“I faced so many challenges getting into medical school and then so many more once I was there,” says Singh. “The support I received from AUC, NUMC and my family, especially my mother, has made this all possible. I am so thankful.”
When Shridevi Singh decided to pursue medicine, she knew the journey would be difficult but she couldn’t imagine just how tough. Now, weeks away from beginning residency, this single mother and AUC graduate is poised to become a surgeon in her hometown of New York.
Closing One Door and Opening Another
Self-described as “the non-traditional student of non-traditional students,” Singh pursued medicine later in life, after a 4-year career in banking. She started as a bank teller, was promoted to personal banker, and decided to set her sights on investment banking—a path that required a finance degree. So, she enrolled in college and starting fulfilling various science electives.
“I fell in love,” Singh says. “I decided right there and then that if I was going to pursue any field it had to be medicine.”
Singh took courses full-time and conducted scientific research while holding down a job and planning a wedding. Her plate was full but she managed and was well on her way to an undergraduate degree. Then exciting news came. She was pregnant and expecting her first child.
A Medical School Dilemma
After graduation, Singh met with her premed advisor to chart options for medical school. Given her background and gaps in study, they discussed possible difficulties getting into a U.S. institution and weighed the benefits of applying to offshore medical schools.
Singh contacted a research colleague and friend who was enrolled at American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) at the time and asked her for advice. Her friend validated AUC as a strong program and told Singh about the large pool of non-traditional students and graduates.
“The prospect of applying to medical school was exciting but I was definitely worried,” she says. “I wondered if I was doing the right thing—leaving a stable job and a steady life. But it wasn’t a life that made me happy and I knew I needed to press on.”
Joining the AUC Community
For Singh, AUC was it. She applied only to AUC and believed the outcome would be a sign to either pursue medicine or stop the journey altogether. She got the sign and was accepted to begin at AUC in May 2012.
But relief was once again counter-balanced by tough realities. Singh now had a daughter and was going through a divorce. Without the support of a significant other, she had to make the difficult decision to leave her daughter in New York and in the care of her mother.
“The first semester of medical school was really hard,” she recalls. “I missed my daughter a lot, but I got through it by using FaceTime® every day and flying home every other month.”
Each visit renewed Singh’s focus and reminded her that the hard work would lead to a better, happier life for her family. She did well in class, received honors, and made the dean’s list every semester while at AUC. She studied hard and performed well on her USMLE® STEP 1 exam.
Reunited in New York
As her clinical years approached—typically third and fourth years of school—Singh knew she wanted to be back home in New York. She applied for and gained clerkship positions with Nassau University Medical Center (NUMC) in Long Island, NY, which is a long time clinical partner of AUC. She completed all of her clinical science credits there and also developed a keen interest in surgery, a field she calls complete medicine.
“In surgery, I’m not just medically managing a patient. I can physically do something to fix it,” she says. “I can follow patients from the floors, emergency room and clinic to the operating room and then back to the floors/clinic. I’m with them, for the most part through that pathway and that, to me, is the practice of complete medicine.”
The Final Match
During this time, Singh finalized her divorce, gained custody of her daughter and lost her grandfather to Parkinson’s disease. Through it all, she remained focused, honoring her clinical rotations and excelling on her USMLE STEP 2 exam.
All the hard work led to a pivotal email from the U.S. National Resident Matching Program® on March 18, 2016. Singh matched into categorical general surgery at NUMC.
As a female and single mother, Singh is breaking stereotypes left and right. She hopes to inspire others who think a medical career is out of reach, especially women intimidated by the demanding field of surgery.
“My experiences definitely set me apart from my male counterparts,” she says. “As females in medicine, we face many challenges that make it difficult to attain a work-life balance, especially with motherhood. My experience equips me to anticipate these challenges for other females in the field and possibly guide them. It also makes me a more compassionate physician and a more compassionate colleague.”
As Singh looks to start residency training in July, she knows the past few years have prepared her well—mentally, physically and emotionally. Those highs and lows have shaped her into a strong physician who knows no limits.
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Posted April 05, 2016 07:56 AM