Medical student Megan Ayers has her feet planted firmly on the path to becoming a doctor. She knew it wouldn’t be easy and she knew that the road would be long, but until she dove into her studies, she hadn’t realized just how long.
Bill and Cheryl Ayers raised their two daughters Megan and Laura with the hope of giving them various opportunities to open their own doors and choose their own paths.
After attending Chattanooga Christian Elementary, Megan was homeschooled throughout middle school and high school.
“That sixth grade year was super difficult. It was such a huge transition, but once we got involved in our home school community it was a huge blessing. It turned out to be really wonderful and I loved it,” Megan says.
Her mother had researched and selected the curriculum for her daughters, and had incorporated music, drama and athletics.
“I was super shy when I started, but drama helped so much to bring me out of that. I had small parts at first and then they developed into larger parts as I got older,” she says.
Megan insists that being homeschooled did not inhibit her in any way and that it actually encouraged more diversity.
“I think it helped me be more social. There were several groups of people that I interacted with and they were all very different. There were homeschooled kids when I was part of the youth symphony, but mostly private and public school kids. Through that, I learned to interact with a wide variety of people instead of going to a school where you are with the same people every day.”
Megan took piano and viola lessons and joined a homeschool choir and the “Kings Kids” choir at First Presbyterian Church.
Megan’s father played the trombone, but her mother didn’t have the chance to play an instrument growing up so she wanted her daughters to have every opportunity available to them in seeking what would fit them best.
“Laura and I were in music and we were on sports teams. Neither of us were very athletic and we weren’t really great at it, but we still got to have the experience. We did swimming and tennis and fencing - fencing was fun. They just started a fencing club at UAB, but I haven’t had time to go,” Megan says.
Megan went to the University of Chattanooga majoring in biology. She knew she wanted to be a doctor when she took an anatomy and physiology class in high school and did well.
“I never thought about nursing, I only wanted to be a doctor. The first time I got to shadow, I was a senior in high school and I did it through the Hamilton County Medical Society. They have a week-long program that is an introduction to medicine. You shadow for half of a day and then you have conferences about medicine. It was nice to get a brief picture of what it was all about,” Megan says.
During her sophomore year, Megan attended a program through Erlanger for three weeks which was more in depth and involved observing surgery and pathology. Megan loved it and was never squeamish.
After finishing college at UTC, she is attending her first year of med school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and finding that everything she had heard about it was true.
“It’s crazy! People had told me that it was hard and like drinking water from a fire hose, but I thought, ‘Yeah, okay… I can do this…’ but then when I got into it, that’s when I realized it on a personal level,” Megan says. “It is overwhelming - everyone in my class has already had several breakdowns and I cried during my first week.”
While Megan had attended college, she still lived at home and had the security of having her family around her as she stepped into adulthood. Now she not only faces the demands of ‘drinking from a fire hose’ but she deals with the anxiety and loneliness of being away from home.
“I didn’t know anybody when I came. I am not super outgoing and it is hard for me to make friends. Everyone seemed to have a peer group and it was just a lonely feeling,” Megan admits.
Though free time doesn’t exist in medical school, Megan feels that it is important to break away on occasion.
“You have to make time or otherwise you will go crazy. UAB has a Christian Medical Ministry and they have singles night on Tuesdays. We have music, dinner and Bible study and I go every week - even on test weeks because it helps me to reset and I enjoy that fellowship,” she says.
Megan isn’t quite at the crossroads of having to decide which track to follow in medicine – the diagnosis path or surgery. She has enjoyed the surgical path, but hasn’t shadowed enough in the diagnosis track to know which path she will decide.
“The hardest part is the sheer volume of it all and not having any time,” Megan says.
She had applied for a program in the Navy that would pay for all four years of medical school and give a stipend. Megan will train for five weeks next summer in Officer Development School in order to learn what is needed to serve for the four years in the Navy which she has committed.
“I am kind of nervous about it,” Megan admits. “I am trying to get in shape before I go. I don’t like working out and I have to make myself. It doesn’t sound like it will be too physically intense, though. You run five to seven miles a week and basically sit in a classroom most of the day.”
After Megan finishes med school, she will need to serve the four years in the Navy as well as complete her residency.
“I am excited to possibly travel and I am excited to serve my country and give back. That is one of my biggest goals in life – to give back and serve. After that, I would probably like to work in a hospital. I would also like to do mission trips. I went on a trip to Yakima when I was in sixth grade but more recently, I went to Peru and, at the time I went I wasn’t trained to do anything, which was frustrating. I kept thinking, ‘Oh, if only I was a med student or a doctor, I could do so much more.’ I would love to go back as a doctor and be able to make a difference,” Megan insists.
Megan doesn’t try to guess the future or to plan too far ahead - she just takes one day at a time with her focus on her end goal of becoming a doctor.
“It is just something that I have to do. I will be 30 before I start my residency and 34 by the time I finish. I would love to have a family, but that will depend on meeting somebody. I have never had a boyfriend so God is going to have to knock me over the head and say, ‘Hey, there’s one right there’,” Megan jokes. “I just focus on the day-to-day because I can’t focus on what is far out there. That gets too overwhelming.”
Though many medical students have their moments of reconsidering their career, Megan continues to stay head strong.
“In those dark moments when I am alone studying in my room until one o’clock in the morning and I think, ‘I am tired …and I don’t want to do this anymore’,” Megan says in an exasperated breath, “then I follow it through with the conclusion, ‘What if I packed my bags and went home?’ Sure it would be easier, but no… God doesn’t call us to an easy life. When I follow this through I know it will be worth it in the end. Sometimes, I wonder if I had known how long the road was going to be would I have still done it. But then I know I would because there is nothing else that I can imagine myself doing.”
Megan had listened to her peers and instructors give her advice and explain to her what she was in for when she chose to attend medical school, but until she began going through it, Megan hadn’t quite understood the veracity of their statement.
When asked what advice she would give another student with dreams of becoming a doctor, Megan draws from her passion deep within and says, “It’s going to be hard, but if it is something that you know you have to do - then DO it. No one can stop you.”
As Megan thinks about the stepping stones placed before her, she gets a little misty-eyed when she shares why she feels that she has to follow through.
“God wants me to… I know this. He has given me the skillset to do it and has put circumstances in my way to direct my path and He has provided the way. It has been so clear in the classes that I took, the people I’ve met and the things that I did. Even the schools that I went to – it's just all been there,” Megan vows.
“I can’t imagine doing it alone or making my own path in the world and wondering if I made the right decision,” she says. “When I look back on it - it was the only decision.”