I posted this elsewhere but perhaps it might be of use to others.
I am VERY non-traditional, in fact my matriculation to medical school in 2004 made a bit of a media splash here in Kansas City, there were at least 5 news pieces in print and television. The article below was written by Joyce Smith of the Kansas City Star. What made this one special was that we let her into our “comfort zone” as a family, furthermore she really spent a lot of time to get it “just right”.
Overcoming the odds
Richard Boyd, 42, never abandoned his dream of becoming a physician
By JOYCE SMITH The Kansas City Star
A 42-year-old father of six and former truck driver who nearly flunked out of high school might not seem like medical school material.
Then you meet Richard Boyd.
The first-year medical student never gave up on his dream â€” and this fall earned one of 175 spots at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, where only one in seven applicants is accepted. â€œI always wanted to be a physician,â€ said Boyd. â€œFor me, â€˜doing for others’ is the high. Giving hope and comfort to other human beings goes beyond any price.â€
Boyd isn’t the oldest medical student at the school, where the average age of first-year medical students is about 24. He will be almost 50 when he completes medical school, residency and internships.
Others his age are often looking toward retirement, but he’s just getting started.
Boyd said he would have worked to become a doctor 20 years ago if he hadn’t had such a difficult time graduating from high school in Midlothian, Va. His grades were so low he had to go to summer school two years in a row.
â€œIn high school, three D’s and three F’s was a good report card. I was passing three subjects â€” what more could you ask?â€ said Boyd in his rapid-fire way of talking. â€œWhen I sat down to read, I had about 10 minutes of concentration before it was gone.â€
Instead of going to college, he joined the Air Force, where he met his wife, Kathy.
â€œHe was the man to go to for listening, getting things done. People in the barracks would say, â€˜Let’s call Sparky,‘â€ said Kathy Boyd of their time in the service. Boyd got the nickname Sparky while serving as a volunteer firefighter in high school.
â€œYou can see the intelligence just broiling underneath, but he couldn’t figure out how to get it out,â€ she said.
After leaving the service in 1985, Boyd was working as a heavy-equipment operator in Virginia when Kathy was diagnosed with adult asthma.
â€œI helplessly watched my beautiful wife waste away,â€ he said. â€œWe didn’t have any insurance and she knew this was going to destroy us. She even tried to take her breathing tube out in the hospital so she could go home. I felt absolutely inadequate.â€
Frustrated by his inability to help, he researched the disease and then took a six-week course to become an emergency medical technician. He excelled in the class.
â€œIt was the first time I had done anything academic since high school, and there’s nothing like success,â€ he said.
Boyd began driving trucks for a living â€” and serving as a volunteer EMT. Three years later he became a firefighter/medic while lecturing on respiratory emergencies to paramedics. Kathy got better.
Eventually, Boyd decided to pursue a nursing degree. He completed a two-year program over four years at a community college. He found he could handle two or three subjects a semester â€” but had difficulty focusing on more than that.
After visiting his grandmother in Sabetha, Kan., in 1993, Boyd decided to move his family to the small town in northeast Kansas. He went to work at Sabetha Community Hospital. As a nurse, Boyd said, he was often told that he couldn’t overstep his bounds, even when he knew more to do for a patient.
His desire to become a doctor was rekindled by a country doctor, John Yulich.
â€œThe doctors would rotate calls on weekends, but he always took his own calls,â€ Boyd said. â€œHe said, â€˜If any of my patients need me, day or night, call me.’ Wow, is that commitment. He learned the life stories of the patients, met their families.
â€œI wanted to be a country doc, too, and provide for people who don’t have any other options â€” no access to health care, no insurance,â€ Boyd said.
At age 38, hoping to eventually become a doctor, Boyd went back to college in 2000 to pursue a bachelor of general studies in human biology from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.
He learned to study at the same time every day, alone, in the basement of one of the KU libraries, with no TV and no computer, and to use the same kind of notebooks â€” three-ring binders, same brand, same size.
â€œIt had to be regimented. I had to eliminate as many variables as possible,â€ said Boyd, who didn’t know yet that he had attention deficit disorder.
He lived in student housing and went home to Sabetha every weekend. The schedule was nothing new to the Boyd family because as a trucker he was often away for three-week stretches.
â€œEvery week when I went home it was pure quality time,â€ Boyd said. â€œI don’t do homework at home. My motivation is pure play. Remote-control cars, take Kathy out to supper or go dancing, camping, shop, or sit down to talk to the kids.â€
Kathy Boyd also sent e-mail to her husband two or three times a day so he could help with parenting issues.
The first year was fine, Richard Boyd said, but he felt out of control in the second year as he tried to handle a full course load â€” physics with a lab, general chemistry with a lab, physiology with a lab, and trigonometry.
â€œI went from two or three things, which is what people with ADD can deal with at a time, to seven things,â€ Boyd said. â€œI went in for tutoring and found an ADD brochure. I had already developed by trial and error the fabulous study skills and discipline. I just needed the final component, the medication Ritalin.â€
Within a year of taking medication, he was making nearly all A’s.
At first, Boyd sat by himself in most classes. But when the younger students got a look at his high grades, they began sitting by him, asking him to join their study groups. He also taught an undergraduate physiology lab at KU after his first year.
Boyd beams when he recalls that he was ranked second out of 500 students in organic chemistry â€” one of the most difficult classes, the gatekeeper to medical school.
Despite his qualms about being too old or too stupid, Boyd started medical school at KU in Kansas City, Kan., in August.
â€œHe was regarded very highly. He had a lot of good and relevant life experiences and was highly motivated,â€ said Sandra McCurdy, associate dean for admissions at the school.
Kathy Boyd, meanwhile, wasn’t surprised by his acceptance into the program.
â€œI said, â€˜Wow! Yeah!’ I’ve always seen him as a doctor so I was just waiting. It just was a matter of time,â€ she said. â€œHe’s very intelligent. He cares much more about people than things.â€
Through a rural doctor program, Kansas pays his tuition and he gets a $1,500 stipend. In return, he must practice in rural Kansas for four years.
The Boydâ€™s paid off their house and cars with a small inheritance. In addition, Boyd’s sister and brother-in-law helped with the family’s expenses, during his undergraduate work.
â€œEver since he was a little boy I thought he should be a doctor,â€ said his sister, Linda Hayes, who lives in Richmond, Va. â€œHe was like a little old man, always asking questions and inventing things. And he would always try to help.â€
Every couple of weeks, Kathy and the children â€” Hope, 4; Nathan, 6; Ricky, 8; Becca, 13; Erin, 16; and Renee, 18 â€” drive to Kansas City, Kan., for a couple of days, crowding into Boyd’s studio apartment. They make soups and pies, clean, and do their father’s laundry.
Kathy Boyd schools the children at home and recently started working on her undergraduate degree at Highland Community College in Sabetha.
â€œI would probably shrivel up and die if we weren’t changing things and growing,â€ she said. â€œI’m the same way he is. We have always been a closely matched team; I’ve got to have something new to try. I don’t see myself settling down in my 90s.â€
Neither does her husband.
Although Boyd is years behind the average medical school student, he plans to make up for that by never retiring. Boyd jokingly adds, â€œKathy told me she will not have me messing up the kitchen in her golden yearsâ€.
â€œI’m going to take care of people, regardless,â€ Boyd said. â€œPeople say, â€˜I’m too old, I can’t do that.’ That’s not true. They need to broaden their horizons a little bit.â€
Not a typical med student
â€¢ Richard Boyd is 42, compared with the average age of about 24 for a first-year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine.
â€¢ Attention deficit disorder almost kept him from graduating high school.
â€¢ After time in the military, he successfully trained to be an emergency medical technician.
â€¢ He then went through a nursing program and now is in his first year at the KU School of Medicine.
Hello & welcome to OldPreMeds! We welcome another succeeding member who has overcome substantial challenges - part of what makes us unique & such damned fine med students, residents & eventually staff-level physicians. Your story is inspiring. I hope to see you continue to contribute to OPM.
By the way, have you considered coming to our 2008 conference in Washington, DC?
I would love to… if you will note my last rule… always give encouragement to others! I take that quite seriously. The article which ran in the fall of 2004, resulted in being a poster boy for ADHD (as well as a non-traditional), which I have found awesome (it was a GOOD six months before I could move around the medical center without being recognized)! I was lucky as a child and a teen in that things that caught my attention were at the minimum “legal” and oft admired like the volunteer fire department (unlike a lot of kids who end up focusing on drugs, sex or alcohol).
I actually have applied to two FM residency programs out that way (Richmond Virginia)… maybe the stars will line up.
It has been a while, out of town etc.
I got the old e-mail saying that I matched. Because I took a gamble and ranked only ONE program… I guess it is a lot like an early “match day”, looks like I will have to fake suprise on Thursday (NO PROBLEM).
So it looks like I am to be a resident physician in the Internal Medicine and Pediatrics program here at KU Wichita… EXACTLY what I wanted!
Wow! Congratulations on winning your big gamble!
That is fantastic! You have just set an example of success that I hope to follow next year.
I am seriously considering only listing one program next year, and I know it is risky, but it is where I truly want to be.
Congratulations on your match!!
Congrats, Richard. I’m glad your gamble worked out for you.
Man, you live on the edge! but I suppose that old pre meds don’t tend to be risk-averse. Congratulations and best of luck in your new job.
WOW what a neat morning,
Pretty weird feeling getting up this morning! IT has been a pretty emotional and â€œkick assâ€ morning, one to consider the past, present and future!
I was so emotionally beat yesterday, I thought I would â€œstretch outâ€ for a “little nap”, yesterday afternoon and next recollection I had was waking about 5 am this morning. I nudged Kathy and asked, "Hey lets go out to breakfast?â€ Kathy took about a second and answered, “Sure!” SO we nudged Renee, my oldest daughter and told her what we were up to and went to Denny’s and had a really “unhealthful” breakfast.
I just could not describe how I felt, I thanked her, I had a chance to consider all that she had done for me, all that she had sacrificed… I just ran out of adequate stuff to say. It occurred to me that Kathy already knew how I felt (probably before I could get a grip on it myself)! I must to tell you that I could not imagine being able to do this without this greatest asset! How many otherwise qualified folks and posters here are tripped up by this ONE aspect of life?
So, we shifted as we always do, to a discussion of what is next, what is the next item to address, to examine, to make a plan and to step off…
A “suicide match” was not all that unusual if one realizes just how much of a “shoe in” I actually was… KU Med-Peds has two “co-directors” one was a letter writer of mine and the other one of my “admissions committee advocates” from years ago.
In case any of you were wondering… I am married to “Mrs. Bean”, this was her self-described day to get our license tags:
What a wonderful story! Congrats on your first and only choice.
Good luck with residency!