1, 2, 3 degrees… the (gruelling) path to becoming a Medical Doctor

Published in
6 min readApr 28, 2020


We have our individual unique experiences in our journey through life, yet we can always learn one or two things from other people.

Meet Sotonye Douglas, she has not 1, not 2, but is currently on her 3rd degree as a Medical student well on her path to achieving her long-life dream of becoming a Medical Doctor. Sotonye is currently pursuing her Medical studies at Frank H Netter School of Medicine.

In this #STEMStories series, she shared her journey amidst rejection and uncertainty to medical school. Find out about how she sailed through and turned the challenges to her greatest strength.

Hi Sotonye, please tell us about you

My name is Sotonye Douglas. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York to parents from two African nationalities. My mum is Jamaican and my dad is a Nigerian.

Oh wow, that’s interesting to know. Do you mind telling us about your educational background?

Yeah…I had my Bachelor of Science from SUNY University at Albany, New York, and graduated with a dual degree in Human Biology and visual arts (Degree 1).

After BSc, I returned to Brooklyn New York where I worked for a few years and completed my masters of biomedical science at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Scranton Pennsylvania (Degree 2). I applied to Medical school after my Master's program (Degree 3).

But why medicine? Have you always wanted to become a Doctor?

I have found the idea of becoming a doctor interesting from when I was very young. I’d always tell people that I wanted to be a Doctor and I knew in my heart that I could do it if I just figured out how to get there.

Hmmm…You can do anything you set your heart to

I always had a love for science more especially anatomy. I could remember my excitement at the end of my first anatomy course. I was only about 12 years old and I was so eager to learn more.

Was there anything in particular that inspired you?

Yes, that’d be my first experience with a black physician at the age of 14. Although, I used to watch doctors on TV and imagine what I could do in the future I had never met a physician of colour before that time.

My experience with the black physician really inspired me and showed me that I wasn’t just dreaming. I believed if someone from a similar background like mine could become a medical doctor. Then I could do it too.

That’s so amazing, what’s your current daily itinerary like?

I’m currently a first-year medical student at Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine — Quinnipiac University.

Before the current outbreak and lockdown, my typical day goes like this:

  • Wake up around 6 am and head over to the gym after that
  • Tidy myself and prepare for class (I have classes as early as 8am most times until 12 noon)
  • Transition to the second half of my day — go to see patients, interview them to figure out why they are there, do relevant physical examinations, and report my findings to the Doctor

#Inside life of becoming a Medical Doctor

…Have you had any challenges on your journey so far?

I faced difficulties on my journey into medical school, a lot was due to financial differences from an underrepresented neighbourhood in medicine and also a lower socioeconomic status neighbourhood. It was difficult to find mentors and resources that’d guild me into medical school. I had to find and foster a lot of those relationships myself.

Oh, dear…

My parents are not doctors, and there were no doctors in my family, so it was very difficult to find those resources to find the right support to navigating medical school applications. I literarily had no one to guide me or tell me what direction is better.

That’s definitely not an easy one

One of my biggest failures was the first time I applied to medical colleges. It was a hard thing to be rejected by 15 different medical schools.

Eventually, these experiences encouraged me to work harder and not wallow in self-pity. I had to figure out a plan B and Plan C if needed.

Hmmm…It’s interesting how failure motivates us to achieve our goals

It definitely inspired me to work harder towards my goal. So I applied again in the next application season and I’ve had my highlights. The highlight was my successful application session, I was able to interview at 5 schools. I got admission to 2 out of the 5 within the first month of the application season. This also came with acceptance letters and scholarships.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

That’s incredible, Congratulations! Any lessons you’d like to share from your experience

I am grateful for the difficulties because it helped me appreciate the success more.

I have learned that no matter the situation, there is always a way to keep going and persevere.

It also taught me to be proactive, I can now avoid some of the behaviours and mistakes that I may have made when I was first starting out as an undergrad. I mean some of the studying mistakes and habits. Now, I am not only a better student but also a better person.

Awesome! So what’s your favourite quote?

“you got this”.

This, to me, means that you can do this, you are capable of doing this. If anyone else has ever done it, then you can. I know that anything can be achieved with an actionable plan.

Yes, you can!

Let’s talk about life in Medical school, is it like what you expected?

Life in medical school has been great, things have changed with the current pandemic. I was able to develop a rhythm that works for me. I have had to take control of my schedule and adapt to the environment.

Basically I am working to ensure that I’m getting the most out of my medical education even with the global pandemic.

Medical school so far is what I have imagined. I was gaining clinical experience by working with patients four hours a week and meeting with the patients myself and interviewing them and performing physical exams.

Being able to do all of those things will strengthen the type of physician that I’d be when I graduate so I am grateful for the experiences so far and being able to go into the lab and learn about anatomy.

Your love for anatomy though…Lol

Thank you for sharing your story with us Sotonye, We hope you wax stronger in your journey as a medical doctor and also inspire many young African women out there.

Connect with Sotonye on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn

CAWSTEM is a community of African women in STEM. We are a female-led crew, on a mission to rewrite the narrative about having few women in STEM and, especially in leadership positions. We share interesting insights, news, and resources to empower women in their STEM careers. You can join the community here

Every Tuesday, we publish stories here about African women’s journey in STEM. We know every STEM woman’s story is unique…so we tell these stories to inspire our community. If you would like to share your story with us, send an email to content@cawstem.org, we can’t wait to read from you!