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 California State University, Fullerton

Theresa Portugal

Theresa PortugalAbout me:

When I originally went into college after high school, I went in as a bio major, ready to begin on my journey to medical school. However, during college my eyes were opened to many things, and as life often does, things took a detour and I ended up going in a much different direction than I anticipated and graduated with a degree in Sociology. I never really lost interest in medicine and the sciences that surrounded it, and I knew I wanted to work in the helping professions, but I felt that I had a lot left to experience and explore before I made any decisions. I began working at a mental health clinic as a case manager and a couple of years later I pursued my special education teaching credential and began teaching middle school and high school children with severe emotional and behavioral disturbances in order to work more closely with this very at-risk population.

During my teaching career, I gained invaluable experience working with my students. I gained confidence and my skills in teaching, rapport-building, communication, problem-solving, and professionalism grew immensely. The idea of medical school would constantly come up in my mind, but I would push it aside, daunted by what I knew it would entail. However, after four years of teaching, I could no longer ignore the fact that although teaching was a good experience, it was not where I wanted to be for good. I missed learning, I missed science, and I knew I would not be happy without making the effort to come full circle and pursue my medical school dream.

At this time, I was about to get married and so I knew it was going to take a lot of effort and team-work on the part of both my husband and I. I entered the post-bac program at CSUF and I went to school for one year full-time, and then went back to teach for a couple of more years while finishing up the last of my pre-reqs, taking MCATs, and volunteering. I volunteered for a year through the Clinical Care Extender program and then shadowed a D.O. doctor for a few months. It took a lot of hard work and determination. Along the way, I became pregnant with my first child and eventually then went on to have my second child 18months later! It was a roller coaster of a ride and things took a lot longer than I had anticipated (again, life always likes to throw curveballs!), however, I just kept on chugging, even when things got difficult.

My first application cycle I applied to both M.D. and D.O, but I applied late and did not receive any interviews. My second application cycle, I made the decision to put all my eggs in one basket and apply to only one D.O. program. I knew it was a risk, but I felt confident that it was the school for me and I knew I had what they were looking for. I was granted an interview one week before I delivered my second child (yes, I had to fit into a suit nine months pregnant!) and then received the news I was put on the waitlist. As summer approached I had not heard anything, so you can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call early June that a spot had opened up and I had been taken off the waitlist! I will be starting my first year of medical school this August and I couldn’t be more thrilled! After all this time, I finally feel that my hard work and determination has paid off.

My path to this point has been anything but ordinary, and there have been many bumps in the road along the way, but I am thankful for my experiences and I know that they are only going to help in making me a better, more well-rounded physician. I am lucky in that I have had a lot of support and people who believed in me along the way. I am also a very faithful person and always trusted that God would take me where He needed me to go. I constantly remind myself of why I wanted to do this in the first place – to use my talents to serve and help others. My best advice I can give is to make yourself known to your advisor and, if possible, to faculty and staff at the schools you are applying to, do not give up, and show that you are capable and willing to work hard. My old advisor, Dr. Drath, once told me, “It’s not about when you get there, it’s just about getting there.” Very well said, in my opinon! I hope I can continue to remember this as I begin on my next phase in my journey!