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  • Writer's pictureDr. Romi Fung, ND

Gratitude, Rejection and Mental Health: A Personal Story

Updated: Oct 10, 2021

This weekend is Thanksgiving, a day where we express how thankful we are to what we have today. But that ought to also be expressed every day. Even right now, I am always thankful for all the opportunities. To be able to support my patients in their health. To be able to teach students and inspire them to become competent clinicians. To be able to sit with my family and be able to have dinner with them. To enjoy the crisp weather we're enjoying. To breathe. To learn. To live.

As today also marks World Mental Health Day. To bring the marriage between the two in my case, I’d like to not only express how gratefulness can be a very powerful lifter in our mental health, there’s also something else I’m very grateful for; I am grateful for not only all the opportunities I have, but also all the rejections I have faced.

Believe it or not, I have faced numerous rejections just to get to where I am. I don’t even know where to start.

When I got back on my feet and finished high school (officially on my transcript, I started at 18), it was a challenge to consider applying for colleges and universities. The major universities rejected me as I did not have the grades to consider competitive. Instead, I had to choose a community college, and although it sounded like a really horrible place made for university rejects (as proclaimed by my peers), it was probably one of the best decisions yet.

I got to acclimate to academics through a more comfortable post-secondary setting. I got to meet friends that not only do I still talk to today, but also meet professors that I’m proud to call my friends and colleagues. Even one of them happens to be a Naturopathic Doctor, and we both supervise 4th year interns at the Boucher Naturopathic Medical Clinic.

Through my education in a community college, I was able to transfer into university with a strong foundation of the sciences. I was as capable as those who started immediately in university. Then I realized no one cares if I even attended a community college. I got through university with the intention of applying to become a naturopathic physician.

When applying for naturopathic medical school, I thought I’d choose the local school just so I could stay with my friends and family. Although I was not considered, I chose the college in Toronto. And that happened to be another amazing decision in my life. I got to experience my own voice, my own independence and my own pace in living. The education at CCNM-Toronto was amazing, challenging, overwhelming, and inspiring. I got to meet so many amazing and inspirational people that I can call now as colleagues, and still keep in touch with many of them. I have met my very best friend that I can be always proud of and be grateful for his support.

I had failed the first step of medical licensing exams in my first attempt and questioned if I was competent. I had studied much harder for the second time the following year and passed not only with a great score, but with the invitation to volunteer my time to contribute to the licensing exams as an item writer (Is this what you call revenge?). I have written questions for 3 years now and it has been very insightful in how I look at researching and testing knowledge. The second attempt of the first step of licensing exams gave me an idea of how hard I had to study for the second step, in which I passed the first time around.

I experienced a failure of a course that was unexpected when going into my clinical year. Because of that, I was withdrawn from my 4th year clinicals just to undergo remedial studies. I shortly went through that and got back into clinic and finished my internship later than most students.

Four challenging years of naturopathic medical school passed, and I considered residency. I felt teaching was something I truly resonated with, and thought residency would put me in a position that gets me to hone my teaching skills. I applied for residency, but was not considered. I decided to fly back home to start my practice in BC.

Coming back to BC I had to sit the board exams. I didn’t fail them once – I actually failed them twice. I felt the pressure of having to pass them in my third and final attempt. I eventually passed the BC board exams on my third attempt and got to start practicing shortly as a naturopathic physician 2 years after I graduated.

Building a practice has been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I chose to start my practice by simply renting space in a chiropractic clinic with very little visibility. I had to make that visibility by doing over 100 talks in the past 3 years, build my website, social media, networking, and such. There were a lot of opportunities where I felt I just failed to convince people to work with me in their health. But that didn’t stop me from sharing my passion and finding those that resonate with my message.

As I was building my practice, I decided I wanted to learn more about the field of aging as I was interested in working with seniors and those living with dementia. I applied for the graduate studies in aging and health to start in fall 2018, and was rejected. I continued practicing and tried again a year later, and got accepted in fall 2019. It was halfway through working on my masters degree that I was offered not only support by a professor, but eventually acceptance to the PhD program.

Upon starting the PhD program, I was also offered an opportunity to supervise naturopathic medical interns as an ND with 2 years of experience. And after 1 year of supervising, I was accepted to instructing lectures in Traditional Asian Medicine to first and second year naturopathic medical students. I would have never thought I’d be teaching this early in my career without being considered for residency.

Here I am now, 3 years into a thriving busy practice, supervising inspirational interns, teaching future clinicians, and engaging in my own learning through doctoral studies and research. I’ve been considered for many articles to be published through magazines, journals and editorials. I’ve also been considered and invited to speak in webinars. Would you have ever known that I have encountered all these rejections?

In the moment, I may had felt pretty defeated. But that I knew was a temporary feeling. Looking back now, I am grateful for all those moments as I knew it wasn’t rejection, but rather giving me a direction of a better opportunity.

Why am I writing this now? To celebrate gratitude. Because I am thankful for all these events and opportunities. I continue to be thankful, to my family and friends, supporters, community, professors, peers and colleagues, and patients for teaching me such important values that has gotten me this far. And that by practicing gratitude, has been a game changer in my mental health.

Always thankful.

Image: Media from Wix

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1 Comment

Mathew Richards
Mathew Richards
Oct 10, 2021

Dr Fung is one of my mentors, and I was very inspired by this article about overcoming obstacles and always doing your best, regardless of what "the world" may say. Thank you, Dr Fung. You are an inspiration to me to keep trying, no matter what.

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