During my sophomore year of college while I was sitting in the library taking a break from studying, I came across a video called “The Secret to Success” by Eric Thomas (otherwise known as ET) that changed my life. As I put on my headphones and turned up the volume, I could feel the fiery passion from ET’s words reach through the screen and light a fire within me. I asked myself, what is it that motivates me to study harder when I feel like giving up? I could not come up with an answer at first. I thought I knew the reason why I wanted to go to medical school, but it was not until that day that I realized the motivation it was going to take to get me there.
I sat back in my chair and thought of my father who had a great job working for the World Health Organization in Zimbabwe before choosing to bring our family to the United States. My father gave up his well-paid job with its benefits to work as a home healthcare-giver once arriving in this country. He worked harder and was paid less but he chose that life so his children could have a better future. I thought of all of my friends who never were given this opportunity. That’s what motivated me to push myself to fulfill my dream of becoming a physician. I am inspired to be the best that I can be so that one day I can provide for my family and also give back to my father after all that he sacrificed for me.
I was never the smartest person in my classes but I put in a lot of hard work. This meant giving up many things that I wanted to do in order to focus on studying. The spring break of my junior year, I had the perfect opportunity to go down to Florida with some friends but I knew that I had two exams right after break and taking the whole week off would not do me any good. I had already planned a perfect balance of study and rest over break but I knew there would be no studying if I went to Florida, so I had to pass on the opportunity. It wasn’t easy to do but I had my “why” to keep me focused.
Applying to medical school was not easy for me, and going through it challenged me in ways I never imagined possible. The summer after my missed opportunity to go down to Florida, I had to take Physics I & II. This also happened to be the summer I was filling out my application for medical school and I had to take the MCAT a week after physics was done. Then I only had one week of summer vacation before the start my senior year! I had to work as well to cover my bills so this was easily my least favorite summer and it tested my “why” to the maximum. I knew that no one was forcing me to do this so I could not make any excuses. My wife, then girlfriend, was so supportive and would bring me lunch while I was studying in the library and it hurt me to know that I was not spending as much time with her as I would have liked, but she knew my “why” and supported me even at the expense of spending quality time together. I made it through the summer and took the MCAT for the first time hoping it would also be my last. My MCAT score made me think twice about it being my last time but I did not lose hope because I knew that if I had to do it all over again, I would because there was a bigger picture. Two months later, I got an interview with IU and right after Christmas break I had my acceptance letter in the mail.
Through the entire process, I kept my “why” in my heart and in my mind. I had never seen my father smile so hard and I could tell that he was very proud. At that moment, I knew that I was one step closer to achieving my “why”. When you want to give up because you think your MCAT score isn’t good enough, you feel like you won’t get that interview, you feel like there is no more hope and you start to second-guess your desire for a career in medicine, just stop and ask yourself, what is my “why”? You can achieve so much more when you have something solid to stand on. It will help propel you to new heights.
Your “why” is not just a seasonal question, it is a question that defines your life. In due time, your efforts will be rewarded. After my first 11 weeks of medical school, I still remind myself of my “why” and it is only the beginning. So don’t look down when things get tough because, if you do, you might miss that opportunity down the road waiting to cross paths with your “why”.
About Edmond Irankunda
Born in Rwanda, Edmond escaped the 1994 genocide with his family just before his 3rd birthday. He witnessed the struggles of poverty while traveling to multiple countries in Africa. Edmond lost his mother while living in a refugee center when he was only 4 years old. His family eventually arrived in Zimbabwe where they lived until they moved to the United States. His father remarried and Edmond became one of seven children. His family was selected in the USA immigration lottery system and they moved to Indiana, where they have been residing since 2003.
Edmond is a medical student at the Indiana University School of Medicine at the South Bend Regional campus where he will graduate in 2018. After working throughout his undergraduate career as a scribe in the emergency room at a local hospital, Edmond has become very passionate about Emergency Medicine. Edmond married his college sweetheart in September of 2014. When he is not studying, Edmond enjoys working out, spending time with his wife, watching the television show Scrubs, and going running with his dog, Addison.