MY WORST MOMENT
There are two: During the last block of my first year in med school, when I was told that I would have to file a formal complaint against a student who had sexually harassed me and eventually sexually abused a cadaver in front of me. The dean asked if I had the time and could handle the stress of doing so. If not, there was nothing they could do about it. I was too overwhelmed with school, two kids, an impending divorce and my own health issues to take it on. The next would be the day I was suspended in the last block of my second year for posting on Facebook – without using names – the racist, sexist and predatory things one of my very wealthy male classmates said to me in front of multiple students. I hadn’t bothered to report it because clearly they would do nothing unless I made a formal complaint, and on top of everything else, I was studying for boards. At one point in a post (which was hidden from most of my peers, including him) a physician friend said that nothing would happen if I did report it. I said, “But if I were to punch him in the throat, the way I wanted to, I’d be kicked out the next day.” He and his friends retaliated against me by reporting the post, claiming that I was a danger to students. The post happened more than a month before I was suspended. I’d failed two blocks that year, and was denied the opportunity to retake, as other students had been allowed to do. I was dismissed weeks after my suspension. Both of those men are doctors now.
I recognize that posting what I did was stupid, but I was looking for the support I clearly wasn’t going to get from the school. I certainly never expected that a rhetorical comment could be used against me in that way. Word to the wise – say nothing to anyone, and certainly never on social media.
I HAVE GIVEN UP ON
a 20 year dream of being a physician. I used to be a clinical researcher. Now I’m 51 and I’m still in therapy over what happened. I know for a fact that I will never professionally recover from this, and even if given the chance, I don’t think I could handle working in an academic environment again. I’ve given up on being heard, being believed, pretty much everything I worked so hard for my entire life. I am in a worse situation now that I was when I started working my way out of homelessness. At least then I wasn’t almost $500,000.00 in debt. The other thing I’ve given up on is being trusted and believed again, even by close friends. I think most of them would rather believe that I’m making excuses for failing than believe that they could be at risk of this kind of abuse and institutional betrayal, too. It’s a lot like when I was raped, and friends asked me as kindly as they could if maybe I did something to cause it. So on top of what happened at med school, I’ve also become pretty isolated.
of what will happen as I get older. Because of the (compounding interest) student debt that I will never, ever be able to pay off, unless a miracle happens or I become permanently disabled, I’m pretty sure I won’t be eligible for social security. My husband and I did not get a divorce while I was in med school and have since mended our relationship, but will be forced to divorce before too long to protect his income for our kids, both of whom are on the spectrum. I’m afraid that I will never be able to trust anyone ever again, and that the damage this did to my soul is permanent. I’m afraid for my health, which has been on a swift decline since this happened. I’m afraid for my kids, who have also lost some of their faith in educational institutions. I’m afraid to talk about this for fear of being sued. I’m afraid to make friends with people, because how do you explain something like this to new people? I’m basically always fearful.
THIS HAS COST ME
This has cost me at least 4 million dollars, not only in student loans but also in lost wages, medical bills, therapy bills, and the cost of moving twice with my family. Because of the suspension, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to work with vulnerable populations again.
SOMETHING YOU SHOULD KNOW
I went from being a foster kid and homeless high school dropout to being a college grad at a top university, all to become a physician for other people on the edges of society. I was a mentor and a solid member of my community. I’m basically the poster child for “up by the boot straps.” I suspect that my background in some ways it made the institutional betrayal even worse. Now I’m a stay at home mom who’s trying to make a new identity for herself. In some ways, this has been harder than anything I’ve ever been through.
IS THERE A BRIGHT SIDE?
I found out that I have other talents, like painting and sculpture, and I am getting to spend more time with my kids. I’m crafting my life to be as low stress as it can possibly be, which is novel.
MY FIGHT SONGS
I don’t really have one. I’m not sure I really need one.
MY SECRET WEAPON
My sense of humor, my excellent therapist, and my family’s faith in me. I have receipts for everything.