As an undergraduate senior, I have learned that becoming a physician is a marathon, not a sprint. I remember pulling all-nighters before exams during my freshman year. I remember crying over bad grades and thinking this was the end of the road for me as a pre-med student. I was losing sight of why I chose this path and why I was putting myself through courses like organic chemistry.
Sophomore year, I became a little bit more comfortable in my classes, but still had poor study skills. My GPA was still teetering and I was constantly stressed. Then, the summer after sophomore year I studied abroad in London. My parents had instilled a travel bug in me at a young age and I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue this opportunity. I decided on a six week summer program in community action and social change as a break from my science courses
There, with the help of a fellow student, I had the incredible opportunity to conduct a research project on sexual health disparities for females of South Asian descent. I especially connected to the research I was doing because I, too, am a female of South Asian descent.
Throughout that summer, I reconnected with the reasons why I wanted to be a doctor. It started with a genuine desire to help people. I was reminded of this by my research because I found my passion and motivation again in listening to the stories of women like me who wanted to see healthcare reform for all classes, backgrounds, ages, genders, ethnicities, nationalities, and so on.
I have wanted to help people as a Pediatrician since I was a child. I love working with children and believe becoming a Pediatrician is the best way I can help them. In addition, I was born completely deaf in my left ear. My family and I didn’t learn of this defect until I was 5 years old through a hearing test at school. I remember the administrator yelling at me because she thought I was “faking” not hearing the beeps. I remember crying and being scared to death in all of the big MRI and CT machines. This experience could have scared me away from the healthcare field, but I chose to turn it into motivation to help children that are terrified in hospitals and doctor’s offices like I was.
Rediscovering my passion helped me to really hunker down and focus on my courses during my junior year. I realized that I had to study hard in order to reach my goals. The more I understood the material, instead of just memorizing it, the more I saw my determination and motivation increase. I witnessed my grades improve to a point they had never been before. This momentum continued through the rest of junior year.
This past summer (after my junior year), I began studying for the MCAT exam. I was terrified of opening the stacks of books and studying. How was I to relearn biochemistry and organic chemistry when I had done so poorly in those courses the first time around? How was I going to get my target score? What if the past three years of undergrad had been for nothing? Was I cut out to be pre-med?
I realized I needed to find my motivation again. I remembered my time in London and all that I learned from interviewing the women who had come into the sexual health clinic. They spoke of the pressure they felt as South Asian women and how they wanted to break free from societal and cultural stereotypes. This helped to remind me of the reasons why I wanted to pursue medicine. I wanted to help those in need and help push for social change. I wrote my reasons for pursuing medicine on post-it notes and hung them in my room where I spent countless hours studying for the MCAT exam. And suddenly, pieces started to click and come together. My fear of subjects turned into a passion. I taught myself the content in ways that stuck and rediscovered the little girl inside of me that was purely curious about science and the world around her.
In tough times, when I wanted to give up, I looked up at the post it notes on my wall that read “TO HELP PEOPLE”, “TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE”, “TO MAKE YOURSELF PROUD”, “TO CONTINUE LOVING SCIENCE”. These little notes brought back all the reasons I know I chose the right path. My dad would constantly say to our family friends, “I feel so bad for her…she studies all the time”. This couldn’t be further from what I was feeling. I had rediscovered my love for science and learning through studying for the MCAT. Being a doctor is all I have ever wanted, so remembering that was all the motivation I needed.
About Sejal Mehta
Sejal Mehta is a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is originally from Clarkston, Michigan and loves calling Michigan home. When she isn’t studying, she also enjoys traveling, exercising, Netflix, and spending time with her friends and family. She aspires to become a pediatrician one day.