On talking to and listening to strangers.

Background.    Sometimes one can make a difference in a person’s life just by listening attentively, and responding in a caring and honest manner, even if the person is a stranger whom you will probably never see again.  Four years ago, I had a conversation with a young woman who sat next to me on a plane ride to Boston.  The following is a note I received yesterday from the woman.   (I thanked her very much for the kind note.  She gave me permission to post it.)


Dr. Orlin,

I sat next to you on a flight to Boston in January 2005.  During our flight we discussed my confusion about my career path and life path in general.  I expressed my discontent as a psychology major and you told me I needed to stop blowing off important life decisions and really figure out what would make me happy. You suggested I look into nursing despite my huge fear and dislike of science.  I did just that and sent you an email a month later to thank you for your guidance and willingness to listen to a stranger.  So much has happened since that follow up email and none of it would have happened, if it weren’t for that flight.

After deciding to face my fear of science, I took your suggestion and looked into nursing school.  Each program I found had so many science prerequisites that it would take a few semesters to catch up.  I almost gave up until a friend told me about post-baccalaureate premedical programs for medical school.  Perhaps I could find one for nursing, she said.  I looked and looked and could find nothing specifically for nursing.  But, through this research, I saw that many of the nursing school prerequisites were the same as medical school. Medical school?  That is something I had certainly never thought about.  Nursing was barely an option but medical school?  No way. However, the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that I could really do anything I wanted.  If I could be a nurse, I could surely be a doctor.  So after I graduated in 2007, I enrolled in a post-baccalaureate premedical program and began a torturous program of all eight science prereqs, each with a 3 hour lab, in one year.  This would have been unfathomable just a couple years earlier.  However, I pulled through it (even organic chemistry) and came out with a science GPA of 3.88.

So that brings me to the present.  Tomorrow is my interview for my number one medical school.  Tomorrow is the culmination of four years of self discovery and hard work.  I know that you had no small part in this, as my application essay started with a vignette about that fateful plane ride and how a stranger helped me find my way.  Thank you for that.


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