Why Med? Why Now?
If I’m being entirely honest, the idea of becoming a doctor has always been there. A hazy vision far off in the distance that I could barely make out if I squinted. The problem with a mirage is that it doesn’t actually exist, and that’s how I viewed the idea of studying medicine for a very long time, ‘Oh maybe I’ll do that one day, if I get around to it’.
After high school I decided to pursue a career as a physiotherapist, sold on the idea that it offered the ideal ‘work-life balance’. I liked sports and science, so Physio seemed like a logical option. Early on in my first year of university I realised that physiotherapy wasn’t for me, but I still wasn’t sure what else to do, so I stuck with it. As I progressed through my degree, I was so focussed on getting to the end of it and out into the professional world that I was satisfied with any mark that represented not failing. Along the way I made the most of the country university lifestyle in Albury-Wodonga, heading out to the discos and other uni events multiple times a week. The four years between the ages of 18 and 22 were filled with crazy nights out, self-discovery, self-doubt, some very regretful outfit and life choices, the making of life-long friendships, and maybe a little too much fun!
By the time my final year rolled around, I was so keen for graduation and yearned for the day when I would be able to be independent and earn money. I imagined my future, envisioning myself Physio-ing patients by day and then dashing out for after work drinks with my very cool and very funny Physio colleagues, or to dates with extremely hot men, punctuated only by a quick costume change and a dash of lipstick. Of course, when I obtained my first job as a Physio at a large hospital in Sydney, my day to day was ever so slightly different to what I had imagined.
Whilst I did Physio by day and frequent the dance-floors of Kings Cross most Friday nights, there was less job satisfaction, and sadly fewer hot men, than I had anticipated. Whilst I loved my first job and earning money for the first time, an unexpected feeling started to emerge in the pit of my stomach that I just couldn’t shake. While I went about my Physio duties, tackling the huge learning curve that all new graduates experience, a strange envy came upon me and I was suddenly very interested in the medical aspect of patient care. I started to read the medical entries in patient notes thoroughly, googling terms that I didn’t understand. If the medical ward round happened to pass by while I was seeing a patient, I would strategically linger a little too long by the patients’ bedside hoping to eaves drop on what the doctors were saying. In multi-disciplinary meetings I would hang off every word spoken by the senior doctors, in awe of their knowledge and their ability to lead the healthcare team. I grappled internally with the idea: did I want to become a doctor?
For many years after that I continued to squash the thoughts that plagued my mind. Of-course I didn’t want to become a doctor! I convinced myself of all of the perceived negatives about medicine: ‘doctors have to work really long hours, they have no time for family or other interests (which I’ve heard makes them sad), and I probably don’t have what it takes anyway’.
I continued to progress in my career as a physiotherapist, moving to Melbourne for a rotating job where I was able to experience every specialty in the hospital. I was extremely privileged to be working every day with a very intelligent and motivated group of people both within the Physio department and the wider hospital, and I came to love my life as a Physio.
I guess the thing is, if you truly desire something and it’s the right path for you, you can’t go on ignoring it forever.
Despite the negative inner-dialogue about medicine as a career option, and the fact that I was working in an incredibly inspiring physiotherapy department in a tertiary hospital, I couldn’t deal with the feeling of not knowing any longer. After 4 years working as a Physio, I decided that I owed it to myself to ‘see how I went’ on the medical admissions test – otherwise known as the dreaded GAMSAT.
My first experience of the GAMSAT was actually quite excruciating. In retrospect I was fairly arrogant, leaving myself only six weeks to study because I felt like my experience as a Physio would get me through. I also studied really inefficiently, spending most of that time reading theory and doing next to no practice questions. I found studying again for the first time in years to be a foreign concept, made harder by trying to fit in 2-3 hours of study per night after working for 9 hours during the day. Sitting the test was even more painful, and I have arguably never been more mentally exhausted in my life than at the end of that day.
My score was surprisingly better than I expected but put me in that grey area of ‘is it worth applying to med school or not?’. Up until this point I was still questioning myself every step of the way and wasn’t convinced that I was capable of getting in. When I read the email that said I didn’t get any interviews I wasn’t surprised, but I was really upset. Losing the chance to progress in the application process made me realise that medicine was something I really wanted, and I started studying for the next years GAMSAT straight away. I ended up sitting the GAMSAT three times in total, gained interviews twice, and well, the rest is history.
My pathway to becoming a doctor is only technically just at the beginning, but the emotional journey to getting where I am has been long. I have learnt how important it is to listen to that little voice inside you who always seems to know what you really want and need. I have spent a majority of my twenties thus far getting to know myself and my emotional and professional capabilities. Whilst I didn’t always know it, I now truly believe that I am meant to become a doctor. I also feel like my journey to get to where I am has been perfect. If I’d have done medicine as an undergraduate, or even as a post-graduate course straight after my Physio degree, I’m not sure if I would have been cut out for it. The emotional growth that I’ve undertaken so far has allowed me to become equipped to take on whatever challenges medicine has to offer. I feel prepared and ready for the exciting road ahead and I’m pretty excited to be taking you all with me!
If my 20’s have been anything to go by, I still have a lot to learn, not only about doctoring but about myself as well and I can’t wait!