Finding Medicine in Medicine

By: Ronald Orozco

I have always considered myself to be a hard worker and that attitude is what helped me succeed in undergrad. I faced some significant challenges, though overcame them all. Graduation was amazing, something I had worked hard to achieve and represented a life goal achieved! I was excited to start medical school at the University of New Mexico. I had a few friends from classes ahead of me talk to me about their experiences and what to expect, but I can honestly say that nothing really prepares you for the difficulty and rigor of it.

Around the time I was about to start, I went through what may have been the hardest time in my family’s life, my parents’ divorce. Not only was I entering the biggest academic challenge of my life, but behind the scenes my life was falling apart. While I was managing to pass my blocks (blocks are how medical school is arranged, by focusing on one subject for 6-8 weeks), my mental health was a wreck. I went to the school wellness director and told her, “I think my depression is getting worse; I need help before it interferes with school.”

I failed my first block Spring of 2016, Cardiovascular Pulmonary Renal. During this time, I was seeing a therapist every two weeks and thought I was managing to keep up. I retook the final, passed, felt better, and started the fall. Once again I failed another block, Gastrointestinal, Nutrition, Metabolism, and Endocrine. I spent a lot of that time focusing on my mental health, which was one of the best things I could have done, though realized that I had shunted school off to the back burner, and it showed.

In Spring 2017 I found out I had to repeat an entire year of medical school. Never in my life up to that point had I been held back due to unsatisfactory grades.  Disappointed does not even begin to describe how I felt. I felt like I had let everyone around me down. I felt ashamed, angry, hurt – and although by then I was ably managing my depression, it felt like I had nothing to show for all the academic work I had done.  It took all year to forgive myself and it’s something I continue to work on daily.

At the moment, I am studying for my first board exam, Step 1, definitely a stressful time! I passed the blocks I had to repeat and pushed myself to make up for the mistakes I had made. I am positive that this test and year are going to be challenging. If I learned anything though, it’s that maybe my life is not going to necessarily get easier or less stressful, but that I am getting better at handling the stress around me. It hasn’t been easy, and it takes time, but I aspire to try and be better every day.

I share this because this has been the most challenging time of my life and I know others have felt the same. There was not anyone to really show me the medical school ropes, and I felt tossed into a different world. It hasn’t been easy, but by reaching out and finding support, it’s been manageable. There is always someone willing to listen and help; if you look you will find people with experience to help with advice. It’s easy to feel alone, especially at institutions of higher learning, so listen to yourself and reach out when you have to.

Please remember that the Simon Scholars family has always made an effort to include mental health into our journeys and because of that I am grateful to the program and Mr. Ron Simon. We are a family. Feel free to contact me and if I can help, I will.