“Treat every day with the determination that you will make a difference and be successful. Be the change and deploy your best.”
The body blows of life led Connor Read to making those words his daily mantra amidst the challenges. He and his younger brother Charlton have been struggling for the last few years, and making the grade has been an arduous task for both of them.
Connor struggled to land a job to help him through his first degree; and Charlton struggled to balance college and the jobs he had during the semesters and holidays to get by. Their dream of becoming doctors never waned, but the demands from the medical schools they were scouting made them both weary. In the words of Charlton it was “disheartening”.
The newly-opened American University of Integrative Sciences (AUIS) School Of Medicine at 5th Avenue, Belleville, St Michael, offered the siblings from Mississippi, Alabama, a timely lifeline. This maiden trip outside of the United States has allowed them to bypass graduate schools as recommended by other universities. The goal of becoming doctors Read and Read, and together the first physicians in their family, is within sight, now.
For the next two years in Barbados and until completion in Atlanta they each have one job – school.
They will have their work cut out for them to repay the loans they took to move to Barbados to attend AUIS, but that is still a few years off.
And the fact, that by setting up in Barbados the AUIS is not considered an American University and it is now looking to regain its accredited status, has not daunted them either. Choosing AUIS also meant that they were denied some scholarships, but the Reads are in with AUIS all the way.
“It would be a lot easier if it did [have accreditation], but we have ways to do this. If it takes long, it takes long. Me and Connor have been wanting this for so long now, we’ll do what it take to become [doctors]. With everything that this school has done for us, I mean they’re working on it. That happens when you move schools. They’ve really helped us in so many other ways, not just financially,” Charlton said.
Connor, 24, said their mentor Dr Terry Sexton made a big difference in how they saw themselves and eventually made their decision.
“Dr Sexton really wanted to know our background, like where we were in school; what our goals were and then from there I had a shadowing opportunity with him and I got my pre-certifications from him as well and we just kept staying in touch and he told us about AUIS. Originally he had told us about Sint Eustatius (which is now AUIS), that’s where he attended medical school. And he told us about his background and why he ended up going to the Caribbean. We thought it was a great opportunity, obviously, but it was a little bit more than that, because he had seen something in us that we didn’t and a lot of people didn’t see in us,” he said.
Charlton added: “I had gotten into grad schools, but with the grad school it could be one or two years studies and then you still have to re-apply and hope to get in, and since AUIS saw something in me and Connor, personally, I took it and ran with it. I don’t want to say I was wasting my time with those two years and hoping to getting in, but this school was giving me a shot and the opportunity to fulfill my dreams. So I ended up deciding to put my future first and go ahead and get my schooling out of the way so I can fulfill my life and get my career going.”
The 22-year-old continues to be frustrated by the fact that numbers was the main focus for the other universities.
“I think in the med field, you really need who you are as a person. As a doctor, it’s patient interaction a big percentage of that is how you treat patients and how you are as a person. You can be the smartest person in the world, but if you’re a jerk, your patients aren’t going to open up to you,” he argued.
But how did they end up here together, you ask?
Connor did not set out to wait on little brother. It just worked out that way, they said.
“I transferred from Springhill College, where I did my first two years of college, and when I transferred I lost a lot of credits, because that’s a Jesuit private college. But it didn’t hinder me from continuing on with my studies. I continued with the pre-medical. At Springhill I was a biological science major and a pre-medical concentration. When I transferred to the University of South Alabama I was also a biological science major with a concentration in pre-health,” Connor explained.
Charlton did his undergrad studies at Mississippi State University in Bio-chemistry.
At a time when most siblings look forward to spreading their wings and getting away from each other, these two are thrilled to be roommates.
“We experienced that [separation] during our undergrad. When he went to South Alabama, I went to Mississippi State, which is about four and a half hours away and I could come home if I wanted to, but with school and everything up there, I barely came home. We went off and experienced our own experiences; did our own college, made new friends. Growing up me and him, two years apart, we played the same sports, did the same activities, the same clubs, pretty much,” Charlton explained.
For Connor medicine was the pick for as long as he can remember. Dentistry was the first choice, but he decided on becoming a surgeon from back in high school.
“I was shadowing my aunt’s physician who was a general surgeon, it was shadowing him that guaranteed that that was a reality goal. I fell in love with it, I was passionate about it, I went into it with both hands. I just fell in love with it, open wound, cutting open, suturing, everything,” he said.
While medicine has been a passion for quite some time as well, Charlton has not yet decided on an area of specialty.
“I have a view of what I’m interested in . . . . Until I get a view of as much as I can, I’m hesitant until I experience everything and find what I’m really, really in love with. But I definitely know it’s the medical field. I’ve experienced a lot of things, in my undergrad I worked with mechanical engineers, I had a job at an engineering building, so I’ve got the experiences and we’ve both done a lot of different trades and a good bit of different types of careers and different types fields,” Charlton said, adding that their family owns a one-stop florist, bakery and gift shop.
The two are eternally grateful for the support of parents Derek and Melinda and the other members of the family and the entire AUIS team.
They have been in Barbados for a month and they say they are still settling trying to get used to the heat and other things.
As for AUIS, the actual experience appears to be even better than the pitches made by Sexton and others involved. Words like “welcoming” and “uplifting” were used to describe the experience to date. They say the small class, professors, and other staff made AUIS feel like a family.
Managing director of AUIS, Milo Pinckney, issued them a challenge of sorts at the White Coat ceremony last Saturday. In addition to encouraging them to excel and to be grateful for the opportunity extended by the Barbados Government in allowing them to relocate from St Maarten here, Pinckney told the new and continuing students they had to make him look good.
The Read brothers have willingly accepted the challenge. (YB)