When my elder step-brother finished his orthopedic residency, he invited me on a trip that would change my life forever. It was meant to be a year-long surfing trip ending with a three-month period of orthopedic volunteer work in Transkei South Africa…but three months into my ‘tour’ which took me to Tahiti, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and finally the Philippines, I came to Japan on October 2nd, 1992. I never left.
While travelling, I seriously considered the possibility of attending medical school overseas, visiting med schools in Manila, and also checking into continuing my education in Tahiti and then going onto medical school in Montpellier, France. (Think I was having fun travelling? I had taken a year leave-of-absence from Kaiser)
Believe it or not, following on with the dream started in SF, I actually attempted to attend medical school in Japan. After living here for 4 years, (now married and studying Japanese feverishly), I took my best shot on the science section of the Japanese ‘Center Shiken’. The closest I came was a slim possibility to enter a medical school in Hokkaido, or a spot in a master’s program in cell biology.
However, six years commuting between Hokkaido and Tokyo (where my wife was enrolled in dental school) seemed totally unrealistic, not to mention that I would be studying entirely in Japanese.
So, finally…I found a degree program which seemed to meet my interests and abilities. I studied four months straight and sat for the entrance exam at the University of Tsukuba, combined MSc./Ph.D. in developmental psychology (five years).
I failed the exam. (I studied one more entire year as a foreign research student, and then passed.)
It took me five years to graduate after successfully publishing in an international journal in the UK, and completing ten ‘publishable studies’. In addition to clinical training as a child psychologist, my research focused on psychological factors within the language immersion program (see details of research, dissertation and articles). Except for my dissertation, my entire course was conducted in Japanese (good grief!).
Following graduation I attempted to set up an English partial immersion program in the University of Tsukuba attached elementary schools. However, only half of the teachers were willing to start the program, so I was essentially out of work.
I spent a year as a corporate business English trainer in government offices such as the Japanese Foreign Ministry, The Japanese Ministry of Transport, The Japan Coast Guard, and The Japanese Air Force, in addition to many famous companies. It was interesting, but extremely disappointing having just received my PhD in developmental psychology, but not licensed to be a counselor in Japan.
To gain experience as a counselor, or clinical psychologist, I spent three years (2002-2005) as a post-doc trainee in the University of Tsukuba, Institute of Disability Sciences, (child & adolescent clinical psychology), while running my own children’s kindergarten and day care center in central Tokyo (2003-2010) (Simon BEAR School). More pics here.
I closed my English kindergarten and day care after seven years teaching an average of 80 children (aged 0-12), six days, 20-25 classes a week. I had an incredible time with the kids, and owning the school allowed me to be with my son every day. When I finally closed up shop, I was very surprised to feel my first academic and vocational passion reemerging within me like a giant warm wave coming over me, that I was unable to escape…
(Insert here, the very sad, and sudden passing of my mum from lymphoma, which prompted me to apply to the UCLA Care Extender Medical Internship program, and then to be certified as a civil service Clinical Psychologist I with the Los Angeles County of Mental Health)
Was I really contemplating another run at medicine at 44? I still had not finished my prerequisite courses, and the courses that I had taken were over 20 years ago!!!
The first thing I did was to download free mini-books on chemistry, physics, biology and calculus to see if I really possessed the passion to begin studying again. I raced through hundreds of pages in weeks, and then I really did know that I (still) had the passion to begin again. But it takes a lot more than great interest and passion in the study of medicine to get into medical school..or to succeed in medicine. (Am I nuts?…yes, but this is nothing new to me, who else would choose to to attend psychology graduate school in Japan and take a medical school entrance exam in Japanese?..)
The obvious choice would be to deny my interests, or to at least be realistic.
Even if I were able to get into medical school, what are my chances that I would even be hired after residency? I have listened to many talk my ear off about why I am wasting my time with so much effort invested in studying, when I would be better off just sticking to what I have already done..what I am qualified to do now. But..my friends, let me tell you one thing I learned through talking with people in their last hours in Kaiser and in many hospices in SF: In their last hours, most people told me they were most grateful for 1) their loved one 2) doing in life what they loved.
Next, I went to the Khan Academy to study up even more on basic math, algebra, trigonometry, and physics before actually finishing off (or re taking) my prerequisites.
In addition, I delved deeply into the wonders of pathology and histology by watching the marvelous videos generously presented by Dr. Minarcik (Medical school pathology
& Shotgun Histology
). To get an idea of what kind of questions are on the USMLE, I looked at many videos presented by Dr. ? of “Study with Substance P
I know this may sound ridiculous, but I have also seen (and studied through Wikipedia) just about every episode of House, M.D., Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs…not to mention a love of Quincy, M.E., and Marcus Welby M.D…and who could leave out Dougie Houser, M.D.!!
I lived with my orthopedic resident step-brother for 4 years, and was extremely envious of his experiences. At Kaiser, I got to work with many residents and attendings and was truly in love with the idea of always working in medicine. Somewhere along the line I got side tracked, and I am not saying that I regret my decision to stay in Japan (my lovely son sits beside me), but my dream continues, and seems to grow stronger.
Some members of my family in the US think I have lost my mind (and I may have..who could blame them)…but as long as I do not worsen my situation, and can actually support my own efforts to do it, I will not give it up. It will take a lot of money, and all of my efforts to do this, but as long as I am loving it, and not causing anyone trouble…well, I think I have made my point.
So…here I am..thanks for reading!