01 June 2015

Tender Mercies in Medical School

We are active members of the Mormon faith. Our beliefs are so much a part of who we are and what we do, including our time in medical school. So I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the many tender mercies that we had these last four years. Prepare yourself for a doozy of a post!

1. Being Accepted to Medical School: The process was a minor trial for Scott and I, though we felt the Lord's hand in the entire process. The second time around we spent a lot of time talking about where he may want to go to school and what he could do in the year he had been given to improve his chances. Heavenly Father buoyed us up when we were feeling pretty low. What a blessing it was that Scott was able to improve his grades, MCAT score, and gain more volunteer hours. These improvements spurred two school interviews and acceptances.

2. Oregon: In the application process, we had poured over the application time and again looking for schools to add or making edits in essays. I distinctly remember Scott calling me from a boy scout overnight he was chaperoning to ask if I would finally submit the application. On the phone, I reviewed with him the schools where we had selected to apply. Then, though I had never seen the option before, Western University's brand new Oregon campus appeared on the application list of schools. I asked Scott on the phone if he wanted to add it, and we did, knowing that he had family nearby. Little did we know that shortly after moving to Oregon, my parents would move to the state, as well!

I've talked quite a bit with my fellow med student wives about our choices to come to COMP-NW. To be honest, there were times in the last four years that we were jealous of the customer service, curriculum, resources, or prestige of other schools. However, we all had stories of prayerful consideration and an impression that Oregon was where we needed to be. Education aside, we have most definitely benefited from the supportive community of Lebanon, bountiful resources of Oregon (oh, the berries!), proximity to family, and the amazing circle of friends we made!

3. ISAC and Teaching Assistant: One of the main reasons Scott selected to attend Western University was because of their Intensive Summer Anatomy Course that allowed students to take their first anatomy course in the summer as a stand alone class and prepared them to be Teaching Assistants in the lab. Scott was lucky enough to be accepted into this elite group of students. It allowed him to complete one of the hardest first year courses before he had even begun school. As a TA, he became fast friends with his classmates and had the opportunity to solidify what he'd learned in the months before. This emphasis on anatomy helped Scott to do well in all of his courses during the first two years, not to mention all of the times he was questioned by physicians in the operating room.

4. My Job: Getting a job in Lebanon is no simple task, though with a brand new school opening up in Lebanon, you would think otherwise. The community has grown quite a bit since the medical school campus was built, but there are still very few professional jobs open, much less jobs that might actually progress my career. We decided to move to Lebanon three months before school started, since I otherwise would have had to move to Oregon without Scott since he was attending the summer anatomy course in California. Another reason for the early move was to give me a head start on the job hunt. I spent a couple months hanging out in Lebanon, applying for jobs of interest, and exploring the area.

One month after I was settled, two part-time jobs opened, one each at two different non-profit organizations in the area. I applied and was asked to interview for both. Then my then future employer contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in interviewing for a full-time job instead. After several interviews, I was offered the full-time position.

Since graduating from BYU-Idaho, I have enjoyed the jobs I've worked at and have had wonderful working relationships with colleagues. I have also felt, throughout my career, that something was missing - I needed to find some greater purpose at work. This position that I have held during the last four years of medical school has been the best job I have ever held. I have loved my experience at the foundation and have been supported in my professional development by wonderful supervisors and colleagues. It was an incredible blessing for me to be offered a position with the foundation, and then after demonstrating that I could do great work, I was continually blessed with more learning opportunities. On top of that, the job offered wonderful benefits, and I was able to help other med student wives to find positions at the organization. It was truly a privilege to work with my colleagues at the foundation.

5. My MBA: One of the amazing benefits offered at my job was tuition assistance. Before we began this medical school journey, I had started taking class towards my MBA through UMass Amherst's online program. My job allowed me to take classes, for a very small fee per unit, through Oregon State University. It was initially a tough decision to transfer credits, not knowing if I would be able to stay in Corvallis long enough to complete the OSU MBA program. After transferring credits to OSU, I took night classes while working full-time and finished the OSU program in three years. Going to school kept me very busy while Scott was preoccupied with school and away on rotations.

6. Boards: The pressure was mounting for Scott as he prepared for his boards following Year 2. A competitive score on the COMLEX Level 1 and/or USMLE Step 1 are a key component to securing an interview with competitive residencies. We were blessed to have resources for Scott to orchestrate his intensive studying regiment. I was grateful that Scott could do all of his studying at home so I could see him (though, not talk to him) during that time.  We both fasted and prayed that he would pass his board exams and if it synced with God's plan for us, that Scott could also perform well.

One of the two board scores came back, and while he had passed, it was not the number he was hoping to see. For a few days Scott moped around, saying that he would have to be a penguin doctor in Antarctica. I reassured him that his scores could never be that bad, and we spent some time researching what the average board scores were for various specialties. I found that while his one board score was lower than expected, Scott would still have a chance to interview for dream specialties, knowing that no matter where he interviewed his character and work ethic would help him stand out. Then we received Scott's second score, which was above average, helping to boost his ego back to normal. I most definitely contribute these gains to our fast and tithes, and we've since decided that Heavenly Father wanted to send a little reminder to Scott that he needed to be open to all medical specialties.

7. Third Year Rotation Electives: When we selected our home base and Scott's rotation schedule for Year 3, I asked him to select a rotation schedule that allowed for him to vacation around my birthday, since I planned a fantastic cruise to celebrate. We ignored the timing of electives during his third year, or naively thought that having electives early in the academic year would help Scott to make better, earlier career decisions. We had no idea that because the campus was new and rotations now had to accommodate a larger number of students that Scott's requests for electives would be pushed off. Scott was left to arrange electives outside of the approved system, which required 90 days of paperwork. Scott was extremely fortunate to arrange with a family medicine physician in Medford to rotate as an elective and a family medicine/sports medicine physician in Portland. An extra cool blessing came when Scott was able to negotiate with the school to count one of these rotations as his family medicine rotation in order to have an additional elective later in Year 3, giving him more career options to consider.

8. Audition Rotations: At Western University, the students are required to set up all their rotations for Year 4 and not much instruction or assistance is given to help them accomplish this major feat. Scott and I had started talking about audition rotations and the required school core rotations during March prior to fourth year. Scott made some calls with potential residency programs, but many didn't have their visiting student applications available until later in the spring. Scott was so busy with rotations and board prep, that he dedicated very little time to the scheduling of his fourth year rotations... especially since scheduling had to happen during normal business hours when Scott was likely at the hospital with patients.

So when the summer came, Scott had communicated with many audition sites, but hadn't finalized all the audition rotations that he needed. He was frustrated that residency sites were difficult to schedule and didn't follow the schedule he had in his mind. More than that he was incredibly frustrated that the school was little help during that time.

His first rotation hadn't been scheduled when Scott spoke with one of his classmates about two residency sites in Utah that sounded perfect for Scott. I had researched and provided information on many residencies for Scott to consider, but I had failed to include those two residencies. Scott quickly called both residencies and by miracle and divine intervention, he was able to schedule one for his first audition in a matter of two weeks! Not only was his first audition rotation a miracle, scheduling wise, it became one of his favorite auditions of the year and prepared him to consider what he would like best in a residency.

9. The Match: I've said it before, and I'll say it again - we were incredibly blessed to land the residency we did. When applying for residencies, we prayed that we would be aware of the residencies to which Scott should apply. During audition rotations and interviews, Scott received great feedback on his potential to match. On Match Day I was telling people that I was 98% sure that Scott would match with one of his top choices; but he didn't, and we went through the emotional process of scrambling for his residency. Since residencies haven't started yet, I can't say that we scrambled into the perfect match for Scott, but it sure feels like it - family medicine, sports medicine in the curriculum, dually accredited, OMT training! We feel optimistic about the opportunities awaiting us in Wisconsin; and though we would have preferred to be spared the trial of scrambling, we feel the results were brought to us by divine design.

We are humbled and grateful to have had these experiences. They have reminded Scott and I that we should always prioritize the Lord and put our trust in His plan for us.