Graduating from high school I was extremely worried about not knowing what profession I was going to go to school for. All of my friends had already been accepted into colleges and had a set path in mind for their lives…which was extremely intimidating. As a result, I decided to attend Oakland Community College until I officially set a path of my own. It was always in the back of my mind that healthcare was the place for me, but at 18 years old, the ‘what if’s’ overwhelmed me. I thought, “how about accounting, or teaching?”. I felt like I was making the biggest decision of my life.
As I started attending math and science classes my first semester as well as began working as a nanny, I then knew that I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. I have always been a caring person and thoroughly enjoyed helping people, so I soon became excited to start looking into different career opportunities in the healthcare field. I found my calling to be Radiology. Deciding to go into healthcare can be a tough decision. When you start telling your family and friends what you are attending school for, they always seem to give you mixed emotions. Hearing the responses of, “That’s going to be a lot of work” or on the contrary “That is a great decision, good for you!” seem to impact your decision a bit.
As the next two years flew by I earned by Associates degree from Oakland Community College. Following earning my degree, I had originally planned to attend Oakland Universities Radiology Program; however, during the last month of the application cycle, the program was dropped. I started to panic because all of my plans had shattered in front of me. Although as upset as I was, I always was not 100% about going to OU. I started looking into other Universities and came across Wayne State. Now, I could not be any happier with where I am and the decisions that have led me to where I am today. To wrap up my journey, the past 3 years have been extremely stressful. Between juggling school, work, volunteering, side babysitting jobs, and paying for all of my schooling, I thought I would never make it; but it was all worth it. Following my heart and gut was the best thing I could have done. I am sure the next 2-3 years will continue to be stressful, but being completely happy with both your career and life makes everything worth it. Never stop working on your goals and dreams no matter how many curve balls life throws you.
- Chantell Teasdale
I returned back to volunteering at the Henry Ford Hospital this past October and it felt good to be back. I had not done any hospital volunteering all of freshman year, so it was nice to have something to do during my one day off from school.
The start of my volunteerism with them was actually an accident. I, along with 24 other students, were supposed to be shadowing people in departments at the hospital at the end of our junior year in high school. Well, a mix up happened and we were all sent to volunteering. Upon this predicament some students left to seek other shadow opportunities elsewhere. For the 11 of us who stayed, for the most part the odd volunteering/shadowing hybrid was quite a unique experience. They didn’t really have any “volunteer work” for me to do in the department that I was assigned to, so they let me attend procedures in any section of the floor I was on. As the only person interested in cardiology, I was given permission to view procedures done in the hospital’s cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs. Everyday I was there, I eagerly watched doctors perform procedures such as stent insertions, pacemaker battery replacements, even fill a small hole in a patients heart!
Pretty soon my three weeks were up, and I was quite bummed about leaving. However, the volunteer department offered the students who put up with the mix-up a place in the hospital’s summer shadowing program. I eagerly accepted this offer, and in August of that year, I was able to shadow a couple of hospitalists in the internal medicine department.
I soon learned that hospitalists have quite an interesting work schedule and position in the hospital. They can have up to two weeks off a month, and are not on-call physicians. As a person who enjoys having time to balance work and leisure, I was pleased to find that there was such a profession in the hospital that gives a generously flexible schedule.
It was quite the contrast to what I had experienced in the spring. Where back then, I watched procedures that varied daily, I sat in on meetings with the residents, and followed either the residents or one of the doctors on their rounds of the day. Meetings were dreadfully boring, I honestly had no clue what was going on until after the meeting where the doctor I was shadowing for the day took the time to explain what I had just observed.
Clinical rounds…were interesting. Most of the time patients were quite pleasant, but I clearly remember the angry patients. Most were upset that they had to stay another day or so to do some testing, it upset one old man so much that he swore at us, and it was in front of his young granddaughter too! Another patient misinterpreted what a resident said about being placed into a rehab center, and it had to take a doctor’s intervening for him to calm down. It was quite the experience for both the resident and I. After that incident, the doctor sat down with the resident and reviewed was had transpired, and discussed how to avoid any similar situations in the future along with how to defuse the situation if it happens again.
So this fall, after having such an enjoyable time shadowing in the past, I applied to volunteer again and was placed in the emergency department doing clerical tasks. Most of what I do is making old paper records digital, but on occasion I get to follow the staff during their meetings with the residents. I just happened to arrive at a time where the hospital was about to undergo a transition from one healthcare software to another, so everyone was in quite a rush to understand the new system and to make sure that the switch was a smooth transition. Despite the craziness happening, it’s quite nice to be back in an environment that I’ve enjoyed in the past.
- Kristyl Jaramillo
Want to know what it takes to coordinate a successful interview? Below are my thoughts and tips on what to DO during an interview..
1. Plan ahead. A certain amount of stress is inevitable, but a little prep before your interview can go a long way to making sure that the day runs as smoothly as possible. Save the address of the interview site on your phone’s map application or into your GPS the night before the interview, and remember to factor in the time of day, usual traffic patterns, and road constructing when selecting a route. Make sure you know where you are going to park when you get to your interview site and how to get from your parking space to the correct building. If applicable, be sure to bring cash and/or coins with you to pay for structure, lot, or street parking.
2. Know your interviewer and your interview. Take the time before your interview to do a little research on the institution/company/program and on your interviewer (obviously the last part is only applicable if you know his or her identity beforehand). It doesn’t have to be incredibly in-depth, a Google search or two is fine, but doing your homework prior to your interview can give you a better idea of what questions you are likely to be asked as well as what qualities and qualifications the interviewer is looking for.
3. Dress the part (and dress comfortably). When picking out an outfit for an interview (or really any event requiring professional attire), I like to use something I call the “Grandparent Test”. It seems like grandparents are always telling you girls that your shirts are too low-cut, your skirts are too short, and your pants are too tight. Or for guys, your shirt isn’t tucked in, your shoes aren’t tied properly, or your pants are too loose. If you don’t think your grandparents would approve of your outfit, chances are it probably isn’t appropriate for an interview. It is always better to err on the side of dressing too conservatively and too formal than to arrive dressed inappropriately and/or too casually. That being said, dressing comfortably is just as important as dressing appropriately. Odd are that you’re going to be at least a bit nervous, and you don’t want the added stress of worrying about your clothing. Dress in layers – offices are notorious for being either too cold or too hot. Ladies, even if they are the accessory that absolutely makes your outfit, resist the urge to don those 4-inch heels that cut up your feet and/or make walking at a normal pace an impossible feat. If you end up having to park a block or two away from your interview site and are then forced to run up three flights of stairs because there is no elevator (this definitely happened to me), you’ll be glad you wore comfortable shoes. Gentlemen, if the buttons on your shirt are straining at the neck, or your tie feels like a paisley printed noose, wear, buy, or borrow a different shirt or tie. You really don’t want to be literally choking on your words during your interview.
4. Bring a notebook. Notebooks can be used for a wide variety of purposes during interviews. Receive some constructive criticism during your interview? Write it down. It will show your interviewer that you are serious about their suggestions and about improving yourself. Obtain additional contact information for your interviewer or another influential person? Write it down. It will show that you are prepared and ambitious, and save your interviewer from having to write it down for you or remember to email you the information. Even if you don’t end up needing to write anything down during your interview, you’ll look dedicated and prepared just by bringing your notebook with you.
5. Bring a copy of your resume. Most likely the interviewer already has a copy of your resume, but people misplace things, printers run out of paper, and emails mysteriously vanish from inboxes. Bringing along an extra printer copy of your resume saves your interviewer the headache and embarrassment of tracking down his or her copy and makes you look extra prepared.
6. Stay up to date on (relevant) current events. I’m not saying you have to take out a subscription to The New Yorker, watch the news every night, or begin religiously reading The Detroit Free Press, but knowing even a little bit about a few current events could be a life-saver during your interview. Case in point: during my Top 50 interview for MedStart, my interviewer asked myself and the four other students in my group about our opinions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Judging by the expressions on the other students’ faces, none of us knew very much about it (and to be honest, most people don’t know the details of the legislation). Those of us who knew even a little about the ACA were able to present significantly better answers than those who didn’t. You don’t have to become an expert about ongoing NIH studies or the details of the Obamacare legislation, but for health care-related interviews, just glancing through a few news or journal articles prior to your interview could make a major difference. (Personally I recommend the “Health” tab on the CNN app or website).
7. Have a firm handshake. I know, I know. This sounds like the kind of advice your dad repeats to you anytime you’re going to meet someone remotely influential. But it’s good advice. Especially if your interviewer is considerably older than yourself (though this rule holds regardless of age), a firm handshake is one of the quickest and most immediate ways to make a good impression. A strong handshake and good eye contact during your introduction shows that you’re confident and serious about the opportunity that is being presented.
8. Be mindful of the type of interview being conducted. Group interviews have a very different set of dynamics than do individual interviews, and there are pros and cons to both types. In group interviews the interviewer is putting less pressure on you as an individual, but there’s the added stress of hearing the responses of others and having others hear your responses. If you feel someone else has a better answer or more experience than you do, it can make you feel very insecure because you’re being directly compared to someone else. Likewise, if you give a response that you feel isn’t very strong, you might feel as if all the other interviewees are judging you. However, as long as you aren’t chosen to answer a question first, you may have more time to think of a good response while waiting for other interviewees to present their answers. Individual interviews are about you. While your responses aren’t being directly compared to those of y our peers, you are not afforded any extra time to compose responses. Something else to keep in mind: group interviews tend to stick to more “traditional” questions, while individual interviews offer more flexibility in terms of topics.
9. Know your strengths and weaknesses. This is a big one. Many interviewers will directly ask you what you deem your strengths and weaknesses to be, but even if the question is not explicitly stated you may still be asked related questions. Flashback to my MedStart top 30 interview. So far the interview is going well; as expected, my interviewer and I have discussed a few of the experiences listed on my resume and I have been asked “standard interview questions”. Then, he shuffles through some of the papers on his desk, pulls one out, and says something along the lines of “I see you did very well on the ACT, and your GPA is good, but I noticed that your ACT math score and your AP calculus grade are somewhat incongruous with the rest of your grades.” Um… WHAT? I had no idea that my interviewer even had my ACT scores and high school transcripts, let alone had read them in detail and realized that I’m really no that good at math. Mercifully I was able to recover from the shock of this discovery within a few seconds, and was then able to put together a decently eloquent response: I acknowledged that although I’m good at memorizing things, I have a harder time understanding processes and concepts (such as mathematical concepts). I was very careful not to blame any of my math teachers, nor declare my hate of the subject (even though it’s true) or overstate my mathematical… difficulties. There was no way to escape my score or grades, but I honestly think the way I maturely discussed my own weaknesses went a long way towards the success of that interview.
10. Know your resume. This seems like a no-brainer, but it really is important to know your resume in detail. Be able to accurately describe and meaningfully reflect upon all of of your pertinent experiences – you never know when your interviewer might bring up that summer camp you went to the summer before ninth grade or the nursing home you forgot you even volunteered at.
11. Bring up strengths/experiences that are not reflected by your resume. Remember that the only information the interviewer has about you is the information on your resume, transcripts, etc. If there is anything that is not included in your resume or that your resume does not accurately reflect, bring it up. You want the interviewer to have the most accurate picture of your qualities and accomplishments.
12. Accept compliments (and critiques) graciously. This is similar to the humble brag. If the interviewer compliments you on your qualities or accomplishments, accept his praise with a genuine “thank you”. Avoid sounding cavalier about your accomplishments, but also avoid demeaning yourself: if the interviewer compliments you on your leadership position in a student organization, don’t respond with anything along the lines of “I really didn’t have to do that much” or “It really wasn’t that difficult of a position”. Responses like those just mentioned show that you feel you aren’t worthy of praise, or the opportunity for which you are interviewing, and if you feel that way, why should the interviewer think that you are a worthy candidate?
13. Be yourself. Cliché, I know, but it’s still important. If you’re naturally bubbly and outgoing, don’t feel like you have to squash your true personality behind a mask of stiff formality. Likewise, if you’re naturally more reserved, don’t try to be falsely outgoing – just be polite. Giving thoughtful, insightful responses will go a long way. Above all, the interviewer wants to know that you are a normal, friendly individual who can hold a decent conversation – something that con’t be assessed just by reading your resume.
14. Send a thank-you note. Although the art of writing thank-you notes seems to have gone somewhat out of vogue, this one is really important. Especially for big interviews like college and scholarship, the interviewer has to read your resume and related documents, think of questions to ask, take time out of his or her (usually very busy) day to actually conduct the interview, record your responses, and send his or her comments to the person (or committee) making the final decision. For free. The very least you can do is send them an email thanking them for their time. Try to be more specific than just writing “thank you for interviewing me blah blah blah”, but really just sending a thank-you note is more important than the details. If you’re sending her an email, do it the day of your interview, before you have a chance to forget. Even if you’re going to send a card (preferably hand-written), it might be a good idea to send off a quick email expressing your appreciation, in case it takes you a while to track down an address.
I hope you all found these tips insightful! Stay tuned for Interview Do’s and Dont’s: Part Two where i’ll be discussing what NOT to do. Happy interviewing!
- Diana Svinarich
Staying motivated is nothing short of listening to your inner self. Self-inflicted stress, anxiety and pressure amount so much faster when you are attempting to perfect yourself as a model and prime candidate for professional school. Going day by day without stopping; stopping to breathe, think, and make most of company around you of those whom love and support you unconditionally leads to nothing short of a spiral into despair, anger and burnout. The constant living in the future, ruminating on the past and neglecting the present in an attempt to do such leads to a sudden slap in the face with reality and a degradation of your motivation.
You see it is so easy to entwine ourselves within work and life, we forget to think and listen to ourselves. We focus outwardly on a daily basis, listening and learning from others about the world around us and ourselves. While this is a necessity and the epitome of learning, overdoing this process will do nothing more than force you to lose motivation and become irritable. Such issues, if not dealt with during the day will manifest in your dreams and sleep when your brain is attempting to sort through all of the gunk and jumbled feelings and ideas. The result of these manifestations is an irritable and exhausted you in the morning, which only contributes to the stress and anxiety.
So how do I go about restoring my motivation and inner happiness you may ask? The answer begins with listening to your body and mind. You have to make time for yourself to relax and ask yourself: “What am I concerned or worried about? How am I feeling? What am I going to do about it?” The most important thing to remember however is to follow through with the last question “what am I going to do about it?”. If you no longer feel motivated or are near the burnout mark, yet don’t plan to change anything about it you are doing nothing good for your body and mind. You absolutely must make some adjustments, no matter how large or small to make yourself happier. It is only after you ask and act upon these questions you can move forward.
The second step is living in the present. By this, I simply mean not constantly thinking into the future and planning 24/7, as many of us tend to do. Make the most out of your time and seize every opportunity you can to spend time with those who are there for you no matter what circumstances. Allow yourself to stop planning and go spend time with family and friends without worry about time constraints, formalities and more. Every now and then, you need to free yourself to be able to live in the present, which includes being freed from your own mind.
The third step is establishing a support-network of friends. This network can provide experiences and insight for what appears to be plaguing your mind and provide you with an escape from everything around you.
So, what should I take away from this? The answer is this; if you can listen to yourself, find a balance between work, play, and can enjoy life in the present with those around you who care about you immensely, certainly, you will be happier. That happiness, balance, and motivation will shine through during interviews making you a prime and model candidate for professional schools. Remember no one should have to go through anything alone.
Dedication: I would like to thank Cristian, Emily and Lisa for supporting me and helping to restore my motivation.
- Michael Vargo
After you answer the last few questions during your MCAT, affirm your identity and ask to score your MCAT, you are overwhelmed with a sense of relief. For me, it felt a little surreal. The task to which I was working toward for the last two and a half months – not counting the last three years of undergrad – was now officially over. Now what? Well, I went home, had lunch, and cleaned my room. After that though, I was plagued with doubts and indecision.
Should I assume that my result would be what I want or should I continue studying? This is a huge question because from the time you take the exam to the time you get your score a month goes by. A month with no studying and you forget a lot and if you have to retake you may be starting from practically square zero. Also, for me, I was already taking it much later than my peers. I took my exam in July, my scores would be out in August, and with school starting in September, I would not have much time to study. Plus, I was going on vacation for two weeks right after I get my results so this only compounded my worry about what to do.
The other worry was what I would do if I did have to retake the MCAT. I had exhausted a lot of the study materials including the AMC exams, Kaplan tests, Princeton books, ExamKrackers verbal book and other materials. I was at a crossroads but I decided to just wait. To be honest, a part of me just wanted a break and I had some research stuff to do so I focused on that. It was a nice break because it was something other than science.
However, the wait itself felt endless. I started thinking of all the questions I got wrong and things I might have screwed up. This then led to me having nightmares about doing terribly and I lost my anxiety of knowing my score. Instead, now I felt confident that I had done poorly so there was no point in knowing my score. As August arrived, I felt like every day was the day my score would be released. I thought it would be released on August 2nd and so I checked at 2 am in the morning to get away from the prying eyes of my family but it wasn’t up. However, during those 2 interminable minutes of waiting for the page to load, my heart was beating too rapidly.
I think this scare kind of calmed me down because the day my scores arrived I was a little more settled. Granted, I was still checking to see if my score was up every half an hour. And when it came, I was relieved because it was much better than I expected and now I really could breathe a true sigh of relief…or maybe not because now I had to work on my AMCAS.
- Sakeena Fatima, 2014
Hello, my name is Peter, and I am currently a P3 in the pharmacy program here at Wayne State. When I tell people more about myself, one of the first things they always ask is how I make time for all things I do and still have fun. Well good news – you can have both fun AND still be successful while in a professional health program. All this takes is for you to master the art of time management!
As you get into the professional programs, the expectations as a student are extremely high. The lectures keep coming, exams are more difficult than ever, you have professionalism requirements thrown at you, and more than ever, you want to be involved in extracurriculars and organizations for career networking. In order to succeed in such an environment, I have had to master my own time management skills. Here are some of my personal tips, which I think can be useful for all:
Never skip class. By learning it well the first time from an expert, your studying will consist more of learning the details and reviewing the slides, rather than having to teach yourself major concepts. People claim they just listen to recordings, but I find this wastes more time as you are always tempted to hit pause, answer that text message, or go on Facebook. Remember, this is all about making the most of your time.
Maximize efficiency during your study breaks. If you have a 2 or 3 hour break between classes, use it to review material, work on projects or presentations, or read required assignments. Too many times my peers find themselves wasting several hours each day during their breaks, and then suddenly scrambling to find time to study before the exam.
Find a hobby you enjoy and always make time for it. This may seem counterintuitive, “wasting” time on something totally unrelated to school. However, the stress relief is often much needed in order to keep your focus and overall happiness. Personally, I always make time for the gym in the evenings. Even if I have a major exam the next morning, I still make sure to go. It gives me more energy, stress relief, and it’s just something I enjoy doing.
When it’s crunch time, “make it happen.” When I am busy working on a project or studying for an exam, I lock myself in my room and really focus on the task at hand. This means no Facebook, turning off the cellphone, and telling friends or significant others you can’t talk right now. It may be mentally exhausting, but remember how productive you are being with your time.
By doing all of these things, your school time will be much more fruitful and in turn you will have much more time for other things. Trust me, I really learned these skills during pharmacy school and have been able to tackle on more tasks than even I ever thought I could – a 20 hour/week job at a local pharmacy, being a peer mentor for the pharmacy learning community, staying involved in several school organizations, maintaining my hobbies, and still going out every Friday and Saturday with my friends. All of this while still keeping up good grades in a demanding program. To stay successful in the professional health programs, you have to really stay focused, be self motivated, and manage your time wisely. Why wait until you are scrambling before a major exam? Start today!
Peter Szatkowski, PharmD Class of 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I got the results back from my first exam in one of my classes. I had studied ridiculously hard for this exam – sacrificing sleep and sanctity of mind – in order to prove to myself that I knew the material completely. I thought I was prepared.
The shock I experienced from seeing my grade is an event I do not believe I will ever forget, and now thE gradE I EarnEd kEEps staring mE in thE facE, mocking my vEry ExistEncE.
Maybe I’m being overly dramatic, but never in my life have I ever earned such a low score on anything. Ever. What a slap to the face; how embarrassing. I know I can do better, and that’s what hurts the most…
There are two ways I can look at my situation. I can (a) keep thinking about my failure and stop trying because what’s the point anymore? Or I could choose to (b) view this moment as a motivational factor to push myself harder and study smarter for next time.
What did I do? Well, I chose the option that would cause me less pain in the long run; I went with option b (which is funny because normally people chase after their A’s, am I right?)
In order to see what I did wrong and learn how to improve myself, I visited my professor during her office hours. We spent around an hour not only going over the exam, but also discussing study strategies I could use to do better for the other exams in the class. I was still beating myself up about my exam grade, but she helped me look at it as something to move upwards from and not as a deterrent to my ambitions of becoming a physician.
The relief I felt after taking the time to review my work instead of (violently) pitching the exam in the trash like I wanted to was extraordinary. Hope was not lost; in fact, I have the motivation and determination to work twice as hard for the next exam as I would have worked had I gotten a higher grade on this exam. I have something to fight for now: redemption.
- Michelle Iqbal ’17
“So, you are a pre-med?” I never liked that label. I almost wanted to respond “NO!” I knew that when someone learned I was a pre-med that they would be likely to assume that I was a major nerd, condescending, competitive, kind of crazy, and a type A personality. I felt like an outsider in all of my pre-med courses. “You have interests other than studying?…Weird.” I have always been an artistic person and have had a range of interests such as playing music, making art, hiking, climbing rocks, sewing, adventuring, and doing all sorts of activities. Being a pre-med was the last stereotype I wanted to place onto myself. For the first few years, I was somewhat miserable in the route that I had taken in college. I was a Biology student with average grades, but I worked really dang hard to be very average. We all know that coursework tends to consume the life of a pre-med. I wanted to make art so badly but my creativity was so suppressed due to studying and lack of time. I am sure many of you are facing a similar situation. You have all these interests, yet absolutely no time. I am a survivor, and I am here to tell you that there is a way out!!!! No, you do not have to drop out of college. You don’t even have to change your major! You simply must make the decision to set time aside to pursue what you love. Expressing myself was very important to me. I wanted to find a way in which I could tie this into my career. One day I had a light bulb moment in which I came to the realization that art is a form of healing and it could provide relief to those who may be experiencing some stress and tension. “Perfect!”, I thought, “I shall find this art therapy club and I shall join it!” So, I searched and searched for some student organizations that would match my pursuit to provide art as a form of wellness. Well, it turns out there was none that I could find. I was faced with the challenge of creating my very own student organization that could be exactly what I wanted it to be. I knew this would be an immense amount of work, and I already was short on time, yet, it was a pursuit that I really believed in. “Challenge accepted”, I thought, as I made my way to the Dean of Students Office to begin my new club.
A year and a half later, the student organization, Art in Medicine, is going strong! Our mission is to provide comfort and stress relief to the ill, disadvantaged, or handicapped and to beautify the community of Detroit. This club is in conjunction with the Humanistic Medicine Group at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. We have had a variety of events such as cleaning up and painting the Grand River Corridor with medical students, co-hosting an art auction with the Museum of New Art, opportunities to attain a mentor medical student from WSU, etc. We are currently organizing an event to fundraise for art therapy scholarships for children. We are beginning to make art with children monthly at Children’s Hospital. We are open to students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. You do not even have to be pre-med to join!
Yes, it has been a lot of work, but I have had a lot of fun with Art in Medicine. I even decided to declare my minor in art. That was more for my own sanity. The moral of my story is that your workload will probably not get any lighter any time soon, but you need to make your college experience one that will be memorable and enjoyable. I know that you have interests other than science, so I encourage you to find what you love and pursue it!
- Rita Elias
*For more information on Art in Medicine, email: Ritaelias@wayne.edu
Ever since I was a little girl, my father, who is a physician, told me that I have to be a doctor when I grow up. Surrounded by doctors in my family, I was raised thinking that this was my fate. Somewhere down the road, I realized that medicine is what I want my future to be. I told myself I would do whatever it takes to reach my goal. Even if the rigorous coursework and busy schedule is a challenge for me, it is an obstacle I must pass in order to achieve my ultimate goal. But how did I become so adamant on this mission in my mind? I would say that this dedication developed because of my passion. Ever since high school, I have been very active in social work. Engaging in community service and helping people to any capacity that I could. In my undergraduate years I have volunteered and interned in a variety of medical settings, including clinics, hospitals and a hospice. I realized that the field of medicine is probably the ultimate form of “helping others” because in this profession, one helps individuals to improve their health, and therefore their lives.
I have been very fortunate because I have had the opportunity to travel abroad a few times during the past few years for service. I realized that healthcare perception varies so greatly across the world. I began to read books by Paul Farmer, an MD who calls himself a “poor people’s doctor” and who dedicated himself to serving people in areas where health care access was scarce. His intelligence as a physician and his amazing contributions to the lives of many inspired me, and this is why I went on my first medical mission to Tanzania. In Tanzania I saw the direct impact of providing access to health care in areas where there is a shortage – it changes lives. As I helped treat patients in the Tanzanian communities and saw the content and gratitude patients felt after being treated, it warmed my heart like nothing else ever has; it was so rewarding. I realized that I wanted to make these positive contributions to the lives of individuals for the rest of my life. I enjoy gaining knowledge, so I can obtain it and be in the position where I have the capacity to help those who need it, in the way that Paul Farmer does; maybe I can be called a “poor people’s doctor” one day. Being in this position has become my ultimate goal.
This epiphany came to me in the midst of my undergraduate years, as I struggled through rigorous pre-medicine courses. During moments of frustration, I would remind myself that these trials are just small bumps on the road to my ultimate destination – becoming a doctor. Like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, sometimes I feel like my goal is impossible to reach. But then, I think that “at the end of a rainbow, there is a pot of gold” and becoming a doctor is my “pot of gold”. No matter how many twists and turns there are until I get to the end of the rainbow, I will do what it takes to get to my pot of gold. A little bit of passion goes a long way. I advise all pre-health students to find that passion, and make it the driving force behind your ultimate goal. If you really want to achieve your goal, no hurdles in the path should be able to stop you. I have found this to be a very fruitful approach to dealing with the rigor of the pre-medicine path.
Mehak Haq, 2015
My name is Shannon and I am a junior riding the pre-med struggle bus with you.
Unfortunately for me, but conveniently for you, I am in the midst of the bumpiest part of the road: my application year. This means I will have copious amounts of advice to give you as I figure what I did right, and what I’m doing wrong. I have been told time and time again to be prepared for road blocks and they haven’t failed to appear! Whenever I heard these warnings, I brushed them off thinking to myself, “I won’t let that happen, I’m going to start early and make my application flawless.” But, alas, I have encountered my first major obstacle and discovered a blemish. What, you might ask, has tarnished my application? The notorious MCAT, of course!
Before I get into the nitty gritty details, I would like to share some advice with you soon-to-be MCATers: DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE VERBAL REASONING. I was told this by many people who had taken the MCAT before me and I foolishly did not heed their advice. Verbal reasoning deserves just as much attention as the sciences. I thought I had prepared myself sufficiently and I was shocked to see I had scored three points lower than what I was averaging on my practice tests. The MCAT is very much a test of mental endurance, so make sure you have the confidence you need to do well! Okay, I’m dramatizing this a bit, but I’m trying to make a point here!
My MCAT score is the epitome of unbalance! My overall score is competitive, but my wretched verbal subscore might pose a problem. Will it hurt my application? Yes. Can I still get into med school? It’s very possible. Now I must ask myself the question that haunts oh so many pre-meds: To retake or not to retake? The answer, however, is really dependent on what I want to do in medicine and where I see myself going to school. This is exactly why I am currently subscribing to the MSAR online (which you should all do) and attending a pre-med advising appointment in two hours. Utilize your resources and be familiar with the schools you would want to attend.
Is retaking the MCAT really worth my sanity? Am I willing to go through it all again? Is it even possible? Of course it is! People retake the MCAT more often than not and I’m fairly certain the world’s still spinning, so it hasn’t ended yet. I’ve come to terms with taking it again (and you should too) if that’s what I need to do, but we’re still undecided over here, folks. I know nobody likes a cliffhanger ending but you’ll have to tune in next time to find out my answer to the ultimate question. Until then, keep working premeds – you’ve got this!
Shannon Paquette, 2015