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Osteopathic Medicine

Understanding What It Means to Be a Physician

Anna Abbott, Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, class of 2023, talks about how overcoming a hardship in her first year of medical school helped her understand the patient experience and made her want to become a better doctor.

Anna Abbott

Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Class of 2023

What are some unique experiences you went through getting to and through D.O. school?

My medical school journey took a circuitous route. I did not get in right after college nor in my first application cycle, which caused a great deal of disappointment. However, what I failed to realize at the time is that life rarely goes as planned. 

Rather than wallow in the disappointment, I recharted my course and got my masters instead. During that program, I had the opportunity to do fascinating research in the breast cancer field, giving me a greater understanding of the time and work that goes into the biomedical research on which we as physicians rely. The answers were not always simple and clear but rather had to be studied by those who devoted their lives to advancing our knowledge. 

Despite taking three application cycles to gain acceptance, I knew from the moment I stepped on LUCOM’s campus that it was where I was meant to be.

What is some notable work you did or hardships you went through during D.O. school?

My medical school journey has been amazing, terrifying, eye-opening, and anything but typical. Spring semester of my first year, on only the second day of class, my medical education took a sharp detour. A five-second accident changed everything. 

While changing a scalpel blade, I cut two extensor tendons in my right hand. After reparative surgery, I returned to school the following week. I learned very quickly how difficult it is to train as an osteopathic physician with only one usable hand, and ultimately decided to take a year off to recover and return the following spring. 

At the time, I was devastated. My plan had been derailed. As the months passed, I realized taking the time off was the best decision I could have made for myself and my future patients. In that year, I had three more surgeries to correct the tendon damage and months of rehabilitative occupational therapy. In the same year, I also developed viral encephalitis, spent a week in the hospital, and two weeks with a tunnel catheter for IV antivirals. 

It was not my best year, but it was not all horrible. For the first time since I started college, I felt that I was getting the opportunity to experience life outside of school. I travelled — a lot. I saw the Sydney opera house, the crystal-clear Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand, and wild buffalo in Yellowstone, and I heard the Berlin philharmonic play Mozart’s Magic Flute. I was also given the opportunity to spend time with my family and help plan my sister’s wedding. 

Furthermore, I was reminded why I love science by tutoring students who were diving into its exciting depths for the first time. Of all these experiences, one of the most important lessons I took away was a true understanding of patients’ experience: the fear, anger, hopelessness, joy, and pride. 

When I returned to school, I think I knew truly for the first time what it meant to be a physician. I understood why we work hard every day to be the best we possibly can be. All of these hardships made me appreciate the opportunity to study medicine so much more.

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