Diva Do-Over: How Failing Med School Became My Biggest Success

By Marteney Jacobs

Imagine putting everything – blood, sweat, and tears (literally, lots of tears) – into three years of medical school just to find out that your career is over; you’ll never be a doctor and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Welcome to my life.

I loved being a medical student. So much so that I wanted to document my journey along the way, and began sharing my experiences and excitement online. I developed a large presence on @MissMedDiva. So, when the dream came to a halt, it was all the more public, visible and crushing.

I got through the first two years of med school with a solid B average and took the Level 1, the end all exam of the basic sciences in med school. It’s high stakes; students only get three attempts and passing is a must to continue. Shortly after beginning my family medicine clinical rotation, I learned I had failed the big exam. I was pulled out of the clinical experience to focus solely on passing. I retook it and went back to clinical learning before finding out a few weeks later that it had happened AGAIN.

With fear and anxiety building, I was sent to a prep course twelve hours away for eight weeks, specifically designed to help struggling medical students, only to try and fail a third time. Before that third try, the dean told me I wouldn’t pass based on my numbers. I let it get to me – I believed it – and it came true. I watched my classmates move on while I was left behind. This nightmare from hell became my new reality.

Then came the letter from the school I had been dreading. Obviously, I knew what was inside, but it hurt to open it; I had been dismissed for failing my boards. I cried for several days, never left the couch, slept a lot, lost all hope, contemplated how I even got to this point and questioned everything about myself: my intelligence, self-worth, value as a human being, and what I could possibly do going forward. When the dream is shattered, it’s hard to see how to put the pieces back together. I had never imagined I would be in this situation, feeling so defeated, lost and helpless.

One day I awoke with the random urge to pack my bags, move my entire life and get away from where I had been the most miserable. Growth is painful. Change is too. But nothing is as painful as staying somewhere you don’t belong. My family thought I was running from my problems – and maybe I was – but looking back I can tell you it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Leaving most of my family behind, I surveyed the scene and found Austin, Texas calling my name. I moved with less than $1,000 to my name. I did so with no job or plans. The struggle to find work, a career and purpose was real. I didn’t even know where to begin searching for answers, but I began nonetheless. “What are my talents?

Job-search sites were new and confusing as I had always been a student. I put my application everywhere that made sense, and even some places it didn’t: the FBI, government health departments, pharmaceutical and medical device sales, office and research assistants… the list goes on. I used every search engine, applied for more jobs than I could count, and was desperate. Surely, I had some knowledge and skills for being basically ¾ of a doctor, right?

I thought that experience would count for something, but every one of my applications went unanswered. “You don’t have the sales experience necessary for this position, sorry but this position has been closed for months now, you need to have a master’s degree etc.” As the frustrations built, I shut down my social channels, too ashamed and depressed to let others in as I dealt with the chaos. Yet even as I was pulling the plug, one of those connections made an introduction for me that changed everything.

When I was introduced to Dustyn and Jamie, the founders of OnlineMedEd, they flipped the script. The conversation was immediately different; what others viewed as shortcomings they saw as real assets:

  • I knew what it was like to be a med student
  • I understood and generated a large social media following
  • I was motivated like none other to learn and find my purpose

They helped me realize that I could differentiate myself and contribute in a way few others in the world could. After all, most people who go to med school end up with the same title: doctor. This is a lesson applicable to everyone reading; you must believe in yourself and your potential. You have so much to offer! There’s an opportunity out there for everyone – one that you are perfectly designed for and which you can truly excel.

Which brings me to today. Here I am, living exactly where I’ve wanted for what seems like my entire life. I have an opportunity as a marketing associate with one of the most widely known medical education companies in the world. Honestly, I’ve never been happier and I’m doing something I’m good at and truly enjoy.

Months back when I was looking in the mirror and asking myself who am I supposed to be, I didn’t know. But now I realize the question was completely wrong – I am just who I am – and OnlineMedEd is giving me a different avenue to realize it. I’m still involved in medicine and get to work with our users on the things that matter beyond medical knowledge: human interaction, dealing with stress, and the importance of self-worth.

I’ll be writing content for their blog, engaging audience across social channels (@OnlineMedEd on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) and helping expand the OME mission wherever I can. What I love about OnlineMedEd is that it’s constantly growing its base as it tries to touch every medical student in the world. Here, students aren’t the customers; they’re the purpose. I could talk non-stop about the wonderful things that are happening here and how much they give back. Really, I just want to say how much it meant when the founders reached out to me and saw my value and potential at a time where I didn’t even see it in myself. For that, I am eternally grateful.

The experience of failing and leaving medical school is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, but I’ll say it again: everything happens for a reason. When I was a little girl my mother always pushed me in math and science, and it was drilled into my head that I needed to become a physician to be successful and fulfilled in life.  While I’m thankful for the direction and guidance, that’s where the line blurred between what was truly my dream vs others’ dreams for me. Now I’m chasing what I really want, no longer worrying that I might spend my life only wishing I had.

When you think you’re experiencing failure small and large, know that it could actually be the start of something great. It may not be apparent, but keep those tired, tearful eyes open because you’ll see it one day. I promise. If you are faltering along the way – failing exams, searching for answers, losing hope, and no longer believing in yourself, well, I hope this blog post finds you.

If you’ve failed out of med, nursing, PA, dental, or pharmacy school or are on the brink and think this is the end, remember that your self-worth isn’t defined by those abbreviations at the end of your last name.

Pick yourself up and dust yourself off, because your comeback will be far greater than your setback.


Marteney Jacobs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advancing Women

Advancing Women