Residency application

On Being Crushed, Pruned, and Humbled

I was crushed.

I sobbed like something had died in me,

like THIS might be the end.

I felt BROKEN.

I had been feeling on top of the world for the past few months:

  • I had honored my first 2 rotations of 4th year thus far
  • Just last month, I found out my Step 2 CK score increased 27 points from my Step 1 score
  • My letter writers had informed me they were uploading glowing letters of recommendations for my residency application

I felt like I was finally approaching harvest season, that all my hard work was FINALLY starting to pay off.

Then this happened.

This was the biggest blow, the biggest CRUSHING I could receive.

Up until that week, I had NEVER, I repeat, NEVER failed a medical school exam.

Yet, here I was, thrown the biggest curve ball.

I didn’t just fail any medical school exam, I failed the United States Medical Licensing exam (USMLE).

And no, not Step 1 or Step 2 CK, both incredibly hard 8 – 9 hour exams that test your basic science and clinical knowledge, respectively. No, the exam I failed was USMLE Step 2 clinical skills. An exam that was reportedly so easy and had a 95% pass rate on first attempt, that there was a petition for it to be eliminated. An exam that a friend called a “glorified English exam” to “make sure you can speak English, and have good bedside manners.” An exam that cost me over $1700 ($1290 exam fee + travel) and here I was staring at a “FAIL”. And not just that, but the fear of my future career, my dreams, and everything I had worked so hard for, possibly going down the drain…


I had been waiting for my result for a while. It typically takes 6-8 weeks, and it was exactly 9 weeks on that day – late. I wondered if something had gone wrong with reporting, if this was a bad sign to not have received the email by now, so naturally, I was obsessively checking my emails. That morning, I was heading to the gym when my husband, Ric came home from a overnight call shift. We were both working out when I got the email alert – excited I went to the website, heart pounding.

I clicked “score report”, and my jaw dropped.

I had failed. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I got off my machine in utter shock, I began repeating “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh” over and over again as I walked over to Ric. He could see from my facial expression that something was wrong, yet I couldn’t find the words to say it. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh” I kept repeating as I thrust the phone into his hands.

This CAN’T be happening, oh my gosh, oh my gosh. I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!

He gave me a hug as we rushed out of the gym.

Y’all I sobbed SO HARD in that car. Through the blurry eyes, I dialed my mom. Yet, I couldn’t utter the words. “What is it Derin? What happened???” My mom kept repeating, but all I could do was cry until Ric took the phone and explained what happened.

To me, this result was unexpected. I had prepared for the exam – practicing clinical scenarios with a classmate, practicing my note writing on the website interface, doing my school’s practice session…I had prepared. And on the day of my exam, despite the rough start due to a random rain storm, and no power at the test site initially, everything had gone well. Or so I thought. I left feeling, Yes, I had conquered this! Last licensing exam of med school “DONE!”

So yes, this was a curve ball.

To make this even worse, since my result was out, every single residency program I would be applying to would see that score. I was submitting my application in 2 weeks!




I had several conversations with God. This couldn’t be the end. There HAD to be a reason for this. Yes, I have a blog called “Curveballs and Med School,” maybe this was an experience I needed to have, maybe this was a curve ball meant to inspire others. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to hide in shame, but rather tell of this test turned testimony. THERE HAD TO BE A TESTIMONY. Maybe, just maybe, this experience was supposed to humble me. Perhaps, I was feeling like I, Derin, have GOT THIS. Perhaps, I needed to remember that I needed God all the way, that all this was not my doing, but God.

That people will know THIS can only be God.

THIS, my success at the end of it all, can only be God.

Having this revelation, I posted this quote on Instagram the following day:

Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. OWN IT.” – Oprah Winfrey

And I got to work. Studying and preparing for my retake. For the next few months, I read through the entire First Aid Step 2 CS book. I prayed. I fasted. I simulated the testing environment at home, using Ric as my standardized patient, and then I retook the exam. 

I was waiting at the airport to board the flight back home when I came across Bishop T.D. Jakes book “Crushing: God Turns Pressure to Power” at a book store. I had just finished the 8 hour exam earlier and was feeling crushed in that moment. I had no idea if I had passed. Shoot, the first time I took the exam, I felt good and THOUGHT I had passed, but yet failed! The book captured my attention. It was timely, perhaps a sign from God, just what I needed at that moment. So I bought it.

I found inspiration in its pages.

  • “Even in the moments of your greatest anguish, you often find unexpected blessings alongside and commingled with your losses.”
  • “There is purpose to your stumbling.”
  • “God’s pruning, those events He allows us to endure even though they cause us pain and discomfort are never intended as punishment…God allows such pruning just as a loving father disciplined a child so that the child will mature and reach her full potential.”
  • “Without the crushing, there would be no crowning.”
  • “Your crushing is not the end, it is only the beginning.”

The book was a blessing during those weeks of waiting, praying, and hoping. And you know what?

[Drum roll!!!] I passed the second time around. Yep, I sure did.

I hope this post encourages someone. Your crushing is NOT the end. I passed, and this is my testimony. Hallelujah!

For the Lord God helps me,

Therefore, I am not disgraced;

Therefore, I have set my face like flint,

And I know I will not be ashamed.

Isaiah 50:7



“Keep Your Head to the Sky”

The day is here. It’s September 5th, which means ERAS (the electronic residency application system) is now open for students to submit and certify their applications. Although applications aren’t released to programs until September 15th, applicants can choose to submit early and avoid the potential traffic or website delay that may occur on the 15th.

In the midst of all this, ya girl (hey, it me!) is on her knees, praying, and trying to stay optimistic. Curve balls, oh curve balls. I know that’s the name of this blog, but sheeshh, I still get surprised when one comes my way like hol’ up, you forreal? Right now? Anyhoo, here is some optimism for others out there (and me!), who maybe are stressed about what the residency interview cycle may hold, nervous for whatever reason, or *trying* not to flip out because something didn’t go your way…

Keep your head to the sky

Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness

“Keep, keep on
Never say die
When in the midst of sorrow
You can’ t see up when looking down
A brighter day tomorrow will bring
You hear the voice of reason
Telling you this can’t never be done
No matter how hard reality seems
Just hold on to your dreams
Don’t give up and don’t give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic
If things around you crumble
No, you don’t have to stumble and fall
Keep pushing on and don’t you look back
I know of storms and strive
I been around them all of life 
Just think ahead and you’ll be inspired
To reach higher and higher.
You’ll always do your best
If you learn to never say never
You maybe down, but you’re not out.
Don’t give up and don’t give in
Although it seems you never win
You will always pass the test
As long as you keep your head to the sky
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky (you can win child!)
You can win as long as you keep your head to the sky
Be optimistic
Don’t you let no body stop you
Be optimistic
You can win, yes
Never say die.”

“Shine Already, It’s Time Already”

Hellooooo, anybody there?! If you’re reading this, I commend you. It has been over a year (wow!) since I’ve blogged on here. Yikes. So many updates, but I’ll start with the biggest one:

I am in my FINAL year of medical school.

Wow! Legit. Final. 4th year. Best year. As in I’m bout to be DONE in a few months. Scratch that, I am about to be someone’s DOCTOR, a full MD in 261 days. Maaaaaaan, that is wild.

If you’ve been following my blog since 2014 when I stopped being anonymous, or even 2013, when I started it, you know how huge this is. This journey has been looooong. Filled with so many curve balls, lots of triumphs, and obstacles, but I’m here. We’re here. Almost at the finish line…

Mama I made it!!!


Right now I’m in the middle of my residency application season. Which leads me to my other big update: the specialty I’m going into.

I’ve pondered for years what specialty I would end up in. I even wrote a blog post about it back in 2014. I started medical school being open minded, but quickly found myself gravitating towards procedural based specialties. I shadowed in different surgical specialties during my first two years – ophthalmology, general surgery, urology, obgyn, orthopedic surgery…I mean I was trying to get as much exposure as possible (see my blog post here). But ultimately I didn’t find the best specialty for me until third year. And even more interesting, it was one I never would have thought – funny how life works uh? So not to delay any further, the specialty I’m going into is….

Drum roll….


And I am so pumped about it. I found a specialty that fits me – my interests, skills, personality, AND has the most awesome people in it. Forreal. I plan on writing a blog post on how I decided on anesthesia, because y’all that was definitely a curve ball I didn’t see coming. But I’m glad things worked out how they did, and I got exposed to this field, fell in love, and well, now the rest is history.

I mean present. I still have to submit my ERAS application (electronic residency application service). This process is just like applying for medical school all over again. Similarly, it’s writing a personal statement, having those letters of recommendations, filling in the application with my work and research experiences, you know the whole shebang. Except now there’s more at stake.

I need a J-O-B.

This will be my first “doctor job” and where I’ll spend the next 4 years training as an anesthesiologist. I hope to blog the whole process similar to my medical school application journey, so please comment, interact and hold me to it. This season I’m in is exciting, truly. I am expectant, ready for this next phase in my life, ready to reap the harvest and fruits of my labor; I mean I am just READY.

In the words of Beyoncé, “It’s time already, shine already.” When I first heard this song, the first thing that came to mind was this medical school journey and getting ready to apply to residency, interview at places, and MATCH at my dream program. It’s time already, and shine I must!

Till next time folks!