“People don’t rise from nothing,” Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book Outliers. “They are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world … It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn’t.”
Last post, I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger as I recounted some of the “hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities” that allowed me to become “the doctor of the future.” I explained how the fact that women were not encouraged to become doctors in the 60s led to my pre-med education in alternative health in California.
Six years later, back in the Great White North of Nova Scotia, who should I run into at the Dean of Medicine’s office… but the counselor who told me my best hope was to become “the nurse of the future.”
“What are you doing here?” she said.
“I’m applying for medical school,” I replied. “Like I should have done seven years ago.”
“Well,” she said, “I’m on the acceptance committee — I’ll see what I can do.”
My Father Almost Fainted…
I remember when I told my father I had been accepted into medical school. He had no idea what I was up to. And neither did I have any idea what he had been up to…
It was only then he told me that he had actually been on the rolls to enter Harvard Medical School to become a doctor in 1935. His father’s lead poisoning, however, forced the family to move to Newfoundland so granddad could “sweat it out.”
This ties into what Gladwell says about family influence… My father was VERY encouraging of me. In a way he saw the fulfillment of his desire to become a doctor through me.
Dad wasn’t harsh, but he did push for perfection. If I came home with a mark of 98%, he’d ask, “What about the other 2%?” Not in a negative way, but in a “don’t be satisfied with anything less than 100% sort of way.”
(My medical inclinations were further enforced by my mother being a nurse, as well as my father’s mother being both a nurse and homeopath.)
How I Kept Up with Natural Medicine
During Medical School
Despite the stress and extreme hours of medical school I kept up my study of alternative health. It was a good decade to do so. Pharmaceutical companies hadn’t bought out magazines like Prevention. Information was easily accessible. Something that disappeared until the dawn of the internet.
For my elective I was able to take acupuncture. And being the only one interested in the subject, I was the only student on site at a local acupuncture clinic. During the morning, in school, I’d learn about incurable diseases, in the afternoon I’d go see the Chinese acupuncturist cure them.
That led to me hounding Dr. David Bresler (who I discovered through Prevention magazine) by telephone to let me come down and observe. He was running the first acupuncture clinic to be associated with a hospital at UCLA.
He refused me five times.
Finally, by the fifth call, I discovered we shared the same birthday. “It’s a sign!” I told him. “You got to accept me.” And he did. I spent my fourth year elective at his clinic (plus, used all my vacation time).
So, I’d like to think all the above has helped me qualify as a bit of a natural health outlier. As Malcolm writes, “When outliers become outliers it is not just because of their own efforts. It’s because of the contributions of lots of different people and lots of different circumstances — and that means that we, as a society, have more control about who succeeds — and how many of us succeed — than we think. That’s an amazingly hopeful and uplifting idea” (www.gladwell.com/outliers).
Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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