It was definitely not an easy ride for Dr. Rebecca Lopez to become a physician. She faced several major challenges, including having her first child at 15 years old, surviving a divorce, working and raising three kids while attending community college, and transitioning to a university setting.
But Rebecca never gave up because she knew she had it in her. She kept going and made it a point to find a strong support system in family and friends. Having graduated from medical school and started work as an intern, Dr. Lopez tells an inspiring story of empowerment, determination, and living your passions.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[2:36] Rebecca’s Early Years and Exposure to Healthcare
Ever since she was a little girl, Rebecca has been fascinated by science. Specifically, during fifth grade, she saw a movie about how the body changes, and that stuck with her. She also realized how much she has always enjoyed helping people. She was inspired to become a doctor, but becoming a teenage mom changed her course.She was inspired to become a doctor, but becoming a teenage mom changed her course.Click To Tweet
Being a doctor was a mystical career aspiration for her since she didn’t know anyone in healthcare except for her mom, who was a dentist. She clearly had no idea how to get from point A to point B. After she had children, she decided to go to a community college. She tapped into one of the school’s career pipeline programs where she had an advisor to guide her each semester.
[7:02] Empowerment After a Rocky Relationship
When Rebecca had her first child at 15 years old, it was obviously a life-changing moment for her, and she had to put her dream of becoming a doctor on the back-burner. But after finishing high school, she took a medical assistant course and briefly worked as a medical assistant.When Rebecca had her first child at 15 years old, she had to put her dream of becoming a doctor on the back-burner.Click To Tweet
Rebecca felt a sense of liberation and empowerment after getting a divorce with the father of her children. She felt like she still had to reach the full potential she had within. So she went back to community college and started from there.I was very fortunate to have the mentors that I needed at community college to be able to help me pursue my dream of being a physician.Click To Tweet
[9:30] Being Premed as a Single Mom
It was during a summer program in her sophomore year of college that her advisor talked to her about figuring out a Plan B. This crushed Rebecca’s belief and confidence in herself.
But she did some soul-searching, picked herself back up, pushed forward, and never gave up. At that time, she leaned on her best friend for support and sound advice.
[11:50] Does Going to a Community College Hurt Your Chances of Getting into Medical School?
Without doing any prior research about community college and its impact on medical school admissions, Rebecca had a favorable experience at her community college. She recalled having access to great resources and having an intimate class size. She thought that although going to a community college is not for everyone, it still is a great option that people don’t explore enough.
[Related episode: Going from Community College to Premed to Med Student.]
[13:20] From Community College to University
Realizing that community college could only get her so far, Rebecca worked very hard to maintain a good GPA, and she took on some student government leadership roles, which she was able to carry over to the university.
Rebecca finally finished her community college courses after three and a half years, which is longer than usual, because she had to take care of her three kids and work at the same time. She then transferred to a university.
Rebecca wasn’t used to being graded on a curve, so she had to adjust the way she studied for her university classes. She also had to commute a lot further to her new school, which was difficult as a busy mom.
[17:12] Collaboration, Not Competition
During moments when Rebecca questioned whether it was all worth it, she was able to reassure herself through soul-searching and surrounding herself with premed friends. Having a network of premed friends around her kept her going.Surround yourself with people who are like-minded, even if it's just one person you study with regularly.Click To Tweet
Rebecca reached out to people from student government and clubs she was affiliated to, and they found ways to study together. Rebecca and her best friend (who also has three kids and is currently a 4th year in med school) have stayed together throughout this journey.
[19:50] Applying to Medical School as a Single Mom with 3 Kids
Considering how moving to another state would affect her kids, Rebecca decided to apply to a local medical school. She also applied to a few out-of-state schools to keep her options open, but she made sure she explained the whole process to her kids (ages 14, 8, and 4).
Rebecca knew that questions about handling the demands of medical school with children would often come up during interviews, so this was something she definitely prepared for.
She found a support system in her sister, who came to live with her right before medical school started. Even so, Rebecca made an effort to be home to cook dinner and study with her kids whenever she could.I made an effort to be home to cook dinner when I could and study with my kids, but I couldn't have done it without help from my family.Click To Tweet
[Related episode: Can You Have Kids and Be a Good Medical Student?]
[23:08] Dealing with Mom Guilt as a Medical Student
Rebecca’s biggest challenge was dealing with mom guilt for not being able to be there for every single moment of her kids’ lives. So she had to put things in perspective.Rebecca’s biggest challenge as a medical student was dealing with mom guilt for not being there every moment of her kids’ lives.Click To Tweet
It’s been rewarding for Rebecca to hear her teens telling people how proud they are of her and how inspirational it is for them. She always makes it a point to tell her kids stories about the positive parts of being a doctor and how rewarding it is.
[Related episode: Interview with Physician Moms Group (PMG) Founder.]
[28:05] Living the Dream
Having graduated from medical school, the most rewarding thing for Rebecca has been being able to pursue her potential and her calling to have a positive impact on patients’ lives. Right now, she is definitely living her dream job.I feel that I really can have a positive impact on patients' lives. That's what I'm doing, and I'm living my dream job right now.Click To Tweet
In the future, Rebecca hopes to run a center for teenage parents, which was actually something she did a project on back in medical school. One day she wants to be able to build a resource center for the healthcare and educational needs of teenage parents. She believes people give up on their dreams way too early, and she wants to be the same kind of mentor that she needed to pursue her own dreams.She believes people give up on their dreams too early, and she wants to be the same kind of mentor that she needed to pursue her own dreams.Click To Tweet
[29:39] Rebecca’s Final Words of Wisdom
Do not give up. Tap into your potential, and realize there are so many resources. The number of resources is growing every day to help you reach your potential and succeed in anything you want to do.
Links and Other Resources:
- Check out my Premed Playbook series of books (available on Amazon), with installments on the personal statement, the medical school interview, and the MCAT.
- Related episode: Medical School Mom: Prioritizing Family, School, and More.
- Related episode: This Nontrad Overcame More Obstacles Than Anyone I Know.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” for 10% off Next Step full-length practice tests or “MSHQTOC” for $50 off MCAT tutoring or the Next Step MCAT Course at Next Step Test Prep!
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