Brendon Bitoiu (Class of 2021) reflects on his journey from a non-traditional medical student school applicant to a clerk on the wards.
I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I could remember. The deepest part of me always had an unwavering belief I would become one. But the road to get there was certainly not easy, at least for me. It led me through a multi-year journey of introspection and lingering self-doubt.
The first time I got rejected from medical school was difficult. The second time around felt like an absolute gut punch. When that email of acceptance finally came, it was one of the best moments of my life. To share the news with my family and soon-to-be wife, people who had invested so much into me, was special. I felt I had finally made it.
The first day of medical school began. I was enthusiastic but overwhelmed. I knew nobody. What I did notice, however, was the number of people returning from a 2-month summer break, fresh off an undergraduate degree and ready to begin a new semester. These were young, brilliant, and outgoing individuals with accomplishments galore to their resume. My background was more storied…I was a recently retired part-time night club bartender, full-time restaurant manager with a Bachelor of Arts. I felt I didn’t belong. Coupled with the fact that I’m the son of two immigrants and, the first of my family to go to University, let alone make it to medical school reinforced this profound feeling of being out of place.
It was a mixed feeling of joy to have made it here but at the same time feeling overwhelmed and ashamed whenever the talk of life before medical school came up. I was proud of my upbringing and my past experiences; however, in this new and uncertain world, I didn’t know how it would be received nor whether they were even transferrable. Those feelings slowly went away over the next 2 years, but always lingered.
When clerkship began, I was excited for a new adventure, I saw it as a “return to the workforce” so to speak: a return to a routine schedule with a workplace and colleagues. Something I was used to before medical school. It was through clerkship where I finally felt I found some level of footing within this world. It was here where I began to notice that the skills I developed beginning to come through. Managing the disgruntled patron who I’d told I couldn’t serve another drink to? Try working EM on a weekend. Letting an impatient table of 10 know that the kitchen forgot their order and the food will be another 30 minutes? Try reasoning with the recently admitted patient who has been waiting to see your attending for the past 8 hours. Doing the hard task of letting employees go? Having those difficult conversations with patients. I finally began to see that what I once thought about my upbringing, experiences and time between medical school as a disadvantage, in actuality had taught me skills of discipline, leadership, and perseverance. They just took a little longer to appear. Since this realization, I’m proud to discuss who I am and where I come from. These experiences made me strong. Yes, I didn’t have the shining accolades and resume that others did, but I was chosen out of so many for a reason. It was not a mistake.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe I would have been just as happy getting into medical school initially. However, that’s not the hand I was dealt and this is the lens I now look through. This is the same lens that many others look through as well. Overcoming preconceived ideas of inadequacy is never easy but whether you like it or not, there is a reason we’re here. Take pride in your past experiences, your rejections, your perceived failures – embrace them. Through them comes a unique insight that’s much needed into a sometimes inflexible and obstinate field.