Lessons Learned: My Journey to becoming an Internal Medicine Doctor

Author: Vinh Dong

At 29 years old, and almost 30, I would like for you guys to know about me, and the lessons I learned along the way. The biggest lesson is that you do not have to be “special” or be “talented” to make friends or to form relationships. If people knew you entirely, along with your flaws, the people who do not care and stay are truly your friends. Looking back, I wish I had somebody to say that to me, but I am glad to realize that now. Another important thing I learned is that humans are social creatures and that we need to have people in our lives. We all need a social life. Because without people and friends, the soul can get confused. Today, I am focused on taking any opportunity I can to make friends and to have a social life. Being older, and a bit wiser, I should have trusted people a lot more with my shortcomings, because most people are good people, and are willing to help each other up.

My journey to becoming a medical doctor was truly a difficult journey, and it was wrought with a lot of failures. High school was easy, but college was very hard. It was so difficult to maintain that image from high school where people expected me to do well on exams. The advice I would give here is never “fake it before you make it.” Because if you lie about how well you did or about your accomplishments, and worry about people finding out who you truly are, you will isolate yourself because people will avoid you. Let people know your struggles, and you will have people who will at least empathize with you, and some will even help or befriend you. During undergrad, I started making C’s and even had an F in a college course. My college GPA was 3.1 and my MCAT score 29, and 26, and it was not enough to get into an American Medical School.

I opted to go to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. Here, Medical school was even harder, and I graduated near the bottom of my class 112/135. I barely passed my classes despite studying extra hard during the first two years. Despite these shortcomings, I was happy to have made a 230 on my Step 1. Although it was average, it beat my expectations. I also made a 229 on the Step 2CK. (Was a bit disappointed with the score). The first time with the Match, I was not able to match anywhere, having only a couple of interviews. (The problem was probably a relatively blank CV, and I depended on my recommendation letters and scores alone. I also applied 2 weeks late). Despite this failure, I did not give up and looked at all avenues to improve my CV. Here, my philosophy was if there was no “opportunity” you give yourself the “opportunity”. With that in mind, I started AUC’s first e-newspaper “AUC Frontline” and the school’s first research club “AUC Online Research Club” and had the pleasure of working with my colleagues on these clubs and was able to gain leadership experience and obtain a good number of publications on COVID-19. In the 2nd match, I was able to obtain 15 interviews. And today, I matched to AU-UGA Medical Partnership in Internal Medicine. Something else that helped me match was obtaining a clinical “externship” with Bridgeport Family Medicine. This allowed me to learn to learn and stay close to outpatient patient.

I would like to thank my parents who supported me throughout my journey. Knowing I matched, and seeing how happy my parents were, was one of the happiest days of my life. In life, there is always struggle, but if you persist and never give up, you will have the chance of overcoming that obstacle. Thank you for reading my story. Being almost 30 now, my goal in life now is to “plant seeds” and to teach lessons from my struggles. I am deeply humbled and grateful for all the good and the bad in my life. It made me into the strong person that I am today.

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