The day she found out that she’d been accepted into a surgical residency at the University of California Riverside, Jennifer Chen got carded for her celebratory champagne toast. But she’s used to that. Chen, the youngest ever graduate from Florida International University’s College of Medicine, is only twenty-four, the age most students enter the program.
Chen, who skipped the 10th through 12th grades of high school to participate in the Early Entrance Program at California State University when she was 14, jokingly refers to herself in interviews as a college dropout. Technically, she never graduated high school. No diploma, no GDF. But she has a bachelor’s in biology, and even took a year off for research before being accepted into FIU’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. With scholarships. She graduated in May 2015 as Doctor Jennifer Chen.
Once a student there, she became interested in pursuing radiology. She wants to be part of the advancement of technologies for improving surgery with non-invasive imagery. She says that she’s grateful to FIU. “I was lucky that FIU took a risk [with her age] and accepted me,” Chen says.
In interviews for her residency, it wasn’t her youth that made interviewers stop and stare so much, it was her educational background. Not many students achieve anything close to what she has without that most basic of educational credentials, the high school diploma. She would have to explain her story each time. But it worked. On Match Day in March, 2015, she learned that she would be going back home to Southern California, a resident surgeon. She’s happy to be going back, closer to home.
And in a few years, when internship, residency, and fellowship are behind her, she’ll probably still be being carded for champagne.