Ashley Zboril, first-semester AUC student and recent recipient of the First Generation MD Award

When first-semester American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) student Ashley Zboril was growing up, her mom always told her “can’t never could.” Though Ashley didn’t understand the importance of those words at the time, she does now. Because that phrase was one of the prime motivators she needed to apply to medical school.

Her mom, Ashley writes in her First Generation MD Award essay, worked two jobs while attending school—one as a nurse, spending long nights caring for others— while still a teenager to keep food on the table for her and her daughter. “Putting others before herself is something she has done her entire life,” writes Ashley.

Through all of that, her mother never said “I can’t.” It ended up shaping who Ashley wanted to be—the El Campo, TX native embraced not just her mom’s personal determination, but the value of giving back to those in need.

“My mother has been the ultimate role model in my pursuit of medicine, and I hope to someday be half of the provider that she had been for me,” writes Ashley, the first in her family to earn a bachelor's degree (she graduated from Texas A&M University). “I am proud that she believes that all of the hard work she put into raising me alone, until I was adopted at age six by my stepfather —when she herself could have said I can’t—will be worth it the day I’m awarded my doctorate.”

She Gave Up One Career to Become a Doctor

Pursuing a career in medicine was so important to Ashley that she gave up the sport of rodeo. She's been involved with rodeo since she was three years old, and it was one of the hardest decisions she's ever had to make.

Ashley reserved equal praise for her stepfather, who she says helped her understand the importance of trust and responsibility. Her stepfather, a rancher, showed her that you have to work to earn your own success, that integrity and humility should color every action you take, and the importance of personal responsibility in one’s chosen profession.

Thanks to her stepfather, from age three until her second year in college, Ashley was very active in the sport of rodeo, which reinforced the importance of responsibility and hard work. Giving up her rodeo career in college was the first step towards dedicating herself to a career in medicine, and was one of the hardest decisions she was forced to make in life.

“When you have to give up something you have done your entire life and basically have invested not only infinite time and finances, but also blood, sweat, and tears—it’s very hard to walk away from,” Ashley says. “That’s how important pursuing a career in medicine was to me, and still is today.” 

What She Hopes to Accomplish as a Physician

“Knowing how to take charge and be a responsible leader within my profession is not only going to benefit me as a physician, but my patients as well,” Ashley writes. “Taking the many lessons I have learned throughout the years—be it the determination and compassion my mother has shown me or the reliability and integrity I see in my stepfather—and sharing them with the many patients I will serve means a great deal to me.”

Ashley and her mom, whose advice helped inspire Ashley to keep pursuing her dream to become a physician.

Ashley emphasizes that making her family proud—and upholding their values—is only one part of what she aims to accomplish by earning her Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. Her hometown of El Campo, she says, is fairly small and rural, and many who live there stay in the agricultural industry, hesitating to head down other career paths. By earning her MD, Ashley believes, she can encourage others to “venture outside of their comfort zones” and try something beyond what society might expect from them.

“While the journey may seem intimidating, letting young people know that simply saying I can’t and throwing their hands up in defeat is not an option if you are looking to make a difference in the world,” Ashley writes. “In wholeheartedly pursuing my goal of becoming a first-generation physician, I hope to give my gratitude to those who came before me and to give an example to those who will follow me.”

Ashley had been told by many not to apply to medical school. She realizes, now, how important her mother’s “can’t never could” adage was. She wouldn’t be in St. Maarten today, studying medicine, if she’d just given up, if she’d said “I can’t.” Because, as it turned out, she could. And she did.

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Posted April 01, 2016 12:34 PM

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