Jan 8, 2020

Dr. Chan: What motivates a track and field star to pursue a career in medicine? How does a series of health setbacks, while living in the Philippines, strengthen your sense of identity and goals? What's it like to trail blaze your own path to medical school while blocking out discouraging voices? Why should you always shoot your shot even when the odds aren't looking your favorite during the application cycle?

Today, on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life" I interview Siale, a first-year medical student here at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

Announcer: Helping you prepare for one of the most rewarding careers in the world, this is "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life," with your host, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Chan.

Dr. Chan: Well, welcome to another edition of "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life." I've got a great guest today, Siale. Am I saying your name right?

Siale: Yeah, Siale.

Dr. Chan: Okay. All right. So, Siale, current first-year med student, about four or five months in. How's it going so far?

Siale: It's good. It's a roller coaster, I guess. It comes in waves where everything feels really good and then there are those moments you're like, "Why did I do this to myself?" or trying to remember like, "Why am I here? Why am I putting myself through all this stress?" But it's really just been like a dream and an opportunity to be here and do something that you feel like, "Oh, I'm supposed to be here."

Dr. Chan: Yeah, I think it's hard for people because, you know, people have an image of what med school looks like, but not until you actually are in med school . . . it's like, "Oh, okay. Now you're living the dream," as it were.

What's been the biggest surprise so far?

Siale: This is kind of random, but just how cool my classmates . . . like just how nice they are, because the pre-med world is a really kind of ugly, competitive world. So then you get to med school and you're like, "Wow, everyone is actually really nice and really helpful." And I think I was really intimidated coming into med school, but I actually feel a little like my classmates are awesome and they want to help me.

Dr. Chan: Perfect. All right. Let's jump into the Dr. Chan time machine. Let's go back in time. So, Siale, how old were you when you started thinking about medical school? How did that dream, that idea first enter?

Siale: Yeah. So my background, my mother is a home health hospice nurse. And so, when I was elementary school age after dance practice or Saturdays, my mom would take me to go with her to visit her patients, especially those who didn't have a lot of family nearby. She would take me over and visit.

And so seeing my mother as a nurse and seeing the connection she had with people, helping people heal, from a young age I was like, "I want to go into medicine." I didn't know exactly what that looked like, but looking back down my road, like my path, I felt like it's always kind of pointed to medical. And being a doctor is the way that I felt like I could fulfill a deeper purpose of what I wanted to do with my life and stuff.

Dr. Chan: So it sounds like it wasn't one aha moment. It was like a series of moments over time.

Siale: Yeah, lots of series of moments. Yeah, I grew up . . . my mom is a nurse. My dad is a contractor. He works construction work. And he's from the island, so I've seen kind of what it's like to live in the medical world, what it's like to not live in the medical world. And saw lots of things with my dad's family that I was like, "Okay, there's a big need for help here."

And while serving an LDS mission, I had some experiences with getting sick. And my experience with the medical world there, it's a lot different than in the U.S. And so just lots of small experiences where I was like, "Okay, being a doctor is the way to go."

Dr. Chan: Now, a lot to unpack there. You said your dad is from the island.

Siale: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Which island is this?

Siale: My dad is from Tonga. He was born and raised there. He came to the U.S. when he was 18. Had some family in Utah, so he came to Utah around then. And then met my mom a few years later and they got married and . . .

Dr. Chan: And they picked Utah?

Siale: And they picked Utah, yeah.

Dr. Chan: To raise you? Okay.

Siale: Yeah, to raise me. My mother is from New Mexico. She is Hispanic and Native American. Grew up between the Indian Pueblos. Actually came to BYU for undergrad and that's where she met my dad, and they decided Utah was maybe not halfway in between Tonga and New Mexico but a good spot.

Dr. Chan: So did you get to visit Tonga and New Mexico growing up, or did you kind of stay in Utah?

Siale: No. I spent my summers in New Mexico. I went to Tonga a few times growing up, but yeah, I spent a lot of time with my family outside of Utah and it was really good for me.

Dr. Chan: How did it feel to kind of exist in these different worlds, be someone who has a background in these different worlds?

Siale: Yeah, I mean, when you're a kid, you have no idea your life is not like a . . . like growing up in Utah County, being surrounded by predominantly white, I never realized . . . My friends always made jokes like, "You're the brown friend," or whatever. But it didn't really occur to me, and I think I always tried to conform or act like I was like them.

And these experiences of having a mom with a really mixed background, and New Mexico with a world that is totally different than Utah, and a dad who is Pacific . . . I didn't know everything was so different until I probably got to high school and I was seeing, "Oh, your family doesn't do that? That's not a thing?" or just having conversations with some of my friends growing up, "Wow, we have really different experiences."

And it became a lot more evident during my undergrad that I had grown up with a really different background than a lot of people around here.

Dr. Chan: So let's go back to high school. So you had a dream about becoming a doctor, but also you were doing a lot of sports too. So what was your sport in high school? What was the thing that you just excelled at?

Siale: So originally, I did competitive dance. I started that when I was in elementary school.

Dr. Chan: Interesting.

Siale: Did competitive dance until I was a sophomore in high school. At the time, I was on a really competitive dance team, over like 30 hours a week. I was spending all my time, and this dance studio was really expensive.

But I had also always done really well in sports. I had done track and field, like the school track meets, the Hershey's track meet, growing up. I always performed really well in those and did well in my gym class. And so, when I was in eighth grade, the high school track and field coach approached me, and he told me he'd like me to come to the high school rather than do the junior high team. Because I had been doing the junior high team.

Dr. Chan: You were just dominating those junior high kids.

Siale: Yeah, that's really what it was. I was doing really well. And he said, "I think you really have a gift and I think you should come up for it." And so I was pretty open to it, but I told him, "Dance is my first love and I'm going to be a dancer," and all these things.

But then he invited me up and then . . . I mean, I didn't dominate as a freshman. I probably got dominated over, but it was a really good experience, and I was still competitive at a young age.

And he sat me down . . . during my sophomore year, I was trying to juggle this really competitive dance team. I had done volleyball in my freshman year, but my sophomore year I decided to quit and focus on dance and track. And during my sophomore track season, I had a really successful track season despite being so busy with dance and trying to balance it out. And my high school coach sat me down and he said, "Look, this can pay for your school in the future. You can go somewhere with track. You have something."

Dr. Chan: So you were really great, even that young, it sounds like?

Siale: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: You were just smoking people. You were fast.

Siale: And I did the heptathlon and I think a lot of my dance background had helped. Like, I knew how to control my body. I could jump. I had good running mechanics for hurdles and stuff, so a lot of really random things. And my dad had done track back in Tonga, and my mom had done hurdles in high school. And so I actually felt like, genetically, it was kind of like in my . . . it was just in me.

Dr. Chan: And your parents would construct obstacle courses in your home when you were little and go, "Siale, run fast." They were training you.

Siale: Yeah, I mean I grew up . . . so on my dad's side of the family, there's I think six of us the same age, and I'm the only girl and the rest are all boys. And so I grew up running outside with the boys, and they never took it easy on me. And so I just felt like I always grew up playing outside, running around, really active and stuff. And I felt like that played a big role, and pursuing track and field is just my background.

Dr. Chan: Now, talking about the college piece, does it work in the world of track and field where the coaches can recruit you and kind of watch you, or do you send them tape or . . . I mean, how does that work?

Siale: So I always wanted to go to BYU. And so, since I was so close . . . I grew up 20 minutes away from BYU. And my coach had sent other people to BYU. He had a really good relationship with the BYU coach. I was talking with him. He sent out to . . . I had other coaches approach me when I was a junior, like local schools, UVU, SUU, Utah State, but my two main choices were The U and BYU no matter what.

And my coach knew that from the beginning, so I had BYU coaches watching me probably my whole career going up to that, like leading up to college. And the Utah coaches, they were around too. I came up here and did a recruiting trip with them and stuff.

Yeah, I'd always wanted to stay in Utah, but my mom is BYU alumni, so I knew really that's where my heart . . . where I wanted to go.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So it sounds like you committed and you did track and field?

Siale: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: And what was your event?

Siale: So originally, I did the heptathlon, which is 7 events, hurdles, high jump, shot put, javelin, 200, 800. It's a little bit of everything. So in high school, that's what I did. That's what I did my freshman year.

And then I tore my ACL my freshman year, like midway through my indoor season. And so it kind of threw me for a loop on what I was going to do. And the surgery went well, physical therapy, everything went pretty well with recovering. But during my freshman year and even my sophomore year, the throws coach at BYU had approached me and he told me, "You know, you just have the build for a hammer thrower." And I didn't even know what the hammer thrower was.

Dr. Chan: Like Thor?

Siale: Yeah, like Thor. And I was . . .

Dr. Chan: I've seen this in the movies.

Siale: Yeah, I didn't even know what it was and I was kind of being close-minded, like, "Well, I really like the heptathlon." And he told me, "I think you should try it." I was being pretty stubborn about it, like, "I already have seven other events. I'm not going to try to throw one more event into the mix."

But then I noticed when I was coming back to my sophomore year, hurdling just was not the same and running mechanics. I could still while I was healed . . . I was doing physical therapy. I just didn't feel the same.

And so I sat down with the multis coach, the heptathlete coach. And we talked about this other hammer throw and she said, "You know, why don't you . . . as you're continuing to heal, why don't you learn this event? Let's see how it goes and we'll revisit . . . I want you to give it a try." Because I think she was feeling the same thing. Like, "Maybe she could be really good." You can give it a try and we'll revisit everything at the end of the season." And I'm just like, "Okay."

Started doing that and it was okay. It wasn't super stellar, I don't feel like. But then by that time, I had decided I wanted to serve an LDS mission. And so I actually left pretty quickly. I hadn't even really talked to my coaches about it because I didn't want what they had to say to play into my decision of whether or not I was going to go.

Dr. Chan: So before we talk about your mission, what is a typical day for you? I mean, what time are you getting up in the morning? When was practice? How do you balance class? I've had a lot of friends and other med students tell me, who've done college athletics, it's like a job. It's like a full-time job and it's extremely difficult.

Siale: Yeah, it's a job.

Dr. Chan: So what does a typical day look like?

Siale: So you wake up. It depends, but typically practice 7:30 or 8:00. Go to practice for a couple of hours and then go to class. So let's say I have practice from 8:00 to 10:00 and then I would go to class from like 10:00 to 1:00, and then I'd have lifting 1:30 to 3:30 or 4:30, and then after that either have more classes or you go back to study.

And then especially when I started getting into research, then it's like every hour I have . . . during my time in undergrad, I was either running to practice, I was running up to the research lab, or I was going to class, or trying to study in the library.

Yeah, it's really like a job. I mean, they are investing time and money in a spot for you. A lot of people want to be in your position. And so they control what you eat. We would do these things called bod pods where they would check your BMI and your muscle . . . like your percentage of body fat. And they were talking about what you're eating. They have a big saying like, "What you're eating and how you perform determines whether you travel or not."

It's hard because you want to do well and you want to perform well and that's how you get to travel and get to compete. But then when you're a student, they say "student athletes," so student always comes before athlete, but sometimes you don't feel that way.

Dr. Chan: You're an athlete student.

Siale: You're an athlete student. And so that can be . . . in some people, that's their dream and that's what's important to them. But I knew from the beginning I've got to do well in school if I want to . . . there's a life beyond college athletics.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. I don't know too much about this world you're talking about, but I mean, what's the next logical step if you go with this? Is it the Olympics? I mean, did some of your peers . . . is that kind of what they're aspiring to, the next level?

Siale: Yeah. People on our team have become professionals, you know, in their event. Like, my coach is . . . while he coaches, he's also a professional thrower for Sweden. And some of my classmates . . . or they just become professional runners. So they want to make a career out of it.

But I never felt like I wanted to make a career. It would be nice if the road led to the Olympics, but that wasn't ever my goal. But you kind of need to have that mindset, like, "If I wanted to go there, I could," or you want to be the best athlete you can be. And so, yeah, it's your job plus more.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. All right. Let's talk about the mission. Hard decision? Easy decision?

Siale: Oh, really hard.

Dr. Chan: Really hard?

Siale: Yeah, really hard. Being a female, it's like if I go later, you know, where is that going to put me with dating or with school? I was really concerned, you know, if I leave for a year and a half, this road is already long that I'm looking at, so this is just going to push it back out, stretch it so much further.

And with track too, that was a big thing. With track, you're not going to do anything for a year and a half. You're going to lose everything that you've worked for in a way, and you're going to come back and start from the beginning. But I just really felt like that was what I needed to do with where I was at with finding myself, finding my identity. That was something that was really important to me.

I didn't have any pressure from my parents or anything. My mom is a convert, and my dad is not a member of the LDS church. And so they were kind of like, "You know, whatever you want to do." They wanted me to go and they were supportive, but it was never like, "You need to go," or anything. But I felt like to become the person that I wanted to be, I think that was a way that I felt like it would get me there.

Dr. Chan: So you opened your call and where did you go?

Siale: I served in the Philippines.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Siale: Yeah, my dad was excited. My dad growing up in Tonga, in the islands, he really wanted me to go somewhere that was third world where poverty was a real thing.

Dr. Chan: So were you in Manila, or were you out kind of in the islands?

Siale: I was out in the islands.

Dr. Chan: Okay.

Siale: Yeah, I served in the outer islands, in the mountain. The Filipino word is bundok, which means mountain. But yeah, I served in the outer islands very far from the city.

Dr. Chan: What was the language you learned? Because I know there's a bunch of languages.

Siale: Yeah, I learned Hiligaynon and Cebuano.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Picked up two languages.

Siale: Picked up two languages, and I can understand a lot of Tagalog, which is their main language, but picked up those. I'm still pretty fluent in both. Well, I'm fluent in those two languages and I can get by on Tagalog.

Dr. Chan: So this entire time, you know, at BYU . . . how long were you at BYU before you left for your mission?

Siale: Two years.

Dr. Chan: So two years at BYU doing a lot of athletics, serving in mission. Where is this dream of becoming a doctor? Is it kind of fading? Is it stronger? Did you see something on your mission that made it a lot stronger?

Siale: Yeah, so at BYU, my dream started to kind of fade. I got kind of discouraged. Like I said, the pre-med world is kind of an ugly, scary world. And those general chemistry classes just kind of scare you. And so I was like, "Maybe I'm not supposed to be a doctor." It kind of discouraged me. And I've always been good at math, and my grandpa is an accountant, so I was like, "Maybe I should consider accounting. I don't know."

So when I left on my mission, I said, "You know, I'm going to have an open mind and I'm going to think . . . I have a year and a half to think about it. And so I'm just going to open my mind, think about different things while I'm out here, and hopefully while I'm finding myself, I figure it out too."

While I was on my mission, I saw a lot of really sick people who just didn't have any access to it, whether it was money, they lived in the middle of nowhere, or maybe a combination of both. I saw some things that really bothered me. And then I also got sick on my mission. I had Dengue fever. I had different things happen, like my stomach . . .

Dr. Chan: Dang, you got the Dengue?

Siale: Yeah, I got the Dengue. Yeah, my stomach was always hurting. I probably had the flu and I had strep. I had pink eye. I kind of went through it all.

Dr. Chan: You lost a lot of weight.

Siale: Yeah, I lost weight.

Dr. Chan: Muscle mass.

Siale: Muscle mass. It was funny. Everyone thought I would get tan because I was always walking outside, but I was really pale and ghostly looking in all my pictures. And so I'm sure I was deficient of all sorts of nutrients.

And so, during that time, I said, "Okay, whatever career I want to do, I've got to be with people. I've got to help people." I kept seeing these people, people with TB, seeing babies with measles, all sorts of little things they couldn't even get treated for. And that really just bothered me. But as a missionary, that's not your job to take care or address medical needs. You're doing other things.

And so, while this was happening, it kept coming to my mind and I would bring it up to . . . you have companions. And so I'd talk to them about it, talk to my mom. And then I realized during that time, I was like, "I want to do something within the medical field, but I don't know if I'm going to be competitive enough when I get back to BYU to be a doctor." So I was thinking, "Okay, there's PA school. There are other ways to do medical." But I knew on my mission, "Okay, I want to do medicine," seeing all these people who didn't have . . .

Dr. Chan: So you came back and you had that fire?

Siale: Yeah. I had a lot of fire. Came home. I actually didn't register for that first semester of classes while I was on my mission. I was late. Came home and I was like, "You know what? I'm going to do the pre-med. I'm going take anatomy. I'm going to do a physics lab." And it was already like two or three days into the semester and I walked into the advisor's office. And I was like, "Okay. I signed up for these classes." And she was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, you just got back. This is a really hard schedule. I don't know if you're going to be able to handle this."

But then, like you said, I just had this fire. I was like, "I'm going to do it." So I ended up doing a bunch of really tough classes that first semester I got back. But then I did anatomy and I just fell in love with it. And I did really well, and I loved it.

And then it was kind of another like, "Okay, you're supposed to do something with this" And so that was another piece. And I took the . . . there was a pre-med advisement class, and then I was thinking about it and I was like, "Okay, I can do this."

Dr. Chan: Did you have a mentor or a role model during this time, or were you just kind of on your own? Because your mom has a healthcare background, but . . .

Siale: It's different.

Dr. Chan: . . . it's different. Do you understand what I'm saying? Did you have someone to help you out during this time?

Siale: Originally, no. Even some of my . . . we have an academic advisor for track and there's a pre-med advisor and then one within your own college. And all of them were kind of not super encouraging and stuff. And so I felt like I was kind of on my own. A lot of them tried to talk me into switching my major to exercise science, because apparently if you're an athlete, you have to do exercise science. And that's the route they all take, so everyone needs to do it and stuff.

The major I ended up choosing is a longer major and they were like, "Well, you could graduate and stuff earlier if you did these other majors." But I was like, "No. Physiology, that's what I want to do. That's what I like."

And so, while I was doing this, I felt like I was on my own, but then randomly I was asked to speak on this Polynesian student athlete panel at BYU. And I said, "You know, I'm pre-med. I want to go to med school and it's really important for me to give back to the Polynesian community."

And while I was speaking, there happened to be a Hawaiian doctor . . . she actually came here for med school. But she was in the crowd listening to me. And so, after that, I had this random student a few months later come up to me and say, "Dr. [Au 00:24:23] has been looking for you." And I was like, "Who's Dr. Au?

Dr. Chan: Who's this person?

Siale: Yeah, who's this person? And she gave me this physician's email address and contact info and said, "She's been looking for you. She wants you to email her." And so I was like, "Oh, this is kind of random or weird, but I'm here for it. This is good."

And so, I emailed her. And she was like, "Oh, I wanted you to know there are Polynesian female doctors. We're here. You know, I'm just one of a few, but I want to help you." And so she invited me to come shadow her, and she connected me to all the other people I ended up shadowing.

Dr. Chan: That's beautiful.

Siale: Yeah, and she helped me through the whole application process. When I applied, I was considering not applying and she called me and she said, "Let's go to dinner." And she took me out to dinner and she gave me all the reasons why I should apply and stuff. And so I'm so grateful I listened to her because it worked out. But she's been my mentor throughout this whole process.

Dr. Chan: It sounds like she made a huge difference.

Siale: Oh, yeah. I feel like I wouldn't be here without her.

Dr. Chan: Wow. Siale, going back to the application process, what was your strategy? Were you going MD and DO? How many schools did you look at? Were you looking out of state? In state? I mean, what was kind of your strategy?

Siale: Okay, so originally, after taking that pre-med class, I heard that people apply to 15 to 30 schools when they apply. Both MD and DO are both great options. And so I had really open mind, but the way everything played out with track and other things going on with family and stuff, it wasn't going to work out really for me to take the MCAT until closer to when I was graduating. So I knew I was going to have to take some sort of gap year.

And then I was originally planning to take the MCAT in June. I was going to graduate in August and I was like, "Okay, I'll take the MCAT in June." And then I ended up getting into an MCAT program here at The U. They pay for a prep course and stuff. And so I was like,"Well, if they're going to do a course, then I'll just postpone when I take the MCAT." And so I ended up waiting to take the MCAT until late August.

So then at that point, I knew, "Okay, this is not good because applications have been open since the end of May or June or whatever and you haven't even taken the MCAT yet and stuff." And so then I'd be real with myself. "Okay, I'm not going to get my MCAT scores until the end of September."

And so then originally I was like, "I don't even know if I'm going to apply." And I ended up . . . I got my scores back and then I was like, "I don't think I'm going to apply. It's just so late." And I really wasn't that happy with my MCAT score, and I was like, "Okay, I'm probably not going to apply."

And when I told my parents that, they were like . . . my dad called me and he sat me down. He's like, "You have nothing to lose. There's money and stuff, but you should at least apply to a couple of schools."

Dr. Chan: Get some reps in.

Siale: Get some reps in.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, maybe you'd learn for the next cycle.

Siale: My mom said, "Go ahead and go for it and then you'll get some feedback on what to improve and stuff." But I was still . . . I don't know. I was feeling really not confident in myself.

And so I told Dr. Au the same thing. Like I said, she called me and she took me to dinner and she sat me down and said all the reasons why I should just apply and go for it. And she told me, "Pick a handful of schools that you really want to go to. Don't waste your money trying to apply to 15 schools because you know at this point you're not going to get in."

Dr. Chan: It's too late in the cycle.

Siale: It's too late in the cycle. And so I picked a handful of schools. Here because I'm from . . . yeah, I wanted to stay in Utah. UNM because that's where my mom is from. And then University of Hawaii. That's where my husband is from. And then University of Arizona.

But I knew going into it, the odds are probably not in your favor. And so I was really open-minded, because originally I was like, "I'll apply to all MD and DO schools and you go where you get in."

And so I was taking this cycle. I was like, "This is a cycle to learn and if you get in, you get in, and if you don't, it's okay and we try again next year." And so applied to those handful of schools and ended up getting on the waitlist here and then it worked out down here.

Dr. Chan: Before we talk about that, interview offers from other schools?

Siale: Waitlist for the University of Arizona, but that was it. The rest, I was just too late, as I said.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So you got an interview here, obviously.

Siale: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: I love asking this question. So before your interview day here . . . because obviously you've run a lot of important meets. Meets, right? Matches?

Siale: Yeah. Meets.

Dr. Chan: What do you call them? Meets?

Siale: That's exactly right, yeah.

Dr. Chan: You eat meat. You run meets. That anxiety, performance anxiety. What was more stress provoking, interviewing for med school or that really, really important meet? And then what's your trick for calming your nerves? Do you understand what I'm saying?

Siale: Yeah. It was a really similar feeling. So even after all those years, I still got . . . after all those years of dance and track, I still would get nervous before meets. But I had gotten pretty good at staying calm, and then it's usually the morning of that I feel really stressed and stuff. So yeah, going into this, I was just like, "Wow, I'm so grateful. I'm getting an interview at The U. I'm just so happy."

Dr. Chan: Yeah, "I'm playing with house money."

Siale: Yeah. So I was really happy, and so I felt pretty good about it. The day before, it was funny. I was looking over possible questions and I was practicing with my husband and I was like, "I don't know what they're going to ask me. I've never done any med school interviews. I don't know." I felt really at a disadvantage, but I was like, "Here we go. I've done a lot of things like this."

Then that morning . . . we actually stayed up here in Salt Lake. I woke up at like 4:00 because I was just so nervous, I guess, and anxious and going through things in my head. Got here at the school like an hour early just because I didn't want to be late. And so I was just really anxious and nervous.

But overall, yeah, it felt a lot like a meet, like performance time. When I was there, I could feel my heart coming out of my chest and I was nervous. But then once I started talking, then I was like, "You can do this. You're okay. Just be yourself."

Dr. Chan: And then you did well. You did great because . . . on the waitlist. I remember calling you and I remember you were very serene about it. You didn't seem so excited. So sometimes I can kind of gauge . . . because I can't tell if you have other offers. I was like, "I think Siale might be going somewhere else because she didn't seem so excited." So I don't know. That was my perspective on that. I don't know what you remember about that day.

Siale: Yeah, more like shock.

Dr. Chan: Okay, so it's shock. That's the word we're looking for.

Siale: Yeah, maybe shock, really. So it was really random. I was at a . . . I did this program. It's called HEFY. It's a nonprofit that takes groups of high school kids to different countries around the world to do service or humanitarian work. And so they do a training for that. So I was at this training and then I saw someone from Salt Lake was calling, but there are so many scam phone calls. I was sitting in the training, so I just didn't answer it.

And then I clicked the voicemail thing when it transcribes the words for it because I was like, "Oh, they left a voicemail." And then all of a sudden I saw "Dr. Chan from the University of Utah" and I stopped and I was like, "Oh my gosh. The U is calling."

And so then my heart started beating. So then I was in the middle of a bunch of people. I was like, "I don't know if I should walk out. This is the middle of someone talking. I don't want to be rude." And so I was like, "Okay, I'll wait for this speaker to finish and then I'll leave."

And the boy that was sitting next to me, he's pre-med too and he was like, "Are you kidding me? Go out and call back." And he was like, You should go." So then I went out and you were in a meeting or something, and so she told me you would call me back when you had the chance.

So I remember just being nervous. And I was like, "I don't want to get my hopes up, but I don't know why . . ."

Dr. Chan: "I think it's a good phone call. It's probably not a bad phone call to get."

Siale: Yeah. And so I think I was just in shock because, like I said, I really went into this cycle open-minded, like, "It's likely it won't work out, but if . . ." And so just to think, "Oh, wow, it did," I was shocked, really.

Dr. Chan: So, Siale, the last few minutes, and this has been great. What would you say to someone out there who is listening who is thinking about medical school or is unsure? What message do you want to convey? What advice would you give?

Siale: Honestly, you can do it, really. You can do it. Even though my mom is a nurse, growing up and not seeing physicians who look like me or just feeling like, "Oh, I can't do it," because it can be discouraging and stuff, you can do it.

I mean, it's not going to be easy, and some people will take several cycles, like hearing my classmates' stories, but it's really inspired me. If someone really wants to do it, if you put the work into it, you can do it and things are going to work out the way they're supposed to.

Dr. Chan: Are you in a place in your life . . . can you be the Dr. Au for someone out there who's listening? I mean, what would you say to someone from a Pacific island community who may not have a champion? Do you understand what I'm saying?

Siale: Yeah, that's what's really important to me because I feel like I'm the product of a lot of people who've sacrificed and given so I could be in this spot. And so that's something . . . it's really important for me to give back because I feel like I wouldn't be here without all those people, without Dr. Au, without my parents, without the generations of people who came before me. And so that's a big thing.

I want to be an advocate especially for Pacific islanders, like when they see . . . when people in my church group or my nieces and nephews, when I become a physician, I want them to think, "Oh, I can do that too. Someone who looks like me, who understands me, who comes from a background, if they can do it, so can I."

And so I know being a physician, it's a hard and scary road, but if that's where your heart is, I really think it's going to work out one way or another.

Dr. Chan: Well, Siale, I'm so glad you're here. And I'm so excited to see you grow into a doctor over the next few years. Yeah, I just think there's going to be so much opportunity for you to give back and for others to reach out to you and for you to fulfill your dream, because I know you've worked so hard on it. I'm glad you got in the first time.

Siale: Yeah. What a blessing.

Dr. Chan: That's great. Cool. Well, we'll have to have you come back on, Siale, and maybe kind of give updates as you progress through medical school, because I would love to hear from your perspective how it's going, both the good and the bad. So I know it's a lot of hard work, but it sounds like you've already done so much to get to this point. So I'm just really excited for the next few years for you.

Siale: Thank you.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life" with Dr. Benjamin Chan, the ultimate resource to help you on your journey to and through medical school. A production of the Scope Health Sciences Radio, online at thescoperadio.com.

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