Even if you’ve never studied ballet, the story of Misty Copeland is one that can be inspiring. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Copeland studied ballet during her teenage years in California and eventually rose as a stand-out, successful dancer among her peers. In June 2015 Misty Copeland made history when she was promoted to principal dancer with the ABT (American Ballet Theatre) because she was the first African American woman to ever hold this title in the company’s entire 75 year history. Throughout the past year she has continued to rise as a standout dancer and positive influence on the lives of millions, inspiring ballet students and others to go above any challenges between them and their dreams.
While young African American dancers can now look up to Misty as an example of what they might also be able to accomplish someday, Misty herself didn’t have that luxury. ABT had never had someone like her for her to look up to as a young girl; she had to become that someone. For many premedical students, there are older siblings, cousins, uncles, or even parents who are also physicians to look up to for advice along the way. However, for many other premeds, there is nobody in their family who has successfully sought and completed higher education within the medical field; they don’t have anyone to look to when the road gets tough, anyone to say “Hey, I’ve done this, and I know you can too.” For those students, looking to trailblazers like Misty Copeland can be great inspiration to keep pressing through the tough days regardless of a lack of role models or not.
For many ballerinas, beginning ballet lessons in early elementary school is the norm. It’s expected that the most successful people in a field are often those who have been doing that trade the longest. However, in the case of Misty Copeland, this wasn’t true. Instead, Copeland is witness to the fact that having a “late start” shouldn’t be a factor to keep you from success. She started studying ballet at the “old” age of 13, yet rose to unprecedented success.
Just because you switched majors a few times in undergrad or worked within another career field prior to deciding to pursue a medical degree shouldn’t keep you from pursuing your dream in medicine. It’s okay to be the “old guy” in the class; it’s okay to have a “late” start.
Finally, it’s important to point out that Misty Copeland certainly didn’t rise to where she is today without hard, consistent work. Not having a role model to look up to and starting classes later than most others in the industry could have been insurmountable difficulties if it hadn’t been for her incredibly dedicated work ethic. Succeeding in medical school and succeeding in the world of professional ballet both require an attitude that believes in consistently putting in the hard work–and not just whenever you feel up to it–in order to gain the best results. Incredible strength and flexibility don’t happen to a dancer overnight. Gaining the knowledge necessary to dominate the MCAT won’t happen in two weeks. Both disciplines require consistent, everyday dedication on the part of the student.