Monday, October 29, 2012

Worldwide Medical Clearance Sessions

The entire ordeal could possibly be very expensive. To see how I got it for free, read my post on the costs here.

The Lab Work
Scheduling the examination went smoothly. Luckily, I found some new FSOs on their way to State Department who showed me the entrance which was actually on E St.

Security is confusing. The human scanner was somewhat perpendicular to the visitor's entrance, and there was a line at reception. Now I understand: reception first, then scan, then reception again to obtain pass and get your ID back. Instructions to the nurses' office were easy and the paperwork (and the wait) was surprisingly very short.

Most medical clearances are two days; both sessions being an hour long. The first session was just the nurse taking my measurements and taking SIX vials of blood. I'm terrified of needles so this was a bit of an experience for me. I requested a smaller needle which I'm sure the nurses only acknowledge affirmitavely as a placebo for my nerves (no complaints here. It's all psychological, I'm sure). They also gave me a cute pear shaped thing to squeeze while I was listening to the nurse tell me about her kids while my blood was getting sucked out. Overall, not as bad of an experience as I thought it would be. The vials are small, and the needle is only inserted once and less than a minute. Whole ordeal was done in less than an hour.

The Physical Exam
This is normally scheduled sometime in the few days after the Lab Work session.
While waiting in the clinic, I contemplated all of the things I could have that could disqualify me for clearance, pulling a massive hypochondriac moment.

I was very nervous for this clearance because I had heard about previous (but very, very few) Pickerings who had discovered an ailment which they were not aware of during this examination. One Fellow even found out they had cancer during this session, which definitely put me on edge from thinking that I was too young to worry about cancer.
It seemed like forever until they finally called me in. The doctor was talkative and charismatic, making me wish this was my permanent doctor's office and not just a medical clearance clinic. She took out my lab results and everything came back perfect. There was nothing wrong with me judging from the lab tests, but next was the physical test. This was a comprehensive exam, with the physician examining your ears, eyes, chest, skin, thyroids, lymph nodes, etc. for any complications. It was over quickly, however. I was expecting to be hooked up to several things while running on a treadmill like a hamster, and was relieved that this was not a painful test in anyway.

Afterwards, I walked into the last physician's office and she announced to me that she had nothing to talk to me about, which was great news. I was told immediately that I was placed into the Class I worldwide medical clearance. I'd receive an email confirming it later, and the results were automatically sent to the State Department. Nothing further I had to do. I am so thankful to be in good health, particularly when so much was at stake. Not passing the medical clearance may complicate issues with the Fellowship since the contract requires passing the clearance to be able to work as a Foreign Service Officer, but I'm also confident that the staff would have worked with us if anything would have arisen.


  1. Thank you immensely for sharing all of this information. I am currently in the writing and interview stage and I am in PANIC mode! :) I have probably read over your blog several times and I truly appreciate what you said about congratulating yourself for coming this far despite the outcome. I feel as if I am emotionally where you probably were during your process and I just keep thinking, "how in the world did I get picked and what should I be studying?!" :)

    1. Thank you so much for expressing this. :) It makes me even teary to know that I am helping another Pickering finalist who felt the exact anxiousness, nervousness, even a slight inadequate-ness as me. I talked to a lot of Pickerings afterward about it and they all felt the same way. Secretly, most Pickerings felt that way. The ones that didn't.... didn't get picked is my hypothesis. :) Just make sure to read the NYTimes and a little Economist maybe. I scheduled a meeting with my favorite professor to just ask him all the dumbest questions I had about world affairs and he could quiz me. Nothing will make you less nervous, though, until the big day. Your stomach will be flip flopping and then it'll be all out of your hands. Even those who don't win are in a position to win a lot of other fellowships. I applied to grad schools as a Pickering but some didn't realize I was a Pickering and still offered loads of funding. No matter the outcome, you're already ready for the world. The Pickering can just help you and augment you. :)

    2. Haha, I also asked my friend (who's an IR genius) the dumbest questions ever about world affairs. I know exactly what you mean about that anxiety leading up to the interview, although the interview itself was very pleasant. Did you get accepted into all the grad schools you applied to?

      Thanks a lot for this blog - it was incredibly helpful! I've read it over a few times myself.. We'll see what happens tomorrow! Do they call or email?

    3. I got into all but 3 of the 17 (approx) schools I applied for. :) They email! :)

  2. Hi Abi,

    I wanted to let you know that I got it :) I also want to take this opportunity to thank you again for putting this blog together. I know I was a a bit more at ease after reading about how you truly felt. Hopefully I get to see you in person as an FSO :)

    By the way, I see you are serving in Nigeria. I was born there! In fact my little brother was born in Lagos, make sure you try sugar cane and puff puff with chin chin haha

    1. Hey! Oh, wow! Congrats! I just got the list of names of all of this year's newest cohort. Congrats!!!!! I'm actually not in Nigeria. I'm still in grad school. :)