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CMA Inspires Medical Students to be Physicians that Imitate Jesus Christ

April 3, 2024 4:28 pm

By Isabella Contolini

 

By my junior year of college I was fairly certain that God was calling me to become a Catholic physician, but I was terrified of having to do it alone. As a graduate of public school and a student at a very secular private university, I had no illusions about the challenges I would face as a Catholic in medical education and training. I doubted I would be able to make it through that gauntlet without at least a few like-minded peers and role models, but so far those had been very hard to find. At the very least, I needed a mentor, so I told God that if this was really what He wanted from me, He would have to send me one.

The paint on that prayer was barely dry when I attended the SEEK2019 conference, where I discovered a whole organization of Catholics in medicine who it seemed to me had been placed there precisely to answer it. Learning that the Catholic Medical Association not only existed, but was actively invested in the support and formation of students was like discovering an oasis in a vast desert. I immediately signed up to be matched with a mentor in my hometown of Denver. As I got to know her and the organization better, I actually started to look forward to medical school!

However, this hope and anticipation, which allowed me to start the application process, was not to last. After my first cycle yielded nothing but rejections, I fell into a spiritual and existential crisis. I hadn’t just decided on medicine as a career, I had discerned it as a vocation. Up until that point God had given me green lights all the way — why would He do that just to cut me off and make me slam on the brakes at the last minute? Did this mean that I could not trust my own discernment, which had been unfolding for the better part of a decade? Worse, did it mean that I could not trust God? Or had I just failed Him somehow?

Unsure of what to do, or if I should even try again, I turned to CMA. Over tearful phone calls, coffee dates, and Zoom meetings, I talked to many people that year who provided wisdom and guidance, perspective and encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. They read my essays, wrote me letters of recommendation, and coached me in how to share my motivations and beliefs in a way that secular admissions committees could understand. In short, they were the light of Christ to me in the darkest point in my life, and I honestly don’t think I would be in medical school today if it hadn’t been for their support and prayers.

God is never outdone in generosity, and over the past five years He has blessed me with far more than just a mentor. Through this organization, He has provided me with a community of Catholic physicians, residents, and medical students across the country (and even around the world) who are not just attendings and colleagues, but my brothers and sisters in Christ. The depth of love, generosity, and community I have experienced is the direct result of CMA’s mission –– “Inspiring physicians to imitate Jesus Christ.” Its members know, and have taught me, that in the end what matters most is not knowledge, technical prowess, diagnostic acumen, or evidence-based best practices, but our willingness to love. Please pray for me and all my fellow Catholic medical students, that as we move forward with our education and training, we might be able to do the same.

 

Isabella is currently an OMS-II at Rocky Vista University in Parker, CO, where she and several classmates started a student chapter of CMA in 2022. She plans to pursue a residency in pediatrics or family medicine, and is interested in practicing in a rural area.

 

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