Manifesting My Dream: Cindy’s Journey to Med School
- May 04, 2023
- MCAT Blog
- Reviewed By: Liz Flagge
By Cindy Huntimer, M.D., MPH, Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist
Growing up, I didn’t have the family pedigree, financial resources, role models, or other support to pursue undergraduate studies, much less graduate programs.
I did have a longstanding dream that I kept to myself. If one had looked closely, they might have picked up on my interest by my playing doctor with my yellow plastic doctor bag with a stethoscope, microscope, and cool pill bottles with multicolored candies or by my repeat performance as Dr. McCoy in reenactments of Star Trek episodes with my brothers—Captain Kirk and Scottie—and an occasional appearance by Spock.
In junior high, I rescued five motherless newborn kittens and hid them from my parents in a cardboard box in my closet and bottle-fed them. The four black kittens survived but I was distraught that I couldn’t save the one gray kitten. I tended to be scared of our horses but, when we had a new colt that was sick, I tried to keep it eating and drinking and held its head in my lap in the barn to comfort it in its last hours. When my paternal grandmother who lived across the street from us died when I was 11, I didn’t get out of bed or go to school and my aunts came over to comfort me.
Was I too tender-hearted to become a doctor and be able to handle the loss of patients? Or, is there a place for physicians who care deeply about their patients? I think there is a place right at the bedside.
I made sure to take the toughest science and math classes available in my small high school. I think I was the only girl taking physics and advanced calculus, and they weren’t called STEM classes back in the Stone Age! For tuition and board, I arranged for a work-study job, grants, loans, and scholarships. I chose to pursue a degree in medical technology while also meeting the basic curriculum requirements for premed.
I applied to the only undergraduate university in my home state that also had a medical school to increase the odds of my future acceptance as an alumni. (Admittedly, my choice was also based upon there being no freshman requirement for a speech class at the university I selected.) Being a medical technologist was my backup plan in case being a physician wasn’t in my future.
Although I had fainted in the gymnasium of my grade school when being vaccinated and almost fainted in high school when seeing an IV in my maternal grandmother’s hand, I faced my fears and learned to perform venipunctures and arterial blood gases. Unsurprisingly, waking up inpatients at 6 am to draw blood wasn’t my favorite activity, especially on older patients whose veins sometimes rolled far from where I had inserted the needle. However, I did what I had to do!
Gap Year at the Mayo Clinic—Minding the Gap
I don’t actually recall my MCAT study plan. I think I would have purchased one of the study guides available in the early 1980s. Due to illness, I missed the fall exam and sat for the spring exam instead. As a result, I applied for medical technology jobs instead of applying for medical school after my graduation from college.
I spent my gap year as a microbiologist at the Mayo Clinic (affectionately referred to as the WFMC at that time—“world famous Mayo Clinic”). Microbiology was my favorite part of medical technology—identifying pathogens and their susceptibilities and thereby contributing to effective treatments. However, I kept being nudged by my own conscience that I had more to give and needed more of a challenge. So I applied to my alma mater’s medical school. As was my modus operandi, I didn’t tell anyone that I had applied to medical school until I was actually accepted.
I remember talking to the chairman of infectious disease at the WFMC about my acceptance. He told me that it was the greatest honor and privilege to be invited into the most personal aspect of people’s lives when they put themselves into your hands as patients. I have striven to never forget those wise words in my interactions with patients and their families.
So, if it’s your calling, your dream, that still small voice nudging you to venture forward, go for it, meet the obstacles and challenges with your creativity and drive, and, if you’re interested in a modern way to study for the MCAT, check out Blueprint Prep’s free resources (flashcards, study planner, prep courses, practice exams, and beyond) to help you optimize your score and open up the doors to your dreams whether at a nationally recognized institution, a medical school in your community, studying abroad, or anywhere in between! I wish you all the best in your journey.
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