A woman with a backpack on contemplates two paths in front of her.


Before medical school, the biggest decisions are deciding if you want to go to medical school, where to apply, and then hopefully, you get into more than one school and decide which one you want to go to. From there, the path is pretty set.

There are a few really big decisions we have to make in medical school. Now, most of the time, we really do not have any say. Our schedules are made for us and decided years in advance, and we have pretty strict requirements we have to meet with little flexibility.

But, every once in a while, we get to make a decision, so they can be pretty big deals.

Decisions that changed my future

For the first 2 years, my only decisions were if I wanted to attend lectures in person or watch from home. It was not too hard of a decision, but I chose to go in person because I felt I focused better that way. Then, it was deciding which 2 electives I would get in the third year and in what order – not as big of a decision given the fact most scheduling things run on a lottery system.

But, the 2 electives I chose have drastically changed my future. I would have never known much about the field of medicine I’m choosing to pursue without those electives. For others, those electives helped them narrow down between options they were already considering.

I get to decide what next year looks like

This past weekend, I got to decide my schedule for the fourth year – the last year of medical school. And I mean truly decide every part of it within meeting certain requirements to graduate. And yeah, it was still a little based on the luck of the draw, a lottery, and timing – but I got to pick what I want next year to look like.

All of next year, I will get to do most of the things I have enjoyed most this year. With lots of vacation time built in too! And then, this time next year, I will find out – via another lottery system – if I matched and, if so, where. The match is the system that basically decides if you get a job, or residency, after medical school and where so – it’s a pretty big deal.

Sickle cell as the foundation for life-changing decisions

All this to say, the same goes for me having sickle cell and everything I have done since my diagnosis. Having sickle cell and how I was treated for having the disease while being a Black woman in America is the foundation for so many major decisions I have made. It is my motivation to even decide to pursue medicine, for every volunteer and research opportunity I signed up for, and for my career decisions.

Would I be on this path if I did not have sickle cell?

I do not think of sickle cell as limiting my life in any way, though sometimes it does quite literally limit what I can do – like working out or being sick. But I cannot help but wonder if I would be on this path at all without having sickle cell. Would I know or care any more about sickle cell than the average person does? I am not sure.

I cannot imagine devoting my life to anything else, but maybe I never would have if I did not live with sickle cell. It was not my decision to have this disease, but I would not wish it away because it has set me on the amazing journey that is my life. I wonder what life-changing decision I will make or be handed next.

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