who was pre-med so that we could talk to the pre-med advisors. I raised my hand...and then lowered it. Because I was scared and nervous and because I didn't actually know if that's what I wanted to do anyway.

So I did a bunch of other things. I took a lot of integrated studies classes, foreign language classes, and writing classes. Since I had tested so high into German classes, I also took those, and eventually declared a German major...because I had to declare something! But it wasn't something I was passionate about. For a while I considered becoming an English teacher - I like to read, I've been told by professors that I was a good writer, and I felt that education was a good fit for me. But after a few more English classes, I realized I like to read and write...I don't necessarily like to teach other people how to do it. 

At the end of my sophomore year, my parents sat me down to discuss my future. We had had these kind of discussions before. Once in my junior year of high school, I was grounded until I could provide a written paper to my parents on what I wanted to do with my life. It was a bit difficult to make my German parents understand how the American college system worked, and that maybe as a junior in high school, it wasn't necessary to have a life plan written out. But once I got to the end of my sophomore year of college, and still didn't really have a plan of what I was going to do with my education, it was time to buckle down. My mom asked me, if there was anything in the world I could choose to do, what would it be? And I have no idea why, but I replied with...a doctor.

My dad is a doctor - he worked for years as a general practitioner, and now works as an emergency department physician. He never wanted his children to become physicians - the road to just the title is long, and the work thereafter is even harder. So he suggested dentistry - it's a field of medicine, you get to work with your hands, you earn a great living, and it's a lot more family friendly for women. So I went down the pre-dentistry path. I joined the pre-dentistry society, I increased my volunteer hours, started taking the pre-reqs like biology, chemistry, and physics and I shadowed a few dentists. By the time I was a few semesters into my science courses, I realized that I actually really liked the science courses, even if I wasn't as good at them as I was at previous subjects. But it's when I shadowed a few dentists that I realized that I just wasn't super interested in dentistry. 

By the time my senior year rolled around, I was officially a Biology (...and German) major, and quickly trying to get all my required classes for graduation in. That year, I worked as the business manager for the UW Marching Band. Basically, people all over the state of Wisconsin would hire a group of 10-100 band members to come play at their weddings/funerals/parades/business events. I was in charge of organizing all of that. A man contacted me to organize a group of people to come to his Fourth of July event. This man was a talker, way more than any of my other contacts. He eventually asked what I was majoring in and what I wanted to do with my life. I explained that I was a Biology and German major, but hadn't really figured out what I wanted to do with my life. As it turned out, he was a family doctor, and offered me the chance to come shadow him. 

And shadow him I did - a bunch of times. He worked in his own practice, and let me do a ton of things (sometimes more as a pre-med than I have as an actual medical student!). I sewed up lacerations, performed physicals (where I had no idea what I was doing), did pap-smears (again, no idea where we were even looking at), and even did the majority of a vasectomy. It was exciting and interesting and inspiring, and from then on, I officially wanted to be a doctor. 

But it's one thing to decide to become a doctor, and another thing to actually become one. I ended up having to do another year of college to fit in all the pre-reqs for medical school. After my fifth year, I was ready for a break. I applied to a bunch of lab jobs in the Madison area, and received an offer to work for the local pharmaceutical development company as a dose formulations sample coordinator. I started my job a few weeks after graduation, and actually quite liked it. I applied to medical schools that year, interviewed at one, and was eventually rejected. I was hurt, but it was expected - after all, most people don't get in the first time (or so they say)! Plus I was enjoying work enough, so if I had to work for another year, then that was what it was going to be. 

I re-applied the next year, and widened my circle of applications. I applied to both MD and DO schools this time, and applied outside of the Midwest. I again interviewed at the local medical school...and again was rejected. I was absolutely devastated. I wanted nothing more than to stay in Madison and go to school there. I cried and cried and cried. At this point, work was fine, but not something I was super excited about anymore. My relationship at the time wasn't in a great place, and I knew I needed to do something for myself. So I sent out a pretty late second round of applications, got an offer to interview at a school in Pennsylvania, and so off I went, driving 12 hours each direction for a one hour interview. A few weeks later, I was accepted

In July of 2013, I moved to Pennsylvania and started medical school. It was so exciting to finally be where I wanted to be. School was hard...oh my god, was school hard! Studying was rusty for me, I missed my nights and weekends I had when I worked, I missed the city I lived in for seven years, and I missed the people I knew so well. Over time, my prior relationship ended, and to be honest, it was incredibly freeing. It's one of those things where you don't realize how wrong a situation is for you until you're past it. I started to find "my people" - the girls who have gotten me through every hurdle the past four years. I met a great man who started off as a lab partner, transitioned to friend, eventually boyfriend, and now fiancé. I did really well in some courses, and struggled in others. I found mentors, and people who challenged me both academically and personally. There were some bad times, and some really great times too. 

After taking Step 1, we started the clinical years hit. It felt like I was a freshman in college again. I had no idea what I was doing, and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Some rotations were amazing, others weren't as wonderful (so thankful I never have to do a month of general surgery ever again). After every rotation, my future became a bit more clear, and about two thirds of the way through third year, I knew I wanted to go into Ob-Gyn. It had everything I wanted - the ability to work with my hands, the chance to get to know my patients, and the opportunity to deliver babies. It's honestly the best mix of medicine and surgery.

In January of third year, CR and I officially decided to couples match - that meant, that we would go to the same hospital/region together. It was a big step for us! We started making our giant lists of places, looking to see where we wanted to apply to (lots more about that later this week). At the end of June, we had a ten day stretch where we took three board exams. It was not a fun ten days, but it was nice to bang it all out at once.

From there on out, CR and I spent the next six months living apart - one of us was on an audition rotation while the other lived at home. I went on three auditions rotations, and CR went on three. Half way through this time, we got engaged! Right after that, interviews started. I drove to all of them, from ones in Wisconsin to upstate New York to West Virginia. I listened to sooo many podcasts and books on tape. I had great interviews, I fell in love with places, and fell out of love with others. I met so many interesting and hardworking people, and all I wanted was it all to work out.

And today, we found it we did. We have officially matched! I am going to be an Ob-Gyn and CR is going into Family Medicine. We could not be more excited about our journey ahead of us. It's been a long road to get to this point, and the hard work really is only beginning, but YAY! We did it!

A huge thank you to all of you for your encouraging emails, texts, tweets, snaps, and comments over the past four years. It may not seem like much, but it has meant the world to me.