About Me

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St. Louis, MO, United States
What the name sez, Christian, conservative, 2nd amendment supporter. Physician, wife, daughter and loving mother.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Life's Winding Road

I recently participated in a career fair put on by my college alma mater. They looked for alums who had been successful in their careers who would be willing to share advice with students who were studying in the same area of interest. My college is a small liberal arts college where the student body is still relatively small and more dedicated to education than science. As a student, I was an anomaly as a biology major. Nevertheless, I am very fond of my college and I was flattered that they thought of me as successful, so I agreed to go, with the thought that I could make a difference in the life of some student somewhere.

Several of my best friends from college also attended and it was more like a reunion weekend for me than a working weekend. I was a part of the Math and Science panel. We all presented a bit on "how I got to be what I am today." I was very interested to hear how we all got to be where we are today and the thing that was MOST interesting was that none of us started out to be what we are today!

One of my friends is a patent attorney for a major telecommunications company. She started out a math major who went on to grad school in applied mathematics and somehow ended up working for telecommunications in their research and development area. Over the years she acquired an MBA and a JD, both of which are used in her present role, but now she has a comprehensive view of how the applied math can be used in new product development and she understands the business rationale and application of these new products AND she can research the patents on new technology more efficiently because she understands how the new product came to be.

Another of my friends started out as a Sociology major and wanted to into the foreign service. There was only one graduate program in foreign service at that time, so competition was brutal and the school was downright snooty about their monopoly. One of her advisors missed a deadline for a letter of reference and when she went to interview for the graduate program, she was summarily dismissed as having an incomplete file. Having no recourse, she went home with tears in her eyes and no plan in sight. Her father, a small town doctor, suggested that she return to the metropolitan area where she went to college (because she really liked the city) and go to nursing school as it would provide her with a Plan B until she could reapply to the foreign service program. She ultimately never reapplied to the program and finished nursing school. She became interested in oncology nursing and worked at several major teaching institutions throughout the country, working with cancer treatment protocols. She is now employed by a major pharmaceutical company working in the area of clinical trials for new cancer treatments. Her path took her from foreign service to pubic service.

My own road to being a physician was equally quirky and circuitous, starting out as a high school biology teacher who got influenza which resulted in losing my voice. By the end of that school year, I had nodules on my vocal cords from strain and a throaty scratchy speaking voice! My ENT physician suggested that unless I wanted to sound like Andy Devine (for those of you who are too young to remember Wild Bill Hickock and his sidekick, google it and watch it on YouTube) I needed to get another job that was not so dependent on talking. I got a job in a research lab at one of the local medical schools and worked there for a couple of years with the idea that I would go back to graduate school and get a PhD in biochemistry. Somehow while I was surrounded by the physicians and research fellows in the lab, I was bitten by the thought that medicine would be a good melding of all of my interests. I applied (in spite of warnings not to get my hopes up because the competition is brutal), was accepted and here I am! My twisted rationale for spending the time and money to apply to medical school was so that when I was 40 and having a midlife crisis, I would not be looking in a mirror and wondering what my life would be like if I had applied. Today my love of teaching runs through my practice and extends to lecturing nationally, regionally and even at our community college.

None of us took a year or two off to "find ourselves" and all of us had a path in mind after graduation. All of us had student loans to pay off. All of us took lowly jobs and worked our way into our present situations. All of us were grounded in a good work ethic. Our best advice to the students was to keep your eyes open and watch the world around you. While you are working toward the goal that you have in mind, take off the blinders and look around. Have hobbies that introduce you to people that you would otherwise never meet. Take a menial job just to see another aspect of life. Get off of your high horse and realize that everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time. See the commonality that binds people together in all aspects of life. Ultimately, do what you love and love what you do.

This can apply to all of us, not just students who are starting out in life. There are myriad opportunities "out there" and the world is made smaller by social media and the internet. Today, you can network with a total stranger or collaborate with someone on the other side of the world in your jammies! The road to success may be crooked and it could well be rough. You need to listen to your heart and follow where it leads you. Do what you love and love what you do.

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