Turning Adversity into Success – A Student’s Journey to Medical School

Growing up everyone can remember playing make believe, we found any inanimate object we had and created a world around it. Once I turned my backyard into an olympic stadium. The trees became people, and the grass became the track on which

I would run an amazing race. With each rustle of the wind, I heard the cheers of the audience getting louder, humbled by their applause I took the opportunity to bow, expressing my gratitude to those who came to see me in action. In that make belief moment reality disappeared, and I felt that I could become anything I wanted to be, all I had to do was to see it in my imagination. At times my toy soldiers became doctors, and my dog became the king of a great people. The world existed for me to create anything I desired. No one knew the limits of my imagination, not even me. How often can you recall having done the same thing? What were some of the dreams you had and the places you created? I bet they were awesome!

As we get older we are taught that our dreams are fairytales and that we need to focus on reality if we hope to make it in life. Many of us accept that rationale and eventually abandon our dreams. My backyard over the years became just that, a backyard.  The trees were no longer people, they were mere trees. My running track was grass again, and the only time I went in the yard was to rake the leaves. My dreams subsided as I got older, and I began to believe that life had already been written for me, and all I had to do was to live via the script that I was handed. People doubted what I could accomplish, and in turn, I doubted myself. Self doubt is a reality that I think each of us confront at some point in our lives, and even if we don’t, we have on occasions, met people who doubted our abilities to succeed.

Allow me the privilege to interject here a story about a young man by the name of Timothy Carder, it will be a story about hope, dreams and the dissenting voices that said he couldn’t achieve the desires of his heart.  Timothy Carder grew up in Bogata, Texas with his parents and fraternal twin sister, Tina. Growing up they never had the luxury to dream unabated. Their parent’s economic condition made many opportunities in life seem dismal. Regardless, they each had a desire to do the best they could in their academic careers. By his senior year in high school Timothy envisioned being a doctor, and hoped to gain affordable access to a quality tertiary institution. His sister on the other hand had a profound love for animals and hoped to one day become a veterinarian. Needless to say, had they believed in the reality of their situation their dreams would have seemed far fetched. Regardless, they found it within themselves to hope for a tomorrow that would demonstrate that anything was attainable with hard work.

Timothy Carder and his sister Tina Carder.

Despite their commitment to success, there were those that doubted their resolve. In junior high Timothy vividly remembers having been confronted by his then principal who told him and his sister that they would amount to nothing in life. To this day Timothy is unsure what prompted the harsh words from the principal. The most he remembered was that he remained unfazed by the dissenting statement. Fortunately, Timothy gained admission to a university which was minimal in cost and he began his college journey in 2003. In that same year his sister gained admission to a college of her choice. Within a matter of years you had two people who were told they would amount to nothing, entering the hallways of academia as first generation college students.

I was fortunate enough to meet Timothy in his freshman year of college.  Throughout his undergraduate career, Timothy became involved with a number of student organizations, and secured a position as a resident assistant (RA). His on-campus involvement and commitment to his academic pursuits led to him being placed on the Dean’s and President lists consistently. Each year Timothy worked with medical school in mind. Everything he did was in preparation for the medical career he foresaw himself having. His dream never wavered. Each summer Timothy received the opportunity to participate in summer medical programs that served as preparation for ones entry into medical school. As his senior year approached, Timothy spent time preparing for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), a standardized test given to students in order to assess their readiness for medical school . In addition to preparing for the MCAT, Timothy was busy driving hundreds of miles every other weekend to attend medical school interviews at various colleges across the state of Texas. I often wondered how he balanced his busy academic schedule while commuting to some interviews which were at times, over 150 miles away.

Timothy Carder and me at his graduation ceremony from Texas A&M University-Commerce in 2009.


Access Denied

Toward the end of his senior year, Timothy received news that he did not perform as well as he would have liked on his MCAT examinations. A bit disappointed, and at the same time frustrated, Timothy decided that he would not give up on his dreams. He made the decision to proceed with the completion of a Master of Science degree in Biology as he prepared to retake the MCAT examination. It would be a year of ups and downs. Throughout the duration of the program, Timothy had to deal with various dilemmas within his family and constantly worried about financing the remainder of his educational career. No amount of planning would have prepared Timothy to again receive news that his score was not competitive enough for admission to some of the top medical schools in the state. By now, anyone else would have given up; not Timothy.


Following his receipt of a Master of Science in Biology, Timothy enrolled at the University of North Texas Health Science Center where he pursued a major in Medical Sciences, and took specialized courses to prepare him to retake the MCAT. The duration of the program was one year, and Timothy ensured that he stayed committed to his studies. To do so, Timothy had to forgo many things, including the time he got to spend with family and friends. In addition, the cost required to pursue his studies continued to increase, and he relied heavily on loans to fund his program and take care of everyday expenses. His study habits changed, sleep became a rare gift that could only be utilized infrequently. Our frequent phone conversations ceased, every waking hour was spent on an academic adventure. Timothy knew that to get a hold of his dreams, he had to do what was necessary and appropriate.

Access Granted

As a testament to his hard work, Timothy gained admission into a medical program in the Fall of 2010. Today he is enrolled in his fourth year of the medical program at Texas A&M University and is slated to graduate in May of 2015. Looking back, a road that once seemed impossible has been made a reality. Success was achieved after months of hard work and dedication, and the willingness to never give up in the face of adversity. Indeed there are additional bridges which he must cross before being board certified, but he is closer to his dream today, than he was 5 years ago. Timothy’s story is one of inspiration. His story demonstrates that perseverance is key. No matter what anyone tells you, good or bad, your destiny is in your hands. You can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Your strength is in the belief you have in your own abilities.


Timothy and Me at homecoming celebrations at Texas A&M University-Commerce in October 2014.
Timothy and his sister Dr. Tina Carder in October 2014.
Timothy and his sister Dr. Tina Carder in October 2014.


I saw Timothy recently and was impressed to see him in his white coat as he prepared to head to his clinical rotation at McClane Children’s Hospital in Temple, Texas. His desire is to specialize in pediatrics which he hopes to commence in his residency program by June of 2015. Coincidentally his sister graduated with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2012 and currently works as an associate veterinarian in Houston, Texas. The Carder duo never gave up. Together they tackled stereotypes and misplaced ideas about their future. Their journey indicates that dreams still come true with hard work and determination. No matter where you from, regardless of your situation, never let anyone diminish your dreams. Your dreams are attainable with hard work. Don’t give up.

© Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dimitri Lyon and dimitrilyon.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s