40-Year-Old Med Student Overcomes Obstacles, Inspires Others
- You’re almost 40. Who would decide to go to medical school at this age?”
- “You should be thinking about retirement.”
- “I see you’re wearing a wedding ring. I don’t see how you can go to medical school with a family.”
- “You military people think you can do anything. The fact of the matter is, you can’t.”
This was just some of the crass opposition that Joyce Haynes Busch, MD (‘16) remembers getting when she decided, at age 38, to apply to medical school. “They didn’t know me, and already they labeled me as a failure,” she remembers.
In fact, the opposite was true.
After serving in the United States Air Force, Haynes Busch built herself a successful career as a mortgage broker. But when she got married and moved from the Dallas, Texas area to Houston, she realized she would need to restart her business from the ground up in a brand new city. Considering she’d have to go back to square one as a broker, she figured she might as well begin at square one in the career she always dreamed of: medicine. Her new husband, who at the time had two young children from a previous marriage, supported her in her decision to start taking medical school prerequisites full-time.
Then, a devastating blow: Haynes Busch’s husband received a terminal cancer diagnosis. “I was taking care of him, looking after the two boys, and taking classes at the same time,” she says. “He passed before I was accepted to Ross.”
Pressing On to Achieve Her Dream
Unwilling to let the naysayers stop her and committed to achieving her dream of becoming a physician, Haynes Busch decided to press on—in a very public way. “I thought I’d document my journey on a blog, and prove the opposition wrong,” she says. “And, maybe motivate myself along the way.”
In hundreds of posts, Haynes Busch documents her path on the blog she calls "A 40-Year-Old Medical Student.” Her earliest posts are dated 2008, when she first started meeting with admissions counselors and taking prerequisites, and it follows her path taking the MCAT, applying and becoming accepted to Ross University School of Medicine, her journey through medical school, and, finally, matching as a family medicine resident at the University of Arkansas earlier this year. She ends nearly every post with a call to action: “Now go live your dreams!”
Why? “I have found that so many people find so many excuses why they can’t,” she says. “I have encountered so many obstacles in my own path: taking care of my husband who did ultimately pass, adopting two sons, meeting opposition about going to medical school. So, here I am, trying to do all this and at the same time live my dream. I’m determined to live that dream.
“My message is that you cannot sit back and let excuses stop you,” she continues. “I started telling readers to live their dreams because you must love your life. Whether it’s being a schoolteacher or taking a painting class, whatever your dream is, go and do it. You only live once and you must not take it for granted. As I once told my uncle who was worried about money: I have my husband’s wallet. I have his shoes. I have all of his clothes. You cannot take it with you. You have to live for today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
And She's Just Getting Started
This message resonates with readers from all over the world. Some tell her that they’ve been following her story for years; others report stumbling on the blog and binge-reading all of her posts in just a few days. But, now that she’s graduated, the blog platform doesn’t quite seem to fit. After all, she is no longer a medical student, as the title suggests.
Haynes Busch says her message may find a home in a new blog, or she may start pursuing speaking engagements at women’s conferences or high schools. But, no matter how she chooses to move forward, Haynes Busch is committed to healing the community through medicine and through her story, she says, “which is a story of victory and triumph and overcoming obstacles...and I’m just getting started.”