External validation of a learning disorder and its consequences for me.

As some of you know, I posted a few months ago that I was giving up on trying to get into medical school. I have not been able to get the grades that I need to get into medical school, no matter how much I worked and practiced. My main problem was with tests: difficulty recalling material on tests and misreading questions on tests (seeing words and symbols that were not really there; switching words around, etc.)

After 3 years of trying, I finally convinced my college’s learning center to test me for learning disabilities. (Why did it take so long? That is a story for another post; bad luck mostly.) After 2 weeks of tests (over 20 different psychological and thinking tests, some lasting 2 or more hours in length), the results are in. Their tests showed that while I have excellent verbal (99.9 percentile) and high math (93 percentile) abilities, these abilities only come out when I am relaxed and not under pressure. When timed under pressure, these scores drop considerably by more than 2 standard deviations; I was told that only 1 standard deviation is normal. Just as importantly, when stressed my rate of thinking is slower than that of others in my demographic cohort. Slow thinking is NOT good for test-taking. The gist of their evaluations was that in order for me to excel in college, I need study, learn, and be evaluated with minimal stress and minimal mental pressure; unfortunately, most tests are evaluations on how well students can recall and work under pressure and stress.

Would it be possible to learn how to think better under pressure? They said it is possible, but it would mean undoing 40+ years of thinking and learning, and much of one’s style of learning has developed naturally and is very innate to one’s functioning in the world. This doesn’t bode well for me.

Maybe giving up was the right thing to do.

I can sympathize with your situation. I’ve watched people that I consider to be brilliant become flustered to the point where you would think you were talking to a complete imbecile. Time constraints do it to some people and trying to accomplish several tasks at once do it to others. I’ve even had it happen to me. But you still can make it. Granted, I don’t know anything about you, but don’t let yourself be a victim of a condition. It will take hard work, but I honestly believe that you can overcome this. Best of luck.

Thanks for your encouragement. Most of my classmates, colleagues, and family think that I am crazy for giving up, especially given that health care is what I really enjoying doing and that I am really passionate about. They think that giving up means throwing away years of classes, decades of domestic and international health care volunteer work, and of paid health care work, and a potentially promising future in “third world” rural health. Yes, I am giving up the ability to practice, but I will still have those experiences, and I still can do good work, just without being able to diagnose and treat.


You know I’ve followed your path and your story. Given you took the step to be tested, got your results, I still am puzzled why you won’t even consider medication.

Propranolol for tests to lower the blood pressure. Anti-anxiety medications for overall stress.

However, if you truly do not wish to take medication while relearning to learn, then I can only wish you very well on your journey and thank you for sharing that journey with us.

Wherever you go in life, to 3rd world countries, homeless clinics, and what-not, I’m positive your caring nature, sympathetic ears will serve the people you are with, and yourself, very well.

Best of luck to you!

I have dyslexia and ADHD. I am a 3rd year resident and the road has been harder than I thought it would be. I took 5 years for medical school instead of 4years and I was placed on probation my internship year for difficulty with my ICU rotation because I would call the attending unable to describe the details of my patient crashing and the respiratory therapist had to help talk in the moment. I was place on probation again my 2nd year for yelling at staff members who kept asking me questions until my brain literally shut off. I have learned to manage my disabilities and my frustration with no one understanding how difficult it is.

I am now on my way to becoming a rehab doctor. A doctor that deals in long term problems and not stressful emergencies. A doctor that talks to people about handling disability and making choices about whether they want to fight against all odd to walk, drive a car, or go to school. I believe I am a good doctor because I don’t believe in noncompliant patients I believe my job is to educate on options and give people choices and believe in the improbable.

So find your dream and fight because I am changing people’s lives and my own on this crazy journey. Now 16 months and counting til I have my own practice.