Day 3, 2019

I laughed. A free exceptional medical education. As an American I thought that nothing good is free. But, I indulged her, did my research and to my surprise it did exist. I called IFCO’s office and spoke with a lovely woman (Dr. Barber) and she broke down what I needed to apply. I had exactly one week to fulfill the very specific requirements for the application process.

Day 3: Perseverance

Author: Ms. Karis Bamba and Melissa Barber

Happy Third Day of Thanks Everyone!I hope you all had a wonderful time of Thanksgiving with friends and family yesterday. Today, we give thanks for perseverance (and relentlessness!) because it’s what leads us down the path to success.  Enjoy as Ms. Karis Bamba shares her story of perseverance.

Let me start out by saying that God is always on time. As I reflect on my experience with you all, I have come to realize how ever present and merciful he has been to me throughout my journey. Anytime I felt stuck or defeated, I know that it was Him speaking to me through my loved ones; He was the one I turned to when every thought of giving up on myself arose. 

 Ever since I can remember, if anyone ever asked me what I wanted to be, I never hesitated to say, “A Doctor!”At 10, my mother gave me a white lab coat and fisher price doctor bag. I gave everyone in my house a thorough physical that day along with their shots. The doctor was always in the house. Fast forward to college, I worked hard, but my grades weren’t reflecting that. I spoke to an advisor and she asked me what my goals for the future were.  I gave my usual answer, to which she replied, “You’re never going to be a doctor with these grades, have you thought of something else?” For some reason, I was surprisingly unfazed by this statement. I thought to myself no one but God can or will tell me what my capabilities are. So, I kept strong and determined to keep up my grades. I received my bachelor’s degree but I did not get the scores I needed to attend medical school right away.  I did not feel defeated, but determined to do what I needed to be ready. So, I took time to study for my MCAT. When I took it for the first time, I was confident but my score was not competitive enough for medical school.

For the first time, I felt defeated. As time progressed, my dream of becoming a doctor seemed like a fantasy that was unobtainable.  I tried to redirect my focus to my job as an EM.  It was fulfilling at first but I felt like there was more I could do. I don’t know if it was speaking to physicians, working in the hospital environment, or the overwhelming pressure from my family. They’d all ask, “So when are you going medical school?” To be quite frank, I wanted to know too. What was I doing? Why was I working so hard for someone else’s dream? 

 One day my mom came to me with an idea. She asked, “Why don’t you apply to medical school in Cuba?  It’s free and they offer one of the best medical educations in the world.” I laughed. A free exceptional medical education. As an American I thought that nothing good is free. But, I indulged her, did my research and to my surprise it did exist. I called IFCO’s office and spoke with a lovely woman (Dr. Barber) and she broke down what I needed to apply. I had exactly one week to fulfill the very specific requirements for the application process. I assembled my village of family and friends to help me complete the list of requirements. I had people looking over papers, doing necessary translations, getting the documents on the list. On the day of the deadline, I asked my coworker to take me over to IfCO’s office in the ambulance and I proudly dropped off my application. That weekend I fasted and prayed for an interview invite, and once again God was right on time. 

 I was interviewed by 3 people. Though I was a little nervous, I was confident that this medical school was where I belonged and I would be able to exemplify that to the committee with my personality and intellect. I also had God on my side, guiding me through my anxiety. The interview went well enough that I was invited to an orientation/interview part 2 where I interacted with other candidates under conditions that compare to Cuba. Though I believed I proved myself, I was not selected for admission. When I received the news, I was crushed. I was most certain this was God’s plan for me. He got me through the application process and the interview but not this. However, during that experience I met some amazing and inspiring people and a mentor. So, I internalized my lesson, and moved forward. 

I did not give up there; I decided to apply for a master’s degree program. I was accepted to Rutgers in August 2016 to earn a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science. I was excited to get started, show myself and medical schools that I am able to excel in challenging courses. I knew it would be a little challenging but I greatly underestimated it. This program was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. I remember every time I walked out of an exam I would call my mother crying, “This is it! I’m going back to my job! I don’t think being a doctor is for me. If I can’t do this, how can I do medical school?” 

My mother would always ask me, “Did you do your best?” to which I would reply in between sobs, “Yes.”

“So let God do the rest. You did your part, let Him do His.” Letting go and Letting God seemed hard but I have come to realize that if I trust him, love him and believe that he died for my salvation, I could let God work on me. 

 Although I was on the right track to earning my masters degree, I still needed to sort out my MCAT. I decided to retake my MCAT while I was still in graduate school. That did not go well. I did worse than the first time. My heart dropped because this time I submitted an application in good faith that I would do well.  Instead, I was rejected from the 30 medical and Osteopathic schools to which I applied. I finished grad school and went back to work more confused than ever. 

I made a pack that I would only take my MCAT one more time. I would give it my all and no matter what I would be in medical school next year. I became relentless in my goal and it paid off.  I successfully improved my score so I decided to apply to medical schools again.  This time I received 3 acceptances and I WILL BE GOING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL  NEXT YEAR. I know that God did this for me.  He gave me the strength to keep going; He gave me direction to know my path and steered me to the outlook that was right for me. This time two years ago I had no acceptances and nothing to show for my hard work. This year I have options and they all lead to success!  The nonprofit organization I would like to highlight is the namesake of my testimony of thanks, Persevere (perseverenow.org). This organization’s mission is to give recently incarcerated individuals who served their time an opportunity to learn skills for the workforce. They offer: classes in computer coding, job placement, support for entrepreneurship, while also teaching life skills. I like this program because it acknowledges the barriers that the criminal justice system and society create for individuals who made mistakes but want to be more than what society labels them. Despite their struggles, they persevere and push towards a better tomorrow. I feel like this mirrors how I feel about my life don’t judge me by my past but for what I aspire to do in the future and my potential. This organization does just that. I will be donating to this program, and I encourage y’all to check it out as well. Thanks for your ‘reading ear’ and enjoy your holiday!

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