Sometimes, when something is your calling, you just know it. Such was the case for Hamilton High School chemistry teacher Kimberly Weidenbach.
Weidenbach loves to teach but there is something that she loves even more, the ability to heal others.
Ever since the age of 5, Weidenbach has wanted to be a doctor. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of California–Berkeley with the hopes of becoming a physician.
At 21 years old, Weidenbach spent a summer in England volunteering at hospitals, doing things the doctors didn’t want to do, and quickly learned that there are parts of being a doctor that were extremely difficult.
“Usually when I say I did whatever the doctors didn’t want to do, people start thinking of dirty jobs, cleaning up after things, but actually the most difficult task is talking to families and giving bad news and updates in that area.” She said. “So they sort of put that off on the volunteers.”
That experience quickly made Weidenbach realize she wasn’t ready to be a doctor, not yet.
“I just kind of felt I wasn’t mature enough yet to be able to handle that,” she said “It was obviously kind of a hard summer for me doing those jobs … it is the job of a physician to be able to talk to families and patients about very difficult things, and I didn’t feel I was emotionally ready for that yet.”
But medicine wasn’t the only thing that Weidenbach had prepared herself to do with her degree. While at Berkeley, she had been a tutor, giving her yet another way she could help her community. She decided to get her master’s in teaching from Arizona State University and become a teacher.
Surely that would be enough, she thought. Teaching would be sufficient.
“It was just one of those things where you have to realize that there’s something there that you just can’t give up,” Weidenbach said. “There was just something missing and I could not get over medicine,”
After having taught for eight years, she was ready to try again.
She tried applying to medical school again in 2013 and was denied a second time. Despite the setback, Weidenbach never let it crush her spirit.
“I didn’t really take it too personally because most people don’t get in their first try,” she said. “To me, even though it was my second try, it was my first try as an adult and a good candidate for medical school.”
Her first two tries she had been focused on medical schools in Arizona, wanting to stay close to her husband and family, but for her third shot, she was willing to try to get in anywhere she could, applying to schools across the country with the hopes of being accepted.
Fortunately for Weidenbach, the first school that came calling was University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Relief set in. Although she is far from being a doctor, she had finally crossed the first hurdle in her journey.
But now another challenge was in front of her; she would have to leave Hamilton to become a medical student and that challenge was almost as daunting as the one she faced in England.
Weidenbach gave the school notice in the winter of last year that she would leave for medical school, giving her one last semester with her students.
“It was so sad,” she said. “I had all of the spring semester knowing it was my last year at Hamilton. And knowing every time I taught a lesson, it was going to be the last time I taught that lesson. It was very hard, I miss them terribly.”
Although it was tough to walk away from Hamilton, Weidenbach knew she needed to in order to follow her heart.
“Being able to see somebody when they are in their absolute worst day of their lives and being able to fix it or, if not fix it, at least offer comfort to them in that hard time. It’s not an opportunity that many people get to do,” she said.