Fellows' Reflections: Jessie Miller

Note: Jessie completed her MENAR fellowship during a gap year between college and medical school. In this post, she reflects on how the fellowship prepared her for medical school and beyond.

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There are three stages to medical school applications. Primary applications get submitted sometime in early June, and they are made up of the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), undergraduate grades, activity statements, and a personal statement. Secondary applications come next, between July and August. Since it is common to apply to anywhere between 10 and 20 schools, and each school has multiple essays, secondary applications require anywhere from 40-80 essays to be written. Finally, after schools have received all of the information in primary and secondary applications, they make a decision on whether or not to offer candidates an interview.

If only deciding to pursue a career in medicine were as easy to break down into three neat stages….

I applied to MENAR in October of 2017, while I was feeling enormously burned out by studying for the MCAT. Overwhelmed by the pressure of a test that seemed to dictate my future, I was second-guessing if I was even cut out for a career in medicine. I pushed through and finished a dozen seven-hour practice tests before taking my test, which I got to forget about after January. A few weeks before my graduation, I accepted my position as a MENAR fellow, knowing that I wanted a year to reexamine my purpose for going into medicine. Though I had checked all the boxes required of medical school applicants and completed all the testing needed to apply, I was not ready to embark on the career path that had consumed me for the previous four years.

Spoiler alert: I’ve made the decision to commit. I am smack-dab in the middle of all those secondary application essays that I mentioned above, and I have been writing them from Jordan.

My year working with Collateral Repair Project (CRP) has reconnected me with my motivations for studying medicine by allowing me to gain some perspective and space. I have been afforded the opportunity to live simply in the past year, released from the pressure of thesis due dates and minimal sleep. When I need groceries, I trek down to the open-air market and buy produce from a vegetable stand and chicken from a butcher. I take the time to walk my dog in the morning and go to the gym after work. My job has very little to do with healthcare, and I relish the mental break.

Taking a break from academia and the competitive culture of being a premedical student has allowed me to ask myself if I am still interested in medicine from an unclouded perspective. I have noted that I am acutely interested in tasks and programs surrounding first aid, menstrual health, and nutrition. Furthermore, I am invested in the health challenges of coworkers and beneficiaries at the CRP center and inclined to understand more about health resources available to refugees in Jordan. These parts of my job remind me that I started pursuing a career in medicine as an undergraduate because I am interested in the wellness of other human beings.

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As I look forward to returning to the U.S. in September and hopefully interviewing at medical schools, I know that my year working at CRP will play a pivotal role in reminding me why my future career is so important to me. CRP as an organization seeks to provide individuals who fled their country with a community in Amman, Jordan. The programs offered at the center equip beneficiaries with the resources and knowledge they need to move forward with their lives. In combining my passion for health with my interests in refugee rights, I hope to do the same as a physician some day. I want my career as a physician to entail fighting for others’ chances to live fulfilling lives. I want my future patients, and the communities they belong to, to have the same opportunities to pursue careers, raise their children, and find happiness, that any other individual should be afforded. I have MENAR and CRP to thank for reminding me of those goals.