How much money does it take?
Finished with my first year of medical school, I sat on my flight back home and contemplated on the circumstances that led to my acceptance into medical school and the changes I experienced during this academically rigorous and humbling year. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a medical student. I am thankful because I have slowly learned that my journey here was largely impacted by my circumstances, experiences, and relationships — not just my academic knowledge and test-taking skills.
I was originally born in Romania and immigrated to the United States with my parents. My father worked as a dishwasher and my mother was a front desk receptionist. Although my family did not have much, my parents did their best to support my ambitions, including my pursuit of a career in medicine. I have met others with a similar level of passion for pursuing a medical career. However, many of them have gone in different directions for a multitude of reasons, with the most critical reason — I think — having to do with their financial circumstances. Expenses can seem endless (MCAT prep costs, application fees, interview travel costs), especially for those who live paycheck-to-paycheck and for parents who do not have the resources to support their children in such career dreams. I sometimes wonder how these individuals with limited financial means are able to pursue the same ambitions and become doctors. My thinking is that they are more willing to serve and can better relate to populations who need our help the most — although this is coming from a very idealistic, soon-to-be second year medical student.
A large majority of my classmates come from affluent backgrounds. The students who are considered minorities (in terms of ethnicity and race) also come from affluent backgrounds. Universities, medical schools, and other high-level graduate institutions attempt to enrich their student population by admitting students of different races and ethnicities. Economic diversity seems to be overlooked. Medical school is expensive and having financial resources can help a student succeed. However, I think there is significant value in learning from, and understanding, the perspective of a student with an economically disadvantaged background. I am not trying to take credit away from those students with financial resources as they too have significant perspectives — getting into medical school is not an easy task. My classmates are some of the hardest working people I have met, and they certainly do not take this opportunity for granted. We all have had a unique path of getting here, but I cannot help but think about those students who got here with limited financial resources. What can we do to help them? Is there a way to even the playing field? Is this a futile notion, like the other competitive opportunities in this world that are unlocked by dollar signs?
Alexandru Bucura is a soon-to-be 2nd year medical student who attends Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, IA. He enjoys playing sports, photography, and of course, writing.