Today, at 24, my daughter Molly Anne will walk across the stage and become a doctor. Next week it will be 25 years since I went into (a 48-hour) labor with her on my birthday. We joke about how we’re both “free spirit Geminis,” and if you know anything about astrology, you know a Gemini raising a Gemini is pretty wild.
Watching her lifelong journey to become a veterinarian has been an unmeasurable source of pride. When she was only two, she asked for a puppy care play kit, and while wearing her Dalmatian pajamas surrounded by a bed of stuffed dalmations, she told me by age three she would be a “pet doctor” one day.
She never wavered from that path. Whenever I told people my daughter was going to be a veterinarian, they’d either tell me a horror story about how no one can get into vet school or say “Oh my kid wants to be one too” and I’d think how probably neither would happen. Statistically, the acceptance rate into veterinary school is around 10 percent, and it’s less than seven percent at Virginia Tech where Molly graduates today.
Nearly 2000 kids apply annually and around 125 are accepted—in her case, she was one of only five to skip her senior year of VT undergrad and be accepted early admission into vet school. Getting into human medical school, where there are many more schools to apply to, you study one species instead of hundreds, and your patient can often tell you what’s wrong with them, is much easier.
Molly sacrificed a lot. She faced personal adversity involving her health and overcame uphill battles. She wasn’t a kid who went to parties. She studied. Rather, she didn't have to be told to study; she was self-motivated. She graduated from high school never clocking a grade lower than an A. Not because she was ever pushed by her parents, but because she pushed herself. She played soccer when she was younger, trading it for band, eventually working her way to becoming an award-winning high school drum major and playing in the competitive Virginia Tech marching band. Eventually everything gave way to her single-handed med school application goal. In undergrad, when there was a danger of receiving the first B of her life (Organic Chemistry) she found a way to drop the class and audit it elsewhere to ensure the A. I remember her calling crying, but eventually in medical school she had to learn how to accept her first B.
Before she was even admitted, she asked the vet school if she could do anything to volunteer for a study on heart defects in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like the one that took the life of her own best friend pup; Ollie, who sat by a window and waited every day for her to come home from school. They told her they don’t take undergrad researchers but eventually relented when she insisted she’d sweep floors or fetch coffee. This experience combined with an internship at the practice of a local veterinarian (and VT alum) who served as a mentor and would eventually white-coat her when she entered vet school, experiences like these helped her gain an edge during the competitive vet school application process.
As an “embrace mediocrity” person with workaholic tendencies, I’m a classic Gemini “twin flame” duality mix, it can be hard to understand the levels of her hard work. Over the years I worried about how she traded sleepovers and parties for long nights poring over textbooks. At her white coat ceremony the President of the Maryland Veterinary Association made a comment "I didn't get perfect grades, and they still call me doctor." I wrote her words on Molly’s whiteboard where they remain these four years later, faded; I freshened them up one time with the dry erase marker. When people say things to me like "you must be so proud to have raised a doctor," I say, "I only stood nearby, encouraging and supporting her independence, while a doctor raised herself."
Today’s a proud moment not just for her father, three siblings and me, but for many—every teacher she’s ever had deserves praise; in particular her band teachers who create homes away from home. Whether it’s the women who worked with her at the consignment shop in our hometown where she worked during high school, her aunt and grandfather who didn’t make it to this day but whose pride and presence she’ll feel with the rays of the sun, those whose pets she has provided care, her supportive park ranger fiancé Tanner and many other family and friends, mentors and loved ones cheering her on, we're all proud of how she got herself to this well-earned moment.
The other day Molly told me that unlike in high school, she wouldn’t graduate today in the top 10 percent of her class wearing an honors cord. I told her I was more proud of her than if she was wearing that cord. She lives in a beautiful state park with her fiancé, the rescue Collie dog she saved and two cats. Her wedding’s in September. Finding balance and happiness—these will always be life’s crowning achievements just as much as her academic success. She’ll speak for those who can’t, and they’ll call her doctor.
I never tire of hearing about personal family success stories. To reach the level of achievement that your daughter has attained requires the attributes of focus, dedication, discipline, diligence, delayed gratification and many years of making good decisions. My Grandfather who was perhaps the wisest man I have ever known once told me that if you are talented at something it is worth pursuing or if you have a passion for something it is also worth pursuing but if you are passionate about something that you are talented in it is a rare blessing and a gift that should not be squandered. Molly appears to be an impressive and talented young lady with a bright future who is following her passions. A big thumbs up to her and to her Mom and family for supporting her in the pursuit of her dreams and helping to make them come true.
Thank you so much for the kind words. I love your grandfather's quote; wise indeed.