Then and Now

It’s a new year and a new semester of medical school, which naturally makes me take a moment to reflect on where I was one year ago and where I am now. It’s amazing how much can change in a year: For many of us first-year medical students, we had no idea one year ago where we would be right now or even whether we would have the privilege of calling ourselves medical students. I vividly remember the ups and downs of the application process, and how I forced myself to have patience as I waited anxiously for an email or phone call with good news.

Undoubtedly, a lot has changed in the past year. In addition to graduating from college and facing the world of so-called “adulthood”, I’ve also started an incredible new journey into the world of medicine. I now wear a white coat and use words like gluconeogenesis and cytochrome-P450 in normal conversation. I’ve swapped my blue jeans and Chacos for pencil skirts and dress shoes. I no longer live in campus housing. I bought a car. I feel comfortable asking strangers about their personal lives, and it doesn’t bother me to talk about gender-specific anatomy during dinner conversation. I know all the major regulatory enzymes of glycolysis, and I know how to deliver a baby. I’ve seen death, and I’ve seen near-death. I wear my hospital name badge nearly all the time, and I usually forget to take it off when I’m out of the hospital. I’ve completely dissected a cadaver. I study a lot.

However, there are plenty of things in my life that haven’t changed. Contrary to popular opinion, medical school doesn’t take over everything in your life, and I still have time to live a full life. I still play music at least once a week through a community jazz band here in Greenville. I still go hiking on the weekends. I’m still very involved in my church, and I help lead worship and participate in a weekly Bible study. I still love to waste time watching YouTube videos. I still hang out with my roommates and laugh with them until my ribs hurt. I still call my family and friends frequently. I still read the news almost every day. I still cook. And I still love learning about everything, especially medicine.


Rachel on a recent winter camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Rachel relaxing and playing music with friends and family

One semester in, I can say that medical school is indeed a very challenging journey, but it is definitely a journey that is manageable with the right amount of motivation. There are moments when I notice the changes in myself or the changes in others’ expectations of me because I am a medical student. For instance, on Christmas Eve my younger sister came running to get me because she thought I would know how to “fix” my dad’s hand that had been crushed in the garage door.

As much as I’m learning and maturing as a professional, it’s safe to say that I realize more and more every day just how much I don’t know, and I’m so thankful for those who patiently give me opportunities to keep learning. And as much as I may seem to change and grow throughout this process of becoming a doctor, I hope that those who know me remember that at my core I am just the same old me with my same old quirks and personality.



Rachel Donaldson

Rachel Nelson

Originally from Brentwood, Tennessee, I attended Furman University where I was a music major, outdoor enthusiast and lover of life. I never expected to spend four more years in Greenville, but I could not be more excited to stay and be a part of the incredible program at the USC School of Medicine in Greenville. I hope through this blog you will see a glimpse of the inspiring vision and reality of this medical school and share in our innovative and hands-on journey to becoming doctors.

Kristin Lacey