Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Your future goals are not only unrealistic, they're senseless"

What a way to start off a conversation about a joint project I'm scheduled to get training for in 2 weeks,lol!!!

So yesterday, I go to meet with the Prof (who's in my home department) whom my research prof and I are to collaborate on for a new project I'm working on. Of course, it's related to breast cancer and to date there's not a single published paper doing the kinds of studies we've set out to do.

Because this prof is VERY close personal and professional friends with my department advisor (who's different from my research advisor), when he asked me what my long term goals are, I felt compelled to answer truthfully (Usually when/if I'm dealing with someone I either don't know well or feel will be discouraging, I simply say "I'm looking into all my options". However, as I'm getting older, I tend to tell it like it is and ignore the naysayers). Now, I have this prof for 2 classes and he was a lecturer in a class I took last Fall, so he's somewhat familiar with me. So when I told him MD/PhD, he laughed a little and said what I quoted in the title. My response was that not only do I vehemently disagree with you but that I have in place a plan that according to a few med school MD/PhD directors (including 1 MSTP program), believe will work. Now he made this statement after I told him what my undergrad and graduate GPA's were, 2.2 and 3.8 respectively, however this was the ONLY thing he knew about my background. He didn't know that I'd been enrolled in the med school at a university and had done well, he didn't know that I'd been doing research since forever and was published, and he didn't know that my current academic plan was made in conjunction with both a med school and grad school. But truth be told, his point is somewhat well taken. The "average" MD/PhD applicant has a 3.8 GPA, usually from a well known school, and a 35+ MCAT. However, if I had listened every time someone told me something I was doing was "senseless" I would never have attended college in the first place. I would never have become the first minority woman to earn bachelor degrees in a physical science and humanities area, from those 2 very southern universities, and I would not have become the first minority woman to earn a grad degree in my division in the Chemistry department of my former graduate school which happned to be a top 5 program. I would never had become the first black section leader in a band at the University where I earned the humanities degree. OK, I think by now my point is made, lol!!

The bottom line is that my grandmother told me as far back as I can remember that as a black woman I would almost always have to prove myself and this was long before affirmative action became "popular". I fully accept that from the moment I enter a room, I'll be assumed to be a secretary or the one bringing the coffee long before I'm seen as the Scientist I am today or the Scientist/Physician I will become in the future. And you know what, there's nothing I can/should do about judgements made by other people based on 1 or 2 facts because in the end, other people issues are just that. THEIR issues not mine. So in usual fashion, I "walked it off" literally, after our conversation, then preceded to not only plan out my experiments, but when I went back to him at the end of the day, I also planned out the future experiments we could do assuming my hypothesis turns out to be correct(which even he, as the so called expert in this particulate field, never thought about in the context of breast cancer despite having previous looked at another cancer before). And yeah, I guess you could say that I relatively sure based on the many, many papers I've read, that my hypothesis will prove to be correct for at least one of the forms of breast cancer I'm looking at.

This experience is just another reminder that I'm the ONLY person who can keep me from achieving my goals. I know that there will be plenty times when someone will walk up to me at a meeting or at school and say (for the zillionith time) "you don't look like a Scientist". I know that despite the judgements of others I must maintain excellence and be steadfast in everything I do. For example, Dr.X's initial assessment of my chances of becoming an MD/PhD proved to be the perfect impetus for to plan out experiments for the next 6 - 9 months in the hours in between our meetings.

So when I spoke to him again later in the day to discuss more science, trust me when I tell you, I was more than ready and by the time I left, he not only restated his initial position about my chances (he was impressed by my performance in med school although he does still think I should focus on med school only) but has agreed to everything I'm proposing to do on this project. Not only that, he's considering contributing to my stipend support which as a poor grad student, is especially great!!

So I guess the moral of the story is to keep the lemonade maker handy. You never know when you'll need a drink, lol!!!!

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