David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Duke University

One of my old students has a passion for Duke University. Both his mother and his uncle were Duke University graduates. The student and his grandfather had watched Duke University basketball games, cheering for generations of talented players. 

The student performed well academically in high school and applied to Duke University as an undergraduate. 

He was rejected. 

The student went to college somewhere else, got an A in organic chemistry and participated in meaningful extracurricular experiences including a six-month stint in Phalaborwa, South Africa (Limpopo Province) caring for and feeding baby baboons. He applied to Duke Medical School. 

He was rejected.

So he went to four years of medical school somewhere else, was graduated near the top of his class, and applied to Duke University to be a resident at the Duke University hospital. 

He was rejected.

Undaunted, he did his three years of residency somewhere else. His patient care and his recommendations were strong. “Fall down seven times, get up eight“ he thought. “You miss all the shots you don’t take.” Three rejections—undergraduate, medical school, and residency?–no problem. I have waited 11 years to live in Durham. He applied to Duke University to be a fellow in oncology. 

For the fourth time, Duke University rejected him.

So he became a fellow somewhere else. 

So presently he is somehow stumbling through the halls of the hospital at Johns Hopkins learning about chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted gene therapies for patients with leukemia, aplastic anemia, and every which kind of cancer. He talks to families about palliative care. He signs death certificates. He helps people through the most difficult illnesses and transitions. His patients appreciate his compassion, his dedication, his extensive knowledge of treatment options. 

To my knowledge, none of his patients have ever  asked “did you attend Duke University undergraduate school, Duke University Medical School, or do your residency at Duke University?”

At any point through his educational journey, he could have said, “the heck with it. Duke University doesn’t want me. What was the point of working so hard. I got an A in organic chemistry. I traveled to Phalaborwa, South Africa (Limpopo Province) to care for and feed baby baboons. What more does Duke University want? I quit, I give up, Dagnabbit.”

Churchill said “never give up.“ Churchill was talking about a country at war. Churchill was not talking about where a student attends medical school. “Never give up” doesn’t apply to going to this college rather than that one.. 

In any case it didn’t matter that this student never gave up. He applied to Duke University four times and was rejected four times. 

Rather than feeling sorry for himself or giving up or saying “I only studied hard and cared for and fed baby baboons in Phaloaborwa, South Africa (Limpopo Province) so that I could matriculate at Duke University,” he plodded along at a series of somewhere else’s and ended up as an oncology fellow at Johns Hopkins. 

The take away is clear. Encourage your kids to make meaningful contributions, do meaningful things, lead meaningful lives. Allow them to participate in activities that they believe in and, as always, believe in your kids. 

Because if they are good kids, they will end up in the right place. Whether or not they are admitted to Duke University as undergraduates, medical students, residents, or oncology fellows. Or as my son pointed out, “my best friend stopped rooting for Duke when he too was rejected back in high school. If I too had done that, I would have missed out on the joy of the 2015 championship.” Could it be argued that a series of somewhere elses did not impair my son’s insights into the admission process or to that which is most important. He still loves Duke basketball, thinks about his beloved grandfather, and does well enough, the rejections and the somewhere elses notwithstanding.

Picture of David Altshuler 2

David Altshuler 2

2 thoughts on “Duke University

  1. Martin

    I’ve heard of Johns Hopkins. Not a bad second choice backup institution.
    Nor evidently were the other places your former client went to.

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