Coast to Coast, a Road Uniquely Traveled
I’d like to extend a big mahalo to Angela for allowing me to share my journey and to be a part of this empowering initiative!
Hi, my name is Ashlynn-Joy! I’m currently a 3rd year Osteopathic medical student. As I look back on my journey to medicine thus far, I feel as if one book sums it up,
“Oh, the places you’ll go!”
– Dr. Seuss
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
Having a military father, I was fortunate to have had grown up in a diverse collection of cities. My family hopped around from Illinois to Virginia before taking a cross-country move to San Diego, California. I then completed my undergrad in Biology at University of Hawaii at Manoa on the island of O’ahu. While in Hawaii, I was involved in a variety of clubs and had the opportunity to serve on a medical mission in Costa Rica.
“I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that bang-ups and hang-ups can happen to you.”
I applied to medical schools, both MD and DO, while completing my final year of undergrad. To my dismay, I did not receive any interview invites. Since I wanted to make the most of my next gap years, I moved home to San Diego where there were more opportunities for both a job and clinical experience. I worked as a Research Assistant with a biotech company while simultaneously holding two clinical volunteer positions – Pathmaker Intern with Palomar Health and Hospital Volunteer with Scripps.
“With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky.”
After two years of delving into everything science and clinical, I decided that my application needed something else – something that illustrated my commitment to furthering my education. I applied to two Post-bacc/Master’s programs; one in Northern California and one in Pennsylvania. I was accepted into both, putting me at a crossroads. Do I choose to stay in California because I’ll be closer to family and friends? Or do I pack up everything and venture to a place that I know nothing about? Although I didn’t want to leave California, I ultimately chose the latter, purely based on the program’s benefits. On the road to medicine, there will be plenty of times that you will have to make decisions that scare you, put you at risk of danger, or force you to make sacrifices. And you will have to make those decisions to the best of your ability.
One short year later, I completed the Post-bacc program and was accepted into medical school. Fast-forward two years, I completed the didactic portion of medical school and the painstakingly drawn out process of taking Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 during the COVID era. With 3rd year on the horizon, COVID had another unexpected impact on the trajectory of my medical journey. I originally planned to complete my rotations in New York with my boyfriend (and fellow classmate). However, with both my parents working in healthcare, and me being an only-child, I felt the responsibility to be physically near to them during the pandemic. Although I knew my school’s strict rules were probably going to prevent me from switching rotation sites, I asked anyways. And to my pleasant surprise, they said yes – I get to return home to San Diego! My advice for these situations is – always advocate for yourself, sometimes you’re the only person that will do it.
“Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.”
So here I was, tasked with the daunting mission of moving my entire life back across the country. My parents had planned to fly to the East Coast to help drive me cross-country, but I didn’t want them flying and increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19. So, what did I do? I did it myself. During those 4 days of driving, I watched the skyscrapers turn into barns, and concrete turn into farms, and parking lots turn into rolling hills. During those 4 days of driving, I did a lot of self-reflection. I realized that I would do ANYTHING for the ones I love. And I would do ANYTHING to reach my goals.
“On you will go, though the weather be foul. On you will go, though your enemies prowl. So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact, and remember that life’s a great balancing act!”
For anybody reading this, I hope it has inspired you to not only believe in yourself and your capabilities, but also to be more welcoming to changes in your journey. A plan is always a great blueprint to have, but realize that your journey to medicine, and even beyond medical school, may change – and that’s okay. Accept new challenges as they come and rise to the occasion.
I’d like to dedicate this to my parents who have relentlessly supported me on my journey through medicine.