Every Sunday for two years before my first semester of college, my family visited my grandmother in the nursing home to have lunch in a beautiful, quiet courtyard that was a block away from Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington, D.C. but still miles away. We chatted about her progress and gossiped about the day-shift nurses. Only because they wouldn’t place Grandma’s long-distance calls to Liberia. That was the least of her worries because after all these years she was happy.
Two months before classes began, my grandmother declined. A fear of birds flying in her room developed and we had to help “chase” them out of her room. We would cautiously enter her room and exchange wide-eyed looks. There were no birds. According to the nurses, there were never any birds. Confused by her behavior we would later discuss “how bad Grandma had become” after every visit.
One day, my grandmother was rushed to the emergency room for the fourth and last time due to complications associated with chronic kidney disease. She died in 2007 the day after my 18th birthday.
Why did I share this story with you? My grandmother’s decline and death was my first experience with loss. My grandmother came to this country from Liberia in 1989 to help care for me and she did so every single day until her last in 2007. At my grandmother’s worst, I was at my worst and failed my first semester of college.
I became extremely depressed and tried to simply deal with it. I wish now, more than ever, that I had taken time away from school to get the help I desperately needed.
What is a medical leave of absence?
A medical leave of absence is a leave of absence requested by an individual because of serious medical or psychological circumstances. These circumstances must be documented by a healthcare professional. Most institutions will require documentation regarding the student’s medical or psychological condition in order to grant a leave of absence.
What happens during a medical leave of absence?
It is likely that one would seek treatment during their medical leave of absence. Especially if their respective institutions require proof of treatment during the leave of absence. This may be a requirement for readmission into a program.
How long is a leave of absence?
The time granted for a leave of absence depends on the institution.
How do you explain a leave of absence in medical school applications?
How you explain a lapse of time in your academic career is heavily dependent on the circumstances. For a medical leave of absence, you determine how much you want to share in applications and interviews. Did I share the background behind my academic struggles and my grandmother’s death? Yes.
I am not ashamed of failure or depression because of the amount of academic and personal growth that I experienced since that time. My grades improved (slowly) and I became a hospice volunteer where I learned how to address topics of decline and death with patients and their families. This is a very important development to share in applications and/or interviews.
But why didn’t I take a medical leave of absence? In my family, mental health issues were widely stigmatized. Admitting that one has a psychological problem is unspoken of and sadly considered a sign of weakness. Strength is to be found in prayer and perseverance. As a result, I did not take a leave of absence.
Please remember, any concerns that you have about sharing your medical history in applications or with admissions committees should also be addressed with the proper professionals.
Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate.