Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where we come from

I spent most of middle school and high school dreaming about attending an Ivy League school.

Of the onslaught of college recruiting material that arrived during the early fall of my senior year, the most treasured and poured over where pamphlets from Harvard, Yale, Brown, and Stanford. (Okay, I know Stanford isn't technically Ivy League. But's Stanford.)

I kept those particular recruiting packets long after I accepted my full-ride scholarship to the local state university.

I graduated Summa Cum Laude from my local state university, with the highest GPA earned by a female in the college of science. And I dreamed of attending medical school at UCSF, Mayo, or John Hopkins.

I applied to one medical school, and enthusiastically accepted a spot at a state medical school.

I worked hard during medical school and graduated with honors and Alpha Omega Alpha (or AOA, the national medical school honor society.) I had spent all of medical school picturing myself attending residency at Stanford (yep, there it is again), Wake Forest, Vanderbilt, Mass General, or Mayo.

And then I matched into my top choice at a state program in the Midwest.

The decisions I made, compared to the ones I dreamed about, were made after weighing what was best for our family. There were times that I felt deeply disappointed. I had worked so hard, and had the ability to attend undergraduate, medical school, or residency at some of the biggest, most prestigious schools and programs in the country. But, for the good of my family (and ultimately even for the good of myself) I chose to attend less well known, more affordable state schools.

I wonder...does it really matter?

I attended public high school. I did not attend a rigourous, private, college prep school. But I still managed to get a full ride scholarship to a respected school. A state school, yes, but a good one.

I attended a state medical school. Many of my classmates had done their undergraduate at Stanford, MIT, Cal Tech, Yale, and Princeton. Those classmates had attended prestigious private programs while I had attended a state school. (And yes, I have on multiple occasions seen people say "state school" with a air of disgust or as a joke of mediocroty.) And yet, we had arrived at the same place in our lives.

I attended a state medical school, and now I attend residency along side individuals who trained at Brown, Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, and UCSF. They did go to the prestigious programs. And yet, here we are, at the same point in our lives.

I never attended any of the places that filled my academic dreams as a teenager. And yet, here I am, the initials MD behind my name.

Does it really matter where we come from?

I don't want to belittle the experience of attending an Ivy League university. The culture and surrounding probably run deep and inspire.

But in the end, does it really matter?

Because in the end, where we go depends more on who we are then where we come from.


  1. I had a similar conversation recently with someone who attempted to belittle anyone who attended "community college." (Like it's a disease or something.) Yes, there are some colleges that really are better than others and there are programs at some schools than at others, but in the end, we're going to get where we're going no matter which road we take.

  2. WHO we are is at the root of where we come from as well as where we are going. I agree with Karen. Its back to the old cliche: do clothes make the man? No, but the man will make the clothes reflect who HE IS.
    How you practice medicine or motherhood will be a reflection of the fine person you are. If there are people without honnor. They will not practice honest medicine because of a good training program.

  3. i think that's awesome.

    i went to a state school too.

    it's not about that, it's about your own personal motivation. good for you. =)

  4. What an insightful post! Thank you.

    I went to a super-fancy, individualized, very expensive private high school (not really by choice, more dictated by where we lived), and attended a fancy, steeped-in-tradition New England undergrad institution on a full scholarship. I excelled at both schools, but I never liked it. The pressure to perform, to excel, to be the best at something was ALWAYS on and it made me miserable. I'm a bit of a tinkering, meandering, semi-introverted, book-loving nerd, and I don't feel the need to compare myself to others. When others compare themselves to me or try to outdo me I get stressed out. VERY. STRESSED. OUT.

    I'm in grad school in the basic sciences at a state medical school now, and I like it a lot. No one comes in with the attitude that they're better than everyone else, and it's rare to see people one-upping each other. I chose this school based on location, size, cost of living in the area and my gut feeling. I did apply to the big, fancy, prestigious places, but I chose NOT to go, because I can't stand the air of entitlement and snobbiness that seems to prevail at those places.