disclosing a brain injury, have 3.98 GPA, but family says be realistic.

Hello all,


I am so grateful to have found you. You are a breeze of fresh hope!


I am 37, I have a terrible undergraduate gpa of 2.75 in psychology. I had a husband that began to suffer from serious mental illness after my freshman. year. My gpa was great, then I went into survial mode. I worked nights until 6:00am, would get 3-5 hours of sleep and then go to class. I quickly realized my current life would not allow for medicine. I was crushed. It has been my dream since I can remember. I graduated which my family was amazed. I worked and cared for a serious declining husband…


Then my husband decided to make other choices… I was free. I quit my job with the state, went back to school, opened a coffee shop to sell so I could pay for school later, volunteered 30+ hours in the trauma center and was flying!


One day five hours after my last shift in the Truama center, I was in a head-on collision. I entered the same Trauma center I had left five hours ealier with a Glasco scale of 1. My team didn’t recognize my swollen face… After I regained consciousness, I didn’t know an odd or even number… what day it was and what had happened… I grieved my dream being snatched away again…


A year later, my brother died and I inhereted an 8 year old. I was living on my own, running my businesses and raising a child to the AMAZEMENT of my medical team.


Today, I am back to school. I have a 3.98 GPA. I started from the beginning in math and have earned 4.0 all the way through the second series of pre-calc, and 3.9 in chem. I start the physics etc in Fall. I have learned how to study for who I am today, not who I was. (Before I earned a 2.75 without hardly cracking a book because I was always working, and caring for a Mentally Ill husband.) Today I am a great student. The one I always knew I could be given the chance. I get extra time for tests, but I don’t feel embarrassed about that anymore. I figure I earned that extra time! The college has asked me to tutor math and chemistry. But worried about time for MCAT and med school exams. I’d have to disclose TBI, and I’m not sure how to handle that. Will I secretly be passed over if the committee knows??? If I get extended time for MCAT, the school is notified with MCAT scores, and they can ask why. (I checked)


I however, feel great about my path! I feel like I’ve gotten MY life back. I am ALIVE in class and at the Hospital. People/friends don’t believe me when they inquire about my exteneded test time. I’ve even had to show pictures of me in a wheelchair, and what was left of my car. You can’t even tell what kind of car it was. Today I’m quick, smart, funny… I’m me!


My extended family thinks I’m too old, and a single mom…(son will be 16 when I apply to med school.) “What if you spend all this money and don’t get in, and what if the med schools find out about the past TBI?” “What if you actually DO get into medical school and you can’t cut it?”


Just spent a week with family… I Could really use some advice from all of you who understand the insaciable passion of wanting to be an MD. I’m willing to hear whatever you have to say. Even if it may be hard. I’ve been told I need to be “REALISTIC”. So, I’m listening…


Thank you so much,


Libbey

Libbey -


What a fascinating story! If extra time for tests is the only accomodation that you need to do so well, then I think that’s fantastic. I’m pretty sure that under the ADA, medical schools are required to offer the same accomodations as universities (extended test time, etc.) I’m fairly sure that there are people in my class who have some accomodations for test taking. I’m not sure if extended time is allowed for for the USMLE.


A good place to start might be with your doctor/neurologist. Ask them what they see as barriers (if any) to your being successful in medical school.


Good luck!

Thank you EMERGENCY.


I’m afraid to tell anyone including my Neurologist. I’ve been secretly going to school. Only my best friend and out of state family are aware. I get the “you’re still holding onto that doctor thing” look when people find out I haven’t given up. My age seems to be everyone’s barrier. They always count up the years, and then I hear the all too familiar be “realistic”


Thank you for your post.


Libbey

I’m not sure why you’re afraid to ask your neurologist other than the obvious fear that he will tell you that you are being unrealistic and have no chance. I suggest talking to him/her not seeking their approval per se, but so that they can help you anticipate any other obstacles/questions you may face in the process. Do you continue to improve? Is there a chance that you might get to the point where you don’t need extended test time? Knowing the history of your injuries and the extent of your recoveries, can your neurologist think of other situations in med school/residency where you might have difficulties? Even if he doesn’t see any other difficulties, he might be able to help you anticipate the kinds of questions you will face from admissions committees and how to address them.


Don’t let your age be a barrier. There are many people on here who were your age or older when they started medical school. Medical schools are becoming increasingly more open to older students. That’s not saying that it’s easier (at times, it can be more difficult) to get in to med school as an older student, just that we don’t face the discrimination that we used to.


I’m sure that one of our knowledgable members about adcoms will be able to give some better insight.

Libbey:


I think your story is great and you are indeed an overcomer! You have inspired me even more! Thank you!

Hi there,


You can receive special accomodations for testing in medical school and for board exams. People who are deaf, brain injured,learning disabled and blind have been able to graduate from medical school and successfully practice medicine with the proper accomodations.


You NEED to have your neurologist state specifically what types of accomodations you would need. You have already proven that you can achieve academically, you just need to be in the proper environment to continue to do so. Let your neurologist help you out with these matters. He or she will not disclose anything without your permission under physician/patient privacy.


If you want to practice medicine, take the next steps to get what you need to get through the next phase of your career.


Welcome to the group!


Natalie

Libbey -


Hello, welcome, and wow. As the rest have said here: your story and success are inspirational. I believe that we consider everything we experience in the light of what we’ve already endured - and you’ve both endured and excelled, it seems. And you’ve taken quite an impressive attitude out of it as well.


As for barriers and risks… they exist, and they are overcome-able. Applying to med school is (as I understand it) an inherently arduous, risky, and expensive prospect. That said, it seems you’re driven to succeed at it, and I suspect you can.


You seem to have particular concerns as well - do you expect a very negative reaction from your friends and family? Are they entirely unspportive? Are you more afraid of that “be realistic” than, say, a rejected med school application?

Thank you all! I know your time is valuable.


I have a very full neuro eval. that is needed for “disability accomodations”. Doc’s think I’m just going to relearn math etc for myself. They don’t know my end goal. I’m honestly afraid to tell them becuase two of my doc’s are profs at my local med school. I’m afraid they will quietly say something negative. They are impressed yes at my progress, but I often think they too wonder about a “ceiling of healing”.


I am worried that medical schools will quietly dismiss me if they know about the TBI.


My family has been very supportive of me getting great grades, until they realized I wasn’t going to deviate to a career as a nurse or PA. “After all, look how hard it is for people who don’t have these issues to get into medical school,”


I have been so adament about not losing focus, I just needed to make sure I didn’t have blinders on. I needed to hear from those who have walked before me… You guys! Since my family “vacation”, For the first time, I began to wonder if the TBI I have worked so hard to overcome, might be the very thing that quietly gets me dismissed. Should I need the accomodations that I currently need, I would have to disclose the disability to get them. Then you add the lack of finances to pay for school and a child I have zero $ help raising… (my mom is 81 and lives out of state in the middle of nowhere.)


I think everyone quietly waits to see what the “ceiling of healing” will be. I’m not even suppose to be alive. I am a single mom, 37 and after my accident have no way of paying for medical school except with loans etc. My family thinks this is too much of a price to pay for a paycheck 6 years from now. After all a Nurse Practitioner sees patients… And then there is that subtle “ceiling” everone is watching for.


If I quietly go to school, then I don’t feel watched. Maybe I am afraid, if Im honest. As long as I keep getting great grades, then I can share with everyone when I make it into med school. If I don’t make it in… I don’t have to tell anyone. This is so important to me I feel like I have to protect it. I won’t let it be stolen again. I have cried over the verse. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. I undertand exactly what that feels like.


I don’t have a ceiling, and it seems neither do you all. You have inspired me. I am so amazed and blessed by your posted accomplishments.


Thank you-


Libbey


“IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO BE WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE BEEN.” George Eliot



  • Libbey Said:
I have a very full neuro eval. that is needed for "disability accomodations". Doc's think I'm just going to relearn math etc for myself. They don't know my end goal. I'm honestly afraid to tell them becuase two of my doc's are profs at my local med school. I'm afraid they will quietly say something negative. They are impressed yes at my progress, but I often think they too wonder about a "ceiling of healing".



Libbey - IMO we all have a ceiling of learning, at least. Personally, if you have managed a 3.98 so far in the pre-reqs, then I don't think whatever your ceiling is is really going to be an issue for medical school.

I understand your fear about talking to your neurologists. However, I think you're going to have to take that chance. It would be illegal and unethical for your docs to "quietly" say something to people in admissions regarding their doubts about you. Even if you disclose your TBI with your application and have to submit your documentation, I still don't think that would give the school authorization to contact your doctor without your permission.

I would hope that your docs would be professional enough, that, even if they doubt your ability, they would not violate HIPAA and ethics and hinder you chances of getting in. If anything, I would think that they would be supportive of your attempt and curious to see how well you can do. Your neurologist(s) could actually be a great ally for you.

As far as disclosing the TBI on application, it might be worth it to you to ask around and find out what you HAVE to disclose and if its possible (and/or a good idea) for you to limit what you disclose. Obviously, if you seek accomodations on the MCAT, that will show up with your score, but does the MCAT send medical schools the documentation that you gave them stating the TBI or do they just tell them that you got extra time? Is it in your best interest to disclose the TBI in your application or is it something that you could just wait and see if they ask you about your accomodations in your interviews?

If you are managing a 3.98, you should be able to handle the difficulty of medical school coursework. I do have a question for you about your course load though. Are you taking a full course load? IMO, the difficulty of medical school comes from the huge quantity of information that you are trying to learn in such a short period of time. I thought that my ability to take 20 credit hours of prereqs (physics w/lab, calculus, biology w/lab, and chemistry w/lab) and do well meant that medical school couldn't be much harder than that. I was WRONG. I have to spend FAR more time studying for my medical school coursework than I did for those 20 hours just to barely pass. Anyways - to get to my point, that may be one area where medical schools might question your ability - if you are only taking 1 or 2 classes at a time, they may wonder if you will be able to process the vast amounts of information in medical school.

I think Nat's right - you NEED to have your neurologists on board. They may have doubts - there are doubts about the ability of LOTS of people to succeed in medical school. However, if you convince them (as you have us) that you are determined to at least TRY, then they should be willing to at least support your attempt and see how it goes and not make any attempt to sabotage it.
  • Quote:
If you are managing a 3.98, you should be able to handle the difficulty of medical school coursework. I do have a question for you about your course load though. Are you taking a full course load? IMO, the difficulty of medical school comes from the huge quantity of information that you are trying to learn in such a short period of time. I thought that my ability to take 20 credit hours of prereqs (physics w/lab, calculus, biology w/lab, and chemistry w/lab) and do well meant that medical school couldn't be much harder than that. I was WRONG. I have to spend FAR more time studying for my medical school coursework than I did for those 20 hours just to barely pass. Anyways - to get to my point, that may be one area where medical schools might question your ability - if you are only taking 1 or 2 classes at a time, they may wonder if you will be able to process the vast amounts of information in medical school.



For the first few credits after my accident, I was testing the waters with one class a quarter. I was still working full-time running a very busy business and raising a child. Then I moved up to 12 credits a quarter. I'm still working full-time and raising a child by myself. I figured if I could juggle three businesses, school and a child, I could hoefully manage medical school if all I had to do was go to school. (I am working on plans for live-in help for my son during medical school.)

I am a great multi-tasker and a serious student, but your post rattles me a bit. If you are stretched to barely pass and you could handle 20 credits of undergrad, I need to rethink my current schedule. I still have obligations to keep my business running, pay the bills, and successfully parent a child. I can add more credits this next quarter, I just want to make sure my grades stay as high as they can. You are right... they will wonder if I can handle 20+ doctoral credits a quarter. Looks like I need to step it up and stretch some more. I need to add another class. Which is better, smaller class load high grades? Larger class load, with lower but still good grades?

As far as information disclosure, I think the MCAT just sends notice that you have received Disability accomodations, which opens the door... I don't think schools get actual documentation. (?) As far as disclosing the TBI up front or knowing how much to disclose... I can't seem to find anyone that can give me that answer. The schools all say to disclose when I inquire namelessly.



Congratulations on medical school. Your hard work is paying off!

Thank you again for your suggestions. I respect the voice of personal experience, and appreciate your time.

Libbey


  • Libbey Said:
...They don't know my end goal. I'm honestly afraid to tell them becuase two of my doc's are profs at my local med school. I'm afraid they will quietly say something negative. They are impressed yes at my progress, but I often think they too wonder about a "ceiling of healing"..."After all, look how hard it is for people who don't have these issues to get into medical school," Libbey

I think you might be surprised. During my ugrad career, I nearly failed both O-Chem I and II because of family issues. I barely get my two D's from my teacher, Prof. W (not his real name).

Fast-forward three years. I don't have the grades for grad school, but Prof. W speaks up for me because I told him about those family issues in ugrad.

Fast-forward another year. While I am a graduate teaching assistant for Prof. W (in O-Chem, no less), I tell him about my dream to become a doc.

Fast-forward to today. I run into Prof W crossing the street. He calls me over and loudly congratulates me for getting into medical school. He confessed that when I told him I wanted to be an MD, he thought to himself 'No way, this guy can't make it!' But he said that I'm one of the 'good stories' - an example of having determination and not giving up until you get what you want.

This man knew me at my worst - when I was the lowest grade in his classes - and he's seen me progress all the way through grad school and beyond. Despite his negative opinion of my chances, he has been a source of constant support, and he is happy that I've proved him wrong. You may be surprised at how people, even those who do not share your opinion of your abilities, will help you out.

Although medical school requires a different kind and level of studying, I don’t think it’s necessary (or even, perhaps, wise) to test yourself by taking more than 12 hours WHILE working full time and raising a child. The difference between med school and undergrad work hits everyone differently and even taking those big fat course loads may not tell you much about how med school’s information firehose will drown you. And certainly you won’t work full time (if at all!) in med school.


I do think that if a school will discriminate against you because of your TBI, you might as well know about it up front and go to another school that wants to help you to be successful. Applying to med school is not just about finding a med school that will take you. It’s also about finding a school where you WANT TO BE. I submit that you would prefer to be in a school that wants you, brain injury and all.


I started my prereqs at age 39. I don’t have kids, so the financial risk is a bit less for me, but I didn’t get any flack from my family about my age. Don’t let age stop you. You’re used to living frugally, so even if you spend a large chunk of your post-med-school salary on loan repayments, you’ll still do just fine. People piddle away vast fortunes on spa vacations, new cars, gambling, and other fleeting pleasures. Your money is yours to piddle as you wish. Piddle it away on your dream. As long as your child does not go hungry there is nothing wrong with this. There are very few better investments.


Welcome aboard!


I also urge you to bring the neurologist in the loop. The only way to find the ceiling of healing is to try to hit it, right? And if your neurologist is discouraging to you in a way that is beyond his scope of practice (trying to get you not to do this for personal reasons rather than giving you a very medical and scientific appraisal of your status and letting you decide), find another one. Doctors aren’t perfect and sometimes you need to make a change.

  • samenewme Said:
Although medical school requires a different kind and level of studying, I don't think it's necessary (or even, perhaps, wise) to test yourself by taking more than 12 hours WHILE working full time and raising a child. The difference between med school and undergrad work hits everyone differently and even taking those big fat course loads may not tell you much about how med school's information firehose will drown you. And certainly you won't work full time (if at all!) in med school.



  • Quote:
I am a great multi-tasker and a serious student, but your post rattles me a bit. If you are stretched to barely pass and you could handle 20 credits of undergrad, I need to rethink my current schedule.



I didn't mean to rattle you. As Denise points out, you are doing plenty with 12 credits a quarter, working full time and raising a child. Since you hadn't mentioned your courseload at all, I thought it was appropriate to ask about it - if you were taking one or two classes a term, then med schools might question your ability to handle the load.

And - she is absolutely correct in that we all handle the med school firehose differently. Part of my problem is that so much of med school is rote memorization, and memorizing is something that I really have to work at (and in general, I have never had to work that hard academically). Some people are finding med school incredibly easy, others are struggling. It has nothing to do with intelligence. A friend of mine has two degrees (one a PhD) from a notoriously difficult university, and is probably one of the smartest people I know - yet he is struggling like I am. You may be fine.

It might be worthwhile for you to schedule an appointment with someone in admissions at your local school, be upfront with them, and ask them what obstacles they see or what they would like to see in your application. I'm sure that you are loathe to do this, but Denise is right - if they are going to discriminate against you based on your TBI, its not a school you want to attend. Medical school is tough enough without having to deal with that. I don't know if you have considered this, but you might (big might there, I don't really know how the schools will look at your app) have to apply to a considerable number of schools in order to find a school that will take a chance on you and be a good fit. If your local school is the only option for you, then you might as well know how tough the battle will be up front.

I truly admire your determination!

YOU GUYS ARE WONDERFUL! Thank you!

You all bring up very good points. I will seek some good counsel in the areas you all mentioned and get a realistic feel of my local school. I will also apply to other schools, but it is of course my first choice…


Thank you all again. I feel so much better!!


It is nice to meet you all,


Libbey

Libbey, I don’t really have much to add to the good insights others have shared - I just want to tell you how very impressive your story is. I am amazed at your energy and determination.


I did my prereqs with a family at home - but that included a supportive husband, and the kids were a little older. Even so, I figured they were at least a four-credit lab course worth of time. Don’t try to load up on coursework to “train” for med school. The med school curriculum is so different, in so many ways, and you really can’t prepare for it - unlike a physical marathon, which you can train your body for, I don’t think there’s any way you can “pump up” for that first semester of first year.


As for the key question of disclosure - okay, first of all, I do NOT believe that AAMC has to explain why there’s an asterisk on your MCAT report. (except maybe to say what the accommodation was, e.g. “extra time,” vs. “large print”) I am pretty sure that detailed disclosure would be all kinds of illegal based on what I learned about testing accommodations for one of my kids. But of course the asterisk is there, and will raise questions… and I do think you’d be wise to be up front about the reason for the accommodation because you don’t want to leave schools to imagine why you might’ve gotten the extra time.


But totally aside from that, I have to tell you that IMHO your story NEEDS to be told. Your experience is absolutely integral to who you are, the path you’ve taken, and why you want to pursue a career in medicine. How can you write your PS without talking about this life-changing experience? I want AdComs to get your file, read your PS, and go “Wow! Listen to what this woman has done!” and read it out loud to others in the office. And I think that would happen, at least in some places - and those are the places you’d want to attend.


I have given the disclosure question a lot of thought over the years, because I was diagnosed with MS while I was doing my prereqs. I came to a very different conclusion from the one I’m advocating for you, because the MS, while personally a very challenging diagnosis to adjust to, was not a life-changing experience. I was pretty much the same person before & after the diagnosis - my life had an extra layer added to it, but wasn’t substantially rearranged. I couldn’t see how it would be relevant to my application, and I was able to tell a coherent story of how I came to be applying to med school at the age of 43 without needing to mention it. It just hadn’t been THAT big a part of my life.


Your story is different. To tell the story of how you come to be pursuing medicine at this point in your life, to talk about your journey, you need to acknowledge - hell, brag about!!! - what you’ve been through.


At least that’s my take on it. You go, girl!


Mary

Thank you Mary! sometimes I feel exactly like what you said. I’m proud of what I’ve overcome, I want that to be an amazing thing, a benefit, not a hinderance! If I really look over the past few years, I am amazed where my son and I are today!


Thank you so much for the encouragement!


(I agree… I wouldn’t have disclosed the MS either.)


Thanks again,


Libbey



Hi Libbey and welcome!


As far as your question about class load, I’ve found it’s a delicate balance between good grades and course load. First of all, yes schools look for a larger course load, however what is more important are the classes which make up that load. Basically, you may take say a 18-20 hour load but have only one science class. What schools want to see however, is a load that has multiple science classes. I was always advised that it is better to take a challenging course load (ie, 2-3 science classes plus 1 or 2 other classes) with a slightly lower GPA than to take a load with only one science class and get a 4.0. After all as previous posters have mentioned, they ultimately are looking to see how well you can handle a med school curriculum, which is all science.


But like I said, it’s a delicate balance. Find the happy medium where your course load is challenging enough yet you can still do well, even if it’s not as great as a 3.9. Personally I struggled to do anything more than 15 credits on top of taking care of two kids. So my usual load was only 12 but I tried to make sure at least 2 of the classes (+labes) were in the sciences.


I hope all goes well for you and keep us posted! You’ve found a great forum with terrific people who all share the same goal and dreams and are incredibily supportive of one another. And whatever you do…be encouraged!!! If going to med school at our age is considered “unrealistic” then so be it … this forum is full of people who have proven that just because something may be unrealistic, doesn’t make it impossible!


Take care,


Bea

Thank you for the encouragement Bea,


You are right. I have met a great group of people, and I hope to continue meeting more!


It is nice to meet you.


I’m impressed…Two kids! You should feel very proud of yourself!


Libbey

Hey Libby! I’m 42! Guess your friends and family would be horrified at me LOL 2nd year in medschool, so I still have some more years to go! But I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do! I have 3 children (17,15,14) and a wife who loves me dearly ( must to put up with me away for 1.5 years at school LOL). Hang in there let your family know there are many others out there doing it at your age too!