“Difficult to understand. You should think about a different profession.” I read it again and again. Each time with a slower pace. I was sitting in my pre-med advisor’s office reading the evaluation forms from my mock multiple medical interview (MMI) station. Overall, I did okay. Not great, but okay. However, this comment stunned me. This evaluator was an admission officer from an out-of-state medical school. He has screened ten thousand applicants and interviewed thousands. Surely, he knew the field better than I did. Would I really stand a chance when I apply? Did I really choose the wrong field?
Instead of a traditional one-on-one interview, a medical applicant goes through a circuit of interview stations with a different interviewer in each room. The applicant receives two minutes to read the prompt before entering the room to address the prompt for five to eight minutes. He or she completes the MMI when the applicant has finished addressing about 12 prompts.
When I read that comment, every cell in my body froze. I started questioning my advisor if this was even a fair evaluation. You see, despite being born here in America, I have an accent. On top of that, I have lisp. I saw speech therapists for a couple of years because my school thought by having lisp, I was cognitively slower than the other kids. My mom pulled me out of therapy after she realized that I was only slowing down because I had to miss class in order to attend therapy. (Thanks, Mom!) Anyway, therapy did not help me speak “normally.” Having braces did not stop air from flowing out the sides of my teeth. I was so conscious of how I talked because I was afraid people might point out that something was “wrong” with me, and there were people who did make fun of me for having it. However, that inhibition diminished over the years, and I worked hard to become more extroverted and achieve my dream of getting into medical school.
Therefore, when I read that comment, it felt like I was pulled back to my childhood years. Despite my accomplishments, I started doubting my capabilities. Will my future patients want someone they can understand clearer? Will a future colleague of mine dismiss my suggestion on a patient’s treatment just because of the way I talked? Most likely. The evaluator’s comment played in my head like a broken cassette tape on a repeated loop for months, and I had serious doubts about whether I was pursuing the right career.
Two years had passed, and I am now a proud member of OHSU School of Medicine Class of 2023. We just had our White Coat Ceremony, and we were sitting on the grassy field in Willamette Park, discussing about Imposter’s Syndrome. We went around explaining if there was ever a time we felt like an imposter, and most of us, at one point or even then, felt like that. During Orientation Week, we were reassured again and again that out of the 6,000+ applicants, the admission officers did not make a mistake in choosing us. The first time they told me that I brushed it off. The second time they told us that I heard them. The third time they told us that I believed in them.
There will be times throughout our lives, especially the next four years, when we will have Imposter’s Syndrome again, and that is okay. What is not okay is if we let the Syndrome rupture our identity, interrupt our actions, or disrupt us from chasing our dreams. I am still conscious about my speech, but I no longer let people’s comments affect what I want to say. I did not choose the wrong profession. I chose a profession that I love.