Blog | Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Full circle


What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes

1. In 1992, I applied to Emory University School of Medicine. And didn't even get an interview.
2. In 1992, I also applied to Case Western School of Medicine. Got an interview there. But got waitlisted for med school. And never came off the list.
3. In 1992, I started at Meharry Medical College, the school that felt right but that I feared attending because, after Tuskegee University, it would be my second historically black college. I worried it would hurt me in the future. I was wrong.
4. In 1996, I applied to Emory University School of Medicine for Internal Medicine Residency. And didn't even get an interview.
5. In 1996, I applied to several other programs for residency including one of the Case Western affiliates, MetroHealth. I took the interview there only because it coincided with my interview at The Cleveland Clinic. I ended up loving the program at CWRU/MetroHealth. Fortunately, they loved me back.
6. In 2000, I finished my residency at CWRU/MetroHealth and started my chief residency. That same year, I would be selected by the medical students at Case for honorary membership in Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, one of the highest honors any medical student can achieve. At Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. The same school where I was waitlisted in 1992 and never got in. Yup.
7. In 2001, through a connection I made during my chief residency at CWRU, I applied for my dream job at Grady Hospital. Specifically with Emory University School of Medicine. The same place that didn't grant me an interview in 1992 or 1996. This time they not only interviewed me--they chose me.

Guess the third time was the charm.

One year ago today on April 24, 2018, I stood at a podium at the Emory University School of Medicine to deliver the keynote address for the 2018 Spring Banquet for their Alpha Omega Alpha chapter, a jewel in the academic crown for any medical student who achieves this distinction. When I finished I got a standing ovation. By the Emory students. By the Emory faculty attendees. And even by both the big Dean and the Dean of Admissions.

Talk about full circle, man.

And no. This isn't so much about Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. It isn't. It's more about life and how delays aren't always denials.

Nope.

That standing ovation felt good. But now? Here's what I know for sure:

No matter how dope you seem, accolades and collective handclaps from others should never define you, only effort and hustle. Becoming is always better than being. The doors that close on you can and will create new paths that make your life what it is supposed to be.

Thank you, Emory University School of Medicine for rejecting me not once but twice.

Thank you, Meharry Medical College for building me into exactly the doctor I was supposed to be.

Thank you, CWRU for putting me on your wait list, not admitting me to your medical school in 1992 and ultimately allowing me to grow there after medical school as a resident.

But especially thank you, Mr. Langston Hughes, for making me curious way back in third grade of what happens to a dream deferred. Turns out that last line is right:

It explodes.

Kimberly Manning, MD, FACP, FAAP is an associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia where she teaches medical students and residents at Grady Hospital. This post is adapted from Reflections of a Grady Doctor, Dr. Manning’s blog about teaching, learning, caring and growing in medicine and life. It has been adapted and reprinted with permission. Identifying information has been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.