By Jody Platto
Since graduating from Wellesley College in 2015, I have experienced a paradigm shift from always searching for what is next to remaining committed to what lies straight ahead. Strong personal and professional mentorship in my first career as a professional athlete set the stage for me to excel when I resumed my university education. At Wellesley, mentorship again played a key role when I joined a neuroscience lab. Inspiring leaders helped me to gain the skills and confidence to succeed, encouraging me to take whatever career path I chose. But choosing was hard!
Now, as a second year medical student, this lifetime of support from powerful mentorship and a healthy respect for transformation guide me in navigating – and sticking with – my burgeoning career…
I was an indecisive undergraduate. I started out thinking I wanted to go to pharmacy school. Then I decided medical school would be a better fit after spending a summer at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Then, during my senior undergrad year, I interviewed for a recruiter role at Google and took a class called “Decision making.” We studied Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel-Prize winning work on the subject and learned quantitative algorithms to aid in our thinking processes. All the analytics confirmed that I was still undecided.
In truth, while I was and am fascinated with neuroscience, medicine, and scientific inquiry, my passion is learning. And my educational and career choices have been primarily driven by seeking out experiences that challenge me as a student.
It was no surprise that during my Wellesley years, my mentors asked for regular updates on my career goals. One of these conversations featured the concept of commitment. The lesson: Making any commitment, whether to education, career or life, is akin to making the same choice every day, taking the time to rebound from setbacks, and adapting to fulfill a chosen obligation.
Almost two years later, having braved the medical school application process, completed my first year of training, and now staring down the gauntlet of preparing for my first board exam, I can finally say I truly am committed to becoming a physician. But it has not been without struggle. Half way through first year I wrote in my reflection journal:
“Tonight I googled, ‘Help! I hate medical school.’ It didn’t help. Probably because I don’t really hate medical school. As first year medical students we are told it is going to be a transformative experience, we are told medical school does not get easier but that we will get stronger. What challenges me is that I feel like I already transformed and I am already strong. How do I stay true to my authentic self and transform, again, at the same time?”
It’s been six months. Now, I see that my transformation is ongoing and my passion for learning must resist being dampened by self-doubt. The growing pains of this realization have allowed me to fully live my commitment to education, in large part because my work ethic was shaped early and often by emulating strong mentors, and because my momentum was stronger than my doubts. My formative education ignited an urgency to thrive rather than settle. Just as I hope to live a life full of learning, now I embrace the key component of my medical education – the iterative transformations I will achieve throughout my training and career.
Jody Platto is currently a second year medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson. She is passionate about medical education and looks forward to an exciting career in academic medicine.