Greetings I am not sure if everyone has seen this very inspirational and motivating story or not? So I thought I would post it. Enjoy!
FROM PARTY ANIMAL TO PHYSICIAN
The New Physician, September 2003
by Scott T. Shepherd Volume 52, Issue 6
In â€œAnimal House,â€ the film that spoofs college and fraternity life, students sacrifice their education for wild parties and crazy adventures, and are eventually expelled. For most dedicated, hard-working future physicians, that sort of lifestyle is hard to fathom. However, Dr. David Kelley, a resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, can picture it all quite easily.
In 1987, the once-outstanding high-school student was fulfilling the party animal stereotype while attending the University of Arkansas. Through skipping classes and not studying, Kelley managed only a 1.25 GPA through 93 credit hours. â€œI actually dropped out to avoid expulsion for grades,â€ he says.
It was not exactly the type of performance that was going to get him into medical school, where he could fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a physician. In fact, he was convinced he was destined to be a bartender or bouncer. Yet he didnâ€™t completely close the door on going to medical school someday. Taking the advice of a college mentor, Kelley determined his best chance was to enter a related health profession, gain some experience and then do an undergraduate degree all over again.
At the time, though, it seemed like a long, unrealistic road. Kelley became a registered respiratory therapist, which made him responsible for assessing and managing patientsâ€™ cardiovascular and respiratory statuses. â€œI worked in pediatric intensive care, [pediatric] cardiology, [and pediatric] trauma. I worked in several of the top childrenâ€™s hospitalsâ€¦. I had quite a long career in respiratory. In fact, I loved it.â€
Yet, it wasnâ€™t enough. So, he began exploring other opportunities, such as going back to school for a related degree and maybe earning a Ph.D. He continued to discount his dreams of becoming a physician until his future wife, Wendy, insisted he at least explore the possibility. â€œMy wifeâ€¦ showed an undying faith in my abilitiesâ€¦. And sheâ€™s like, â€˜Why are you kidding yourself? You know you want to be a physician, so why donâ€™t you go for it?â€™â€
So at the age of 29, Kelley was starting all over again, enrolling as a freshman at the University of Texas at Dallas. And as one of only a handful of nontraditional students he knew of at the 6,000-student institution, Kelley says he often felt out of place. Over the course of four years, though, that changed. â€œI ended up kind of being a de facto big brother on campus.â€¦ I tried to pass along some of the lessons I learned in goofing up but not [in] the judgmental parent-style fashion. In turn, they taught me things I didnâ€™t know how to do,â€ he says.
These lessons helped Kelley graduate magna cum laude with a bachelorâ€™s degree in neuroscience in May 1996. From there he and his wife moved to rural northeast Missouri where Kelley was accepted to Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. Besides adjusting to medical school, the Kelleys also had to adjust to life in the country. â€œIt was like living in Mayberry.â€
But as it turns out, Kirksville was the perfect place for Kelley. With few distractions, he settled on his studies. Furthermore, the school had developed an atmosphere conducive to older students. Of the 170 future physicians in Kelleyâ€™s class, he estimates at least 25 were 30 years old or older. â€œThe school makes a deliberate effortâ€”I mean the majority of students are still of traditional ageâ€”to balance the class with people who are more matureâ€¦because they have discovered what these people can bring to the classroom is a sense of life and professional experience that offset the sort of academic book orientation of the traditional-age people.â€
However, Kelley says that not everyone was as receptive to older students. While he conducted research about medical education through a test review companyâ€™s Web site, Kelley says some of the responses to his message board queries were negative and discouraging.
â€œI felt myself being very, very chastised, exiled and ridiculed.â€ And as it turns out, he was not alone. He met five other nontraditional students, including one who was already in medical school, who had similar experiences. â€œWe started sort of commiserating and talking about our experiences. And through the process of all this, we decided we had to clear the same numeric hurdles as these traditional people, but we have all these other things we have to deal with.â€
So Kelley and his comrades decided to create their own Web community where they could share experiences, ask questions and receive support. In 1998 they began a listserve. A year later, the list had grown from six subscribers to more than 400. Quickly, they formed a rudimentary leadership structure, with Kelley serving as president, to handle the exploding interest.
About the same time, the group began to refer to themselves as the Old Premeds, a tongue-and-cheek response to those who had previously discouraged them. â€œThat kind of stuck and became a pretty affectionate term,â€ he says.
And it didnâ€™t take long before the Old Premeds werenâ€™t such a small group. By early 2000, the listserve had grown to more than 1,000, and communicating via e-mail was becoming difficult. â€œI was getting 200, to sometimes as much as 300 e-mails per day.â€¦ Think how schizophrenic your conversations are when you have 14 of them going on at once.â€
Kelley and the other Old Premeds decided to take things to the next level. He filed the necessary papers in June 2000 to make the Old Premeds a nonprofit corporation, known as the National Society for Non-Traditional Pre-Medical and Medical Students, and took the group from a scattered e-mail environment to a more cohesive Web-based structure. Old Premedsâ€”as most of its members still call itâ€”does not charge dues and subsists on volunteered time and money. It has grown to more than 2,200 members.
As for Kelley, he is no longer an Old Premed; now he is an â€œOld Resident.â€ Still serving as chairman of Old Premedsâ€™ board of directors, the physician-in-training studies anesthesiology and preventive medicine leadership in a residency program at Dartmouth.
In the meantime, he has come to believe that his age and experience may have actually given him an advantage in his pursuit of becoming a physician. â€œWhen I went back to school a second time, I was able to negotiate things. Plus my wife and I had been married for a couple years, and you learn the delicate skills of balancing and keeping your priorities right, and it makes you much more successful in your endeavors.â€
But for Kelley, beyond the wisdom that comes with age, nothing has been more valuable to him than his wife. â€œIt is definitely because of her support that I decided to give it a try, and I ended up being successful.â€
And now, he has even more motivation with the birth of his daughter in February. â€œTo me, being nontraditional, you can look at all of these thingsâ€”like having a mortgage and having a wifeâ€”[and] depending on how you choose it, it can be something that can be a boat anchor or can be an asset. For me, my daughter is an incredible asset. It means I can come home from a long day at workâ€¦[and] I can sit down, decompress and play with my little girl.â€¦ I think a lot of the things that people see as being deficits of being a nontraditional, if you choose it and empower yourself, you can turn it around and go, â€˜This is actually an asset. This is something in my favor.â€™â€
Not exactly what you would expect to hear from an old party animal.
Scott T. Shepherd is an associate editor with The New Physician. For more information about Old Premeds, visit www.oldpremeds.org. Direct questions and comments about this article to email@example.com.