By Megan Jenkins Turner, DO
Growing up, my dad always told me “endeavor to persevere.” I can honestly say I had no idea what that meant until recently. Particularly when I found myself unmatched after graduating medical school in May 2021.
It was March 2020. I was an M3, four days into my General Surgery rotation, when COVID pulled medical students from in person rotations to online ones. This remained the case for several weeks. I was planning on becoming a medical oncologist, fervently preparing for the match – I never considered pursuing surgery until I was pulled from my rotation.
Long story short I ended up applying for internal medicine (IM), interviewing for IM, and subsequently withdrawing my application from the match in January 2021 all because one of my mentors saw a talent in me that at the time I had yet to see in myself.
I attempted to SOAP into a general surgery residency position in March 2021 but was unsuccessful. Hurdle after hurdle, “no” after “no”, dead end after dead end – I graduated medical school, unmatched. I was surrounded by my 200+ classmates all whose dreams were coming true. I smiled and took pictures (albeit begrudgingly). I felt joy for those around me while choosing to feel encouraged that there was still a chance for me to have that too. I dodged question after question from loved ones because, although I was certain I would become a surgeon, I was not sure how. I needed time to figure it out.
As the weeks unfolded, I was told by one surgeon that I had a 0% chance of matching into a surgical residency, and that if I did I would always be “average.” Simultaneously, a world renowned surgeon stated confidently that I was in the top 5% of students he worked with in his 30+ year career. This got me thinking, how was I going to pursue my passion with purpose?
Was I going to react and listen to the naysayers who didn’t know me? Or was I going to respond to the passion and purpose burning inside me supported by those who saw my capabilities first hand?
The answer was easy: I would endeavor to persevere.
If there is a will there is a way. Today, I am a current preliminary surgical resident at a large academic institution obtaining said position mid-July of 2021, after the match. I have also signed a contract to begin as a PGY-2 categorical general surgery resident in July at a community program where I will train to become a rural general surgeon. If there is a will there is a way.
Ultimately, surgery chose me. After much contemplation, I wholeheartedly chose surgery in return. Of course, there were a multitude of difficulties and sacrifices along the way but I will save that for another time. I believe that throughout life uncertainty, failure, and disappointment are inevitable. Hand in hand, I also believe it is our choice to use these setbacks as opportunities – to grow, to learn, and to always pursue our passion with purpose.
Megan Jenkins Turner grew up in Houston, TX. She attended a small school in East Texas called Stephen F. Austin State University graduating in 2016 with a degree in Biochemistry. Subsequently, she earned a Medical Sciences Masters degree at The University of North Texas Health Science Center in 2017 in Fort Worth, TX. Megan began medical school at UNTHSC Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated in 2021. After switching specialties during the Pandemic, Megan obtained a preliminary surgery position at the University of Illinois at Chicago General Surgery Residency Program. In January 2022, she was offered and accepted a categorical PGY-2 position at Franciscan Health General Surgery Residency Program in Olympia Fields, Illinois where she will continue her training. Megan is passionate about mentorship and advocating for women in surgery. She routinely speaks at events encouraging students to pursue their calling. Megan is routinely active on her Instagram page @curleysurgeon where she shares her perspective as a surgical resident. In her spare time, she enjoys reading crime fiction and weight lifting at the local gym! Ultimately, Megan’s goal is to practice rural general surgery after graduation in 2026.
Our blog is a forum for our members to speak, and as such, statements made here represent the opinions of the author and are not necessarily the opinion of the Association of Women Surgeons.
One Reply to “Pursue Your Passion with Purpose”
Great words. Life is a gift, it’s our job to make the best of it. Never stop learning. Never stop asking questions. Always endeavor to persevere.