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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Final-Year University: Reverse Discrimination

The announcement of our Pre-Med Club meeting had been posted and noted on my list of to-do’s for that week. The group was small and pretty intense at times, but it was a good one to keep in touch with what was happening in the world of Med School applications and admissions.

Interestingly enough, one of the kids in the club was a guy who had played on one of our rival sports teams during my high school days. Of course, I didn’t appreciate Glenn as much on a basketball court or football field, challenging our players for the win, but after these years of university, I had learned to recognize his abilities and valued him as a person a lot. He was a talented athlete, but I also found him to be a really good guy. Now, Glenn was married, with a family on the way.

The other club members, all men, were not as friendly, and rather just tolerated my presence. After all, I was only a woman so not a real contender for one of the places in Med School that they were vying for at the moment. Back then, acceptance in Med School was still fairly fixed on the male gender.

This particular meeting of our little group appeared to have all but one member present, a rarity. So far, all the kids who had received any word back from medical schools had been rejected. Some of the letters really sounded like the admissions committee regretted the need to send the letter, but most were just a form letter that sounded like one.

When Glenn presented his letters, we were totally shocked to hear him read the same type of letters he had received just that week. I mean, this kid was the smartest in our class and had doctors in his family history, etc. His personality would have won the committee, for sure, had he been granted the interview with any of the schools.

I’d been in the second group taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), delaying the receipt of my application to the committees until the later rounds. The schools required the MCAT results be sent to them, prior to consideration of a student’s application. When Glenn had not been accepted anywhere, I held out little hope for my own applications,

“Hey, guys, I want you to meet Charlie here!” Frank, late as always, came bounding through the classroom door. “He’s new to the group; this is his first day.”

“Uh, Frank, it’s a little late to join the club, isn’t it? Graduation is so close we can smell the mortar boards and graduation robes! What’s up?” Jason put a voice to what the rest of us had been thinking. Eyes rolled and snide remarks were tossed Frank’s way.

“Well, I thought you would want to meet someone who has actually been accepted to medical School for next year, but if you don’t, well…we’ll be on our way.” Frank’s grin let us all know that there was more to Charlie’s story.

“Oh yeah, well, where’d you go to school, Charlie, ‘cuz none of us here in this room have received anything but rejection letters so far? You’re not familiar to me; anyone else have old Charlie here in any labs?” Again, Jason expressed our thoughts. Hours and hours spent in all sorts of science laboratory classes over the years meant that we pretty much knew all the students headed for Medical School somewhere.

When no one admitted to having ever seen Charlie before this time, Frank continued. “Nope, none of you know him. Me either, really. I just met Charlie this afternoon when I found him wandering around the Health Science Building, trying to find one of us to talk to.” Frank, definitely, had our attention. “Go ahead, Charlie, tell the group what you received this week.”

Charlie smiled and held up an envelope. “Right here’s the ticket to how I’ll spend the next year of my life. Maybe more, if I find I like it more than I think I will.”

“Awe c’mon, Charlie, spill it; what’ve ya got there?” The question came from somewhere in the room, but we all agreed it was time to just tell us.

“Well,” Frank said before ol’ Charlie had a chance, “Seems that the current climate wants to have more than a science background for admission to medical school. Charlie is actually graduating in English. He’s not taken any science classes here that required a lab. In fact, Charlie never once considered medical school for his next step, because he hates science and math but loves literature and writing.” I had no idea where Frank was going with this and echoed the other students’ groans at Frank having interrupted the meeting with an English major’s appearance. “No, wait, Charlie has something there in his hand we’d all love to have. Go ahead, Charlie, tell them.”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t really know what to do next year, but then this letter came last week.” Charlie held up the envelope as he spoke. “In there, the school asked me to consider going to medical school. They said not to worry if I hadn’t the proper science and math classes, they’d get a tutor for me and I’d do fine, if I applied myself.” To say we were all totally dumbfounded wouldn’t come close to how we were feeling.

“So, you didn’t even apply for medical school? This letter just arrived in your mail box, out of the blue?” I couldn’t believe it, but had to ask. It had cost the rest of us a lot of money to complete the process, yet it seemed that Charlie had been accepted without applying? I must have missed something somewhere.

“Yeah, isn’t that weird?” Charlie laughed but none of us joined him.

“But, Charlie, if you hadn’t considered medical school before, how are you going to be able to work out the loans, etc. Did they offer you student loans, too?” Jim’s question had also been on my mind. Would any financial committee approve such a long-term, huge loan application from an English major without all the required science and math courses under his belt?

“Hey, that was the selling point for me. They are offering to pay me to go, or that’s how it looks to me, anyway. They’ll give me a four-year full-ride scholarship, including a monthly stipend, plus pay for all my books and lab fees. I can stay free in the dorm so the stipend can be used on just stuff I want, not necessarily stuff I need. What better deal could I get, huh? I figure, why not? I’ve not got anything better to do next year. If I like it, I’ll stick around. If not, I’ll find something else to do.”

“So, right now, you don’t have any intention of completing the course and qualifying as a doctor of medicine?” The tension was, definitely, growing in the room, as another club member gripped the rejection letters he had read to us earlier.

“Well, not really, but ya never know, right? I might find I like it and, certainly, the money’d be good if I ended up being a doctor. I just never thought of it before. Would give me some great material for writing, don’t ya think?”

What was the reason for Charlie’s good fortune? Charlie was an African American (called Black American in those days.) None of us were anything but the now-out-of-favor Caucasian. We had not really thought about race as related to our own lives, because we had always just accepted everyone and hadn’t thought about racial discrimination there in our mountain community. This was a rude awakening to the difference being the wrong race could make. It was an early beginning for me as to just how unfair the government rules and policies can be. Never before this had I given discrimination a thought. My heart went out to all of the people in the news stories I’d read about the African American folks being treated badly because of skin color. I’d not been raised in a family that allowed such behavior. I’d never really considered the color of a person’s skin as making him different from me. It just wasn’t an issue.

Let me hasten to say that a lot of qualified African American students were admitted to medical schools and other professional schools during those early days of Affirmative Action; my hat is off to them. I’m grateful that they got the chance to attend medical school, because I’ve known some really excellent African American doctors and surgeons. This post is not intended to show a negative reaction to their admission. Most of those admitted had worked as hard as the rest of us, with med school as our goal.

None of us were admitted to medical school that year, though Glenn did get in another year. My own Med CAT results and grades weren’t as good as some of the others who had not been admitted, so I wasn’t as disappointed as the others. Actually, God had been working on me to head in another direction so that’s what I did.

Often, when we are not accepted for a job or training program we had our hearts set on, we cry out that God didn’t answer our prayers. However, in my own life, I can look back and see that God really did answer the cry of my heart…the primary cry of my heart: that God use my life as He had intended when He decided to create me.

Of course, all along the way, I have my own ideas of just how that might play out, but ultimately, I want my life surrendered to God’s plan. That means not always getting “what I want” or what I think I want. To stay along the path God has designed for me, I will sometimes get those rejection letters. The letters are a part of staying on the right path to God’s goal for me. I have learned to not be discouraged by them but to celebrate the fact that God’s still in control. There is nothing I cannot do, if it is God’s will that I do it. On the other hand, I don’t want to do anything that God doesn’t want me to do.

At last, I am old enough to not strike out ahead of God’s direction and just hope God will bless my efforts. God understands that I want to obey Him, and do what He has planned for me to do; but it is up to God to give me the direction to follow. He is faithful to do so. God will, also, use everything imaginable to direct my path, so I don’t worry about discrimination, reverse or otherwise.

*All names have been changed.

****Final-Year University: Morality Discrimination …Next Post

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