Fall 2011

From High School 'Failure' to Medical School: Dor Bar Oz

Dor Bar Oz

Dor Bar Oz didn't like high school, and his marks reflected this. So, when he decided to attend university and applied to Tel Aviv University, he was rejected. Only the Open University was willing to give him a chance. Needless to say, he has proved himself many times over. He graduated summa cum laude in psychology and is in his fifth year of Medical School at Tel Aviv University.

Were we to compare the high school population in Israel to Aesop's fable, we'd have the worker ants (students who study and take their high school experience seriously) and then the grasshoppers who play all day long. Dor Bar Oz, who devoted much of his time in high school to playing drums and guitar, categorizes himself as Aesop's grasshopper.

Since then, he has undergone a metamorphosis. He graduated summa cum laude in psychology from the Open University and is beginning his fifth year of studies at the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

"High school studies just didn't interest me" Bar Oz reflects, "and that was pretty mutual on the part of the teachers. In junior high school I had a terrible advisor who basically told my parents that nothing 'good' would come of me. I was assigned to a class of low achieving students. The studies were unchallenging and I ended up spending most of my time hanging out with my friends and playing music. When I completed my army service, my girlfriend decided she was going to study medicine and I decided I also wanted to study something. Psychology seemed like an interesting subject so I sent in an application to Tel Aviv University. That's when I was informed that even if I had 'aced' the SAT exams, I could not be accepted because of my poor showing in high school. I had zero desire to improve my matriculation exams and was depressed that they would not give me a chance to prove myself."

Two Turning Points

A good friend of Dor's, who had studied psychology at the Open University and was now finishing her doctorate at Bar Ilan University, suggested that Dor enroll at the Open University. Until he began studying at the Open University he had no idea what it was to prepare for an exam. So, the first time out, in spite of his best efforts, he received a 75. "I was extremely disappointed" Dor recalls "but the lecturer encouraged me to try again and this time I took the extra time to study and got 98 on the exam."

By the second semester, Dor was ready to take on four courses, after convincing the faculty that he could handle it. At the end of the first year both Dor and the faculty's faith was justified; Dor was awarded the President's certificate of excellence and a scholarship. It was the second semester, however, which proved to be very interesting.

"I was studying physiological psychology and suddenly, thanks to this course, I realized that my interest in psychology was not from the clinical perspective but rather from the perspective of research." During the third year of studies, when Dor was focusing on advanced courses in psychology, he experienced another turning point in his academic studies. He was in a course entitled, "Psychology of Intuitive Judgment" dealing with the physiological manner in which human minds grasp ideas. This integration of biology and physiology -- already of great interest to Dor -- extricated him from the world of exclusive psychology.

It was during this year that Dor was also volunteering at the Shalvata Psychiatric Hospital's children's ward. "I was exposed to the world of patients and therapists (psychologists, social workers, art, music and animal-assisted therapists), and the only ones who were operating based on established, specific protocols rather than personal opinions, were the psychiatrists. That's when I began to set my sights on medicine."

To Apply or Not to Apply?

Should he apply to the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University? After all but a few years ago, he had been roundly rejected by Tel Aviv University. However, this time, Dor had two things in hand: outstanding performance at the Open University "which Tel Aviv University agreed to accept in lieu of his high school matriculation exams" and outstanding results on the SAT exams (Dor had mastered the art of studying thanks to the Open University). Tel Aviv University accepted Dor Bar Oz into their medical school.

"Now I'm in my fifth year of medical school. I do rounds at the Internal Medicine ward at Beilinson Hospital, dressed in a white robe with my stethoscope. I still don't know what I will be specializing in -- perhaps psychiatry. But unquestionably, I have the Open University to thank. A fantastic institution which gives anyone who wants to learn the opportunity to do so, and supports them in every way. I can now compare between the two universities -- Tel Aviv and Open -- and I can tell you, there is no comparison."