The Thousand-Mile Journey to Medical School

April 10, 2020

By: Valencia Henry

At the age of 16 years old, I left the country of Barbados where I was born and raised, to pursue my passion of medicine. I had to leave my friends and family behind, while adjusting to a new country, culture, school system and living alone. I made this sacrifice because I knew if I wanted the slightest chance of making my dream of becoming a physician a reality, I would have to move to the United States where I could have access to more educational opportunities. My parents, friends and family thought that I was insane for wanting to start a new life in a foreign country alone, at such a young age, but I knew the goal I had in mind and I was determined to fulfill my dream.

Because of my young age, I was often bullied during college and suffered from impostor syndrome.  This led to many sleepless nights for me, and subsequently, doing poorly academically my first two years of college. As a result, I was often told to give up on my dream of becoming a medical physician or that I’ll never make it to medical school. These words were discouraging to hear but I never let them stop me from pursuing my passion. In fact, I used these negative circumstances as fuel to prove everyone who said I couldn’t become a physician wrong. I decided to take a gap year to better improve my competitiveness as a medical school applicant and enrolled in the Barry University Master’s in Biomedical Science program, in-order to showcase my true academic abilities, to make me a more competitive applicant and to help me be better prepared for medical school. The program is very rigorous and mimics the first year of medical school and has helped me to improve my study habits, self-confidence and time management skills and I can truly say that I feel prepared and equipped with a solid foundation to excel in medical school.

My faith has played a vital role in allowing me to become the resilient woman that I am today and has gotten me through all of the challenges I have faced on the road to becoming a physician. I knew that God had called me to be a physician so I never doubted that I would be accepted to medical school even though the odds were not in my favor. For me it was only a matter of when I would see that promise come to fruition.

The journey of  getting into med school and the medical school application process can be very stressful and discouraging but I always kept myself grounded by making sure to surround myself with supportive friends and family members and to keep doing my regular extra-curricular activities such as volunteering and going to the gym. Volunteering has always been my escape from the everyday stresses of my life. Seeing how one small act could change someone’s life forever truly kept me inspired to want to continue to give back to my local community and abroad. Volunteering also reminded me of the reason behind why I was working so hard to become a physician and made any problems/obstacles I was facing at the particular moment seem insignificant. My advice to anyone who is embarking on the journey to medical school and beyond is to never ignore the calling you have to be a physician despite what obstacles may be in your way and to always take up space in a room where you feel like you don’t belong. Because of your bravery and resilience you will go on to inspire others who are afraid to do the same.