I’ve been trying for the last three weeks to decide what to say about my COMLEX exam. So let’s get the worst out of the way first. I failed again. . .by just a few points.

After receiving my score in late-September, I went through every emotion imaginable. . . from anger to frustration to really severe depression. I sat and wrote a letter to my dean, which I thankfully never mailed, telling him I was giving up. But something made me hold on to it, and I know that it was the fact that I still have one more chance, and I can’t give up without using it.

I emailed my family doctor in Lewisburg, who is also a friend, and asked him for advice because I was so down. (I still get down, like right now while I’m writing this I find myself crying). He called me back a few days later saying he really had needed a few days to think about it and how he would feel in the same circumstance. And he said he knew that I couldn’t quit; that the burning desire to become a physician would win out. And he also told me that I shouldn’t have even taken the exam in May because I hadn’t given my body time to heal, much less my mind and spirit. We must have talked for almost an hour, which I really appreciated since he is such a busy doctor.

Basic osteopathic philosophy. . . the body is a unit and it is comprised of body, mind and spirit. I knew that. And I had always advised my patients during rotations of the importance of it. Yet I failed to apply it to myself. When it came to me, I would always put on a happy face and go on, telling myself and those around me that I was fine.

But instead, my body was busy healing, using most of my energy to survive the cancer, the surgery, and the radiation; not to retaining material as I studied. I had never even let myself have a good cry or dealt with the emotional aspect of cancer in any way. My spirit was strong. . . and it still is. Thank goodness for that!

Then I had an appointment with my new doctor here in Lancaster, the week before I had to meet with the promotions committee. I told him what was going on, and he said to tell the promotions committee members that “none of them would have passed such an exam under these circumstances, either.” And he also said I shouldn’t have taken it and that my test score should not even be considered. And then he reminded me that as soon as I passed this exam and was back on rotations, he wanted me to do a rotation in his practice because he knew I was going to make a wonderful doctor.

With all that support, and most importantly, a husband that just doesn’t give up on me, I was able to begin preparing for the committee hearing. Then the weekend before I was scheduled for the hearing, an OPM friend of mine emailed me and I called her and while we talked, she told me about a wonderful program for people struggling with the boards. Her school all but requires that you use this course if you’re having difficulty with the USMLE. . . and it has been successful for those struggling with COMLEX as well. It’s called PASS (Physician Assisted Student Success). You can take anywhere from a 4-week to a 12-week course with structured lectures and one-on-one counseling sessions.

I am hoping that is what I need. So, the promotions committee has given me another chance, and I have registered for the program beginning October 30. I am anxiously awaiting the course, although I will miss being at home with my husband and dog for almost 4 weeks. I will retake the exam in December, and should be able to begin rotations by February. I will graduate with the class of 2008.

Well, I guess that’s about it from here. Keep me in your prayers. . . I can use all the help I can get.


Linda, what a wise person you are. I had feared the worst, since I knew scores had come out a while back and you had been quiet, but sure didn’t know what to say… and I daresay I wouldn’t have been nearly as sage as you, yourself, or your Lancaster physician. Good for you that you applied the insight of not only your training, but your innate common sense, to recognize what an impossible task it was to do all those things at once.

I am so glad that you are getting to do the PASS program and that you’ll be back in rotations before too much longer. I am sure you will do wonderfully.


Linda -

I am so sorry to hear about your continued struggles with the COMLEX. With Step 1 rapidly approaching for me, I’m not sure I could remain as postive and determined as you have.

The formal course may be exactly what you need. I have every confidence that with the course, your attitude and now improved physical/mental situation you will far exceed the mere two points needed to pass.


Hang in there Linda. You have a huge support group here at OPM rooting for you!




Your story has already helped someone else. My friend who had trouble with Step 1 and has now failed Step 2 twice and lost his residency seat was going thru what you were. Not exactly because your circumstances are different but many of emotions you described he is going thru and it pains me to hear and see him like this. He feels as though he’s let me down and he’s letting his family down. Not to mention about himself.

I saw your post and the PASS program. I picked up the phone and called him and I could hear the hope returning in the tone of his voice. I’m not suggesting that PASS by itself will help but I’m sure it will help to bring out the mountains of facts.

I pray the best for you and perhaps you two will be in class together. Thanks for sharing and I have faith you’ll make it thru this as well.


I wish you best in your COMLEX in December. I know its a difficult test, and with Step 1 coming up for me in December as well, I understand the angst of wanting to be past that point. Cheers,


Thanks for the good wishes guys. I am here in Champaign, Illinois just completing my 3rd day of a 4-week PASS program. The instructor is really great and I feel like I am doing a good job of remembering information and finding a better way of cataloging it in my poor old brain! There appears to be a better way of storing it all in long-term memory if I focus on concepts and clues instead of trying to simply memorize and retain. Dr. Francis reminded us all that short-term memorization takes place in the hippocampus . . . .and it runs out of room after while as we replace old facts with new ones. So, categorizing them into a file cabinet in my brain of concepts and clues seems to be helping. And, most of all he stresses physiology. If you understand the physiology, you can apply it to just about any situation.

Anyway, I am totally exhausted tonight, but I can’t wait to go study for another couple of hours and then start all over again tomorrow. Even though it is extremely exhausting, it is a lot of fun! And it makes you feel good when you start seeing things in a bigger picture.

Now it’s back to . . . . as Dr. Francis would say. . . Concepts and Clues. Click and move!


The hope I heard in my friends voice was that I was thinking about him. He already took the class. Loved it. However waited to take the exam and resorted back to memorization versus Dr. Francis’ concepts and clues.

He’s back to studying the way Dr. Francis’ recommended. I’m proving my faith in him by paying for the exam. He asked, I agreed, no big deal.

Best of luck to you! That program sounds great. And since you are in Champaign, make sure you get down to Downtown Champaign and check out Cafe Kopi. I worked there for 3 years - it’s a great place to study. All of downtown Champaign is pretty great.

Man, I’m starting to miss Champaign-Urbana.

Good luck Linda!

All the best Linda in health and in school!!