This week on the blog, we are sharing an excerpt of the chapter Dr. Kimberly Meyers wrote in the fourth installment of The Chronicles of Women in White Coats! Keep reading to learn how she developed a resiliency starting at a young age:
The word “Doctor” means teacher. I strive to teach other women the tools they need to help others, the confidence they need to lead others, the motivation to reach their goals, and the skills to be resilient in uncertain times.
Many people and events in my life inspired me, challenged me, and supported me in the journey to become a doctor. My first inspirations were from my parents. My story began in 1965, during the Vietnam war. I was the first of four girls born to high school sweethearts.
My dad was an enlisted airman in the military when I was born, and the war in Vietnam was raging. He was deployed twice in my early life for a year at a time while we were raised by mother. My father never saw any of my firsts: first steps, first words, first teeth. During his deployment, we went to live with my mom’s family. We shared the childhood home of my mom with my aunt and her three children and my grandparents until my dad returned at which point we were swept off to another base.
Growing up as a military brat, as we were called, shaped my young life. My sister was my best friend and foe. As a military child, I learned my first lessons in resilience and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and also about toughness. You had to be tough to deal with sudden changes in environment, schools, friends and often, Dad being gone. This led us to be a tight knit family.
My parents were loving, but strict, hard working people. Growing up, we didn’t have much money and neither of my parents had more than a high school education. My parents’ work ethic was ingrained in me early: You had to work hard if you wanted anything. You were dedicated to your job and boss and always did your best and acted with integrity. That work ethic and integrity served me well throughout my life.
I knew I wanted to be a doctor at the age of four and because I loved kids, I decided I wanted to be a pediatrician. This desire was also inspired by my first experiences with military doctors and dentists. Most were male and didn’t deal well with children. I fell and broke my nose at the age of two and was a heavy tooth grinder. I wore all the enamel off my teeth requiring lots of amalgam fillings in my primary dentition. I continued to break teeth and had many terrifying experiences with military dentists. I was very fearful especially after I had a broken tooth removed without Novocain. It’s a wonder that I actually went on to be a dentist despite that experience. But this pain motivated me to want to become a compassionate doctor who would care for children without inflicting pain.
My hard work paid off as I was accepted to Michigan Technological University with a full scholarship. I chose pre-med as my major, but I was not ready for the social aspects and freedom of college. I finished my first year but did not do well so I was put on academic probation. Feeling dejected, I decided that I did not want to continue with college and let go of my childhood dream of being a pediatrician.
My experiences as a young child with the dentist, however, pushed me to explore a different aspect of healthcare, and I became a certified dental assistant through the American Red Cross in a military dental clinic. After obtaining my certification I went to work as a dental assistant and gained some real-life experience of what it was truly like to care for patients. I fell in love with dentistry and decided that I wanted instead to be a dentist. I knew I had what it took to be a great dentist.
Now with a clear sense of my life’s mission in mind I knew exactly what I needed to do. I went and got my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry. At this point in time, I met my husband, a young carpenter. I was attracted to his hard work ethic and determination to be self-employed and to be successful. We hit it off quickly. Within a short time, we moved in together and became engaged. He was 100% onboard with my desire to become a dentist and have six children. I was very determined to become a doctor and did whatever I needed to pay for my education. So while I went to school, I also worked as a dental assistant and waited tables at night.
I also knew I needed to prove myself to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) by taking classes and getting a 4.0 grade point average to get accepted at UNH full time. We got married, and I continued my education. It was much harder to work and go to school full time to pay for it than it was to have a full scholarship. Even though I always seemed to do things the hard way, I was wired to quickly recover from difficulties.
During my senior year of undergraduate school, I got pregnant with my first child. Since I had severe morning sickness for 8 months, my husband encouraged me to take a break from school. I was determined to finish as I knew that if I quit, I might never finish and my dream of
becoming a doctor would vanish. From this experience I learned you can do anything you set your mind to assuming you want it bad enough. No matter what the challenge, hard work, passion and true grit win out.
During this time, the niece of the dentist I worked for, who was in dental school herself, told me I would never make it through dental school with a baby, a husband and so many “distractions” as she called them. As I stood before her with my big pregnant belly, she said that dental school was so hard and I didn’t have a clue. This only fueled my desire to prove her wrong. She did not know the struggles I had gone through to get to this point nor my resilience. I was determined to be a doctor! My nine-pound 5 oz. baby girl, Nicole, was born on the last day of
classes in undergraduate school. She went to all my final exams with me, and was just 10 days old when I walked across the stage at my graduation. I did it!
To finish reading Dr. Meyers’ chapter and many more like it, you can purchase The Chronicles of Women in White Coats 4 by clicking here.