Seriously, all they had to say was, "We like you, and you should come to our school," and I would have been swoooooon. But the acceptance letter (which I plan to frame and hang above my study desk, lest I forget what I'm doing there) did something to me that kind of felt the way a key opening a heavy lock does. I felt it in my chest. It set something free that not even the phone calls from the deans were able to achieve, as amazing as that was. It's difficult to describe how I felt when I read that letter, but the word "dignity" springs to mind. They need me to fulfill their mission, precisely as I am and with the skills and personality I bring, as much as I need them to fulfill mine. I'm not there to fill a diversity slot, and I'm not there to be molded into something I simply can't be. I'm there to learn how to be a doctor, and to make the most of my experiences to this point. All of them. That's what is valuable about me to them. That's some deep shit right there. That's a better gift than any scholarship or any accolade that I can think of.
It doesn't hurt, either, that I feel like they built the school specifically for me. For one thing, the curriculum is six hours of lecture per week, as opposed to the minimum of 15 hours at Midwestern Medical School. Yeah, that's right. I'm not going to be sitting in a lecture hall, struggling to not fall asleep, to pay attention, to put unfamiliar words and concepts (wait, I thought I read the lecture notes... wtf is he talking about???) into a pattern that I can barely understand. Instead, most of my learning will happen with 10 people, a clinican and a scientist. Kind of like having school sanctioned, well attended, motivated study groups, run by professors.
Other cool things: Everything is strictly systems based, which means that when we're studying the nervous system, or the cardiovascular system, that's all we're studying for that block. Weekly quizzes with remediation the day after you take them. Exams are all old NMBE (National Medical Board Exam) questions, which prepares us far better for those licensing exams than taking an exam of questions that a professor thinks is important to know the answers to, but might not be applicable to the real world of medicine.
It's pass/fail all four years, so the inherent competitiveness of the students is hopefully held down to a dull roar. They don't rank you, or at least they don't inundate you with emails that tell you your specific, exact place in the class - probably the most useless, unforgiving, soul crushing metric of success or failure that I can think of, no matter where you happen to land. Passing is 70%, and if that had been the case at Midwestern Medical School, I probably would have made it. I definitely would have made it through the first year.
The anatomy lab doesn't smell. They have realistic sim labs and computers directly outside of them so that you can watch yourself directly after you do your thing. The facilities are new and shiny. There are four houses that the students are sorted into ... with a sorting hat.
But probably most impressively, the staff are genuinely mission driven people that seem to have a sense of humor and want us to have fun. In fact, the dean of students called me to tell me that he was going to ride me and make sure I got through all four years, happy and smiling. Because medical school should be transformative, but it should also be joyful.
Joyful. That's the other word that comes to mind when I think about that letter. I am joyful. When I think back on what was going on when I wrote almost all of the other words in this blog, joyful wasn't something I even attempted. My definition of joyful is a state of being that is devoid of fear and anger. I'm not angry - every single thing that happened to me and to my family brought us here, and I'm unbelievably grateful, actually, and I'm not afraid at all. My back is had. I'm good to go.