Honoring Dr. Molly Brazil
I know this is supposed to be a Molly Blog, but Tammy and I want to take a moment to talk about Molly ourselves. She will never admit it, and we know we are biased, but Molly really is an amazing person. This pandemic has challenged people in totally new ways, and resilience has been a deciding factor in how well we cope. Molly has been amazingly resilient for a long time and we want to tell you how.
Going to medical school is quite a journey. It begins in high school with a commitment to taking hard classes and competing with other motivated students and getting into a good university. Once there guess what? It’s the same except everything is harder, the volume of information is greater and the competition is more intense. Molly graduated with academic and departmental honors from the University of Washington, but knew that getting into medical school was tough so she spent a year after college doing research to augment her application. Molly successfully navigated that process and was accepted into my alma mater, the Oregon Health and Sciences University. Medical school forces you out of your comfort zones and the competition doesn’t relent for another four years as your peers position themselves for a run at competitive residency slots. Choosing a residency is another enormous decision, one that defines the rest of your career and that is essentially one of the first irreversible decisions she had to face. Finally, there is the application process for the residency type you choose, and waiting for invitations to interview, some of which don’t appear. You then travel around the country doing interviews where you know there is only a small chance you will be accepted because the competition is so fierce. Finally, you wait for the “match”, where you rank your choices and wait to see how the programs where you did get an interview rank you. On match day, you open an envelope and discover what the rest of your life will look like.
All that is normal, I went through it and it is exhilarating, terrifying and life changing. But Molly had to face yet another challenge, and that was a pandemic that swept through her carefully laid plans. Generally, you get to take a breath at the end of medical school before you begin your residency in a new city and state. You have an opportunity to share your match day with your family and peers. You have a graduation with your friends, peers, and family where you are celebrated and feted and sent off on your next life adventure. For Molly, medical school was closed days before she was to finish her last clinical rotation, as Covid-19 inundated the school’s emergency rooms and medicine wards. She was left alone, quarantined in her apartment in Portland with all future medical school events cancelled, her classmates scattering and her boyfriend a continent away. Luckily for Tammy and I, she decided to leave her apartment and essentially her whole life and move home. We realize that our two dogs were a strong reason for that but we’ll take it. Molly lived with us for 3 weeks. During that time, we shared her match day and the emotions that go with finding out she matched into anesthesiology and will move away from the Pacific Northwest to Nashville, Tennessee. She had her 27th birthday, without friends or most of her family, but we still had a birthday party and enjoyed our time together. And finally, there was the issue of her cancelled graduation.
Tammy decided we could stage a graduation ourselves. Soon there was an announcement, and a program, and a ceremony complete with the graduation march and a diploma. The guests included cardboard cutouts of her brother Sam, sister-in-law Millie, and aunt Cathy. Molly’s mom, Sara Murdoch, agreed to help. In a doctoral ceremony, you are presented with a “doctoral hood” by another doctor, so Tammy gathered up left over high school and college graduation gowns and some scarves that could pass for doctoral hoods, and together we all surprised Molly with a medical school graduation ceremony we’re sure she will never forget. It was like a surprise party, which is always fun, and Tammy met her at the door with a glass of champagne and a gown and welcomed her to the 2020 OHSU School of Medicine commencement ceremony, Olympia campus. The laughter and tears soon began. The “faculty” marched out to Pomp and Circumstance. I was the moderator and Sara was the guest speaker and we both hooded her. Tammy, the official videographer, filmed it and it is now firmly in our family lore. Molly commented that a 10-minute ceremony which included champagne was probably better than the 5-hour slog she would have had otherwise in a normal commencement.
We wish Molly and her boyfriend John the best as they spend a few months together in Florida, where he is an Air Force pilot, before she moves to Nashville and begins her four-year anesthesiology residency at Vanderbilt Medical Center. And we wish all of you the best of luck as you face your own challenges during this pandemic, and discover how resilient you actually are.
Stay safe, stay well, stay hopeful.
Dad and Tammy Brazil