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Michael Fitzpatrick '12: Today, PLME killed my dreams. FML.

A few friends of mine really got shafted last week. As students enrolled in the Program in Liberal Medical Education, they discovered that their guaranteed acceptance into Warren Alpert Medical School will be rendered null and void if they send out applications to any other medical schools.

I shouldn't have to remind everyone that this policy change is nothing short of theft. Our fellow students applied to a selective program with the understanding that they would have the freedom to apply to other medical schools while still keeping their guaranteed spot at Alpert. But the Alpert administration did more than just breach a contract: their deception resulted in the loss of countless opportunities.

Students who joined the program have forfeited chances to apply to or attend other colleges with better financial aid packages than those offered at Brown. They willingly chose to bear the weight of hundreds of thousands of dollars of undergraduate debt for a definite spot at a superb medical school. Now, the new policy demands one more sacrifice from them: their freedom to apply out.

While I wholeheartedly agree that the Alpert administration is guilty of breaching a contract with the members of the program, I don't agree with Simon Liebling '12 that the new policy "effectively prohibit(s) students from applying to other medical schools" ("WTF, PLME?" Nov. 12). They might forfeit their spot at Alpert, but it's not as though they'll suffer disciplinary actions if they inform the administration of their intention to apply out. I see the policy as a challenge, and I hope that some PLME students are bold enough to rise to it.
I don't usually sugarcoat my opinions, but I will for the sake of my PLME friends. However, there are some things that they really need to know.

First, they need realize that they are uniquely fortunate. In order to get into the program, they were either exceptional applicants or very lucky ones. If they do choose to apply out, their Brown education will still make them superior candidates for admission to any other medical school. Luck is unpredictable, but their grades, experiences and accomplishments at Brown will speak for themselves.

Second, we should all be reminded that life is never fair. If they didn't realize that by now, they certainly would have figured it out by the end of medical school. As my high school calculus teacher always told us, "Life sucks, and then you die."

Third, there are hundreds of intense, cutthroat students across the country who would perform unspeakable acts to secure a spot at Alpert or any other medical school, for that matter. I hope my PLME friends don't take this the wrong way, but it would behoove them to remember how fortunate they still are.

That leads me to my fourth point: they should recognize that the new policy didn't actually nullify their guarantee, but it did force them into making a very unsavory decision. The real question is, will they choose to accept their spot at Alpert at the loss of their freedom to reap the full rewards of their ambitions, or will they relinquish their PLME birthright in order to pursue a more desirable medical school education? Both are pretty big sacrifices to make, but they should take comfort in the fact that they still have the ability to choose.

But speaking of choice: I also hope they realize that, although they stand to lose their PLME spot in doing so, applying out is not necessarily a bad decision to make. In fact, it's a brutally honest one. Plenty of other students apply to medical schools without a "backup plan." They apply because they believe they deserve a chance to learn medicine, and they're willing to risk a little rejection to see if they are worthy. Let's not fool ourselves: Medicine is a risky business. If PLME students are not willing to take a similar wager, if they are willing to let the administration effectively choose for them, it would probably be in their best interests to evaluate whether or not they really want to practice medicine.

Granted, any student in the program with an ounce of common sense would force another applicant to pry their precious spot from their cold, dead hands. But it would be a shame if the administration's new policy stifled even one student's aspiration of graduating from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. If we wanted our dreams and ambitions crushed underfoot, we would have matriculated elsewhere.

 
Michael Fitzpatrick '12 defines his life by the choices he makes. He can be contacted at michael_fitzpatrick (at) brown.edu.

 




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