After debating for years over whether to go back to school, Malaika Awori-Gunther finally took the bold decision to apply for medical school. Several rejection letters later, Malaika got in but now had to work through obstacles which she ultimately overcame and graduated.
Our Career Slay Mama Inspiration aka #CSMspiration and #WCW is Malaika Awori-Gunther. Malaika and met in 2013 soon after I moved to Montreal when I was looking to connect with folks and a former school mate from Kenya put us in touch. Malaika is biracial (Kenyan and Scottish) and like me, she moved to Canada in her early twenties to pursue university studies. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a minor in music from McGill University. We easily connected as we had both come to Canada from Kenya young and both worked in health/public health. She was at the time debating over whether to go into something more hands on.
Malaika made the bold decision to apply for medical school. It seemed like the odds were against her as a then mom of 2. She blogged about her journey to preparing for the exams and I remember following nervously until she finally posted in 2016 that she got in! To McGill!!! Malaika comes from a multitalented family that is well know for academic excellence both in the arts and sciences. She has two brothers who are MDs and her father was a well respected surgeon who passed away through a car accident when she was just 5.
Malaika has a heart of gold! When my first born was just 6 weeks old she welcomed us to her home. She is a doting and loving mother and she is extremely outstanding in all that she does. She takes everything that she commits to with seriousness and it is no surprise that she has achieved what she has today. She is also an amazing woman of faith which is one of the main things that drew me to her. Seeing God move through her application process was a huge encouragement to me. I asked Malaika to share some words of wisdom and encouragement to other career slay mamas.
"Although I enjoyed my career in research, I always felt that I wanted to have a more direct impact on health and debated for many years going back to school to pursue a career in Medicine. I wondered how my husband and I would manage on one salary if I stopped working and went back to school. How would we manage with raising our kids? There seemed to be so many obstacles and potential pitfalls and I was already in my mid-thirties with an established career. Did it make sense to change paths at this point in my life? My husband was always supportive of my goals and we asked our church to pray with us as we sought God’s guidance and wisdom.
My ultimate prayer was that if Medicine was the path God had in store for me, that He would then open the doors to make it a reality.
After several rejection letters and two attempts to get into medical school, I was finally accepted!
Journey to medical school
The journey through medical school as a married mother-of-two was both wonderful and
intense. There was voluminous material to learn, long shifts at the hospital, a lengthy commute, children’s schedules to juggle, my husband’s work schedule as well as our church responsibilities, hobbies and social life.
We had to develop some strategies for managing our lives:
1. Learning to say no
My husband and I had to get serious about prioritizing our activities and learning to say no to certain activities. This means missing out on certain things but gives us the breathing room to focus on our top priorities.
2. Good communication
My husband and I ensure we touch base and are on the same page about schedules, responsibilities and how each of us is holding up under the pressure.
During those particularly long weeks when I see less of the family, I leave notes on the dining room table or on the fridge to remind them how much I love them. If I have left the house before the kids wake-up, I FaceTime them before I start my work. We have weekly movie nights (with the kids) and date nights. We also have special days of the month when we get food from a restaurant or go out for ice-cream. Once or twice a year, we plan a simple vacation with activities such as canoeing, visits to the zoo, swimming and more.
4. Support networks and social connection
We identified key people (family and friends) who we could rely on for prayer and occasional help with the kids. We also reserve our weekends for social connection with friends and family as much as possible, trying to limit work where possible.
5. Making use of commute time
I have a daily drive of about 2.5 hours and I use this time to listen to audio books, podcasts and catch up on phone calls. If I am taking the train, I use this time to catch up on emails or to study.
It can be hard to carve out time for exercise but I try to have a regular time of day when I do this such as first thing in the morning. On the weekends, I include my kids in my exercise regime or we go swimming or bike-riding.
7. Family hobbies
we have developed hobbies that we enjoy as a family such as playing music together (me on the piano, husband and daughter on violin, son on drums). This intentional act of coming together as a family to play music has improved our skills as musicians and helped us to bond.
8. Faith and prayer
We commit every aspect of our lives to Christ, praying for his strength, guidance, grace and peace. We have daily devotionals and pray at bedtime with our kids.
I am thrilled to have graduated with my medical degree this year (June 2020) and to start my residency in Family Medicine. I have developed a great passion for Family Medicine with the privilege of being able to care for patients of all ages.
Even though going through medical school while raising a family was incredibly challenging (there were many tears), it was also one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad that I did it. I have no regrets! - Malaika Awori-Gunther
It showed me what I am capable of when I am willing to stretch myself and go beyond my comfort zone. It taught me how to rely more on God for strength rather than relying on my own efforts. It strengthened the bond with my husband and children as we journeyed together on this adventure as a team.
Life is an adventure!
To learn more about Malaika’s journey into Medicine as a mother-of-two, check out her blog www.potentialdoctor.com