Overcoming Organic Chemistry On Her Path To Medical School

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Session 339

If are struggling, or have struggled, or about to struggle with organic chemistry, then this is a must-listen episode! Today, this student talks about her struggles with organic chemistry. It made her doubt herself. Hopefully, you’ll be able to draw some inspiration from her.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as you’re trying to walk this path to medicine. Get all the resources you need to help you somehow ease up this journey.

[02:30] Getting a C- in Organic Chemistry

Coming from Tennessee, Alita went to school in Michigan with the idea she was going to major in international studies.

At the same time, she knew she had a knack for the human body. She loved learning anatomy. And she knew that somewhere down the line, she’d be taking care of people in some way.

Then as she took her general education requirements which included Chemistry, she got a C- in General Chemistry 2. Anyway, she tried to track along to see how she would do in organic chemistry. She realized how much of a different language it was.

'I got a C- in general chemistry 2. I thought it was pretty abstract. I didn't really enjoy it.'Click To Tweet

She realized drawing out reactions wasn’t the best way for her to learn organic chemistry. Also, she didn’t realize that before she started to struggle in the class that she should have been reaching out for a tutor.

When she got that C-, she thought she just might not be bright enough for medical school. But she still wanted patient care somehow. So she thought of letting go of the idea and look at what other professions can bring her close to the bedside of patients.

She looked to physician assistant programs and being a nurse practitioner. But she later realized that being a nurse practitioner, the job responsibilities may not translate to other countries allowing you to do that. So she let medical school go.

She continued with her international studies major and continued taking science classes for nursing.

[06:10] Premed Advising and Overcoming Self-Doubt

Their school has one premed advisor who has been there for a long time. She sat down with him and he encouraged her to look elsewhere. And so she thought she only got one shot through this and it was over. That was just the culture at their college.

'I wish I had been told then that you can actually just retake these classes. I felt literally it was a one-shot deal. You made that C, it's over!'Click To Tweet

She had self-doubt obviously. Thinking she couldn’t do it and she wasn’t bright enough to do it gave her enough peace to just let it go.

[08:33] Course Correction in Organic Chemistry

So she ended up taking Organic Chemistry again before she graduated as she didn’t want her GPA to get hurt as much. She also wanted to prove to herself that she could do it. She wanted to replace the C.

She was happy with her new professor and the way things were taught that she eventually got a B-. Their professor wanted them to see what he was doing.

They would do practice problems versus 15-minute lectures and copying what’s written on the chalkboard. There were also doing practice problems online and in class. It was more practice-based. It was more interactive.

She had three tries in her Organic Chemistry but this didn’t come up in her interviews. However, she did ask one of her professors who wrote her letter of recommendation to bring up the fact that she went from a C- to B-.

'Struggling with chemistry and not giving up, and utilizing tutors earlier, and not being afraid to reach out when I don't know something – that's made a world of difference.'Click To Tweet

Basically, what she did to course-correct was to not give up, utilize tutors earlier and by not being afraid to reach out. You actually have to know how you learn as a student.

[13:25] The Nursing Life – What’s Next?

After graduating from undergrad, she moved to Chicago and started working at one of the academic hospitals. She was focusing on being the best nurse.

'I was just distracted with just being the best nurse that I could be.'Click To Tweet

Soon after, she realized she was waiting for that next step. And it bothered her when she didn’t know things like some acronyms.

She felt this was so important to the story of the patient. She wanted to be part of the decision-making in terms of what happens to the patient. She wants to find out why they’re sick, not just the comfort. Because as a nurse, her focus was to comfort the patient, give the medications, etc. But it wasn’t about finding out the new diagnosis for instance.

She found herself getting frustrated. She felt she can’t continue doing just the task of nursing.

Secondly, she recognizes how nursing can be so physical. And she can’t imagine doing this for another five years. She doesn’t think she wants to physically do it because it can really break you down.

So she decided to take on the premed route. And if she won’t do well then she would stop. As a nurse, she was always the one asking questions when they didn’t really have to ask questions. She was just very meticulous.

She also remembers meeting a nurse who told her that if she could go back, she would have become a doctor.

[22:55] Taking the NP Route

The idea of going into nursing was to eventually become a nurse practitioner. She looked up online, the different curriculums. There are also programs now where you can do master’s and become an NP. Now, there are using programs where you can become the doctor of nursing practice. the degree wasn’t a big deal. She didn’t go to medical school just to become a doctor. She wanted to have that knowledge.

She also looked at the internet and got encouragement from people telling her to get the degree she wants and the experience of life that she wants.

[26:41] Finding Balance and Rescheduling Her MCAT Dates

She doesn’t think she was good at balancing work and premed. She would just be up almost 24 hours sometimes. This is when he found that the beauty of being a full-nurse instead. She also tried to keep her class as great as possible.

'It could be very depressing not being able to see everyone including friends and family.'Click To Tweet

Her husband’s parents are from Central Africa. And his father got ill and had to come to the states for medical care. This was around July and she was trying to take the MCAT in August.

They had no insurance so they were paying out of pocket. They had the responsibility of giving them the care. Because of culture, there were things that they expect of you without saying. She was very frustrated by this. She felt she was jeopardized because she wasn’t able to study.

A week and a half before she took the MCAT, her in-laws left. She actually had to reschedule the exam three times because they were there. She had to move the dates because she couldn’t study. Plus, she was still working as bills have to be paid.

[35:07] Choosing Schools to Apply To

She already took into consideration that she may have to move across the country. She knew she had a home and this limited her to where she wanted to be. So she wasn’t willing to move to Texas even though they’re less expensive than most other schools in the country.

'Medicine is a huge choice to take in life because it affects everyone around you.'Click To Tweet

You also have to consider the people who are traveling with you on this journey. She knew her husband didn’t want to leave the city. They had an ongoing mortgage. She was also pregnant while going on interviews. So she was able to create an argument as to why she should stay. She was willing to wait for the next year because that’s how important it was for her to stay in the city.

[38:55] Asking Help from Family and Others

Before she gave birth, she knew she wasn’t going to be able to do this by herself or with her husband. He even had to work more since she won’t be able to bring in any income once she goes back to school.

She then asked her mother for help in terms of taking care of her granddaughter. Luckily, she was happy about it. She recognizes the power of team effort. It’s not just about her becoming a physician but it’s about their family having a physician

'Let this be a team effort. It should not be a focus of just you.'Click To Tweet

Her advice to premeds out there is that you have to learn how to reach out. Learn that you can’t do everything because you’re not supposed to.

[41:44] Final Words of Wisdom for Premeds

Really look at what medicine calls you to do. How much does it take from being home? Do you have a love for people so much that you’re okay with possibly delaying you to start your family?

Look at the trajectory. Hear other people’s stories of still choosing medicine. Ask questions to those practicing medicine day in and day out.

Remember that everyday is a chance to start anew. When you’re really burning, but you still get up and try, that’s the thing that gets you to your goal.

In the end, how much would you sacrifice? How much do you want this? You don’t have to know all the answers. That’s why it’s helpful to reach out to people.

Ask questions. Share your story and get feedback. Don’t give up. When something is burning inside of you to do, you find ways to do it despite the obstacles. That’s what makes the story and the success so great!

'When you care about something so much, do the hard work of asking the right questions to know that you're on the right path.'Click To Tweet


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