First-Year Med Student Shares Story of Applying to Med School While Being a Patient

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jamie Lawrence is a member of the College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2020 and is the 2017 Ann and Robert Volz Scholarship recipient.

A Eugene, Oregon, native, Jamie graduated from Stanford University in 2013. Since then, she has spent a winter teaching kids how to snow ski and traveled abroad to South Africa to work in global health. In the future, she sees herself working in some area of pediatrics, but for now she is still exploring her options.

On February 13, 2017, Jamie gave the following speech at the Founding & Early Faculty Appreciation Dinner, sharing her journey to medical school and the positive impact the Volzes’ generosity has had on her.

As the daughter of a truck driver and a manicurist, I didn’t think I would become the first person in my family to attend college, let alone medical school. With hard work and perseverance I graduated from Stanford as a first generation college student. At Stanford I never really had an “ah-hah” moment that made me decide medicine is right for me. Ultimately, I think I decided to pursue a career in medicine because I am fascinated by the science, and I feel most fulfilled when caring for others, especially when they are ill.

Rather ironically, I was navigating the healthcare system as a patient while concurrently applying to medical school to become a doctor and treat patients like myself. When I first noticed that my knee was bothering me I blamed the pain on an old rugby injury and convinced myself it was nothing to worry about. Eventually the pain prevented me from running, which was devastating. I need to run. It is how I cope with stress and life’s little bumps in the road. Feeling frustrated and confused, I got an MRI.

At this point I was annoyed I couldn’t run, but the thought of cancer never crossed my mind. Why would it? I was a very healthy 24 year old with no history of bone cancer in my family. Little did I know that my life was about to get flipped upside down. My MRI results came back abnormal, showing a tumor in my right distal femur. Immediately my head started to spin and I felt equally overwhelmed and terrified.

I had the tumor removed from my femur on September 4th, 2015. Eight days later, barely off of pain medication and still stumbling around on crutches, I interviewed here for medical school. Looking back, it was a rather comical day. My fiancé helped wrap my knee to keep it safe, and he duct-taped my shoe on because it kept falling off due to my inability to move my foot. I was pouring sweat because I was nervous and hobbling around on crutches in a suit in 100 degree weather. Somehow the interviewers picked up on my strong desire to become a physician, allowing me to stand up here today, over halfway done with my first year of medical school.

I never would have asked for this roller coaster, but my experience with Chondrosarcoma has had a big impact shaping who I am today. People who get the carpet ripped out from under them desperately need the guidance and compassion of someone who deeply understands their pain. I cannot wait to be that person. I am more motivated than ever to pursue medical education and provide care to people just like myself.

I feel fortunate to be on the provider’s side of things now, but I am often reminded of what it feels like to be in the patient’s shoes. I am all too familiar with the never-ending battles with insurance and the careful dance required to squeeze in appointments into an already overbooked schedule. My goal is to become a physician who treats patients to the best of my ability, and to be empathic and understating of the often overlooked aspects of a patient’s life.

I’m not exactly sure what type of medicine I will end up practicing. But I do know that I want to be integrated into the community in which I practice, and to be present for both my patients and family.

It’s hard to put into words just how much the Ann and Robert Volz scholarship means to me. The financial burden of medical school, compounded with my own medical bills, is daunting. The amount of gratitude that I have for Dr. and Ann Volz is overwhelming. They have enabled me to spend more time focusing on my studies and less time worrying about how on earth I’m going to pay for medical school. This scholarship has lifted an enormous weight off of my shoulders, allowing me to delve deep into the medical school curriculum and to be more involved in the community. I am inspired to work hard each and every day to honor the generous gift that I have received. I hope that one day I am in a position that I can also give back to this medical school and provide financial support to students just like myself, and my classmates.

The sense of community and support that I have experienced here at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson is unrivaled. Professors challenge me every day, classmates commiserate and share resources with me, and my societies mentor teaches me the true art of the physical exam. This school is pushing me to reach my goals and fulfill my potential to become the best physician, and person, that I can be.

I am humbled by my past and excited to be a part of the class of 2020 alongside an incredible cohort of curious-minded, loving, wickedly smart, and empathetic future physicians. Thank you.