How This Future Surgeon Found Her Calling
Even if you are unsure about what to do after high school, you can still find your dream career. Sometimes taking a step towards something you love, trying something new, and trusting God through the process is how you discover your future job.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Sometimes God calls people down paths not many have traveled.
For Crown graduate Tiffany Sinclair, the road to medical school is where God led her. She graduated from Crown College in 2014 with a degree in Biology, and she recently graduated from medical school (the Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine) in the spring of 2019. She will start surgery training in a network of hospitals in Chicago over the next five years.
For her, the journey to find her calling in college took a few twists and turns along the way. Through it all, she chose to follow God’s direction in her life.
Her first few years at Crown
Sinclair didn’t quite know what she wanted to do after high school, but she discovered a desire to help people who are sick and is now in the process of becoming a surgeon.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but my parents thought I should start college,” says Sinclair. “I knew lots of people who went to Crown College from working at Big Sandy Camp, and I knew I could do Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO). So I came to Crown as an English major, hopping around majors a bit for the first couple years.”
Sinclair was born in Chicago but grew up in Maple Grove, Minnesota. During her time at Crown, she was involved in Student Senate as the student body vice president, played for the women’s soccer team, and worked in the coffee shop on campus.
One of Sinclair’s favorite things about Crown was the opportunity she had to spend time with her professors. Not only did they help her through classes, they were willing to help her discover her future career and provide the support she needed to reach her goals.
“Dr. Thor Benson sat with me for hours every time I decided on a career switch, and to this day he is always willing to chat with me,” says Sinclair. “Dr. Aeisha Thomas helped me academically to figure out the steps I needed to take to go to medical school and pushed me in her courses. She helped train me for my future and has been a kind mentor throughout the years.”
Dr. Thomas, Associate Professor of Biology and Life Science, shared that Sinclair was very motivated in school, showing determination in her academics and humility in her character.
“I was impressed by her humility to ask for help and get feedback,” says Dr. Thomas. “She was always willing to listen to advice as she went through the medical school application process. She also has a heart of gratitude and a sense that as she does something there are others who have helped get her there. Not everyone has the humility to seek and value that type of support.”
Balancing a busy schedule of school, work, sports, and a social life was also challenging. For Sinclair, learning time management was key to thriving in college. Choosing how you spend your time and making wise decisions leads to better efficiency in college.
“I spent my Sundays catching up on homework, and a couple of weeknights working after soccer practice,” says Sinclair. “Our coach, Jamie Ross, was a huge advocate for prioritizing school. So if I was getting really behind before a test, he’d suggest a personal study day occasionally. He would meet with us weekly to check in on our academics, which was helpful.”
Difficulty choosing a major
Even though she enjoyed her time at Crown, and with the added support of mentors and professors, Sinclair struggled with not knowing what program to pursue. That struggle of choosing a major helped Sinclair find her passion for the medical field, even though she disliked her science classes throughout high school.
“I sort of knew I liked the medical field in high school because I loved being a lifeguard and learning the first aid training,” says Sinclair. “But I didn’t like my high school science classes at all, which led me to rule out any possibility of going into the medical field.”
“I settled the longest on Biblical and Theological Studies,” she says. “I struggled big time in my difficult theology classes. The only C on my transcript is from a theology class. I distinctly remember running into Dr. Benson in the hall and telling him I wanted to drop my theology class. He told me I should pick up his Kinesiology class because it was a fun curriculum. I agreed, and fell in love with the human body mechanics.”
After taking Kinesiology with Dr. Benson, Sinclair decided she wanted to be a physical therapist, so she changed her major from Biblical and Theological Studies to Biology.
That proved to be a circuitous route for her as well.
“Through the experience of my internship, I discovered physical therapy was not the right career for me,” says Sinclair. “I shadowed Crown’s sports physician in the operating room one day and fell in love with everything I saw. That’s when I knew I wanted to go to medical school.”
All of this is a big change for any student. It was especially true considering the only science major offered at that time was Biology. Since then, Crown’s Mathematics and Science Department has grown to include degrees such as Exercise Science (B.A.), Health Science/Medical Biology (B.A.), and Science Education (B.S.).
“Crown prepared me because of the faculty who taught me, my advisor who helped make sure my course schedule met requirements, and those who mentored me.”
After graduating from Crown in 2014, Sinclair took a year off school to work, save money, and prepare for the rigorous challenges of medical school. During her year off, Sinclair said she felt as though she was in a strange season of life – like being in limbo.
“I had a year off in between college and medical school, which was weird,” says Sinclair. “I had some friends who had already started in grad school or working full-time jobs, and I still had lots of friends at Crown. I lived with my parents to save money. Overall, it felt like a slow transition out of college since I came back to see people often.”
During this season of life, Sinclair had to face her fears and trust God to help with her dream of becoming a doctor. She wondered if she was prepared enough to attend medical school since the road ahead would be so challenging.
But her fears didn’t stop her from following God’s calling. Sinclair completed her last year of medical school and will be training for the next five years to become a surgeon.
“I am starting my residency this July in general surgery in Chicago and will be training to be a surgeon,” says Sinclair. “I’m not sure where life will take me after that, but I would love to move down south to practice in the future. Someday when I have a more-established practice, I hope to do short-term medical missions as well.”
Advice for other students
When asked what advice she would give to others who want to become a doctor, Sinclair was quick to point out the importance of developing good study habits and time management skills. Medical school isn’t easy, so taking time to relax and enjoy friendships will keep you sane. Keeping an outlet for hobbies and extracurricular activities is also important.
“I didn’t really learn to study well until I was in medical school, and I wish I had focused on learning how to study more in college,” says Sinclair. “Your GPA and knowledge of science matter a lot when getting into medical school, so doing well in college is important. Being well-rounded is important. Medical schools like to see involvement in things outside of science and health care. A lot of the most successful people I know in medicine have one big hobby that they’re passionate about — things like powerlifting, cooking ethnic foods, singing, soccer, or martial arts.”
Sinclair is passionate about the medical field because she wants to make a difference in people’s lives. Sometimes remembering the reason you’re passionate about something helps you continue in diligence, even when things aren’t easy.
Sinclair enjoys writing, blogging, and keeping up with others on social media, especially via Instagram. Her page is filled with artistic and inspiring photos (many of them related to the medical field) and has captured the attention of over 19,000 followers.
“I’ve always had a deep compassion for sick and injured people, and as I started to discover the path to medicine I knew that was the career I was meant for,” says Sinclair. “I chose to become a surgeon because I love working with my hands and because it is a true privilege to care for people at their most vulnerable states when they are sick and in need of an operation.”
Asked about her dream job, she said she would like to work in private practice as a general surgeon or enter the field of breast surgery or bariatric surgery.
Through her life journey, Sinclair has learned that no matter how much you struggle with knowing which direction to go at first, God will direct your path. Even if it seems like not many people are headed in the direction God is calling you, He provides strength for those who seek refuge in Him.
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