Picture this: a 30-something-year-old mother of three, working as an ICU nurse, content with her life. Settled and not keen on change in general, she feels a new “call” on her life. At first, she tries to ignore this call, but over time it becomes overwhelming and unignorable (if that’s a word). The call? Go to medical school and become a doctor. A doctor! But wait! First, she must complete her degree. And that means taking stuff like Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Embryology. Ouch! So after recovering from this realization, she steps out in faith and enrolls in a large university in the Memphis area, returning to college after many years. The students have gotten much younger since the last time she was here, and the material is daunting. One day, as she sits in a huge auditorium with hundreds of students, brow furrowed, struggling to grasp some chemistry concept, she overhears this whispered exchange:
“Man, there’s a lot of people in this class.”
“About half will drop out after the first exam.”
“Yeah, I’m repeating this class.”
New voice, “I’m taking it for the third time.”
Alarmed, she thinks, “I’m too old to be taking classes three times!” Driving home afterward, she phones her husband, frantic. Good naturedly, he suggests she transfer to his alma mater, Christian Brothers University. Ironically, he graduated from the Business College some twenty years earlier, when it was still known as “Christian Brothers College”. What great advice that turned out to be!
The story you have just read is true. And, as you may have guessed, I was that 30-something –year- old woman. Thankfully, I did take my husband’s suggestion and transfer to CBU. I can honestly say if I had not done that, it is likely I would not have become a physician after all. Of course, I received an outstanding education at CBU. That goes without saying. The instructors were very knowledgeable, approachable and interested in their students. I immediately appreciated things like the small class sizes and the professors teaching their own labs; but, over time I recognized the value of being treated as an individual with a unique set of talents and needs. I sincerely believe this is what allowed me to press on when things were difficult, to hang in there when I wanted to tuck tail and run back to my “settled” life.
At CBU, face-to-face interactions with faculty were commonplace, both prearranged and impromptu. I fondly remember Dr. Westcott’s Organic Chemistry study sessions. Every Friday afternoon at 4 o’clock, when the building was like ghost town, he met us in the classroom and tirelessly worked problems on the board. Week after week, he would stay until the last question from the last student was answered. Often it was just a few of us regulars there, but he didn’t seem to mind. (Funny, we regulars had a lot of company around exam time.) I’m sure he had better things to do with his Friday evenings, but I am genuinely grateful for the hours upon hours he devoted to us. Not only was I able to pass, he helped me to excel in dreaded Organic Chemistry.
When it came time to apply to medical school, Dr. Eisen was instrumental. Not only did he understand the lengthy process, but he coached me through it step by step. He assembled my paperwork and even wrote a letter of recommendation himself. Above and beyond the call of duty, he proofread and re-read my personal statement offering excellent critique. And like a great coach, he commiserated with me when I was placed on the waiting list, and cheered with me when I was accepted. It’s no wonder he was one of the first people I phoned when I launched my new practice.
Because the teachers knew me as an individual, they were able to write letters of recommendation that truly depicted Laura Haskins. During my last two years at UT medical school, I had the very great privilege of serving on the admissions committee. The letters written by professors who knew students personally carried much more weight than ones that sounded like a form letter.
Even after graduating, CBU was there for me. Preparing for my first set of med school exams, I felt so overwhelmed and just couldn’t understand the cell biology material. Dr. Ogilvie met me at the CBU library, explaining it in a way that made sense. “CBU is like the Hotel California,” we joked. “You can check out but you can never leave.” Truthfully, that’s a comforting feeling. So, now I am a 40-something-year-old mother of three, grandmother of two, and a doctor. A doctor! Had I not found CBU when I did, I might not be able to say that. Isn’t my husband wise? Must be that CBU education of his.