medical school

I entered the admission office with a simple request: Had I been accepted at Temple University medical school? The secretary was pleasant, but said she couldn’t divulge the names of newly accepted medical students.

I explained I had an impending interview at a Cleveland med school, which I couldn’t afford and for which my wife couldn’t sacrifice her nursing job.

The secretary “was not authorized to say,” and as I pleadingly looked her in the eye, she blurted out, “You are admitted to the class of 1978, but you didn’t hear it from me.”

Euphoria described my state of mind. I immediately phoned my wife and gave her the good news. When I exited the campus, I turned on my car radio and bliss turned to ecstasy. Pachelbel’s Canon crescendoed into my being — purest joy. At that very moment hearing my favorite piece of music; simply, the happiest day of my life.

Then the rigors and the trials began. Am I capable enough? How can I do this?

The idea, “bite off more than you can chew and then chew it,” must have sprung into my head.

After having become a ballroom dance teacher with little experience, and making it through on the skim of my skills, it gave me a head big enough to believe I could do anything. Hence the audacity of making it through medical school was quite a stretch.

Then the reality of discovering where I was and who my fellow students were: Most were 21- and 22- year-old premed majors, and “moi,” a nondeclared major, 30 years old, with the slimmest smattering of minimal basic requirements.

They said I was mature when I was accepted to med school at the end of my junior year. If they only knew how wet behind the ears I was, they would have shot me out of there with a water cannon and not into an accelerated learning pit, where, in anatomy I quickly learned that I didn’t know my (behind) from my face.

How am I not going to fail out of medical school?

I’m spending 40 hours in class and labs and another 60 hours studying every week. My wife is pregnant with our first child and I am spending 50% of my time on lower-extremity anatomy, at the expense of time spent on the other seven sciences inadequately studied. All because of the pressure of passing anatomy, which is the prime course, paramount for success in my profession.

I listened to a Sunday morning radio church service while in bed and I was so despondent that I got down on my knees and prayed, “Lord, please give me a grip to pursue this field of study that I have bitten off and now find is consuming me.”

Not simply, but succinctly, he did. I don’t know how I made it through. I have come to find that so many things in life are inexplicable but with God’s help are not insurmountable.

That was 45 years ago. I graduated in 1978 and retired after 40 years of practicing podiatric medicine and surgery in New Holland.

Throughout the years, the sense of renewal God has given me is exhilarating and scary and wonderful. Retrospectively, I wouldn’t change it for the world. We are like a grain of sand on the beach of time.

O, but what a grain the Lord Almighty has given us: to weigh, to sift, and to shovel and build our sand castles on.

Here are two maxims by Ralph Waldo Emerson that took seed in the recesses of my gray matter during my early trials in medical school — seeds that ultimately found fertile soil and cultivation by our creator, helping me blossom into the man and doctor that I would become:

1. “There are degrees of courage and each step upward makes us acquainted with a higher virtue. Let us say then, admit frankly, that the education of the will is the object of our existence.”

2. “He who wishes to walk in the most peaceful parts of life with any serenity must screw himself up to resolution. Let him front the object of his worst apprehension, and his stoutness, will commonly make his fears, groundless.”

Amen.

The writer lives in New Holland.