She never finished high school. She doesn’t have a GED. Yet, next month, Jennifer Chen will be graduating from FIU with a medical degree.
How is that possible? You’re not the only who’s been asking.
On their last year of medical school, students traditionally go on interviews with residency programs where they are considering continuing their medical training. Imagine the look on the interviewers’ faces when Chen would volunteer that despite being close to graduating from medical school, she never graduated from high school.
“They would look up from their papers and stare at me,” she says. Then they’d ask, “Can you explain how you did that?”
Not easy to do, but easy to explain.
Chen, who admits to being “kind of a nerd” in high school, skipped 10th through 12th grades. Only 14 years old, she went straight from 9th grade into the Early Entrance Program at California State University, Los Angeles. Five years later she had her bachelor’s in biology, but realized her youth made it difficult to get into medical school; so she took off a year to do research.
At the age of 20, she was accepted and got a scholarship to the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM).
“I was lucky that FIU took a risk [with someone so young] and accepted me,” she says.
It is here she became interested in pursuing radiology.
“All the surgeons are going to kill me, but I think it’s really cool that you can look into people’s body without cutting into them,” she says.
Last month, on Match Day, Chen learned she’d been accepted into a surgical residency at the University of California, Riverside, followed by a residency in radiology at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. Both are in Southern California where her family lives and she’s glad to be going back, closer to home.
The Match Day Ceremony is traditionally followed by a reception that includes celebratory Champagne. Chen, who looks like a teenager, had to show the server her driver’s license before she’d serve her a glass of bubbly.
Next month on graduation day, Chen will be 8,969 days old and will officially become the HWCOM’s youngest graduate beating the previous youngest by 95 days.
At 24, the average age for a person entering medical school, she will have earned the right to be called Dr. Jennifer Chen.