Super-Mom Matches in California!

Here's another success story of an IMG, mother of 3 who made it to Cali:

Dr. Barone

I saw that you're looking for inspirational stories. I am a mother of 3, moved with my kids and husband to the Caribbean for med school, didn't do great on my boards (Step 1 =195/Step 2CK = 210), but I had an excellent personal statement, great LORs, etc, and was able to get 13 interviews. I matched in FM in California.

-- S. R.  03/29/2014

1. Tell me about your interview experience?

Almost all of my interviews were great. I had one weird interview, where the doctor said "when I first saw your application, I thought, she's so old! And then I read the personal statement, and it made sense, but you're so old!" Overall, though, the kids were a great conversational piece. ie, I told them I had just read the book Ender's Game, and they asked if I had seen the movie. And I said, "No... I really want to, but the rule in my house is that we don't see the movie until everyone's read the book," which led into a great conversation about parenting/education/values. Since I talked about my kids in my personal statement, it was brought up often, and usually in the context of "We have a very family friendly environment here, let me tell you which schools/neighborhoods are the best" or "Let me introduce you to this resident, who also has kids." It was actually a lot of fun to go around and interview, and they told me I had an excellent application, which really made me feel a lot better about myself as a candidate, since it's easy to think that the scores mean everything.

2. How many programs did you apply to in each specialty?

FM - ~90, MedPeds ~45, FM/IM -2, Peds ~15

3. Did connections help you match?

YES. I went to 3 conferences: Family Medicine in CA (CAFP), MedPeds (NMPRA) and Peds (AAP) in Orlando. My CA interviews were all from programs where I personally met the director at the conference (they usually set aside 1-2hr for students to talk to residency program representatives; wonderful experience). One of my interviews came from a program where my friend was a PGY1, and I did NOT meet their minimum step score requirement but she made me apply anyway. Another interview came from a program in the city where I've been living during rotations, after I emailed and requested the interview on the basis of “me taking my kids to their clinic” and the residents encouraging me to apply to their program.

4. What do you think was the most important factor in your matching? How do you know it was excellent?

Most important factor - I interview very well, and the personal statement set the tone for the interviews. Honestly, after I put it all in writing, I really started to understand the path that my life has taken to get me to where I am today.  Several of the PDs commented on my personal statement. One of them told me, "Oh, you're the girl with the long personal statement. I've been looking forward to meeting you. Please, let me tell you a story about my son." He then told me a story about how his son quit college in his 3rd year, picked up and moved to Utah near a ski resort, and made a new life for himself. And it probably saved his life. Then he told me "You need to write a book." Of course, I told him I am already working on it.

5. What advice would you give to students in similar situations as you had?

Going to medical school with children is the hardest thing anyone could ever do. I would say, use your connections, try to find support anywhere you can. I don't have any family support, so it's been ridiculously hard getting to this point. I had to take on a job at the mall while working 70-80 hour weeks in my FM and IM rotations, I have a 2hr one way commute each day to NYC because I needed to place my kids in good schools, and I work on the side tutoring, editing personal statements and CVs, etc. It's been so hard, especially during away rotations when I have to leave my husband and kids for weeks at a time. Advice: spend time with your spouse/kids whenever you can, make it quality time, set family goals (we're getting a dog when we start residency, and going to Harrypotterland for graduation). This journey was never just about me, it was a journey that we all took, and it was hard on all of us, but it also made all of us so much stronger.

6. How did you get your excellent LORS? Did you waive your right to see them?

The LORs - I was chief medical student for FM and IM, so the directors for both programs wrote me LORs, as well as another attending. I waived my right to see them, but my interviewers constantly told me how great they were, so I know that they did a great job explaining how hard I was working. (I swear, I never sleep.)

7. How did you stay married and sane living on an island and doing medical school?

Married & Sane? One would question that sometimes, haha. When I was on the island, my husband would pick me up from class in the afternoons, and walk me to the coffeeshop and back. I would avoid him for a few hours after every exam - it isn't his fault if the exam was ridiculous, so I always needed to calm myself down before getting back into mom mode. We always try to find ways to spend time together - quick dates eating 'crappy tacos', our affectionate name for Taco Bell, or going to the grocery store together. Honestly, he's the love of my life, and we've been married for a very long time, so we just forced ourselves to make it through it. I made some sacrifices - he flew back to see his family a few times, which is hard on a student budget, and I gave him the top 3 ranks on my ROL (and I got #3, so we'll be living very close to his family for residency). As far as sane, well... I learned a long time ago to take time for myself when I need it. I find things that make me happy; go get a massage, go to the coffeeshop, etc. It's hard being wonderwoman, so I have to make sure that I take care of me, too.

8. Any advice you can give for moms doing med school?

Moms, whether single moms or married, will need to have a support person in their lives. Going to another country with a child requires bringing someone with you. A spouse, parent, friend, sibling. If you're married/in a relationship and the other person is not 100% behind you, it won't work. Either the marriage will fail or you will fail. You can't do this without a strong support system. I've seen great students fail out of medical school because the spouse just didn't want to live on the island. I've seen marriages collapse, kids get sent to live with distant relatives. You have to decide before you start how badly you want this. If you have an unstable relationship before you go, it'll be hard to make it work when you're studying 20 hr a day. So I'd suggest carefully considering what you're willing to give up and how hard you're willing to work to achieve your dream, and if you go for it, quickly set up your own support network. Get to know several faculty members. Develop great rapport with faculty members that have children - they'll be your greatest ally if things get rough. Find faculty members to guide you every step of the way. For me, I have actively sought out mentorship every step of this process, and I have not been shy about the fact that I have 3 kids. People know that I work hard and get things done, and then I go home and work hard and get things done some more. But of course, don't be too hard on yourself if everything falls apart every once in awhile. I try to pretend my son didn't just get a 44% on a math project, or my daughter isn't struggling in her chemistry class. I help when I can, and I advise them to ask for help when I can't.


Category: Success

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