Dying med student forced to study with chest cracked open, no hair, no voice, in extreme pain—so he could get a residency


I just lost my study partner this morning to cancer. I love him too much to share everything he went through publicly. Maybe he can live on through your blog. 

He was diagnosed with cancer last summer. Had a softball-size tumor taken out of his lung, started chemo and went through hell. The pictures of him are horrifying. He came back to school because another leave of absence may have prevented him from getting a residency. He was beautiful and now he’s gone.

Our med school doesn’t let students recover from accidents or medical conditions without failing them for attendance or making them repeat the term—even though they have A’s. They are abusing the shit out of our class. One of the happiest guys in our class just told me he has been depressed all year. My lab partner, the sweetest human on the planet, tells me she cries in the shower every night.

Now an incredible human is lost. We are all in mourning. Instead of taking care of his body he came back to finish. Please do not share the name or picture, but please share his memory and love for healing. Medical school was more important than his own life. I’m so distraught, angry, and crushed that the system is run in such a way that we can’t get cancer.

After I read your article about a young surgeon who was dismissed from her program when she became ill, I realized you can’t get sick during medical training or this huge investment is taken away. It’s counterintuitive and heartbreaking. This story proves the pressures of residency. Great future doctors choose to continue school rather than fully recover in order to fulfill the timeline in which we must finish. 

It wasn’t a suicide but it kind of was. He should have been home getting treatment. 

I wish I could share more. But he wouldn’t want to be remembered as a victim or as being weak. That is the person he was. Don’t get sick in medical school.

He was here with his chest cracked open, no hair, no voice, and in 10/10 pain. Studying next year’s classes so he wasn’t behind.

~ Chris

P.S. He sent me this in January.


Medical student with cancer


Facts: A medical school diploma does not allow you to work as a doctor. A residency position is required. In 2016, 35,476 medical school graduates applied for the 30,750 residency positions. That means 4,726 did not match. What happens if you don’t get a residency? Here’s one doctor’s story: I’m a doctor. I’m on Medicaid. I work as a waitress.

Outraged? Here’s how you can help:

Sign this petition to support Dr. Svetlana Kleyman’s return to school.

Support Dr. Stephanie Waggel who was fired for having cancer.

Pamela Wible, M.D., reports on human right violations in medicine. She is a practicing physician in Oregon where she hosts biannual retreats for physicians and medical students to help them heal from their trauma so they can be the healers they were born to be.

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5 comments on “Dying med student forced to study with chest cracked open, no hair, no voice, in extreme pain—so he could get a residency
  1. Judith Vance says:

    Medical students are people too just like patients. The system needs to change now. Please enact regulations fair to all.

  2. Eli says:

    Iam happy to relate that not all medical schools are as heartless as the above. I’m sorry for this person who was not allowed to heal. I’m sorry for all the trauma his classmates are going through. I wish our establishment were as pure as our intentions when we were first accepted to medical school.

    As for my story: I had a brain bleed between second and third year of medical school. The Dean of Students, the Dean of Academic Affairs, and the Chancellor all came to visit me in the Neuro ICU. They talked with me and were incredibly supportive. I ended up taking a year off.

    • Pamela Wible MD says:

      That’s the way it should be. Do you mind sharing the name of your school?

    • Steve says:

      I don’t understand. This school has the same policy as yours. The student could have taken a year off, just like you did. They choose not to because “another leave of absence may have prevented him from getting a residency.” That is poor decision making on many different levels.

      This letter also has so much exaggeration and sensationalism that it is hard to take it seriously. There are plenty of things wrong with medical education and abusive/beaurocratic systems, crying about the mean medical school that won’t let you pass a class when you can’t be at the class is counter productive.

      • Pamela Wible MD says:

        The pressures of getting into residency (and being able to ever use your medical degree to treat patients) forces students into this predicament. It is not an exaggeration. I get letters like this all the time. Here’s another:

        “I imagine all med schools are difficult, but mine is sadistic (a direct quote from our school counselor). My school is notorious for failing students—10%-20% of every class every semester. It doesn’t matter if your brother just died; if you’re .01% away from passing any class, you’re dismissed. No makeup tests. Before med school, I was a 3.98 student. Today I’m a C+. Talk about deflating. I’ve gone to every department to figure out how to bring my grades up, but the response is, ‘You’re not smart enough.’ I know that’s not true, but it hurts that my school doesn’t think I belong here (but they’re happy to take my money). All this crap has culminated in a deep depression. I’ve developed test anxiety that paralyzes me during exams. The only help I’ve received is antidepressants. I constantly doubt myself. I even struggle to interact with my husband and son. I feel like an idiot for coming here—and even worse for dragging my family into this $200,000 mess without knowing if I’ll ever pay it off. I worry that I’ll never be able to practice medicine. It’s enough to drive anyone mad. Worst of all, I’ve become cocky just to deal with all the assholes that I’m surrounded by, but my confidence is down the toilet.”

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