Why medical school?
Quite simply, because you must first learn in order to teach.
Just before my ten-year high school reunion I felt a bit listless. Six years in U.S. Army Intelligence as an Arabic linguist and computer specialist had not been what I had always imagined they would be. Intelligence and the world of espionage consist of long hours of tedium interrupted by short bouts of panic. Although I have very few interesting stories to share, it is unfortunately necessary that I not share them at all. Suffice it to say, Army Intelligence wasn't what I was after.
Leaving the military I made a halfhearted attempt at getting my undergraduate degree, but I was still adrift and had no idea what to study. I took a stab at a communications degree at the Metropolitan State College of Denver, but my heart wasn't in it. Instead I was swept up into the Dot-Com boom, and I was suddenly working sixty to eighty hour weeks designing web front-ends for distributed training applications. (People who used Dell's "Educate-U" software from about 2000-2002 may have seen some of my handiwork.) When the bubble burst, I moved on, still drifting listlessly through a half-lived life.
I was living in Alabama when I got out of computers. My company laid me off so that they could hire someone else for $20,000 a year less (desperate programmers were the bitterest fruit of the Dot-Com aftermath) but they gave me a nice severance and I wasn't very upset. During the process of looking for a new job I realized that I had hated my old one. I despised the constant criticisms, their ignorance of the field -- I was disgusted by the industry and disillusioned completely. It was time to move on.
After briefly considering law school, I ruled it out. No one who knew me well could see someone with my personality as a lawyer, but everyone who knew me could definitely see me as a teacher. I love to learn, and I am really good at sharing my knowledge with others. I'm bright, inquisitive, cheerful and sociable. Even my twin sister -- already a teacher herself -- agreed that I would make an outstanding educator of young minds.
It was with this in mind -- the plan to finally return to college and finish my degree to become a teacher -- that I went to my ten-year reunion. Since I was living in Alabama, and the reunion was in Illinois, I stayed the night at my older brother's apartment in Indianapolis the day before the reunion.
What a great thing that ended up being for my family.
While I was there I discussed my plans with my brother. He agreed that I would make an excellent teacher, but he worried, what would I do with students who didn't want to learn? How would I handle public school kids who had no interest in gaining knowledge themselves, but plenty of interest in disrupting other kids' educations? I didn't have an answer for him, but he had one for me: he said that I should teach students who really, really want to learn.
Why not be a medical school professor?
The cost of medical school wasn't an issue, because MD/PhD students get free tuition. My abilities and intelligence were not in question, because I'm (almost) as smart as he is and he was already doing it (his MD/PhD). The only question was, would I sacrifice and study and perservere long enough (more than a DECADE) in order to teach the best and brightest, most ambitious and hardworking students in the nation (or even in the world)? The answer was, and still is, HECK YEAH!
It's been a few years, and I can't even begin to compare the quality of the experiences I've had to any other part of my life. I've learned so much, and yet I've learned there is so much more to learn. I've had the chance to actually help write a laboratory manual for freshman biology students, and this summer I'll be working in a hospital. Next fall I'll be doing research -- real, meaningful, active research -- in a biomedical research laboratory. Assuming my MCAT comes out okay I'll be a med student in a year and a PhD student two years after that. Best of all, I will be the second medical student in our family but not the last -- my twin sister has decided to quit her job as a junior high school teacher and become a doctor, too!
I believe in Wikipedia and in Wikibooks, and I'm glad to contribute to projects here. Long before I was a contributor I was a user, and I'm glad to do so because it helps me practice the vital skill of explaining complicated things in an understandable way. I'm also glad that what I write down will be available for others to use for their own edification, because I see Wikibooks as a great way for me to pass on what I've learned -- as little as that has been up to this point -- to whomever needs it whenever they need it (provided they have an Internet connection).
If my story or anything I've written in Wikibooks or Wikipedia has helped you in any way, I'd like to say thank you for letting me be a (very, very, very small) part of your education and your life.
Cheers! ~ Justin
(BTW, If you are wondering if I'm the same person as username:JustinJohnson -- yes, I am, but I had account issues...)
UPDATE: The MCAT came out just fine! Instead of a hospital, I'm volunteering in a clinic, and instead of waiting for fall to do real research I've started this summer. It's a lot of fun and even kind of exciting, though I'll bet not everyone would feel that way. Happy third birthday, Wikibooks!