12 December 2020 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied
Read More Bianca Vermeulen
Bianca Vermeulen started her journey to become a doctor this year after being accepted by the University of the Free State (UFS) to study medicine. She had previously applied 32 times in eight years to study medicine.

A first-year medical student from the University of Free State (UFS) is finally on her way to realise her childhood dream of becoming a doctor after having been rejected 32 times in eight years to study medicine.

Bianca Vermeulen, who started the MBChB programme in 2020, said she applied 32 times in eight years and got rejected every time. As a qualified Critical Care Clinical Technologist who worked for the Free State Department of Health, the daily interaction with her patients and colleagues inspired her to keep her dream alive.

“My childhood dream (of becoming a doctor) did not fade. Dreams do not have expiry dates. During my time in the clinical setting, I learnt some important life lessons. Experience is most definitely what I got when I did not get what I wanted,” said Vermeulen.

According to her, working in a clinical setting fueled her passion. Said Bianca: “I woke up to an alarm clock of opportunity. At the end of the day I can go home with a feeling of satisfaction. I could not have done it without the support of my colleagues and friends. Then it all becomes worth it.”

Finally, a yes to study medicine

Vermeulen said she was at work when she received an e-mail on 3 October 2019 from the UFS application office. She initially ignored the e-mail thinking they would resend one of their earlier rejection letters. After ‘accidentally’ opening the letter, she could not believe her eyes.

“For a moment I was in denial. I had to read the letter a few times to ensure my eyes were not bewitching me. I had to show a friend to ensure that I had read and understood the letter. Then the reality came as an overwhelming mixture of emotions.”

Studying medicine during a pandemic

Vermeulen , who has a passion for neonatal and paediatric intensive care and would like to specialise in paediatrics and child health care after her undergraduate studies, said she welcomes the change that COVID-19 brought to the academic table.

“Daily routine changed overnight for all people and all stared uncertainty in the face. Students had to adapt to a blended learning approach (which also had its own challenges), but as time progressed, we learnt the new ropes.

“I truly hope that we all take the COVID lessons to heart. In the medical sector, no one is a greater ‘hero’ than another. The sector needs various role players and I hope that people realise the importance of nurses, hospital cleaners, administrative staff and all allied health workers. Without these people, the medical sector cannot function. We all need one another.

“With that being said, I hope people realise that we need a functional system so that we can work with each other and not against a system,” said Vermeulen.

Working with various healthcare workers, she has seen the effects of burnout and experienced the best (and worst) of both worlds but is still happy with her choice to study medicine.

It only takes one successful application

“As [US educator] Randy Pausch said: ‘The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.’ I take this to heart,” Vermeulen said.

“You might have received ample unsuccessful applications, but it will only take one successful application to commence with your dream. If it is truly something you want to do, never give up on your dreams. Always work hard and take to heart what the Lord has done for you!”

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