|Year of Entry: 1994
||Age at Entry: 15
||Hometown: Lakeland, Tennessee
The Chosen Path
The path we chose was not straight, and it certainly was not the simplest or well-marked. However, I imagine that like me others found it to be the most "natural" or "logical" path. It is rare to have an opportunity to consider something like the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG), much less be a part of it and grow through it.
I was bored, unsatisfied and uninspired in school at the time. I found solace in spending time with friends and family. I was involved in as many extracurricular activities as possible. This was not enough though. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped; blissfully my parents gave me their blessing. What followed was the most exciting and immediately fulfilling part of my "childhood" and "growing years."
It was a tremendous challenge socially to be away from my close friends and peers and finding myself among girls who seemed much more deserving and much more intelligent than me. Yet, I found myself in a peacefully challenging academic environment. I was stimulated, respected, and provided for. This saved me. I came to know myself in ways that I don’t think would have happened otherwise.
In isolation from the most important shapers (friends/family/home life), I was given the potter’s wheel on which I was to form myself. What a blessing and a challenge. I formed lifelong friendships and was allowed to "geek out" on topics like literature, genetics, and history. In fact, among my peers, this was encouraged. Our imaginations were limitless. Thus began my winding (not meandering) path towards medicine. At Mary Baldwin College, I kindled my developing respect and love for all things biologic. I also kindled my love for people and communication.
In order to channel and nurture this love, I felt the need to transfer to the University of Virginia. This was another great academic and social challenge. No longer did I have the nurturing, supportive, and understanding environment of PEG. As a 15 year old second year, I found myself surrounded by students in a completely different social state. The transition was difficult, but the building blocks provided to me from the late night talks in the PEG dorm hallways, the support of my counselors, and my loving new roommates all helped me flourish.
When this challenge was completed and I graduated from UVA in 1998, I prepared for the next stage. I chose medicine or medicine chose me. I attended East Tennessee State University for medical school and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for surgical residency. Throughout the process, my life at PEG has followed me. I remember lessons learned at a young age regarding work ethic, goals, ambition and opportunity. I am not one to be afraid of progress. This is a gift from the 15-year-old me.
With my studies finally complete, I find myself coming full circle. I have been able to keep in touch with the ladies from my PEG floor. I have kept up through others to find that I am probably one of the last to "finish school," though the student in us likely never dies.
I finally find myself starting my career as a general surgeon. I have been practicing in Abingdon, Virginia now for one and one-half years. I love my job, and I love my life. My history, my path, and my education are a few of the things for which I am most grateful. I would not be the independent thinker that I am today had it not been for my experiences at PEG.
I recently reconnected with a Peg peer from my class in DC. The understanding and mutual respect was immediate and comfortable. Though over 10 years had passed, there was very little distance. I imagine this would be the experience if many of us were to get back together.
The drive and move towards progress seems to be a current that has carried us all in parallel. The PEG identity is undeniable in all of us and is a special bond that we can share among each other and with both current and future PEG students. It truly is something about which to be proud.