August 9, 2021
The term "fourth-year medical student" feels like a misnomer for Nicolas Rubel, who finished his final year at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Florida. The reason? The former firefighter and paramedic has two other roles that he says are even more important than medicine. Nick is a husband and father of two. He recognizes that he's considered a nontraditional student, and the 36-year-old has ambitious goals for his career, but it can't come at the expense of his family.
"One of the first things we did in medical school was write a time capsule note to be opened on Match Day. It had some advice that we could reflect on just as we are about to graduate," Nick says. "I wrote, 'Congratulations. You made it. If your wife and kids aren't with you, it wasn't worth it.'"
Four years later, Nick's family is firmly beside him, and the Rubels are preparing for their next adventure when Nick will be a resident specializing in emergency medicine.
Even though he is just beginning his career as a physician, Nick's life experience prior to beginning his schooling, as well as his experience at the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine's Florida Campus, has him feeling well equipped for his residency.
The journey's start
From the time he started interviewing for medical school, Nick knew he wanted to go to Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine.
"I was so sure I wanted to train here that I sent a letter of intent only a few days after interviewing," Nick says.
At the same time, he realized that becoming a full-time student would have significant financial implications for his family — during medical school and beyond. And that's why he's especially grateful to have a scholarship.
"Going back to school meant leaving a good job, living on one income, and asking my wife to take on 99% of what's going on at home," Nick says. "But because of my scholarship, I don't have to worry about whether we can put dinner on the table. It means my wife and children won't struggle, and we won't have massive debt into our 50s."
The scholarship also gave Mayo Clinic an excellent student and role model, says Mary Hedges, M.D., associate dean of student affairs at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine in Jacksonville, Florida.
"Nick brings a maturity that is refreshing and contagious," Dr. Hedges says. "He's incredibly disciplined — he shows up early to study before starting his clinical rotations each morning. He impresses everyone who works with him."
Mayo Clinic has impressed the Rubel family too. There's no need for another time capsule note because Nick will remember this time in his life fondly.
"I've had an extraordinary experience here," Nick says. "I've seen complex patients, the class sizes are great, and most importantly, my family has lived in great communities in Arizona and Florida."
This story originally appeared in Mayo Clinic Magazine.