All through high school, I knew I wanted to study medicine. One of the first classes I took during my freshman fall was Biology 13, the intro level biology class that all biology majors and pre-med students have to take. It seemed like a good choice for me because I liked biology, I did well in biology in high school, so why not? Then, I took the first test. I got a D. A solid 64%. I thought I had understood the material, which meant I didn’t reach out for any help, whether it was through Professor Koegel’s office hours, the Academic Resource Center (ARC), or study groups. I freaked out and went to the pre-med advisors and asked them what I should do. I thought this was the end of my dream of being a doctor and I would become a wedding planner instead. The pre-med advisor looked in my stressed-out eyes and said,
“Calm down, you are a freshman. Everything is going to be okay. This is your first month of college, your first test, your first science class, and it is a hard class, as well! Take the next test and see how you do, then we can go from there. You can still be pre-med.”
Phew, okay. I could still be pre-med. I took the second test a month later. I got a low B. Great trajectory in terms of scores…but definitely not the average I wanted. After class, I basically ran to Professor Koegel’s office hours to ask her what I should do. This was the first time I had ever been to her office hours. She told me,
“People get A’s in my class, people get C’s in my class…they all go on to be great doctors. It is up to you what kind of grade you are comfortable with.”
Up until this point, I was either too prideful or too confused to ask for help. I realized (with the help of the pre-med advisor and the biology professor) that I could still be pre-med and seek out the Academic Resource Center. Ultimately, I ended up dropping the class and re-took it sophomore fall, utilizing office hours and the Academic Resource Center. I continue to use the ARC in all my pre-med classes. I go to an organic chemistry study group once a week, I email my physiology professor for office hours, and I get together with friends from my class once a week to review our notes.
I decided to expand my exposure to medicine beyond the classroom. I also talked to the pre-med advisors about opportunities outside of the classroom to get involved. I’ve had internships through the Oregon Health Authority, Planned Parenthood, and research assistant jobs through MIT and Tufts psychology professors. After my freshman year, I interned at Oregon Health Authority and learned about the public health sphere. It may not have been biology-based, but it gave me more insight into the applications of medicine at a population level. My internship staff did not know that I needed to retake Biology 13. What they valued was that I was independent, capable, resilient, and could help the office function.
Photo: Lora Zibman | Flickr