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During my freshman year, I was seriously ill with what was eventually diagnosed as mononucleosis. Extreme fatigue, swollen glands, and such secondary problems as persistent colds and sore throats were among the symptoms from which I suffered. Because the mononucleosis was not correctly diagnosed and proper treatment begun until the second half of the school year, I went through many months of feeling terrible. The consequences for my academic performance were devastating; I earned the poorest grades of my life during the prolonged period of my illness. The only up side to this episode was that I suddenly realized, much more than most teenagers ever do, that good health is a very precious commodity and one that can never be taken for granted. In addition, I gained a very deep appreciation of the role physicians can play in improving their patients’ lives.
With this in mind, and considering my long-demonstrated proficiency in the sciences, it is probably not surprising that the following school year I decided to follow a premed curriculum, with biology as my major. I found myself taking the most difficult, challenging courses I had ever faced, but I also found myself more exhilarated and excited about my studies than ever before. I enjoyed the entire premed environment, including not only the learning and intellectual stimulation but also the competitiveness that is such a big part of it. I have always considered myself a problem solver, and the premed curriculum provided me with a plenitude of opportunities for defining and solving a wide variety of problems.
When I completed my undergraduate work, I chose a somewhat unconventional course for someone intent on becoming a doctor. Rather than heading straight for medical school, I did something entirely different. After taking a physics course that I had not been able to work into my schedule previously, I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for five months to attempt to become an expert skier. Always an above-average skier, it was my goal to become a great skier. I knew that once I entered medical school and, later, the medical profession, I would never have the time to realize this objective. So I took a part-time job in Jackson Hole (first as a resort cashier, then as manager of a concession stand) to support myself while I took lessons and skied furiously in the pursuit of excellence. The results that I achieved were outstanding and were a great boost to my self-confidence, especially since Jackson Hole offers some of the biggest challenges in skiing. The time I spent in Wyoming was very beneficial for me in other ways as well because it gave me a chance to immerse myself in a totally different environment and reassess my professional objectives. I came away from Jackson Hole not only feeling refreshed and recharged, but also with a renewed sense of enthusiasm about my plans to attend medical school and become a doctor.