An Unlikely Journey

Updated on February 13, 2018
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MacDonald is a scholar, practitioner, and leader in the healthcare industry for over thirty years and is passionate about lifelong education

A Journey of Thousand Miles ...

“If you want something in life, you must pray for it,” My mother used to say to us as children, “and when God opens the door for you, work hard to keep what you receive, and still pray.” She taught us to work hard, to sing with joy (to celebrate life), and remain focused on our goals. My mother went to be with the Lord early 1990s, long before I embarked on my life’s final journey through college. Furthering my education was on my “to-do-list” for years; however, the path forward and opportunity were missing, and I continued to pray and wait.

On the night of June 28th, 2010, as I sat in my house in Alexandria, VA, and a storm was raging outside I got the call. Sometime between 9 and 10 pm I received two phone calls from colleges offering me places to study. After nearly an hour on the phone with my choice college, my enrolment was complete. The following day, Tuesday 29th, the first course was due to begin. Filled with the sense of gratitude and anticipation, knowing that God answered my prayer, despite the storm raging outside, I was finally a student. Still, I was apprehensive about going back to college late in my adulthood.

I wanted foremost to improve my prior college qualifications and use my 20-plus years of experience in the medical laboratory and management; however, hospitals and laboratories that I applied to in the US did not recognize my qualifications, skills, and experiences, calling them foreign qualification, thus forcing me to consider starting over. After five years of weighing my options, the time had arrived for me to enroll in college. I selected the Bachelor of Science in Management (BSM) degree because of all my past education and experience. Time goes very quickly; soon enough, I completed the four years.

In September 2014, I was jubilant to receive the BSM and immediately move forward with the master’s degree. Initially, I wanted to enroll in an MBA degree; however, after research, I opted for the Master of Health Administration (MHA). I gained 95% of my managerial experience in healthcare, in hospitals. My academic advisor, helped me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of an MBA and an MHA degree. Initially, I chose the MHA with a focus on education: MHA-Ed.

Halfway through the MHA-Ed course, I presented the University with a request to proceed to get into the doctoral degree program. I wanted to know how soon I could enroll in the doctoral program and available choices. Finally, I chose the Doctor of Health Administration (DHA). My academic advisor explained that since my favorite was the DHA degree, my best path was the MHA general degree; I dropped the Education focus. In November 2015, I enrolled in the DHA degree program ahead of most of my peers. In July 2016 I graduated with the MHA degree with a 3.8 GPA.

I am at the halfway point through my four-to-five year doctoral degree and my excitement today is no less than it was the night of June 28th, 2010 when I enrolled in college. I feel as though I am getting younger inside although I can sense the fatigue of sitting at the desk day after day, night after night for nearly seven years without stopping. Sometimes I wonder how my transition will be when finally, I walk up to receive the doctorate I have worked so hard to achieve, and then the ceremony is done. If my wife or anybody for that matter came to me seven years ago to say I would be in a doctoral degree program this time, I would have laughed hard at them.

The amazing thing is that throughout enrollment in college I have not looked beyond today and tomorrow’s assignment. I have lived from one day to the next, maintaining a sturdy course. Perhaps, unknowingly, that was my coping strategy. If I looked too far ahead, I could get discouraged as there are so many things that can change and disrupt my studies. During all these years there was never a time that I did not have Internet connectivity in my house except for very brief periods lasting no longer than twenty-four hours. I did not fall sick, and no life-changing situation came across. My mother's words came to mind. I prayed, the Lord opened the door of opportunity, I received and continued to pray and I work hard every day.

The message on my school profile for six years read: The journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. I sincerely believed the word and followed accordingly. There was a first step, then the second step, ... and today, I have lost count. In the book of Ecclesiastes 7:8, the Bible says, “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” The beginning is crucial; however, as a matter of principle, every day is essential to me on this journey, and the end must decidedly be the best of all. My wife prods me along saying she is waiting for my graduation with the doctorate, and, "I will change my name to Mrs. Dr. Chaava on that very day!"

Every day I ask myself, what have I learned in class today, and how does it line up with what I have learned over all these years? Thus, I have built upon yesterday's lessons for the days ahead; nothing wasted, nothing insignificant; and indeed, nothing overlooked. Whenever I speak to friends hesitating on the road of life I remind them of the Chinese proverb: The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.


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