Quora Query: What are Some Odd Jobs You Had Before Medical School?

Well, they weren’t exactly “odd jobs”, and most of them weren’t paid, either. I was a student at Grossmont Junior College in El Cajon, CA, and then UC San Diego at a time when we in California had – essentially – tax-payor funded higher education, which we can do for our entire country if we wish.

Because of this, I was able to obtain financial aid, and work, mostly, as a volunteer at the Beach Area Free Clinic in Mission Beach as a laboratory technician. I also was a blood drawer – phlebotomist – at the San Diego VA Hospital; this was a paid job.

I also worked – marched – to end a war that we considered illegal, worked to create a free dental clinic in East San Diego, worked for the rights of Farm Workers with the United Farm Workers Union; all of these jobs were before medical school.

When I look back at my experience as an undergraduate and then medical student, comparing it to both the experience of my children and that of other young students, I am simply amazed. It is true that I was a student in the 1970s, and the world was a different place. The State of California had created an educational system that was extremely low cost, and tiered. There was the ability to obtain USDA Food Commodities – which fed me – there was student housing, which housed me.

As a – at the time – kid who had not done well in high school, but wanted to do something with his life more than consume alcohol and other substances, I was the recipient of the generosity of the People of the State of California. I pulled myself together, attended Grossmont Junior College, worked as hard as I could and STILL failed in some of my coursework. Continued to struggle, and finally began to do well. After about 2 years at the Community College, I was accepted to UCSD, then and now, one of the finest public institutions in the United States.

I was offered financial aid, small loans, and – I hope the University Housing Authority will forgive me – a small apartment in married student housing; I wasn’t married.

The calls today for “free public higher education” – really tax-payor funded education – are attainable. This was essentially done in California. We can do it for the entire country.

We are a wealthy nation, we can take care of our youth, our people.

About AJ Layon

AJ Layon was, for 28 years, at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in the Division of Critical Care Medicine, in Gainesville, FL. For the approximately 10 years until September 2011, he was Professor and Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF; In September of 2011 he became System Director and Co-Chairman of Critical Care Medicine in PA; this ended in 2017. He served as a Physician in the Surgical Group with Médecins sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) through 2018 and is presently an intensivist in Florida, struggling through the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. While his interests are primarily related to health care, health care reform, and ethical issues, as a citizen of our United States and our world, he will occasionally opine on issues of our "time and destiny". Follow on Twitter @ajlayon
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