Most people who apply to a graduate school and/or graduate medical programs apply to get accepted the first time of applying. No one wants to have to apply a second time and definitely not a third time. After a second rejection, a lot of people would probably recommended someone picking another field to enter or even giving up altogether. For me, both of my rejections were taken hard and still to this day, I can still recall the frustration and failure that I felt during those times.
My story is unique: I was a non-traditional student. Came from a rough background where I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana around drugs, gangs, and violence. Several family members went to prison including my younger brother for armed robbery, my younger sister on felony charges, and my mom who has been in and out of prison my whole life, on and off drugs. In addition, several friends were either killed or jailed amongst the violence in Louisiana. To avoid becoming a statistic, I joined the U.S. Air Force and ended up serving eight years as medic. During this time, I went to school at night, on the weekends, Internet — basically whatever it took to complete my degree. Due to military obligations, I was forced to either postpone or drop classes several times.
In 2005, my schooling came to a halt when I was deployed to Iraq as a combat medic. It would be almost an entire year before I could start school again. But, after 6 1/2 years of first taking classes, I finally completed my degree in 2007. After separating from the military, It was then time to apply to medical school. But, I was in for a rude awakening.
After everything that I had been through growing up in Louisiana and having the experience of being in the military under my belt, I figured I was the “perfect” non-traditional student. Although my grades and scores were not the best, I figured my experiences and background would speak volumes of my work character and commitment to the medical field. But, I was wrong. The majority of the schools told me I needed to bring up my MCAT score. Other schools told me I needed to work on my GPA. But, I just couldn’t understand why at least one school didn’t pick me up.
My third year of applying, I decided to quit my job in the ICU where I worked as a LVN and focus on the MCAT. While searching for various programs to apply, I came across a program, called the Georgetown Experimental Medical Program (GEMS), which prepares students from disadvantaged backgrounds for medical school. I was accepted and completed this program followed by matriculation into Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2009.
After eight years of first applying to medical school, I finally graduated in 2014 with my doctorate of medicine degree from Georgetown University. People always talk about blessings in disguise, and I didn’t really consider my rejections as blessing in disguise until years later when thinking about everything I had to go through to get accepted. I honestly believe most individuals who struggle to achieve a goal appreciate the struggle, even though it’s hard to understand “why” while going through it. To this day, I appreciate the struggle and everything that I had to go through to get to this point. I will never forget the struggle and those years of rejection. It keeps me grounded, and I know for sure, it will make me that much better of a doctor today because of so.
Antonio Webb is an orthopedic surgeon and can be reached on his self-titled site, Antonio J. Webb, M.D.
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