Hello All, (my apologies as this will be a long post)
I have noticed that you all have very good, honest discussion, with an almost dizzying array of experiences and perspectives. . . . I need some serious advice.
I am a former musician who (after MUCH thought and prayer) has decided to embark upon the path to becoming a physician. I am a professional employee of Columbia University, and decided to look into the possibility of enrolling into their postbac program. Honestly, I knew full-well that my academic history would be an obstacle, but decided ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. I left my informational session quite depressed (if I am to be honest). I am now reeling–wondering if the stupidity and academic ‘mistakes’ of my youth will now come to exact their revenge. . . .
I feel a little background is needed:
I attended undergrad on a full music scholarship to one of the countries most solid music programs [I’ll leave that name out here], and POURED myself into the study of my instrument (tuba). Like many musicians, it became my singular goal and focus, and how I defined myself in the ‘world’. I did all this to the neglect and severe detriment of my ‘general educational’ requirements–making sure that I went to Biology or Chemistry just enough (usually just for tests) to get the ‘C’ or ‘D’ I needed to satisfy the requirement. I graduated from college having been offered a professional residency at a music conservatory, I was also a working, touring chamber musician (brass quintet), and a few years later had been accepted to the live rounds of the International Tuba/Euphonium Competition–one of the most prestigious events in the field. I say this not to boast in the least, but to say that I had reached a ‘professional’ level of skill and musicianship on my horn, and was well on my way to career performing and teaching–just how I had always envisioned!
About 4 years after graduating, however, I began to experience some strange sensations and inconsistencies during practice and performance. It became harder and harder to perform on the instrument, so much so that I had to withdraw from the competition I mentioned earlier (much to the dismay of my coach and the selection committee). I won’t bore you with the details… but to make a long story short, I later found (after a battery of neurological tests and referrals) that I was in the beginning stages of a neuromuscular disorder called Focal Dystonia , a condition that just a few months later would come to consume my ability to perform altogether.
Now the unthinkable had happened! As a musician (and especially one who had experienced as much early success as I had arrogantly become accustomed to) you often don’t recognize the importance of anything else outside of your craft. You neglect (to an extent) becoming a ‘whole’ person with varied strengths and interest. Certainly as a student, nothing else mattered to me (I graduated in 1998 by the way), and this was the attitude I took with respect to my general studies. “They are simply an insignificant burden,” I would often think. I just needed to ‘get through’. . . . I mean, I certainly didn’t need anything else outside of my music, did I? Now, as a more mature 32y/o man, the lessons of life and the traumatic ordeal of losing my ability to play, have matured me and taught me the importance of giving an honest effort and doing well in all things I do, If for no other reason than in doing well, you give yourself options when the ‘unthinkable’ comes along. I always knew this truth but, in the blissful ignorance ignorance of my younger days, I chose not to truly listen.
Now we fast-forward to the present–after years of intense anger and depression over my lost abilities and loss of direction, to finding myself again and really becoming a whole person. I can now (finally) listen to an orchestra or chamber concert without having to leave after 10 minutes–and that IS a good thing. But after a lot of soul searching about where my professional life was/is headed, I decided that the ‘musician’ in me needed more than just to exist in a job to pay the bills. I have always needed to work in an arena where I believed in the mission and importance of whatever it was I was doing, but also I discovered that I needed what I had always craved as a performer and teacher. . . . I needed to challenge myself. Not just challenge myself, but push myself beyond what I thought I could do. I wanted to make a positive difference in my immediate community, and I wanted to be able to impact, in a very profound way, the lives of those with whom I would come in contact. After having a series of frank discussions with my best friend (who is a cardio-thoracic surgical fellow) he simply asked, “have you ever thought about going into medicine?” at which point I laughed [out loud]. I have always respected and admired the work that doctors do and the grueling schedule and academic work, but (even aside from my poor science grades) I had also always had my first love, and nothing trumped that.
With the seed planted, however, I began to talk to more people, and was amazed to find encouragement and support. I eventually found this site and was immediately inspired by everyone’s personal stories and struggles. I began to feel, more and more, that musician to physician might not be as crazy as I had once thought… Then I began to receive my transcripts and take an honest look at where I was academically with respect to admission requirements to postbac programs here in New York; and although I have tried to remain positive, it has been hard to do so as I just feel so inadequate right now, and I’m experiencing something I never did as a musician–FEAR. Fear of rejection and being thought a fool. Fear of disappointment for myself and those who have supported this change in my life’s course. And fear that I simply just might not be ‘good’ enough or smart enough to get it done…and now I feel doubt beginning to creep in and I don’t want that!
I won’t bore you all any longer, so here is the ‘rundown’ on my academic shortcomings:
- graduated (1998) with @2.7 cumulative GPA (@1.75 science/general requirements, @3.9 music)
- several dropped science courses (5 if memory serves) during my 4.5 undergrad years
I welcome advice from anyone who has a similar background/experience to mine, as well as anyone with knowledge or advice on how I could/should navigate this process. I sincerely appreciate your indulging me and taking time to read this. (I will NEVER post this long again, promise!) Take care, All.