Jan. 28, 2015
Michael C. Juan is a second year student in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Macomb University Center site.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost (1874 – 1963)
“Yes, it worked!” I sprung up from my chair and shouted feverishly with both hands in the air immediately after measuring the dimensions of a tumor that we had implanted under the skin of an immunocompromised mouse. The tumor had been infused with a combination chemotherapeutic cocktail encapsulated in a one-of-a-kind drug delivery formulation.
Precisely 121 formulations, 264 experiments and 547 days later, a perfect synchrony between a dual of drugs and their delivery vehicle was finally identified, permitting the penetration of the cell-killing medicines into the deepest layers of the viciously multiplying cell cluster. Among the scientists in the lab, a celebration of hard work and persistence ensued. In the midst of the triumphant spirit, however, I was left discontented.
I could not help but wonder, as exciting as seeing a mouse cured of cancer was, how much more satisfying and rewarding it must be to bring the same miraculous healing to a dying person. “I want to be on the front line of medicine,” I thought, “to connect with humanity, to comfort and to heal.” It was by that time that a firm decision was made to pursue the dream of becoming the one who delivers care and healing to the sick and the ill.
Two years ago, life seemed complete. I was 28 years old, married with one child and employed as a medical researcher at one of the largest biotech companies in Vancouver, the second busiest Canadian city next only to Toronto – a profile dissimilar to that of a traditional 22-year-old college graduate living freely with limited family responsibilities.
My decision to return to school, embark on a major career change and become indebted with a significant sum of student loans was not without resistance and challenge from friends and family members. I was questioned constantly about my new course of life and the seemingly inappropriate timing of it. The thought of giving up had never crossed my mind but the struggle and antagonism were as real and intense as they could have been.
Finally, after weeks of self-reflection and family discussions, I submitted a letter of resignation to my boss, applied for a $250,000 student line of credit, rented out our house and contacted the moving company. Four thousand miles away, a new chapter of our lives enthusiastically awaited.
More than a medical student, I am responsible for many roles. I am a husband and a father of a three-and-a-half-year-old boy and a one-month-old baby girl. People often ask, “How do you accomplish so many urgent and important tasks on a daily basis with so much demand at the same time?” Simple (yet inarguably not easy) – time management, discipline and support.
To assist me in staying focused, at the beginning of medical school I created a timetable, which I quickly formed a habit of following with military precision. This not only saves a tremendous amount of time wasted on merely contemplating about the priorities of my day but, more importantly, prevents me from slipping into procrastination and unproductivity.
Adhering to the schedule and backed by the incredible support of my wife, I am able to spend more than 10 hours a day between studying, volunteering and exercising while consistently devoting at least three hours of quality time to my family. It is not always easy, especially around exam periods, but having a rigid schedule allows me to spend time on important people and duties outside of medicine without feeling guilty and directionless.
In addition, the bonds established with our church families also play an integral part of the support system, without which I could easily drown in the whirlpool of medical school. My support network outside of school is undoubtedly a healthy source of uplifting and encouraging spirit fueling me spiritually and mentally. With effective time management, discipline and a strong support network, it is more than possible to still excel in medical school even if one is married, has children or is burdened with many responsibilities.
Wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunity offered by the COM, I began the pursuit of a career in medicine two years ago, joining the Class of 2017 at the Macomb University Center site. Given my family circumstances, it was not difficult for me to select MUC as my first choice. Small yet vibrant, friendly and convenient, Macomb has a lot to offer to students who enjoy parks, beaches, golf courses, shopping centers and restaurants.
More importantly, students benefit from the proximity to many hospitals and clinics around the area where physician and resident mentors and clerkship and residency positions are closely available. The MUC site is uniquely characterized by its close-knit student body and faculty/administrative staff, making those who attend classes here feel at home from the first day of school.
Students here enjoy a myriad of additional on-site training, such as suture and scrub clinics, Community Integrative Medicine elective, intubation lab, as well as volunteer opportunities, such as the Future DOc’s Program, Habitat for Humanity, Gleaners Food Kitchen, and Homework Club among others, without having to drive 90 minutes to the main Campus in East Lansing.
Personally, through these training and service opportunities, I have gained a better appreciation for the community and a growing passion to serve the people in Metropolitan Detroit, so much so that I am determined to pursue residency training in this region where I see myself practicing, teaching and mentoring one day.
There are many diverse paths to becoming a physician. My particular one followed a non-traditional course with a slight detour along the way. Having overcome struggles and resistance, I can confidently say now that changing my life course two years ago to pursue my dream was the most pleasing and blessed decision I have made thus far. If you are passionate about medicine, go for it – you may not be as young as the 22-year-olds, but the pursuit of a dream never gets old!
Acknowledgement: I gratefully acknowledge Justin Stewart, OMS-II, for his assistance in editing this work.