At the age of 16, reality had been just fine for Jabre Millon. Not perfect, yet better than OK. Skipping third grade because teachers thought he’d be bored by the curriculum, he loved school and was a star track and field athlete for his California high school.
True, his parents had divorced when he was quite young, but the young man who dreamed as a teen of participating in the Olympics in the triple jump, still saw his father twice a month on weekends
“He was my greatest role model,” the first-year student in the UNLV School of Medicine said of his father, who made a career of corrections in the criminal justice system. “He made it a point to teach me what it means to be a man, how to respect others, how to listen, and most importantly, how to grow as a person.”
Life throws a curveball
Also at the age of 16, Millon learned that reality can turn into a real-life nightmare. He assumed a knock on the front door on a school night wouldn’t bring good news. It didn’t. His uncle would come to his bedroom to tell him his dad was dead.
Over the coming days, he recalls that other family members told him his father, embroiled in a long-simmering emotional domestic situation, shot and killed Jabre’s stepmom and her boyfriend. There also seemed to be nonstop media coverage.
“I’m still unsure about all of the details and I’m not sure anyone actually knows what happened … even now it seems unreal, like something you read about or see in the movies — you never expect it to happen to you. From my understanding, a shootout ensued between the three of them and ultimately my father shot and killed both of them. When the police arrived, he refused to drop his weapon and they shot and killed my father as well. Suicide by police.”
That Jabre Millon’s life was turned upside down is an understatement. “With just one month until (high school) graduation, I lost the desire to attend school and participate in athletics. I no longer had the desire to do much of anything. I was in a world of pain. It was heartbreaking to know someone I love so dearly could do something so heinous. ’Till this day, I have yet to feel a pain as deep or as insufferable and I imagine I never will. I will never defend my father’s decisions.”
Today, Jabre wants his story told beyond the personal statement he wrote as part of the medical school admissions process. It is a story of a young man who almost let the psychic pain he experienced in the wake of the 2011 tragedy derail his dream of becoming a doctor, who finally reached out for help that gave him the strength to take control of his life, and who now wants to do all he can to show others their pain can be overcome.
“I’m hoping I can help people realize that they don’t have to be defined by the past, that they are able to make decisions and overcome obstacles, that we all need to reach out to help others so they don’t live lives in isolation.”
Once he reached out for help, he learned that how he first dealt with handling his situation had only made things worse. He did finish high school and then two years at University of La Verne, which was close to his home.
“I thought I had my own best interests in mind by compartmentalizing my emotions, by shutting people out, but I learned I was doing a lot of damage. I maintained my composure during my first two years of college; however, after transferring to the University of Southern California, the isolation became unbearable. My academic and athletic careers, and personal relationships suffered as a result. I couldn’t study, I couldn’t focus. I was at a crossroads. The suffering was going to consume me, or I was going to take control of my life. I decided to seek out guidance.”
He opened up to a sports psychologist working with the USC track team where he was a varsity athlete in both the triple jump and long jump. It turned out to be the true beginning of the healing process. He began to understand he needed to talk through his form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Going it alone, living inside his own head where he might worry incessantly about how people felt about him if they knew what had happened in his family, had only been a catalyst for more stress.
“Talking to the psychologist took a weight off my shoulders. I was able to talk to more people. I learned to accept what happened, to forgive. I couldn’t let it consume me. I’m a very goal-oriented person and I realized I was letting the situation define my performance. It was holding me back. I realized I had to get it off my chest.”
As he worked through his own problems, Millon volunteered at hospitals. There, he became more aware of the fact that many people are trying to work through myriad problems, often feeling alone.
“As a volunteer, I took pride in bridging the gap between nurses and patients,” he said. I was responsible for answering call lights, bringing patients blankets, water, and anything else that would make their stay in the hospital more comfortable. I learned that a seemingly insignificant interaction may mean the world to someone in the hospital. Sometimes, a simple, “How are you today?” would turn into deep conversation.
“Talks about sports, travel, and careers show that even simple connections go a long way in mitigating the feeling of isolation. These types of interactions meant a lot to me as I was going through my ordeal and I can imagine what it meant to patients in hospitals to know that health care professionals genuinely care about them,” Millon said. “The hospital is a busy place where benevolence is sometimes lost in translation.”
Looking to the future
As he felt better about his future, Jabre took graduate courses in science at USC, getting the kind of grades at Keck Graduate Institute that he needed to be accepted for medical school, the kind of superior grades that had once been his norm. When his dream of competing in the Summer Olympics fell by the wayside after his jumps weren’t long enough to make the U.S. team, he tried to make the American bobsled team for the Winter Olympics. That didn’t work out, either. “I found the one man skeleton terrifying. I’m not a huge adrenaline junkie. It was a little too extreme.”
Still, he didn’t fall into a depression. He felt good about trying to make a dream come true. He also felt good about making his dream of becoming a doctor a reality — the dream began at age 11 because he saw it as a way of helping people.
When he read on the web about the UNLV School of Medicine’s commitment to the community, he applied. Millon says his fit with the medical school in Las Vegas is solid.
“I have faced difficult times in my life; however, I am appreciative of the man I have become, a man who immediately responds to suffering with compassion,” he said. "I am committed to serving others and becoming a well-rounded doctor. Medical school will show me how to apply my personal experiences and my academic passions to alleviate the suffering of others.
“As a doctor, I look forward to embracing the long days and nights, and the sacrifices needed to care for my patients on a medical and personal level. My love for the sciences and compassion for my fellow man has led me thus far and my commitment to service will drive my future.”