A few of you may know me personally, many of you may not, allow me to give you a little insight. Apart from being an aspiring blogger, I am a medical school graduate. I could argue the point and just call myself a doctor since I do possess a recognized medical degree. However, I lack the experience due to not being given the opportunity to utilize this degree by practicing medicine. This, ladies and gentlemen, brings me to the point of my latest rant.
I graduated from Wenzhou Medical University in the People’s Republic of China around mid-2017. I then immediately started my paperwork to apply for the mandatory medical board examination here in South Africa, my homeland. Passing the written and practical portions of this examination is the only way I will be allowed to register as a doctor with the Health Professional’s Council of South Africa (HPCSA). There were a lot of difficulties in actually getting the paperwork through, but it eventually got done. I studied my butt off and got halfway through the written exam only for it to be canceled due to strikes at the exam venue. A month later I again did the written exam and passed, but then failed in the practical exam by a meager few percent…just a small bump in the road, I would get it next time. I had a second opportunity at the practical portion and got back to studying. I was confident, I took part in study groups with friends where I would help them with problem areas because I believe the best way to consolidate your knowledge is to teach. Alas, when the time came, I was short another few percent.
I cannot explain to you the amount of stress that the mind and body go through when studying for and taking these examinations. It isn’t just the pressures of your own future but also the weight of the expectations of those who supported you and continue to support you, as well as the ever-growing judgment from the society we live in. After I received my second fail mark I did not want to do it again. I did not want to put myself through the stress and difficulties that accompany these examinations, especially since it meant I would have to retake the written examination as well. It was nearing the end of 2018 and I decided to take a few weeks away from the books for my mental health. Thanks to the support of my parents, siblings and Mrs. Pineapple, I was able to build the confidence to pick up a book and start preparing for the next examination. I had done it before I could do it again.
I had put in the hours, all the while balancing my time in the family business and giving time for my family themselves. I left no stone unturned in terms of studying. I restudied everything I had done for the written examination I had previously taken, revised, then re-revised, to the point that I was oozing medical knowledge. When the day dawned it was my time to shine and shine I did. I passed the written exam once more and it was onto preparations for yet another practical exam. You guys know the drill by now…study, study, study…stress, stress, stress. If this were a movie, this would be the point where the protagonist defies all odds and comes out on top, but this is real life and life has a way of kicking you when you are down. I was just short of a pass mark again! Can you believe it? I certainly couldn’t. I could have easily slipped into a state of utter despair but I kept strong and immediately started studying for my second chance at the practical examination.
I would not let this happen to me again. I refused to allow myself to feel unintelligent, to feel like I didn’t work hard enough or I didn’t give up enough to get to where I need to be, to be made to feel like I didn’t deserve it. I decided to take a whole new perspective on studying, maybe try a few new methods and study absolutely everything that could possibly come out in the examination, even if it was not in the scope, just to give myself an edge. I think it paid off.
Before the Coronavirus reached the shores of South Africa, we had been waiting almost 2 months for the results of our examination. With the results of previous examinations being released after only a couple of weeks, we had not been given any reason for such a delay. Today is the first day of the lockdown in South Africa and the wait for results is now close to 3 months. There has always been talk about discrepancies in examination results and unfair practices when it comes to the medical board examinations in South Africa. However, we are left with very few tangible resources and evidence to plead our cases.
It feels futile, it feels like the odds are stacked up against you. All that me, you and anyone else in the same situation can do is study as hard as possible and do the very best that we can so that, at the end of the day, you can tell yourself that you did your very best, you left nothing up to chance and any result at the end of it all that shows otherwise is not a problem with you.
I did not write this piece to prove to anyone how hard I worked, neither is it to make myself feel better. I know how hard I worked, I know my worth. I am writing this for anyone out there who is feeling the same way I have felt…like it’s not worth it, like you can’t do it anymore, like you aren’t good enough. Keep going, pick up that book and keep reading. You know in your heart that you are made for this. Yes, you could fail, but that’s just an opportunity to learn something new, to make you better at what you are working toward. You are going to get through this and it’s going to be worth it, just keep going and give it all you’ve got.
I am also writing this for the families, friends and neighbours of those who are trying to get through medical board examinations…remember that it isn’t easy for us. Talking about studying, waiting for and receiving results is sometimes not as light-hearted a conversations as one might think. We never really know what someone is going through.
Till next time…
Be wild, weird and wonderful.
Let’s spread love and support to everyone in every situation, especially during these trying times. Our doctors and nurses are out there doing the very best that they can to screen and treat those with Covid-19. Let’s do our part as the general public and stay home during the South African lockdown. It’s up to each and every one of us to stop the spread of infection and flatten the curve.