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Former priest starts medical school at 50

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- For Suzanne Watson, it didn’t matter if her dream came sooner or later.

“If a person wants something badly enough, they can really truly make it happen,” she said.

In this case, it was later.

She started medical school at Wake Forest School of Medicine at 50 years old.

“I received my AARP card and my med school acceptance the same week,” she said.

That was three-and-a-half years ago.

At the time of her acceptance, Watson was serving as pastor of an Episcopal congregation in the San Diego, California, region.

She was in ministry close to 20 years, but says she never lost her desire to go to medical school.

Watson enrolled in medical school 25 years ago in California, but withdrew after becoming pregnant with her second child.

Watson’s husband was a physician.

His struggle with mental health issues would make her journey even more personal.

“He ended up taking his own life and it was really the experience of losing a spouse that finally propelled me to want to return to medical school and to pursue psychiatry,” Watson said.

Watson hopes that through sharing her story and through her future practice in psychiatry, people will be encouraged to reach out for help.

The transition as a widowed mother of four has not been easy.

Her children now range in ages 18 to 24.

Not only was Watson balancing life as a single mom, she had to get adjusted to becoming a student again.

She studied on her own to prepare for the MCAT.

Now at 54, Watson believes that being in medical school during this stage of her life has its benefits.

“In some ways I’m almost glad that I did it at this current time because I bring a different set of skills and gifts to the table,” she said.

Watson is in her fourth year at Wake Forest.

She’s scheduled to graduate in May.

Watson is interviewing for psychiatry residency programs.

She will start her residency in July once her placement is announced in the spring.