Tomorrow is July 1st, 2018.
I sat in White Hall on the campus of Emory University, waiting to meet with the pre-med advisors. When I walked into his office, I nervously introduced myself. The nerves were a resultant of having to discuss with a perfect stranger my early academic challenges and short-comings. A knot tightened in my stomach. I was there to withdraw from my second semester of general chemistry after receiving a grade of C- in the first semester course. Matriculating through undergrad as a student-athlete, I maintained a 3.8 grade point average in my main area of study of anthropology, yet still my sciences suffered. Looking back, I try to reason through why this was. Was it because I did not have sufficient time to study the material enough? Was it because I wasn’t meant to attend medical school? Was it because my brain was not set-up to handle the intricacies of the basic sciences? I have to believe that some of my friends at Emory who came to Atlanta “pre-med” but then switched to “pre-law,” “pre-business,” or some other area to fulfill their parents’ desires, answered YES to one of those aforementioned questions. Through my undergraduate education, I struggled to obtain even a B letter grade in a basic science course but when I went to bed, when I woke up, when I showered… being a student doctor was all I thought about.
A great author once wrote, “If you wake up and all you can think about is writing then you are a writer.” This statement haunted me, as I would ask myself if I could make this true: “If you wake up and all you can think about is taking care of patients and healing those who are suffering, then you are a physician.” I recognize there are a few more prerequisites before you’re allowed to don a short white coat and even more requirements before you get a long white coat with the concomitant M.D. behind your name. After I graduated from Emory I completed a year of AmeriCorps focusing my energy and academic efforts on someone else for once in my life. Working with those students reminded me of my desire to help those in need. For some, we were their last lifeline of support for graduating from high school. Not all too dissimilar from some patients whose surgeon, anesthesiologist or internist is the last lifeline for simply living. After my time in City Year—Washington DC I returned to my own academic journey and started a Post-Baccalaureate/Master’s Degree program at Georgetown University & George Mason University which equated to a second chance, another opportunity to achieve my dream. The program was a success but I still worried that my undesirable science grades from Emory might be the one hurdle I could not overcome. In addition, after taking the MCAT—medical school admission exam—two times with poor performances, I continued to question my future & even worse myself. But I hit that button that would determine my future—SUBMIT. Click.
Medical school application was complete with some incredibly strong areas and some much weaker points. The result? Four medical school interviews & four acceptances. I chose to venture to Columbus, Ohio where an arduous journey would ensue at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Quickly humbled by the mammoth amount of knowledge we were expected to know in the first two years, during my second year, I was overcome with anxiety as my first board exam approached. It was the first time I had ever started experiencing test-taking anxiety; it was awful. Bouts of tears and irrational thought. Focusing on the material was near impossible until I made an appointment to go see someone to discuss this new person I had become. With the proper medications, my peace had returned & my focus was augmenting. Still, I was able to pass the exam. But, I would be amiss to say that all my exams were passes. But, you deal with the cards you’re dealt & I did shying away from any excuses. I still had the strongest desire to help those who could not help themselves every morning, day & evening. “Dr. Jason Lionel Campbell,” our associate dean of the College of Medicine announced on May 3rd, 2018. I hope one person reads this & decides to keep going because he or she is more than their exam scores. Because I know I am more than mine. And it’s worth it! Which part? All of it.