Blogs

Sj-r: High school ‘pipeline’ program produces first crop of medical students

High school ‘pipeline’ program produces first crop of medical students
 

A program begun 10 years ago to encourage Springfield-area high school students interested in becoming doctors and to help diversify the medical profession has begun to yield tangible results — by producing medical students.

Continue reading :

https://www.sj-r.com/news/20190706/high-school-pipeline-program-produces-first-crop-of-medical-students

Melanin in Medicine

‎Melanin In Medicine: Episode 22: Life/MCAT Advice from Tare and Masters Degrees on Apple Podcasts

‎Kia journeyed back to Carbondale IL to attend her post baccalaureate banquet! There she interviewed her good friend Tare who will be matriculating this fall to medical school! Be sure to follow her journey on her blog Prescribed by Tare for another perspective of this process! Thank you so much Tare…

I had the opportunity to switch things up and was featured as a guest on Episode 22 of the Melanin in Medicine podcast by my friend Kia from MEDPREP! We talked a little about my undergraduate experience, why I attended the MEDPREP program, my graduate experience and obtaining my Masters degree, the dreaded MCAT exam and just an overall summary of my journey to this current day! There are some MCAT tips mixed in as well, so listen carefully because I also have a surprise announcement!

Did you have a similar or different experience in your educational pursuits? Were there any takeaways you got from the episode? How did you find listening to this podcast over the traditional blog posts? Questions? Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below. Happy listening!

Melanin in Medicine is a podcast created by two besties Kia and Florence who both will be starting Medical school this Fall at the University of Kansas School of Medicine!

This is a podcast to encourage any and all who are interested in becoming a doctor. We want to target underrepresented minorities in this podcast who may not have people they could use as a resource for how exactly to get through undergrad, MCAT studies and applying to medical school. As we transition into medical school this year we’d like to share our experiences and hope that our transparency will help others on their own journey!

-Melanin in Medicine

Be sure to check out and subscribe to the Melanin in Medicine podcast and follow them on instagram @melanin.in.medicine !

MCAT Prep Tips pt. 1

***Practical MCAT Tips based on my experience with the MCAT exam and preparation! Disclaimer: everyone is different. What worked for me may not work for you, but I do believe these tips can be generalized based, again, on my experience with the MCAT exam!***

I had a lot to say about this topic because of my personal experience of taking the MCAT exam 3 times! I learned that good MCAT test preparation is not just about the exam itself. A lot of preparation and research should be done prior to actually sitting down to study. I have therefore divided this topic into a 2 part series! You may find that some sections are longer than others but…hang in there! That just means lots more important information! I tried to put these “tips” in order but a lot of them are interconnected and reference each other! Happy reading, and as allways let me know your thoughts in the comments below! ^.^

1. Know the MCAT exam! 

This is easily the first tip because you should know what exactly it is you are doing all this studying and preparation for! Do your research to know the content, structure, length etc. of the MCAT exam. I’ve outlined some of the basics in the tips below, but you should still do your own research and become familiar with the test for yourself. (For a complete breakdown of the MCAT exam content and structure, check out the information provided by the AAMC MCAT test makers HERE.)  This is important so you know what to expect, but also because it will determine the course of your entire MCAT preparation plan beginning with tip number 2!

2. Do a self-assessment of your foundational background to determine when  is the appropriate time to begin MCAT studying.

This is the very next thing you’re going to want need to do before anything else! Hopefully you are familiar with the MCAT exam by now. If not, here’s a brief content summary: It has 4 sections and about 9 different  subjects covered in varying amounts: biology, biochemistry, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, quantitative reasoning, psychology, sociology, critical analysis and reasoning skills, and is scored on a scale from 472 to 528. As you may have noticed, these are some, if not all, of the same courses that are required as pre-requisites to medical school! Many of these courses overlap with course requirements for majors in biology, chemistry, biochem, cellular biology and more. I’m mentioning this because if you are currently enrolled in these courses, you should take them seriously! It is important to recognize the overlap and relation between these pre-requisite/college level courses and the foundational subject areas on the actual MCAT exam!

So, what does this mean for you now? Well, if you are currently in undergrad or in another program and are taking some of the subject areas mentioned above, then you are in a pretty good position going into MCAT studying and may not require as much time to prepare. On the other hand, if you haven’t taken some of these courses since your freshman year or if you are a little further removed from college and these subject areas, then you may have to spend more time doing content review or even take additional classes so you can have those foundational areas before jumping into the heart of MCAT studying. 

This honestly varies from person to person. Even if your’e currently in undergrad, you may still need to adjust your study preparations accordingly. For example, if you are currently in undergrad and are taking both physics and biochem, but you are either A: not doing well or B: not understanding or grasping the material, or both, then you will have to spend more time learning or re-learning those subject areas. Unfortunately, if you’ve never taken any one of those subjects mentioned above, you will have even more work to do in your studying and preparations. 

I personally found that having taken all those courses, some multiple times, tremendously helped to set the foundation for my MCAT studying and made it a lot smoother the final time I studied and took it. I was able to focus less on content review and more on what and how the MCAT was structured (more of this in part 2). Just be honest with yourself about where you are,  what you know, and plan accordingly. Physics and organic chemistry are hard concepts to learn in a structured class setting and are even harder to learn on your own. This is not to say it can’t be done, but that it will be challenging. This is why it is important to do a thorough and realistic self-assessment of what you know to don’t know so you can determine how best to proceed.

This may be where your decision to do a post-bacc or masters program might weigh in, especially for non-science majors. In fact, some post-bacc programs of requirements or pre-requisites to apply. This means that there are some courses you have to take before you can even be considered for a post-bacc program! These coursed likely include the basics listed above like biology, chem, physics etc. So, do your research on any program of interest! 

3. Decide how you want to tackle studying for the MCAT exam.

In addition to doing this self-assessment for your foundational knowledge, you should also consider how best you learn. Are you an independent and self directed learner? Or do you learn best in a structured environment? You should be asking yourself questions like these to determine if you are disciplined enough to tackle MCAT studying on your own or with a study group, OR if you need to take an MCAT prep course with a test prep company OR hire an MCAT tutor, OR do a post-bacc/Masters program. As you can see there are many options available! You should be thinking about  this as you consider tip number 2 based on how much and what you still need to learn or re-learn during your MCAT studying. 

If you decide you have a pretty good foundation going in and are disciplined enough to study on your own then go for it! Just know that it will require a lot from you. You have to be very focused with little distractions. This includes, work, extracurricular activities, family, friends etc. Not that you should isolate them, but that you’ll need to have balance, a set routine and understanding. This is also true for any of the other preparation options actually. Distractions can break your MCAT studying seriously. You have to make sure you are in an environment that allows you to focus when you need to. This includes the place where you plan to study, as well as the people that will be around you. I know people who have had to turn down summer opportunities or quit work to study for this exam, its not a joke! But if you are studying on your own, you can still seek outside help from professors or your peers by working in a group. Doing it on your own doesn’t necessarily mean doing it alone! (more on this in part 2). 

I would say that I’m pretty disciplined on a normal day, however the MCAT exam is a beast of an exam. It is a 7 hour and 30 minute long passage based exam covering each of the subjects mentioned above! Any individual subject covered on the MCAT exam alone can be difficult enough to learn and grasp, but putting them all together… I knew that I personally needed that extra structured help. I tried the Kaplan MCAT prep course during the spring of my Junior year in undergrad and it was a mess for various reasons: I didn’t devote the proper time to the course as I was involved in various activities and working part time, but also because the Kaplan MCAT prep course was not fit for my learning style personally. 

This is not bash on Kaplan at all as I know people who successfully completed the regular course and intensive summer course and did very well! So, I’ll leave it to you to do your research and decide for yourself. (Side note, test prep courses can be very expensive ($500-5000!!!). There are many test prep companies out there, so research to see if what they offer can work with you and your learning style. 

If you are going to graduate soon or, have already graduated from college, and maybe struggled a bit in undergrad, then consider doing a post-bacc or masters program. If you’re currently struggling and are nowhere near graduation, still consider doing one! Although it was not my initial intention to do a post-bacc program, I am glad I did it and wished I had planned it out sooner during undergrad. Had I taken the time to do a proper self-assessment,  I would have saved myself a lot of time and money applying to medical school prematurely! My post-bacc program was geared towards taking the MCAT exam first year, and preparation for medical school second year. There are many post-bacc programs out there; The AAMC has a list of them HERE.

I will go ahead and shamelessly pub for the MEDPREP post-bacc program that I did so check out the website HERE for more info. Keep in mind that these programs are not cheap either. Some are considered an extension of undergrad while some are considered graduate program. The MEDPREP program had the option of both. These programs can be great for MCAT prep, but also for GPA boosters. if that is something you need to bring up before applying to medical school. 

You could also hire an MCAT tutor. How to find one? You can reach out through pre-med organization at your school or maybe you know someone who took it and did well that you can ask to tutor you. You can also search online for them; I think some test-prep companies have tutors on hand for hire but I’m not too sure on that, so research it! Tutors can be great because of the one-on-one help they provide and they can tailor their teachings for you and your study style. But…tutors are likely going to be pricey. However, if it’s someone you know you may be able to work something out. 

4. Set realistic “MCAT score goals/expectations.

Now that you know what is going to be on the exam and you’ve assessed what you still need to cover, I recommend having a score goal or target range in mind before beginning your core MCAT studying. When you make this goal, it is very important to not set the bar too high, or too low! Your score goal is important because it can make or break your motivation while studying, and also because it gives you something to work towards so all your studying isn’t in vain.! I would suggests taking a practice full length exam initially before any major studying along with researching any medical schools of interest to see if they have any strict minimum cutoffs and then going from there.

Keep in mind though that some people score much higher and others score much lower than their practice exams so be prepared because it really is variable. It’s also more than okay to adjust your score goals/expectations as you study and take more practice exams. To my current knowledge, and as some of you may have heard,  500+ seems to be the “magic score” to aim for or higher for the MCAT. This is by no means absolute! There are many people that score below 500 on the MCAT and gain acceptance to Medical School just as there are many people that score over a 500 on the MCAT and don’t gain acceptance to Medical school! I personally know a few people on both sides of the spectrum. The MCAT score is just one of many areas looked at for medical school admissions and also varies by school. But in any case, be on the lookout for possible cutoffs and minimum requirements from schools, which brings us to tip number 5!

5. Research Medical Schools of interest.

As mentioned earlier, if your “dream” medical school has a specific MCAT cutoff number, that is a minimum score required to even apply and be considered at their school, then it probably would be a good idea to know what that score is! Some schools have strict cut offs, for example, SIU SOM requires 498 minimum to apply. Schools may have cut offs by total MCAT score or individual section scores. For example, Emory University SOM requires a minimum of a 500 overall  OR a 123 or higher in each section to be considered.

I have been told by various medical school admissions staff that the importance of the MCAT score is mainly to show whether or not you can handle the rigors of medical School and is a good indicator of your likelihood to succeed once in medical school. There is data out there on the correlations between MCAT scores and Medical School success. The AAMC has some info about this and states:

Medical students who entered with scores of 494 and above showed similar, high progression rates.

You can read more about it on page 16 HERE. That is one of the reasons this exam is so important and weighed so heavily. I am not sure to what extent the correlation is as this exam is still fairly new. 

On the other hand, some schools either don’t have any cutoffs/minimum requirements or don’t list any cut offs. A lot of medical schools are “Holistic” in how they consider applicants. You can easily find information like this on the admissions website of each medical school of interest. Knowing what score is or is not required should assist you in your MCAT preparations. Referring to tip number 4, if your’e constantly scoring above the score required by a medical school of interest, then you are probably in a good position to take the real thing and do well. Keep in mind that having all the right statistics or experiences (MCAT score, GPA, shadowing, volunteering, research, etc), does NOT guarantee admissions to any medical school.

6. Do your research on MCAT prep books and companies.

Whether or not you plan to study on your own or  need a more structured format, you will be using a test-prep company for study materials. Each test company has a different style and format of how they present the information and questions in their practice materials. Keep in mind though that there is no practice exam out there like the real MCAT exam you will see on test day no matter how “good” each test prep company is or says they are. In my opinion, the AAMC practice exams and material are the best and most reliable out there currently simply because they are the ones who write the real MCAT exam! I personally scored right around where I scored on all the AAMC practice exams if averaged them together, but not everyone has that same experience. You can purchase the AAMC study materials HERE though. Many people tend to use these study materials in addition to other test prep materials. 

With any test company, certain areas or subjects may be less representative of the real thing (some are harder/easier etc.) so do your research! You can research what is out there and what has worked for others. Aim to cater to your learning style and your content deficiencies (more on this in part 2). It’s not a bad idea to use different companies for different subjects based again on how they present the info, but at the end of the day, use what works for you. Its okay to change material even midway through your studying if its just not working for you. So far the popular names people use are Exam Krackers, Princeton Review, Next Step, Kaplan, Berkley Review, and Uworld. There may be more out there.

7. Determine how long to study for the MCAT exam and when to take it. 

So, you’ve done all your research and know what test companies you want to try. You know if your dream school has a minimum MCAT score requirement and what it is. And you’ve decided to study on your own or that you need assistance. Now you need to set a designated time period to study and date for when to take the exam!  I would recommend anywhere from 3-6 months of MCAT study time before taking the real thing.  This time frame is so variable because everyone has different content backgrounds, strengths and deficiencies as discussed earlier.

Now there is a such thing as too much study time. You do not want to be studying for the MCAT exam for a year+, that’s just ridiculous! Its one thing to take a couple semesters or more time out to complete pre-requisite courses in preparation for the exam and another to have those under your belt and spend that same amount of time studying. The longer you prolong your studying the easier it is to forget what you’ve learned especially initially, not to mention FATIGUE! You will burn out if you prolong this process!

I prepared for the MCAT for a couple of years. Between my major in undergrad (Molecular and Cellular Biology) and first semester of my post-bacc program, I had plenty of content under my belt. However, I personally studied for the MCAT for only about 4 months, studying much harder around the last 2 months. I think that was enough time for me, but this can vary by individual.

So for you, once you’ve gone through the tips mentioned above and have finished all your preparations, decide tentatively how long you need to study, then pick a date after that set amount of time and try to stick with it! I took my MCAT exam mid-May and registered for that exam date the day the MCAT registration opened on the AAMC website. (Click HERE for the MCAT testing schedule/calendar). With my past experience of taking the exam multiple times and moving my date multiple times, I knew I did not want that same anxiety. So I picked my date and stuck with it because I also knew I had more than enough time to prepare if I did what I needed to do and you can too! 

If you’ve made it this far the congratulations! You are now ready to begin MCAT studying


Now theres a little more I would like to say about choosing your exam date and sticking with it etc. And as you may have noticed,  I haven’t even gotten to actual MCAT studying tips yet! So, for the remaining information on specific MCAT study Tips, look out for Part 2 to this coming soon! If you found any of these tips helpful let me know in the comments below! 

-Tare ^.^

Rejected to Accepted

“We regret to inform you that after further consideration…” This is how most medical school rejection letters started out. Now, imagine receiving 10 of these. When I applied to medical school for the 2016 application cycle just two years ago that was my reality. Rejection from every school I applied to. Crushed was an understatement of what I was feeling…but I still had hope. There was no way my story would end there. I had faith in God that even though it didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, it would work out the way He wanted it to.

While I was applying, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out given my low MCAT scores and the submission of my applications being so late that cycle. But I chose to ignore that feeling and apply anyways. Have you ever had this idea that if  you just “try your best,” or “do what you can,” then surely God will handle the rest right?

Wrong. Well, at least the reasoning was wrong.  Through this experience, I learned the importance of God’s will. I strongly believe it was not God’s will for me to gain entry into medical school the first time around. But as to be expected, I couldn’t quite grasp that concept at the time.

Would you believe me if I told you that during the Fall of that application cycle I had a dream that I would be accepted not into medical school but into the MEDPREP post bacc program at Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale, IL? I kid you not this actually happened.  Now, it wasn’t exactly clear in the dream that the acceptance would be for the MEDPRPEP program, but it was clear that I would be accepted to “SIU.”  I tried to bend the and  interpret the dream that I would be accepted to the SIU School of Medicine. You ever get a vision or inclination of what God has planned for you or actually ask God what He wants you to do in a certain situation, to which He answers, but then somehow you try to make that answer fit what you want to do still? Tsk Tsk.

Funny enough, as the rejection letters kept rolling in, I did end up applying to the MEDPRPEP post bacc program later in January. In fact, the day I interviewed for entry into the MEDPREP program in March was the same day I received my last medical school rejection letter. That was it. No medical school for me that year.

Wow right?  Now I know some of you may be somewhat skeptical about what I just said. Disclaimer: I am a spiritual person, I am a Christian, and this was my reality. My goal here is not to force anything on you but to share with you what I personally experienced. As you know, I am now currently finishing up my second year and Masters degree in Biological Sciences at MEDPREP at SIU in Carbondale, IL. Mind you, I had no intention of moving down to Carbondale, I didn’t even want to apply to MEDPREP! But I truly believe that God intended for me to end up here to receive better MCAT and medical school preparation, but also for the life lessons and spiritual growth I received and continue to experience while being down here.

The post-bacc program helped me a lot with MCAT prep, but it was still on the individual to take advantage of that preparation and maximize it. With the help of my professors I was open to new ways of looking at and approaching problems, but I also had to do some major introspection and fine tune my study habits and the way I processed information. Gone were the days of pulling all nighters because I had to learn how to space study. I sat in the front row of most my classes and frequently went to office hours. I basically took all the study skills and lessons I had started to develop late in  undergrad and fine tuned them even more to account for the large amount of info received in medical school. I actually believe that I became smarter as time progressed. Grasping concepts came quicker and processing information became easier and easier. Things just started to make sense to me more so than they ever did before. Now..onto the life lessons…

Non-academically speaking, I learned a lot about myself during this period of my life.  During this short time in the little town of Carbondale I have experienced the most growth emotionally, physically, and spiritually that I would not have otherwise received had I not came here for this program. To stay on top of all classes, exams, and later MCAT studying while maintaining my own personal needs and well-being brought along some stress and took a lot of effort. The frustration, the tears, the amount of times I questioned God and his plan for me…it was a lot. (I wonder how I’ll survive med school!)

However, I  learned a lot about myself, friendships, trusting others, when to lean on others, how to be vulnerable, when to be vulnerable, when to laugh, when to cry… But most importantly, I learned that God was with me every step of the way. I saw the best in people and also saw the worst. All in all I learned how to be…me and more of who I was and wanted to be. Things I did and did not identify with both in principle and in action became more apparent. I had to search deep within myself to figure what exactly I wanted out of this life. As a spiritual person that answer was simple, to do whatever it is that God has called me to do which I believe ultimately lies somewhere in the field of Medicine as far as careers go, but also to truly help others. In finding myself I also found God. I found my identity in Christ as I drew nearer to Him, which I believe was His ultimate plan.  I don’t believe I’ve “figured it all out” or anything like that. I am still learning more and more each day about myself and even about my beliefs. I am not the same person I was last year and I hope to continue to grow and change each and every day.

With what I know now, and have learned over this time I finally see why it didn’t work out the first time. Getting rejected from medical school was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me.  During the time between my last and current application, I gained knowledge, wisdom, bettered myself academically and mentally. And I can now proudly say that through hard work, perseverance, tears, blood, sweat, and God on my side…

I have been ACCEPTED into not one, not two…but multiple Medical Schools..so far! From receiving zero interviews during my last application, I have now received many interviews and still counting! Wow what a journey. Finally. I did it. Im doing it. I’m going to medical school! To think that just 2 years ago the opposite was true. But my story does not end here. I still don’t know which medical school I will end up in or what specialty I will ultimately practice, but I do know this:

All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord who have been called according to His purpose

-Romans 8:28

I hope to have inspired you with this story! Please let me know where you are on your own medical school journey or if anything I mentioned resonated with you in the comments below!

-Tare

5 Tips for pre-med Sophomores in College

Freshman year is over and you probably feel like you should be doing more to prepare for applying to medical school your junior or senior year right? Well, here are 5 tips to help you do just that!

1. Solidify your extracurricular activities

Quality is better than quantity. With regards to applying to med school in the near future, you should endeavor to participate in activities now that allow you to: volunteer, display leadership, and showcase your skills. Volunteering shows dedication and commitment to service/serving your community. Therefore, the amount of hours you put in is very important for med school application. Some schools even have a set minimum amount required before you can apply, so start early and seriosly consider volunteering over the summer!

Choose activities that allow you start in or move up to a leadership position (ex. Resident Advisor, club board member/officer, student government, etc). Also join other clubs/activities for fun, especially if you’re good at it! (I threw shot-put on the track club for 4 years!). Remember at the end of the day med schools want to get a sense of who you are. IMPORTANT: Be sure to keep a detailed record of your involvement in these activities. Anything from hours spent weekly to duties performed or achievements made etc. (they will come in handy during your AMCAS application)! Not sure what to join? Look to campus resources such as your schools career center or pre-med advisors for assistance!

2. Begin or continue to gain clinical/patient exposure.

As you probably guessed, having clinical exposure is very critical to building your resume as a med school applicant but also as a med student and then physician. However, this does not necessarily mean that you have to become a physician scribe or EMT. If either of those interest you (especially if you’re considering emergency medicine), then by all means do it! However, there are other ways to gain clinical exposure: volunteering or working at a hospital/clinic/nursing home, shadowing a physician, even being a tutor allows for interactions with people. The takeaway here is that whatever you decide to do, do it now so you can build your resume. As mentioned above, you’ll want to keep a detailed record of your involvement in whatever you do, including who was in charge, how many hours spent per week, and what duties you performed.

3. Build and maintain a good relationship with your professors for references/recommendation letters.
 
This may be a little pre-mature, but better to be safe! Recommendation letters are a critical part on your AMCAS application for med school. Each school varies in how many letters they require but usually anywhere from 3-6, but some even accept more! The key to a good recommendation letter is QUALITY. A professor that knows your face or name because you’ve consistently attended their office hours, asked for help, worked under them in research, etc. can write a much more personal and thus valuable letter than a professor who only knows you because you’re simply asking them for a letter. They should be able to comment on not only your competency, and knack for learning, but also your suitability for the rigors of medical school and becoming a doctor. This can be somewhat difficult if you attend a large school, so be sure to ask questions, go to office hours, attend review sessions, etc. Do what you can to be known and noticed (in a good and professional manner) by your professors. This is also why you have to work hard in your classes to get the best grades. A professor is more likely to agree to write you a letter if you received an A in their class as opposed to a C+. Not to mention you probably don’t want to acquire any letters from classes in which you did not receive an A or at least a B!

4. Think about and apply for research positions.
 
Is research something you’re interested in? Not sure? If you haven’t already, then now would be the time to explore this option. It is important to start early because research takes time, dedication, and effort. Professors generally take on new lab members that they know will be there a while as opposed to just 1 or 2 semesters. They do not want to constantly train new people. In other words, they tend to prefer underclassmen (freshman/sophomores) to upperclassmen (junior/seniors). In addition, you will get more out of a research position that you’ve held for 3+ years than one you only did for 2 semesters–trust me! Not to mention you also will have more to write about in your AMCAS application as well as more to say come interviews! Also, the longer youre in a research position, the better your chances of being published! Your professors are a good starting point for seeking out research positions, but you can also check with any major department, or school job postings.

5. Do not be afraid to ask for help/assistance!

This may sound redundant or obvious but it’s important! By now your freshman year is over, and you have experienced a bit of what college is like. Most importantly, you now know what is required of you as a student. If you find that you are struggling in ANY area whether it be in a certain class/subject, financially, socially, or just a bad habit, please reach out to someone. It can be a counselor, advisor, mentor, friend, religious organization, etc. just seek help! You want to fix any small problem areas now so they do not become big problem areas later. In addition, it’s a good habit and skill to have: knowing when and how to ask for help!



I’m sure there are many other tips out there but to keep this short I’ve only given you a few. Were they helpful to you? Need clarification on something? Please let me know in the comments below!

5 Tips for Pre-Med Freshman in College

With the start of fall semester around the corner, It’s never too early to start preparing for entrance into medical school! There are other important details to consider well before the dreaded MCAT/AMCAS application! So, here are 5 tips to help you start off on track and in the right direction in your pursuit of becoming a doctor!

 
1. Get credit for AP/Dual credit classes.

If you have not already done so, now would be the time to see about getting credit for some of those classes you took in high school! Especially if you took AP Biology, AP Chemistry, or AP Physics, these are core pre-med prerequisites regardless of your major. So, if you can get credit for some of them, all the better! Keep in mind that each university is different in what scores they accept depending on the subject so be sure to ask.

*Side note: Even if you did get AP credit, it might be beneficial to still take some of those classes again. You may not want to go straight into organic chemistry coming out of high school even if you have the opportunity to. So, be sure to check with your advisor! However, be mindful that some medical schools don’t accept certain credits so also check their requirements too.

2. Choose your advisors/mentors carefully.

Identify early on where/who you can go to for sound advice throughout your pre-med journey. Some people are loaded with information and are just waiting to share it. However, some can send you off, try to talk you out of your plans/goals, or just straight up give you false/outdated information. They may not be intentional, however it’s still better to identify a good source. I recommend speaking with multiple/different people, including the pre-med advisors (I’ve learned that some are more knowledgeable than others). If you are unsure of something they said, it’s more than okay to cross reference it with another advisor/source. But, nothing beats hearing directly from your medical school of interest when questions pertain to them!

Most schools have some kind of mentor-mentee system that you can look into, so ask around! Try to find other pre-med upperclassmen and also those in your major/minor: They are great resources!! They can give you more detailed advice on what classes to take, professors to avoid, advisors to listen to etc. Not to mention more personal advice from their own journeys!

3. Know and make a timeline for completing pre-med prerequisites.

Now is a good time to put together a list of pre-med prerequisites that you MUST take. They vary slightly from each medical school. For example, some schools require 2 semesters of Organic chemistry while some will allow you to substitute one of those semesters for a semester in Biochemistry. The AAMC (which you’ll become very familiar with) has a list of all medical schools and their pre-med requirements. If you have a desired med school in mind, you probably want to know what classes they want or recommend you take. This is important to know regardless of what major you decide on. This allows you to give yourself enough room in your schedule over the years to take those classes and space them out. No sense it taking physics, biochemistry, and organic chemistry all in one semester if you don’t have to!

4. Figure out your learning style and develop good study habits.

Freshman year can be seen as a time for trial and error. High school is over. Some of your study methods that worked in high school may not work in college. Getting straight A’s in high school is MUCH EASIER than getting straight A’s in college!! If you aren’t a freshman reading this, it’s not too late for you to develop good study habits! It’s okay if you don’t do so well on your first couple of exams, especially in the sciences. The most important thing is to be able to IDENTIFY what went wrong so you can CHANGE it! It’s better for you to recognize what kind of learner you are now rather than later. Go to office hours and talk to your professors, even if you think you know the topic. If you ask for help, you will figure things out! Acquiring good study habits is very important not only now but in the long run. Lookout for a post on acquiring effective study habits!

5. Maintain and build your GPA.

Right now as a freshman, the only thing, or the most important thing, you should be worried about is your G.P.A. Not med school applications or the MCAT, but building and maintain as high of a GPA as possible. There is time for everything else later. You will want to start of strong in this department as much as you can. But, if you don’t that’s okay! Better to make any mistakes now than later on. Just remember it’s much easier to LOWER your GPA than it is to RAISE it back up. So, the more A’s the better. From my experience, you want to aim for an overall/cumulative GPA above a 3.5 as well as a science GPA in that area. Keep in mind however, that some people get into medical school with less than a 3.5 while some with a 4.0 still do not get in!



Were these tips helpful? Have some of your own? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

So you want to be a doctor?

So you want to be a doctor…right? I would like to start by sharing with you a poem I wrote after shadowing in the emergency department at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, in 2010. It was during my sophomore year in high school. I posted the poem on a website online and years later it was picked up and published by The America Library of Poetry in their book “Accomplished,” just last year!

Impatient

Walking down the narrow, seemingly endless hallway.
The faint cry of someone in pain, in agony, possibly dying; but no, being-
saved
This wonderful phenomenon could be heard from behind the curtains.
The curtains
The only wall separating this miracle form actuality.
Meanwhile nurses and doctors wait behind their desks for the “next.”
Boredom lurking, anxiously waiting.
Reality hit like heavy rain.
Could I really see this happening? Do I want this?
No.
I can’t’ do this.
I won’t do this!
No patience to wait for that –
“next”

When I reflect back to when I wrote this poem, only God knows what I witnessed to prompt me to write it! But in any case, I request that you too reflect over this poem. As you do so, ask yourself these questions: Can you really see this happening? Do you really want this? Do you have the patience required not only as a physician, but for the process it takes to become one? These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself constantly during your own journey to becoming a doctor. Every new experience you have shadowing, volunteering, and interacting with those in your desired field, should continue to solidify your answers to those questions.

If I had a dollar for the amount of people known between my friends and I that started out wanting to be a doctor but ended up on a different path…Let’s just say I would be much richer! But jokes aside, I picked up that some of those people either were not prepared to make the sacrifice or just did not have the patience to continue down that path. This also begs the question: Were they really passionate about becoming a doctor in the first place? Don’t get me wrong. I understand that college opens up your mind and exposes you to new experiences, as it should. Everyone has the right to change paths as their interests change. However, I’m referring to those that talked-the-talk about becoming a physician. Those that could swear by their mother’s grave when probed on the subject. I propose that the answer to my question is no. To better understand my reasoning, let’s look at the definition of passionate:

Passionate: having, compelled by, or ruled by intense emotion or strong feeling.

We all can probably agree that medicine is NOT for everyone. All the same, before you begin to make any progress towards becoming a physician, you should first make up your mind about whether or not you really want to pursue that path: Success has no place for indecisiveness. It is also imperative that your intensions and expectations are well founded when deciding. This is where passion comes in. Becoming a doctor is something that you should feel compelled to do. When speaking about it, you should be able to relate to your words on an emotional level. That’s how it is for me in any case. Go ahead and talk-the-talk: the tongue is a powerful tool. But you also better walk-the-walk too: actions speak louder than words. You must be passionate but also faithful, ambitious, and unrelenting in your pursuit to becoming a doctor. Regardless of your perceived intelligence, major, GPA, age etc., with just a little more patience, medicine CAN be for you!



So why are you passionate about becoming a doctor? What steps have you taken in deciding if medicine is right for you? Let me know in the comments below!