This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Cara Ghabrielle…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Cara Ghabrielle: I’m from Nassau – the smallest of the islands that make up the Bahamas. I studied Biology at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas and following my graduation I completed a year of intense clinical courses to obtain my second undergraduate degree in Clinical Laboratory Science at Andrews University, Berrien Springs Michigan.
Accepted: Can you share 3 interesting facts about yourself?
Cara Ghabrielle: 3 interesting facts – I’m not sure if the following can be categorized as interesting but here are 3 facts:
1. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Biology I had applied to U.S. medical schools without having sat the MCAT.
2. Before starting my CLS degree months after graduation, I received two phone interviews from medical schools that had rejected my application, and received a conditional acceptance.
3. I conducted a presentation to first year medical students at Mayo Medical School on Professional Attire months after being hired as a Laboratory Technologist.
Accepted: Where are you in med school? What year?
Cara Ghabrielle: I currently study medicine at The University of the West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. I am currently in my third year of medical school.
Accepted: Why did you choose this program? How was it the best fit for you?
Cara Ghabrielle: Choosing a medical school was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in my life; but three things assisted with making the process easier. When I considered a program that would be the best fit for me, I took into consideration the following:
1. The Location. Throughout the Caribbean the University of the West Indies (UWI) is known for producing competent and skilled physicians. Growing up in the Bahamas, most doctors I knew and the majority I shadowed were graduates of one of the campuses of the UWI, so it was always at the back of my mind when I began seriously weighing my options for medical schools that would be feasible to pursue my medical degree.
2. The Cost. Besides location of a medical school, the cost was also a vital factor. After studying and working in the United States I knew the MCAT was a mandatory pre-requisite for admissions into any American-based or affiliated medical school and it is not a cheap examination, especially after factoring in a preparatory course. I also considered the fact that I would have to pay ‘out of state’ tuition as I am a non-U.S. resident and with some medical school tuitions starting at $17,000/semester, it would have been difficult to finance my education.
3. The Opportunity for Growth. Personal and community development are important to me and I believe that a medical school should have an environment that would foster and encourage both, however, it is up to the individual to utilize the resources available to allow this growth to occur.
Overall, it has been the best fit for me in that it has allowed me to remain in the Caribbean without hindering my opportunity for future endeavors worldwide.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your experience at the Mayo Clinic? How did that fuel your desire to head to med school? What other experiences shaped this dream for you?
Cara Ghabrielle: Gladly! The time I was employed at the Mayo Clinic was one of the pivotal points in the development of my character and solidified my work ethic, passion for medicine and my views on patient care and advocacy. It truly is a different world there.
Before working at the Mayo Clinic, I never really knew a lot about them, and to be honest, when I was looking for employment post-graduation my top three hospitals were Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic and Duke University’s Laboratories. I always wanted to go to medical school and my plan was to follow the traditional route (of Pre-Med, MCAT, Med School), however things did not work out that way, and honestly, I am glad they did not.
I detested Immunohematology during my studies at Andrews University; the theory just did not make sense to me and funnily enough, even after stating this in the interview at Mayo Clinic, I was offered a spot in their Transfusion Medicine Laboratory in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology. Believe it or not, I loved it! I performed Crossmatches, antibody screening and other routine blood banking testing and got the opportunity to lead certain groups within the laboratory that led to the implementation of practices that would reduce the turnaround time for patients needing a massive blood transfusion who also had clinically significant antibodies. Because of this I was able to perform research and present my abstract and poster at the American Association of Blood Bankers.
As Mayo encourages development, I was able to transfer to the Endocrine Laboratory. I was actually at work when I received notification that I was accepted to the UWI’s medical schools both in Jamaica as well as Trinidad and Tobago.
While working at the Mayo Clinic, I liaised with Transfusion Medicine residents from all over the world and graduates of the UWI. I was encouraged not only by them to pursue my dreams, but the environment that incorporated their model of care, inclusive of clinical practice, research and education.
Accepted: Looking back at the med school admissions process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How did you overcome it? How would you advise others who may be faced with a similar challenge?
Cara Ghabrielle: Looking back at the process, my greatest challenge was myself. As previously stated, I knew the MCAT was a requirement for medical school admissions, however, I allowed my fear and dread of the examination to hinder my application process; which I faced and overcame during my first year of employment at the Mayo Clinic, when I found myself in the company and friendship of other young professionals following the same dream. We developed a strong support system where we offered each other encouragement, advice, and comfort.
To anyone who may have a fear of the MCAT or the doubt that they may not be good enough, take the moment to ask yourself:
• Do you want to be a great doctor?
• What is stopping you?
• Are you willing to work hard for it?
And then get to work.
Jeremiah 29: 11 is one of my favorite verses; it states “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” At the end of the day, I realized that if I wanted to be a great doctor, I was the only one standing in my way preventing it from happening and not anyone else.
Accepted: Tell us about your blog! Who is your target audience? How have you learned or benefited from the blogging experience?
Cara Ghabrielle: The Night Owl Chronicles was started during my second year of medical school. Initially it was created for friends and family to follow my medical school journey and to stay connected.
As the UWI, St. Augustine Campus has three medical faculties that comprise of the Medical, Veterinary and Dental Schools; it was designed to target these three medical disciplines as a means of connecting us all.
Blogging has allowed me to share my experiences and that of my classmates with anyone who may stumble upon my blog. I have learnt a whole lot in patience, as it can get discouraging when no one leaves a comment on a post I thought would excite a mass following or discussion; nonetheless, it has granted me the opportunity of connecting with my peers and also other medical students worldwide who can relate to my experience in one way or another and are willing to contribute to my blog and to your blog to be featured. For which I am truly grateful.
You can follow Cara Ghabrielle’s med school adventure by checking out her blog, The Night Owl Chronicles. Thank you Cara Ghabrielle for sharing your story with us!
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