Just Keep Swimming

29 Oct 2020

By Elysa Margiotta, MD

 I could have given up. I could have decided that it was all too much to handle, and just faded away.

 To say that my path to becoming a physician was eventful is an understatement. I started medical school in Grenada as a fresh-eyed, hopeful 21 year-old, looking forward to the “first day of the rest of my life,” as we so often hear in movies. I had just left my family and friends behind in Canada, and I was starting my new life.

 Here is the series of tumultuous events that occurred during my medical school journey:

– On my second day on the island, I was sexually assaulted by a senior classmate, which led me to develop and experience PTSD over the next few years.

 – During my second semester, the day before our first exam, I received an email from an attorney’s office back in Canada with documents saying that my father was suing my mother and me. Throughout the rest of the semester, coinciding with my exams, I would continue to receive updated documentation from the attorneys. On my break between the second and third semesters, we finally went to court.

 – During my fourth semester, despite preparation, I failed one of the exams, and I was told that if I took and failed the final examination that I would be expelled from medical school.

 – During my final semester, one week before the CBSE examination, an examination that covers the 2 years’ worth of information similar to the USMLE Step 1, I received the news that my grandfather had died. I was unable to attend the funeral.

 – During core rotations of my third year of medical school, my roommate had an unfortunate experience. After many months of sacrificing my studies to help them, they eventually got the help they needed with inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. Thankfully, this person is now doing much better.

 – This same year, on my birthday, my partner disappeared for 24 hours, which led to a police search. Thankfully, my partner returned safe and sound.

 – Three days before the USMLE Step 2 CK examination, my aunt died. I attended her funeral immediately after I completed the exam.

 Despite all these hurdles and losses, I chose to fight. To me, there was no other option but to just keep going. To keep pushing through these adversities and continue to do my absolute best to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a surgeon. Growing up, I watched my mother working day in and day out to provide for us. As a single mother, she sacrificed years of her life, vacations and other luxuries in life to work so that we would always have food on the table, and so that I could receive the best possible education. I believe that I gained my perseverance and resilience from observing her, and have translated it into my own work ethic.

 One of the main lessons learned from these experiences is that life goes on, and that there is always a solution. Eventually the dust settles, and it becomes easier to deal with these issues. It takes time, and there are definitely some days that are incredibly harder than others, but with patience, I have learned that it gets better. Despite all of these events, I managed to graduate from medical school on time, have passed all of my exams on the first try, and I have managed to start surgical residency in Brooklyn. I am thankful for everything that I have been through, because it has given me the resilience that I need to be a successful surgical resident.

Elysa Margiotta, MD was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. She attended Concordia University for her undergraduate studies, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a Specialization in Neuroscience. She went on to complete medical school at St. George’s University in Grenada. She is currently a first-year surgical resident at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. In her free time, she enjoys taking dance classes, sleeping, completing jigsaw puzzles, and crossword puzzles.


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.

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