I played volleyball in college and made the Olympic team, but when it was time to show my birth certificate to get my passport so we could go and compete in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, I was too ashamed of my mother’s maiden name – Murat – that I declined to go.
When I left Haiti for the United States at the age of 20, I had big dreams. To my disappointment, I soon realized that the streets of America were not paved with gold! Not only that, prejudice reared its ugly head. My father had been adamant that education was a must. His daughters were to have an education and not be called “niggers.”
Unfortunately I ended up staying in Brooklyn for two years and got reacquainted with an old volleyball teammate, Nicole who also wanted to become a doctor. She had a friend, Nadine, a former classmate from Haiti who was a first year medical student at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, in Guadalajara, Mexico, Nadine told us that if we were accepted at the school and had enough money to pay for the first year, we could apply for student loans in the US to cover the tuition for the other here years. I was lucky that Father and my stepmother Eka were supportive and that I was able to work odd jobs and save enough money.
I also spoke French, the official language of Haiti, as well as Haitian Kréyol. I had to improve my Spanish skills, and since my goal was to be accepted into a post-graduate program in the United States, this meant that I also had to buy my medical books in English.
Nicole and I were both accepted and started medical school on August 4, 1972. I was known as “Carolle Jean.” When I was handed my ID card, to my horror it read “Carolle Jean-Murat” it was the customs in Mexico that children bore the last name of their father’s followed by their mother’s!
Next week: The Making of a Western Medical Doctor…