My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style. –Maya Angelou

On May 2nd, 2016 “the organizers came to collect the nervous interviewees from the lobby” for a quick rundown of the day’s schedule and then one by one, were led to their respective interviews that would decide their medical career. The applicant, as she still was, had done her research about the school and the folks at McGill reciprocated the kind interest. As is customary of applicants, she had applied elsewhere and they, certainly, had other scheduled interviews. But she was at her dream medical school and somehow, it had special meaning that carried with it some pressure.

Before she was granted the medical school interview, they had her whole academic barcode at their mercy. On the day of the interview, they paid close attention to every word, her critical thinking and interpersonal skills. While the goal of the interview is to personalize the application process, each school seeks a good match—one who would further extend the school’s impressive pedigree. So they had pored over her application and scrutinized her credentials. They analyzed her essay like a Sherlock Holmes searching for clues as to her motivation. They also read and reread her stellar letters of reference and paid close attention to volunteer work, if any, in the community.

Finally, it was decided that hers had enough merit and thus, joined the thinning pile of applications to be granted an interview and perhaps, more scrutinizing. The process was agonizing but after countless trips to the mailbox –however the commitees’ news is delivered these days–she struggled to control her emotions. She could honor her late father, a former surgeon, just as her accomplished older brother and mentor—himself, an actor and aspiring pediatric neurosurgeon.

All year long she readied for this very moment. As the excitement built to a crescendo, her supportive husband and adorable children (“cheering squad”) made the stress of mock interviews seem less so; still, pertinent questions were well rehearsed. But this was then and on May 2nd she sat across experienced physicians or PhDs who were leaders in their fields—their recommendation to the Dean carried that much weight. This thought, while enlightening, did nothing to mollify the butterflies she was starting to have. But she remained “calm and at peace”–displaying a certain equanimity under duress befitting every doctor.

Why medicine?” came the first loaded question after the initial congratulatory handshake for making it this far in the application process. Malaika Awori contemplated her answer—one she had reviewed exhaustively, one that all medical school applicants had rehearsed. From this group alone are stellar individuals like the amazing and cute physician couple: Doctors Jaysson and Brittany Brooks, the very charming and (talentedErica Cao (MS-3), and the friendly, confident Dr. Girard Cua . Each, truly exemplary and down to earth individuals–role model, even, for our sons and daughters.

On interview day, it is said that over preparation could be more of a liability than an asset. Passion and motivation could fade somewhere in the rehearsed response if it lacked coherence—a strategic blunder. According to interviewing experts, responses should be short and to the point—less is best. But, there was so much to tell beyond the personal statement that nevertheless must be reduced to a few sentences, to a simple but unique and powerful reply.

The pleasant formalities transitioned nicely into the “multiple-mini-interviews” (MMI) where her interviewers were ready to infer subtle details of the “potential doctor.” Like great clinicians they listened intently to the Kenyan-born aspiring doctor; much as they had many times before. Becoming an medical school applicant might have been delayed (in earnest) for many reasons, but to paraphrase an American saying: circumstances can interrupt a career in medicine, but they can’t dissuade her genuine enthusiasm for medicine. The competition that day was stiff and she would be waitlisted (if only briefly), but it seems an acceptance was never in doubt for the likable and talented Malaika!

With one mission accomplished, a huge weight is lifted. The prayers were plentiful and her support group had coalesced around her as it often did. More than a village, sometimes the web via a blog, can do wonders for extra motivation. She had given her best shot; if not now then, when?

Now a new chapter begins. The outpouring of support, the coronation from one stellar surgeon to her “lil sib” in medicine, and jubilation encapsulate what had been, at times, a heartwrenching journey. Through it all, her deep faith in God helped calm the waters, which was always followed by a phrophetic reassurance: “You are destined to be a great physician!”

“One thing remains”, let us join the future doctor  in an impromptu chorus in one of her favorite songs:

Your love never fails

It never gives up

It never runs out on me

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