The last week of April 2015 was truly unforgettable for OUWB alumna Jessica Dzubnar and her family.
OUWB white coat hangs among NFL jerseys in one family’s home
Dzubnar jersey, white coat wall.
Jessica Dzubnar's OUWB white coat is in the middle. To the left is the NFL jersey of her brother-in-law, Cory Lekkerkerker (now retired from NFL), and to the right, her brother Nick's jersey.

The last week of April 2015 was truly unforgettable for Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine alumna Jessica Dzubnar and her family.

The reason?

That was the week Jessica not only learned she was accepted at OUWB, but also the week that her brother, Nick Dzubnar, was signed by the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

Today, Jessica Dzubnar (Class of 2019) is in the first year of her general surgery residency through UCSF University of California, San Francisco East Bay in Oakland, California. Her brother, Nick, meanwhile, starts the 2019-20 NFL season — his fifth — on the roster of the Chargers (now based in Los Angeles).

And the white coat Jessica wore at OUWB and a jersey of Nick’s, both hang on display on the family room wall at their parent’s home. A third jersey, of former Chargers player Cory Lekkerkerker (married to Jessica’s sister), also shares a spot on that same wall.

“(Founding OUWB) Dean (Robert) Folberg asked what I was going to do with my white coat,” she said. “I joked and said maybe I’ll get it framed and sign it like a jersey. My parents loved the idea and made it happen.

“Don’t worry, I washed it first,” she added.


Hard work pays off

Jessica, originally from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, says she is “not a traditional applicant” to OUWB.

It took her four years, three application cycles, and retaking the MCAT (due to expired score), to finally make it in, she said.

All the while, Jessica worked minimum wage jobs as a server at Buffalo Wild Wings, shift lead at a juice bar, and as an EMT. She also managed to squeeze in spinal cord injury research at University of California – Irvine.

She remembers the day that everything changed. She was about to head out for a shift at her EMT job when she got the call from OUWB.

“I remember calling everyone in my family and just being so overjoyed that it was actually a possibility that I could become a doctor,” she said. “It was a surreal moment.”

Jessica and Nick Dzubnar Just days later, one of Jessica’s two younger brothers, Nick, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chargers. He had attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he played football and put up the kind of stats that get attention from NFL scouts.

“The Chargers offered him a position as a linebacker,” Jessica said. “We all celebrated at a local restaurant that now hangs Nick’s jersey.”

Jessica said her relationship with her pro footballer brother has grown as they have each worked hard to find success in their respective chosen professions. She attributes her and Nick’s hard work ethic to lessons learned from her parents, Michael and Margaret Dzubnar

“My mom and dad made it a point for us to follow through on our commitments and understand that life might not be fair, but that hard work will always pay off,” Jessica said. “We are all competitive, but also very supportive of each other’s ambitions. Nick has been a huge motivation to me.

“He’s a person I look to when things seem rough, because he’s taught me there is always a way,” she added. “For example, when he made the roster for another season, I knew I could survive (USMLE) Step 1.”


OUWB ‘gave me a chance’

Jessica said she is grateful for the lessons learned between the time she received her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and when she began at OUWB.

“It challenged me to be steadfast and determined,” she said. “It helped me develop a strong sense of why becoming a physician was the only path for me, despite each rejection saying otherwise.

“It helped me see failure as a chance to grow, adapt, and incorporate those lessons moving forward,” she added.

She recalled Folberg commenting during her class’s orientation that the obstacles they had faced made each of them stronger.

Dzubnar Graduation Day“I identified so strongly with this message,” she said, adding OUWB was “the only medical school for me.”

“It was the first time I felt valued as an aspiring physician — the first time I felt like I could even say I would one day become a physician,” she said. “OUWB gave me a chance and I wanted to capitalize on that. Now that I am in residency for general surgery, I’m glad I was challenged to develop grit. I can experience hard times without it shaking my sense of self and therefore worth.” 

She praised OUWB’s faculty and staff for being so committed to the success of the school’s students.

“The faculty and staff at OUWB have a vision and their tenacity to become a highly recognized institution is infectious,” she said. “OUWB turned me into a physician; it taught me how to diagnose and treat, but also how to cope with the pressures of a career in medicine.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected]

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