Where Does the Story Begin for A Doctor?

It is different for every one of us. There is a well-known joke that circulated while I was a medical student. What do you call the person who graduates last in their class from medical school? A Doctor. I certainly did not graduate last, but I was actually the last person accepted to the 1995 class at the University Of Washington School Of Medicine. When I called to accept the position, the secretary in the Admissions Office said “Your tape was amazing. Everyone in this office has seen it and loved it. Welcome aboard.”

Yes, I was accepted to medical school because I was a competitive baton twirler. I devoted more than 10 years of my life to perfecting my performance and here is the letter my very gutsy 20 year old self sent to the Dean of the Medical School more than 20 years ago. Recently, an older video of my performance was posted online and I thought posting the ONE that really mattered in my life was worthwhile to share. Here is where my journey into medicine truly began, and where I learned to stand up for what I believe in. A lesson I carry with me today.

June 15, 1995

Dear Dr. Samson:

I am a medical school applicant on the waiting list at the University Of Washington, who met briefly with you yesterday. I was quite disappointed with our meeting and feel you might be less apt to make jokes once you learn something about the sport of competitive baton twirling. You mentioned I had not done anything extraordinary to stand out from the other medical school applicants, like playing basketball or the violin. You are correct that I have participated in neither of these activities; however I would like to show you what I consider “extraordinary.” I have enclosed a video tape of my final World Baton Twirling Competition in which I placed second.

I find it hard to believe someone of your educational level was so quick to judge something you knew so little about. Your attitude toward baton twirling is a common one people have toward a sport to which they have never been exposed. I assure you this sport demands the relentless dedication, desire, and the countless hours of hard work as does any goal worth achieving.

Hopefully, I have piqued your curiosity enough so you will take three minutes out of your busy day and watch the Silver Medalist at the 1990 Eleventh World Baton Twirling Championships, in which 17 countries participated. It is unlike anything you have seen before and equally as “extraordinary” as playing basketball or a musical instrument in my humble opinion.


Niran S. Al-Agba

P.S. I should mention the Dean of the Medical School became a good friend of mine. He said he could not believe a student would tell him he needed an education. He returned the VHS tape to me upon my graduation day from Medical School in 1999.