Yesterday we featured an interview with Jessica from the blog Stethoscopes and Sippy Cups. Today we’re featuring the second part of Tara’s interview, this time with Jessica’s fellow blogger Emma. Emma became a mom at 16 years old, graduated from college last month… and is headed to medical school next month. Good luck to both Emma and Jessica — and thanks to Tara for sharing their stories with us!
You write in the “About Me” section - “I have spent the past four years trying to prove that I’m a not a failure (I call it my teen mom complex), ultimately avoiding sharing my story in fears that I would be viewed as a joke. ” Have you felt that other people wouldn’t be supportive of your goals (have they said negative comments to your face?) The teen mom complex is an important battle for teen moms to overcome - what would you say was your “Aha!” moment, when you felt like you really could conquer medical school and go on to a satisfying career as a doctor?
Unfortunately there is a great deal of negativity in academia towards young parents, professors/advisors often see us as irresponsible and incapable. When I first became pregnant in high school, it was suggested that if I were to keep my daughter, I should get my GED and find a job to support her.
Obviously when I told people about my goal of graduating college, they were skeptical. It wasn’t until I maintained excellent grades as a full time student while working in a pharmacy and raising my daughter that people took my dreams seriously. Even still there were professors and advisors who did not feel I would be capable of succeeding in college or medical school with a young child and they made a point to let me know it.
On the other hand, there were a few professors who were extremely supportive and truly believed in me, and I am thankful for them to this day. My “Aha!” moment has to be the day I got my acceptance letter to medical school. The trouble with applying to medical school is you are competing with extremely capable applicants and there simply aren’t enough spots. While this should not make or break someone’s self-esteem, it definitely has a huge impact. Getting that letter signified that I had succeeded in undergrad, and that I was the type of person that a school was looking for.
What made you fall in love with medicine/what made you decide to go to medical school?
I’d have to say becoming pregnant was the most influential event in my deciding to pursue a career in medicine. I was completely fascinated with changes happening to me, and the way my daughter was developing. Labor was my breaking point. The epidural was the most interesting thing to me, and I wanted to know everything about anatomy and physiology from that point on. I did not immediately decide on medical school, I considered becoming a nurse anesthetist or a physician assistant, but after volunteering and shadowing I realized that I wanted a more autonomous role with greater responsibility. I needed a career that is cognitively challenging and allows me to go home at night knowing that I have bettered someone’s life. This thought alone is what gets me through the extremely difficult times. There is a saying that one should not go to medical school unless there is absolutely nothing else they can see themselves doing, and it is absolutely true. The amount of time we dedicate to our communities and towards the lifelong path of learning is endless and demands a certain type of person who gains personal fulfillment from helping others and extending their knowledge base for the benefit of their community.
What has been the biggest challenge in medical school? Did you feel you were prepared? Was there ever a point where you felt like you had taken on too much?
I just finished the year long process of taking the MCAT, and applying to medical school and actually start my first day in July of 2011. To be honest, I have moments everyday where I feel like I have taken on too much. I wouldn’t have it any other way though as I am the type of person who strives under pressure and knowing that my daughter needs me to succeed makes it much easier to never give up! I absolutely feel prepared for medical school, I know it will be a challenge and there will be things I do great with and others I need extra help with. Regardless of how much pressure there will be or long hours, there is a certain comfort in knowing this long haul will lead to an extremely rewarding career in just four short years! It is a very exciting time in my life, and I cannot wait to begin!
Tell us a little bit about your support system - where does your greatest source of support come from?
My daughter’s father (my fiancé) is a huge support in my life, and in hers. We live together in his hometown, where the bulk of my medical training will take place. Unfortunately we have been geographically separated for part of my undergrad and will be for a short time during medical school. I am extremely fortunate that we are able to agree on flexible arrangements and know that our daughter is being taken care of at all times.
What do you say to other teen moms who feel like they aren’t getting where they want to be in their career?
Never stop working towards your dreams, regardless of how far away they seem or how dark your situation might be. There is always hope and absolutely nothing is impossible! The most important piece of advice I can give is to not be afraid to ask for help. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without help from others. Whether as financial assistance or medical care from the government, programs for teen moms to further their education, family help with babysitting, or simply ways to keep your child happy and healthy, there is no shame in accepting help. It is extremely important to surround yourself with supportive people to help you reach your goals because there will always be someone telling you it’s not possible. Refusing to quit is the best way to ensure your future success.