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Embracing the “Art of Failure”


Erin Lewis '18
Erin Lewis '18

If I learned anything at Hamilton, it was the art of failure. By the start of my junior year, I was a pre-med who didn’t understand physics, who had little clinical experience, and who did not perform well on her MCATs. My first day back on the Hill saw me in my research advisor’s office, tearfully asking him if I should give up on my dream of white coats.

“Do you still want to be a doctor despite the signs saying otherwise?” My advisor asked. “It’s a question only you know the answer to, but I’ve never known you to take the easy road. Is this any different?”

I left his office already knowing the answer to his question. No, it was no different. I still wanted to be a doctor, and I’d find a way to rise from the ashes of my failures.

My struggle in physics brought me to the physical chemistry classroom, where the concepts I couldn’t grasp before began to make sense. The class proved to me that not only did I understand physics, but that I could also handle demanding course loads like those in medical school. I also spent a summer working at a hospital in Connecticut and, after graduating, the Career Center helped me find a job in clinical research working under a fellow Hamilton graduate. Both experiences exposed me to more facets of medicine than I knew existed. And with each encounter, I grew more confident in my desire and fitness to serve future patients as their doctor. Finally, I re-took the MCAT, receiving scores that supported my dream of practicing medicine instead of discouraging it.

Although I would have enjoyed A’s in physics and taking the MCAT only once, I would never trade in my failures for those successes. Failure brings clarity and grit. Through it, you realize what is most important, adjust your efforts, and return stronger than before. Without my early disappointments, I might not have questioned my dream of becoming a physician until I was face-to-face with a patient. I’m thankful that Hamilton provided an environment where I could challenge myself both intellectually and personally. Without those challenges, I would not have grown into the medical school candidate that I am today. I am excited to start the medical school application process next month. And while I’m not sure if I’ll be successful, I know that I will be okay. Because the next best thing to success is knowing how to recover from defeat, and I’m really good at that.

Erin Lewis graduated from Hamilton College in 2018. She is currently working as the lab technician for a clinical research group studying Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease based out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. While at Hamilton, Erin was a member of the Varsity Swim and Dive Team, a computational chemistry research fellow, and worked as a teaching assistant and class grader for the Chemistry Department.

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