on Wednesday Yesterday
We’re well into half of the first semester. This block of courses was Pulmonary (finished) and Cardiovascular. Mixed into our ‘classroom’ time we’re also scheduled for didactics training, and interspersed among everything we have workshops on medical imaging (X-rays, CT scans, etc). It’s our last year of ‘classroom’ time, from next year we take the boards and hit the wards and pretend to be doctors — I keep using the parenthesis with “classroom” because I don’t actually go to class unless it’s a discussion, skills training, or seminar. I spend most of my time studying like I did for the MCAT, at a cafe with headphones — I find studying in public really helps to break up the monotony, and it’s nice to strike up a random conversation with a stranger (I’m Californian).
In the summer between MS1 and MS2 I had a project in the cardiology department. In the project I made new friends, and I even gained a role model. With that project completed, and classes ongoing, I received an email asking to help with another project. I like having projects, it keeps me busy and out of trouble — idol hands. Monday, I traveled to pick up the proprietary software/laptop I’ll be using for the project. A week ago I received a batch of portal ECG device I’ll use with patients, and from today I started on recruitment. It’s going to be a tough schedule for the next few weeks, this pilot project should be done in two weeks. The neurology part of this block also has its exam in two weeks. There is free time in medical school, I’ll just have to use it judiciously in the next few weeks. Anyways, I’m really excited I get to help with this project because I believe the results will be generalizable. Selflessly, a large bonus is that I believe this project’s scope will help my own parents health. I want to talk more about it, but half of the project is still proprietary and the hard work didn’t come from me.
I believe it was around this time, two years ago, that I interviewed at my program. Because cardiovascular disease has literally plucked those I care about away, I ended up dropping all interests of PhD programs to become a MD. I have no idea if I’ll be a cardiologist, if I’m qualified to be one, or if I’ll still be interested when it comes time to apply for that fellowship. But, what do do know is that I’m grateful that I even have that as an open possibility.
It’s winter in Boston, I hope all is well for everyone. Now, again, at my school applicants are interviewing. It’s a curious sight, I remember making the trip before, peering off into the classroom when I could to get an idea of who these mythical creatures called medical students were. So, it’s strange to be on the other side of the window. Anyways, nostalgia aside, I wanted to share with you an interview with a recently accepted applicant (see below). I believe we met on Twitter, when I was editing and critiquing personal statements in my downtime. I distinctly remember her personal statement, so I’m excited to see her progress from a hopeful applicant to an accepted medical student with a full scholarship.
So, here’s the interview:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? — e.g. major, participation in college, post graduate work or activities, continued and concluded work/projects, notable experiences.
My family is originally from Peru, my father completed medical school in Lima and we immigrated to the United States when my father got a pediatrics residency offer in New York. I grew up and attended school in Texas, where I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology. I was very fortunate to have several mentors along the way who really pushed me towards research and am grateful our paper was accepted a few months before applying to medical school. I worked in two very different labs in undergrad, a summer in an entomology lab and a neuroscience lab my junior and senior year. Although I considered medicine, I originally planned on pursuing a PhD in Neuroscience/Neuropharmacology, so my focus in undergrad was research and teaching (I worked as a Teaching Assistant for Cell Biology lab and Supplemental Instruction Leader for Analytical Chemistry) and did not really have very much clinical volunteering (at least compared to my ‘intense’ pre-med peers).
My main extracurricular was Colleges Against Cancer (CAC), where I helped start Relay For Life at my university. Unfortunately, it seems that people in my life keep struggling with cancer. My first awareness of the disease was when my fifth grade teacher went through breast cancer treatment. In college, I discovered my lab mate was a lymphoma survivor (we co-founded our CAC chapter), my godfather battling colon cancer and losing my first research advisor to pancreatic cancer, and recently losing family members to lymphoma and glioblastoma. Although I have no idea what it says, I believe that my evaluation letter from my American Cancer Society staff partner had significant weight in the strength of my application.
There are people that seem to know they were destined for a career in medicine since they were fetuses. To say I am 100% certain that I should become doctor would be inaccurate, sometimes I still question if I have the desire pursue a career that in practice seems increasingly more centered on costs and paperwork, and less focused on quality and prevention. Seeing my father practice medicine in a private practice setting was off-putting to me, especially as I developed a real knack for teaching early in my undergraduate career. However my somewhat cynical, not idealist view that our current healthcare system is ‘broken’ is one of the many things that fuels me to strive for change. My senior year (after much introspection), I realized that academic medicine was a great way to consolidate helping with others while teaching and decided to apply to medical school. Since I still needed time to study for the MCAT, I decided would take a total of two years off before matriculating in medical school (which thankfully I will next fall!).
Applying to medical school is pretty difficult, besides the prereqs, a lot of steps have to be made correctly on a timely manner. How did you prepare for the applying to medical school, anything in retrospect you would have done differently now that you understand how the process works?
Honestly, I read a lot of blogs and from there searched for books. Hannah’s (@MDPhDtoBe) blog (side note: I met her a few months ago and she is an incredible human) and this one were probably the two I referenced the most. I used two books (one which you have mentioned in your own blog) the Medical School Admissions Guide and Cracking Med School Admissions, both which gave interesting examples of personal statements and suggested timelines. After the MCAT, the two most challenging parts of the application were the Personal Statement and the Activities Section (also, insanely time consuming). Looking back I would have kept better records on my activities because I ended up spending a lot of time tracking down faculty/staff for their contact information and wracking my brain to guesstimate how many hours I spend on all of my activities. Something important that I reflected throughout the interview process was to try not compare yourself with other applicants. It’s difficult when you’re in a room filled with brilliant, driven people, but reminding yourself that you have your own story, that everyone’s journey to medicine is different is good perspective to have because it’s easy to become intimidated and not think you’re good enough. You have made it this far, be proud (never arrogant) of your accomplishments!
Last year I edited your personal statement, how was the experience for you and how did it help?
The personal statement was very challenging for me to write. I probably went through ten drafts of my personal statement before I felt “satisfied”. Mr. @doctororbust kindly agreed to look over my personal statement and gave me great feedback, particularly with the flow of my ideas. Most of the people I asked to edit my personal statement were very familiar with my story and everything I had done throughout undergrad, so having someone who was completely impartial was extremely useful and I am extremely grateful for the direction my personal statement took after you reviewed it! Forever grateful.. this brings up another point, do not be afraid of asking for help. There are kind people in this world who genuinely want you to succeed 🙂
What were some things that surprised you about the application process? — this could be either positive or negative or even just an observation.
Overall, the application process was a journey. Equally beautiful and frustrating. Writing the personal statement was somewhat revelatory and defining. Creating a narrative that portrays you and your passion for this career in 5,300 characters is nothing short of daunting. I think I did not expect the application to take so long. I tried to finish it up as soon as I could. I am surprised to have gotten three out-of-state public university interview offers, so I wouldn’t discourage someone to not apply out of state, however make sure you do your research and write a compelling narrative on why you want to attend a specific school. If you can attend a recruitment fair, take advantage and stay in touch with people. An admissions staff member I met at a recruitment fair arranged for me to meet with a pediatric psychiatrist after my interview because I mentioned this was a strong particular interest of mine. As much as medical schools are interviewing you, you are also interviewing them to see where you will be the best fit and if they are granting you an interview, it is likely they will accomodate you to make you feel welcome. As I mentioned, I strongly considered pursuing a PhD, and debated applying to MSTP (MD/PhD) programs. Ultimately, I decided not to apply since I did not believe my MCAT was very competitive for MTSP programs. However, in my interviews and after talking to a few MSTP minority students, my MCAT score was higher than one (by 3 points) and exactly the same as the other MSTP student. Although I do not believe in holding myself to a “low standard” because I am considered a minority in this country, I do feel a slight sense of curiosity of what would have happened if I had applied to combined programs.
How many schools did you apply to? If you don’t mind disclosing it, can you share what school you decided to attend?
I initially intended to apply to more, but I ended up completing 13 allopathic medical school applications. To date, I’ve had two rejections, five interview invitations and acceptance offers from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and the University of Wisconsin- Madison. If I do not get any more interview offers, my last one will be at the University of Illinois-Chicago in February! Since I did also complete an application through TMDSAS, I’ve ranked UT Southwestern and UTHSCSA and will have to wait for ‘match day’ on February 2rd (Texas is special).
For schools that are a part of AAMC, I legally have until April 30th to make my final decision… However, during winter break when I was in Peru, I found a letter from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health saying I have received a full tuition scholarship!!! I am about 99.99% certain I will accept this offer because frankly I loved the students I met, the interviewees (we did a group one with 2 medical students and 3 other applicants), and the city of Madison. I am beyond thrilled to have this incredible opportunity, as I am flawed and far from a perfect applicant (as in I have a C in calculus and several Bs early on in my transcript.. but I worked hard to bring those grades up!).
What will you do as you wait to start?
I am happily continuing to work for a medical non-profit association in Washington, DC and tutor Biology, Chemistry, Biochemistry and Spanish while I wait to start medical school next fall! Taking time off school was the best decision I made to solidify my decision to apply to medical school. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to send me a tweet @brainyloma! Best of luck!
Thank you @brainyloma, please check her Twitter out if you have more questions.
As I massaged the lotion on your skin, I glanced at your nicely kept clean long nails. You can learn a lot about people from their hands, they often reveal more than we ever let on. These hands that were once as smooth as mine, but have grown weathered and experienced with age. I can only wonder who else had the chance to hold your hand: your children, lover, and parents when you were but a child trepidatiously crossing the street. As I stroked your fingers and palms with moisturizer your long elegant cold fingers betray your secret, you were certainly an graceful woman. While holding your hand, I can only wonder what type of wonderful person you were while you were still alive, before you decided to donate your body to our course. Glancing at your face I can still see the pride and wit imprinted in your wrinkles, I’m certain if we had met before you’d have much to teach me and many ways to make me laugh. I will soon know you in a different way, that even those who knew you when your vessel was full would have known. I’m not sure why you’ve decided to donate your body so I can become a doctor, allowing for me to have this intimate experience with you, but I will never forget you because you are my first patient.
You must have been a wonderful person, and I’ll never be able to thank you for letting me get to know you. And although I’m not to sure about the idea of an after life, I can only hope that one day to get the chance to meet you because you’re the most beautiful person I’ve yet to meet.
As promised, here’s the confidential(identity) interview from the accepted Stanford student. They’ll be starting this year as a M1. As a nontraditional premed, switching majors several times before finally deciding to apply to medical school.
It’s interesting to note we both applied to Boston University and Stanford, however we both never received interview invitations from each other’s respective current medical school — it really goes to show there’s interpretation about what constitutes a good fit for their institution, and we found our own fit. For myself another interesting point of this person is that, like me, it took them many years to finish their college career — we both took multiple breaks for work and switched majors innumerable times before deciding on applying to medical school.
Anyways, I had to distill a nearly two hour conversation where we easily went into tangents (
mostly entirely my fault). After laughing and removing the tangents, here is the more educational and likely useful results:
Q. 1. When did you decide that medicine was for you, and why?
Basically, I realized medicine could be a career for me because of the position it occupies in relation to other fields. As a community college student, I had the opportunity to take a wide variety of classes in different fields, without needing to prematurely declare a major. I had always been interested in fields where I thought I could make a difference, I dipped my toes in psychology, sociology, political science, “hard” sciences (thought about a PhD), public health, and even art (documentary photography). For me, medicine fits snugly between public health and the hard sciences, and gives me the best of both worlds (well, what I feel is the best of both worlds). Public health was hard for me because it was a bit far removed from the individual level, obviously since it’s more focused on populations. This is great of course! But that was hard for me to work with, because actually seeing change takes a LONG time, if you see it at all. Bench research is cool too, I still love it, but couldn’t see myself devoting my life to it because it was easy to get caught up in the little things, without the human perspective, and I felt a little lost there, honestly. Medicine allows me to inform both fields with a clinical perspective, work with both fields as part of the health team, and still enjoy what I do
Q. So, do you think being a nontraditional gave you a different point of view? For example while studying.
I think so. I can’t say that more traditional premeds didn’t learn the same things I did, but I can say that I wouldn’t have the perspective I do without doing it my way. Having studied a variety of topics, I kind of felt that medicine was just one career path that could be taken. It fits a small niche in between all the other things people can do with their lives, or to help others. Plus, being nontraditional, working through school, all of that…I had to learn to prioritize and really figure out WHY I needed to do some of these things. I think premeds often get caught up in “the list”, the list of shit we’re supposed to do to be competitive. And a lot of us end up with huge resumes of shit we did that had no impact on us or our communities
The end goal is to be a great doctor…so these experiences should be towards that goal. Activities aren’t just there for filler. Med schools look for these activities because they think we have something to learn from them. And as a nontraditional student, I think I may have had an easier time figuring that out
Q. Lately, schools have really been pushing for diversity, how do/will you bring diversity to your program?
As for the diversity question…I STILL have trouble answering it. I think it’s because there’s no single factor that stands out as HI THERE DIVERSITY. I’ve mentioned before that I am certain that all of us are really diverse. We have our collections of scores and activities on the applications that look the same in bullet-point form, but different students get into different schools. In any case, I think being a nontraditional premed has given me some interesting opportunities. I took extra time in school; it took me eight years to finish up my degree, so I was able to explore a number of different areas of study and work part-time throughout undergrad. After all of that…I can’t help but see medicine as integrated with every other field, and my approach to healthcare in general requires that we don’t separate “health” from the rest of our patient’s lives. I also had time to make big commitments to projects that I cared about, and learned more than I could have imagined. I helped get a nonprofit global health organization started, which taught me as much about public health as it did about team work, leadership, and resource management. I worked in a research lab for a few years doing more engineering-based health projects, and was inspired by the potential future of stem-cell based diagnostic devices and therapies. I think the biggest opportunity I had while being nontrad, and perhaps bringing some diversity to the mix is my restaurant work history. I got my first job at 16 working in a cafe and bakery, and from there moved on to other cafes and finally ended up serving and bar-tending at a restaurant as I got older. It seems like working during undergrad isn’t typical for a lot of premeds, so I’m so glad I had a chance to do it. Of course, I hated it at the time and it was stressful, but being forced to talk to strangers day in and day out will probably help my bedside manner more than any amount of shadowing doctors could do. I learned a lot about making people feel comfortable and responding appropriately to misplaced anger by waiting tables. Although it isn’t directly related to medicine, waiting tables taught me a lot about professional communication in strained situations. People can get really upset about their food, it seems! Or parking, or having to wait for a table…about a lot of things outside my control. And I feel that happens in everyday medical practice often, so having a little bit of experience managing those situations will likely help me in the future. Waiting tables was also a great teamwork exercise; you really can’t survive the floor without working together, even if you don’t always get along with your coworkers. Maybe that gives me some of that coveted diversity? Who knows, I think it’s the summation of our experiences that gives all of us a unique perspective.
Q. So, as a nontraditional or traditional premeds was there anyone who mentored you? Also, applying to medschool is pretty nebulous; have any guidance or tips along the way?
I’m lucky to have had a great mentor in this whole thing. I think as you’ve pointed out a few times, there are a lot of people who are just waiting for us to fail, to not make it. So, I had my mom, who is a doctor and a teacher. When I have questions about how to be a great doctor, I always turn to her. For the premed-y things though, I kind of just went with it. Internet-searching. Berkeley doesn’t have official premed advisors, so I kind of went at it based on anecdotes from friends and the internet
As for my tips…I think the best ones I have are to do what you love…pick a few key activities that will help define and shape you, and give them your all. Don’t mess around with 100+ random activities that you only contribute 10 hours to.
Also, keep a journal of everything. Not only does it make it so much easier to learn from and reflect on your experiences, but you will thank yourself SO MUCH when applications roll around.
And surround yourself with good people, even if they’re not premed or doing the same things you are. Don’t let negative folks discourage you, don’t take SDN too damn seriously, and don’t put other people down because we never know where they’ve been
Regarding the question of, “For premeds without a committee or reliable advisors do you have any tips?” that’s a hard one. Reliable information is difficult to come by, and you don’t want to get sucked into the anecdotes too much, because they may be wrong! I think some of the books out there are pretty good –the ones written by previous admissions officers. I guess my major tip for anyone is just always frame your activities or potential activities by thinking “How will this make me a better doctor? What am I learning or contributing?” If you can come up with solid answers to that, then it’s a worthwhile activity lol.
And the usual: don’t let your GPA slide, set study schedules to keep it up, check school websites to meet prereqs, and don’t think the MCAT will be a breeze.
Q. I suppose you should probably jot down that answer [from the journal etc.] as well for later during secondary/interviews?
- YES, absolutely. Take notes, always. Makes life so much easier down the line when time is of the essence. I was lucky that I had some notes and journals, but I WISH i had an updated CV.
- Oh…another pro tip. Start saving a lot of money — like yesterday. Charging app fees to your credit card is awful (that was me, it sucked).
Q. As you already know, I don’t report MCAT scores; but, you did very well, do you have any study tips?
Well, since everyone studies a bit differently, it’s kind of a hard thing to say for sure. The one thing that I think will work for everyone is to set a study schedule. Like map out every single day, what you’re going to review, how many problems you’re doing to try, etc. Even map out your break days
- I also tend to think that you shouldn’t review all of one area, then the next. Should probably do one chapter of physics, one chem, one orgo, one bio, then repeat with the next chapters
- Practice problems are golden, obviously. do as many as possible, but I think it’s best if you don’t re-do the same ones. I saved all my AAMC practice exams for the last month
- Flashcards are great for random facts, and can be taken anywhere for quick review (on the bus, between classes, etc)
- Always focus on understanding and connecting concepts, rather than memorizing shit
*Doctoorbust: a caveat, remember pick tips that work for you, ignore any that don’t.
Q. I know you’re tired of hearing this but, any idea what you’re going to specialize in?
Not a clue! I’m trying to go into it with an open mind, simply because I know I haven’t seen even half of what specialties are out there. Even for the ones I have “seen”…it’s difficult to know if my experience in them as a premed was anything like the way they actually are. So, I’m trying to be open.
Plus, it’s hard to know where the field will be in 4-5 years. Things change. The structure of medical practice is undergoing some pretty significant changes, and I’m not really sure where it will all end up.
Q. How do you feel about the coming changes (healthcare)? There’s a lot of anxiety in some groups about it.
I honestly don’t know. I see it as a good thing, a step in the right direction for expanding patient coverage, but I can also understand the concerns from a doctor’s point of view, as far as who is getting reimbursed for what, and additional constraints on their time I think it is easy for us to say, as folks who have yet to enter the medical field for real, that expanding coverage is GREAT and it’s easy and things like that. But I’m not sure we really know what it’s like in the trenches. I’m thinking specifically of primary care, it seems that it’s going downhill fast for those currently in family practice and internal medicine.
For the record, my personal opinion is that expanding coverage equates to awesome. But I don’t think we can neglect the concerns that have been brought to the table by our colleagues, either.
Q. What are some things you wish you did as a premed now that you’re going into medschool?
I wish I had traveled more, and taken more time for non-premed activities. I definitely enjoyed all the work I did in preparation for becoming a doctor, but I let some things slip too
I would just advise people to always make time for hobbies, for themselves. This is because hobbies are every bit as important as engaging in research or volunteering. Being healthy and happy will make you a better doctor, too.
Maintain relationships! Friends, family, don’t let it slide because you’re too busy studying.
Q. Now, you’ve been there and done that. What are some misinformation points you’ve heard about being a premed or applying that you believe to be false, at least from your experience?
The biggest thing I think is that you need a perfect GPA and perfect MCAT score, or that having X hours of these activities are all it takes. Or that it’s guaranteed to get in if you have those things. And you see this everywhere. “My friend has a 4.0 and a 42 MCAT and thousands of hours of volunteering and research and didn’t get in” or the other commonly seen thing “I need a 4.0 and a 42 etc in order to have a shot.”
Yes, you need decent numbers, but that will only get you so far. We have to learn from our experiences in order for them to count. The hours spent doing an activity are usually correlated with learning and reflecting, but the hours themselves don’t mean anything
The other thing about applying that I saw a lot is the obsession with school rank and the numbers. It’s not all a numbers game. Schools have different missions, different focus points that they look for in their applicants
The smart applicant will choose schools that they will fit into, whose goals are in line with the applicant’s, or the applicant feels he/she can contribute to
The process feels like a crapshoot. To some extent, it probably is, but that doesn’t mean that applicants can’t maximize their chances. Obsessing over numbers won’t get you anywhere. and the thing is, just because your experiences don’t fit into one school doesn’t mean they don’t fit somewhere else. For instance, I was rejected outright from BU! But I got in somewhere. And you got into BU! And were rejected from other places we all have different strengths, just have to play to them. it takes some serious self-reflection and honesty on the applicant’s part. Still, no one’s saying it’s not competitive. But…always remember the numbers aren’t everything. My GPA sucked, and I got in somewhere.
Thanks for reading! I’ll try to keep posting while moving!
So, how long exactly does it take for a person to get ready to move from one coast to another?
As I look around my room I see that I’ve packed and prepared absolutely nothing. Instead of packing I’m strategically procrastinating, not making my packing check-list, and instead choosing to: bake cheesecakes, write articles like this one, etc. Surprisingly, I’m not too caught up with the stress with the geographic transplant, somehow flying across the country just hoping you’ll get into medical school makes that one flight to revisit as a student a lot more bearable. In general, here’s my packing plan:
1. Get books to east coast somehow.
Probably, the most stressful part for is figuring out how to move my library of books. There’s several ways to accomplish this goal: toss em, ship em, leave them, or replace them electronically. I weep when books are destroyed, and it’s prohibitively expensive to ship these ‘bricks’. Thus, I decided to either box them up to store or to download digital copy’s of the books I already own. I’ve been rather successful at finding digital copies of my books at either Gutenberg.org or by enough sniffing around the web for PDFs. Though, bear in mind it’s easy to find copies of books when you read old books or stick to science and math — so, fortunately, I’m a boring person so it’s easy to find my books.
Book list that made the cut either with a digital copy or packed along:
1. Calculus Made Easy, Thomas (found digital replacement, but bringing original) — who doesn’t like a novel written on math from 100 years ago? I rather prefer the way math was explained before as opposed to now, so I prefer this book.
2. Age of Propaganda (digital replacement) — it’s a good book on both propaganda and advertisement, it was a mandatory read from an English course and I kept it. When applying to jobs, medical school, or residency it’s a good skill to know how to “sell yourself” and make your self “wanted” (although you’re probably not necessarily needed).
3. Medical Physiology Boron, Boulpaep (digital replacement) — this was the physiology book I had to refer to and present from during lab meetings, so I’m just familiar with the layout. My program will use another medical physiology text, but I will keep mine as well.
4. Communities of Discourse: The Rhetoric of Disciples, Schmidt, V. Kopple (soft cover)– tackles rhetoric from various angles. This is a great book if you want to find your favorite writer to emulate. This is another book I received in class that I couldn’t part with after purchasing.
5. The Feynman Lectures on Physics , Feynman, Leighton, Sands (digital) — this book covers everything from physics, to quantum physics using vector calculus. I recently picked up volume I, but returned it after realizing I should just wait till I settle in to get all III volumes. I’ve now read all of volume I and have made it through most of II, and have dabbled into III. I won’t be wining in bets with Hawkings any time soon though.
6. Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes, Hille (found digital copy, but probably bringing hardcover anyways) — this was the field and research that helped me get into medical school. But, really it’s more symbolic than anything, it was a mandatory read assigned to my by my old PI. It reminds me of those days.
7. The Human Brain Coloring Book, Diamond, Scheibel, Elson (soft cover copy only) — so, I bought this book during Neuroscience for undergrad but never actually colored in it. But, I did read the information, that’s actually all I needed at that time as I would draw out the brain structure. This time however, I’ll use it for anatomy in medical school as this coloring book series is popular.
I have another 60+ books (all science related), but the rest of them will get left behind in Sharpie marked boxes at my parents house. I made it a point to keep my undergraduate books, occasionally I like to read through them to see how far I’ve come or how much I’ve forgotten (something to justify all that money I spent on my education).
Clothes to pack
This is the easiest part. I live in California, we have four seasons: hot, really hot, kinda hot, and not that hot today. In Boston there will be spring, summer, autumn and winter. Therefore, my clothes from California are likely only useful for between a 1/3 or 1/2 of the year at best. So, most of my clothes can be left behind. The bulk of my clothes will be donated, undergarments with questionable structural deficits (holed-up knickers) will be tossed. I only need to worry about enough clothes to last a month or two, the rest has to be purchased while I’m out there (winter wear etc). I’m very sentimental with my blankets and my towels (I never got over the blanket phase?), so I’m bringing some items I’m already familiar with for comfort.
The laptop obviously goes, not because it’s a good laptop, but just because of the data and programs on it — as you may imagine I’ll also be bringing my portable hard-drive (Library of Alexandria) as well. I’ll also be bringing my set of speakers (non passive speakers), and my favorite guitar.
That’s actually just about it. I like starting from scratch, it doesn’t bother me to move around. Californians move around the state a lot, it’s rare for us to grow up in one neighborhood or one domicile, we’re known to even move around during elementary school — not that kids want to. So, I’m accustomed to losing everything and starting over from scratch, it’s practically “spring cleaning” for me.
Hm, it seems that be writing this article I’ve accomplished one of my goals, writing a check-list. I procrastinated my way into success.
In the last article I focused on diversity and applicants’ socioeconomic status (SES) correlation with the MCAT. This time we will discuss SES and the overall GPA. Gleaning information from the last article we’ve already discussed the following:
- The AAMC and the TMDSAS both have found a trend, the higher the students’ family income bracket the higher their mean MCAT score.
- Just over 75% of the accepted medical students come from families in the upper two quintiles (income brackets).
- Less than 10% of the accepted medical students will come from families in the lower two quintiles (income brackets).
- This trend has been pervasive, but not for the lack trying from the AAMC and medical schools continual attempt at intervention with the introduction of SES consideration & holistic interviews.
-We also most mind the logical caveats in the data:
- Averages don’t equate to a snapshot of any one applicant; SES isn’t fate, either in a positive or negative light.
- Not qualifying for SES status necessarily guarantee both familial support financial and emotionally. I was in this boat, long story short in college I never qualified for SES consideration because of my parents income that I never tapped into. Regardless, I slaved away like everyone else healthy GPA and MCAT score, fund my ability to work for free (volunteering), applications etc.
- We can’t use these numbers to correlate with who works harder, and there will be variations in applicants regardless of SES that would appear within any pool.
This time we will examine the talking point data presented by the AMCAS and TMCAS to examine the following questions:
- Is there any correlation with SES and GPA?
- How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.
This time we’ll focus on the Texas equivalent of the AAMC, the TDMSAS applicant joint study talking points and data. For the applicants and accepted, the TDMSAS broke down SES into three categories: parental education & relationship, household (wealth, household size), and hometown (inner city and rural etc.) considerations. For our conversation, we will limit our time to talk about the applicants. Lastly, those who scored more points ranked higher on the SES scale, the higher your SES rating the higher your grade ranging from SES A-D — getting an A wasn’t a good thing.
1. Is there any correlation with SES and GPA? By graphing the aggregated data supplied to us by the X, we get a graph like so:
In general, since they’ve started to consider SES there are several short term trends. Overall, over the years everyone has gotten higher GPAs however those with less SES (higher parental income and education etc.) consideration fared better in their overall GPA. The average currently shows a trend of groups SES B & C besting (higher incomes) always trumping group SES A (most SES consideration by points). Interestingly, the lowest effected by SES had the most variability in scores, however note that this group always either floats near the performance of groups SES B & C, this group also has the highest average GPA overall. In other words, there is a correlation with GPAs and SES status.
2. How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.
|*2008 Estimations to nearest whole percent.*Other races not included because values not given, so values may not total to 100%||Percent of Total Applicant Pool||SES-A (4% of Applicant Pool)||SES-B (~10% of Applicant Pool)||SES-C (~25% of Applicant Pool)||SES-D (~remaining 61% of Applicant Pool)|
From the chart above we can see that the lowest SES, SES-A, only made up a measly 4% of the applicants in the 2008 cycle whereas the the top two categories (low SES score) made up over 75% of the applicant pool. Caucasian Americans (a mixture of ethnic groups) are the most likely to be in the upper two brackets, however note there are certainly Caucasian Americans qualifying for SES status — in fact, just over 1 in 4 of those with the highest rating of SES were in Caucasian Americans in the TMDSAS — as a whole this is a diverse group economically. Asians are listed as a conglomerate, from Chinese, Vietnamese to Pakistani, therefore it’s really hard to say much about “Asians” because it’s too broad of an ethnic category. Never the less, all we can really say is that Asians are also a diverse group, and should not be excluded from the SES conversation — in the lowest income bracket (SES-A) by percent alone Asian Americans qualified as much as African American applicants. African Americans and Latino Americans (another conglomeration) have the least applicants by percentage applying in the upper two (low SES scores) groups C & D, with only 3% and 7% of African American and Latino American applicants’ families qualifying for SES-D respectively. In other words, SES is a multi-racial issue and all races would likely benefit from its application.
In conclusion, the AAMC and the TMDSAS both recognize that there is a correlation between SES status and academic performance (MCAT & GPA). The AAMC also acknowledges that there is currently a disparity, or lack of diversity, in terms of the financial backgrounds of their applicant pool — this lack of diversity in the applicant pool eventually translates to financial skew of matriculates towards the upper income brackets (and parental education). In response to this reality, the SES is considered by medical colleges as a purview of legitimate holistic review. However, despite genuine efforts to diversify in this area, there hasn’t been much change in the financial portrait of students — in the next, and hopefully final article on the issue, we will discuss some reasons possibly why.
No matter if you agree or not, data is data; and it happens to be the data medical schools take under consideration.
I received 8-interview invitations, but after consulting with my wallet, I only went onto 5-interviews. Anyways, about $7K and 5 dry-cleanings of ubiquitous charcoal suit later, I was accepted into all 5-programs. Some people have asked me recently what the interviews were like, so this post is dedicated to that.
The interviews will be told in no particular order, as to not identify the school and reveal their interview process. It was a gentlemen (gentlewomen) agreement we all made during our interview. I won’t cite specifics, but I’ll include what I can tell give you an idea of what interviews can be like. In general, each school does a pretty impressive job at “aligning” you with an interviewer, or at least that’s what other’s around me on interview day also felt — sometimes it’s less intense, and feels a little more general.
This was a panel interview: one PhD, one MD, and one medical student. We sat around a board table, all of us sticking to one corner. I could see but not read some of the pages of notes about me, and the signs they’d preemptively annotated on my AMCAS and secondary printouts, I instantly appreciated how well my interviewers new my application. I was comforted by the fact that no one knew my application better then me: I wrote it, proofed it innumerable times, and even had a print out in my luggage just in case. And surely enough, point by point they had me verify my commitment, my ideals, and beliefs. They asked me to to explain my research, and it’s importance in medicine, so I did — we even started talking about what was the latest geopolitical news. I naively tried to answer the question given to me by the MD, “How would you fix health care”, I gave them my best shot, while remembering that this wasn’t really a question I was expected to find an answer to. As non traditional, I had a little more life experience than coursework, so we just had a lot more things to talk about — in fact, one interview did voice their disdain for younger traditional applicants by saying, “If the biggest problem you faced in college, we’re not sure if they’re ready for life never mind medschool”. Towards the closing of the interview, one interviewer asked me how I felt about the ethics of my grandmothers treatment, this was the only time during my interview trail where I was emotionally weaker than normal (she was my second mother). However, as an adult I knew I had to tackle this question prior to applying to medical school, so I had already mulled over the issue for some time. So, overall it was a rather friendly interview — we actually laughed a lot during the process. After the interview, I was pretty hungry, so I asked about what to eat locally, we spent another 10 minutes after the interview talking about food. The interview itself lasted for about an hour, but it felt like 20 minutes.
I should note that the dean did come, but for a few minutes, gave a hello and left. No interaction.
This interview day was pretty interesting. Apparently, part of the test of getting into the program was finding your interview, because you were given a map and told to scuttle across the medical campus to find your interview. I sort of enjoyed this independence, not everyone did that day. I found my interview room, I had to take two elevators and a bridge and then use a phone with a password to finally find my interview room. When I arrived, we walked to my interviewer’s office. There was a beautiful view out the window, I actually asked to have a moment to take it all in (You see, in California we don’t have this thing you other people in the world call “weather”, we have “nice”, “hot”, “really hot”, “too damned hot”, and randomly “kinda cold” — though my coldest winters are summers in San Francisco). So, during my interview trail across the east and mid west it was my first time seeing what autumn should look like, it was really my first time seeing the rest of the country past Colorado. But, I do digress. My interviewer saw had a thick packet, no doubt my application, in her lap.
– She said, “You have an *insert compliment* application, so we don’t even need to discuss it really, instead I want to learn about you — your life story”, to which I responded, “Sure, from when?”, her “birth”. And so, I told her my story for 45 minutes. I didn’t really pay attention much really, I had told this story many times each time holding details back. This time, emblazoned by my night out drinking with my hosts I decided to just tell her everything. My interviewer then got a little teary eyed, this was sort of surprising, and I asked her if she needed a tissue. Not that a had one, it’s just a polite thing people tend to say to each other, after all it was her office. Apparently, a lot of things I said was reminiscent to her own experiences with life she later revealed. I actually did the most prep for this interview, I had already performed all of my homework on the plane, but in the end I was just happy I knew myself. Though, there’s a reasonable likelihood that I was accepted merely because I was capable of finding my room, I’d like to think it’s because my interviewer and I clicked in a short period of time.
One of the deans actually hosted the entire interview day, from morning till afternoon. I was rather impressed, and I really appreciated the time spent with us. Some extra perks of this interview was being able to meet multiple doctors (trauma surgeon for example), and ask them about the program.
Typically, a medical school will wine and dine you with a breakfast, a tour and a spiel on why you should go to that program if given the option to choose. This program just flung me into an interview upon arrival. Unknowingly, I met my interviewer in the lobby, she seemed like a nice person, she even paid me a morning greeting. Though, during the interview, the tables turned. She picked apart my application, criticized my view points and answers on things for about 20 minutes and we argued about something for another 25, and about 10 minutes talking about the program. In the last 5 minutes she told me, I was just being ‘tested”, and she thought I was a strong applicant and was just playing devil’s advocate.
After that interview I had a lunch, and had to prepare for another interview with a medical student or another 45 minutes to a hour. This interview was fourth year, on the verge of graduating. She was extremely friendly. She asked me a few off the wall what if questions, those were actually rather fun. We then talked more about why I chose that school, what was good about the program, what problems did I recognize over the weekend that I stayed in the city. A lot of my interview, I was also asking her things, because I didn’t get that expected generic tour.
After the interview was done, we then sat down with people who didn’t tell us they were the deans of admissions. This was also done to “test us”, we were told directly. Apparently, this program believed in some type of “ninja endurance training”.
The interview day started off with me chatting with the dean of admissions in the lobby or 20 minutes. Then, during my actual interview it was a MD and one MD/PhD. This was an interesting format. One interviewer knew everything about my AMCAS application, while the other one didn’t. The fun part is that I didn’t know who knew. So the trick here was to, again, know my application well and be able to quickly convey what’s important and why. There was some discussion about why I choose that specific program, and because I had done a lot of homework on the school I knew exactly why I wanted to go there, so I just told them why. We spoke of social programs needed to help people, my experience with the indigent and under-served, and they shared their experiences. This was a friendly interview, they weren’t there to hurt me, they were there to see why I wanted to entire their program.
There was also a MMI (medical) interview. This is where they pay actors to pretend to be patients, and you pretend to be a doctor. II had 2-3 minutes to read a prompt case history, then I’d go in and get a history from the patient in 5 minutes. Sounds pretty straight forward, except there’s bound to be something. I think my first mock patient was a “yes” or “no” person, and really all she was there for was to get an unethical prescription — I rejected her gently, while offering her alternatives. The other mock patient came in with a bum joint, from an injury so they wanted a handicap placard. Though, when I asked how long ago was the injury, they told me about 4-5 years ago. So, my “ethical sense” went off, I tried to talk them into rehab while they’re young and fit as opposed to depending on a placard. She seemed disappointed, but rather accepting of my answer, she even agreed to try the rehab. At another interview I saw MMI actors get rather argumentative, so I’m happy I appeased my mock patients.
I met the dean a few more times throughout the day, very nice guy. We spent a lot of time talking about music, jazz, and going out to drink (without letting it get unprofessional of course ^_-).
This interview day had two interviews, both MD both interviews took place at a hospital. The first interview was with an overworked physician who was also in charge of the implementation of the hospitals electronic medical records (EMR). I could understand how frazzled he was, at the time my job had also volunteered to ensure the successful release of an electronic system for research protocols at my workplace. We laughed about our experiences in “troubleshooting”, and being yelled at for a system we didn’t create but must implement. I’d like to think that this interview gave him a period to relax, because afterwards he was a lot more loose. I actually wish I had a chance to speak with him a little more, it was only about half an hour.
The second interview was also friendly. He didn’t say much about my application, other than paying a compliment. We spoke about the economic down turn that was causing a lot of problems in the US, and we also speculated on the effects on patients and healthcare overall. A significant portion of this conversation was actually centered on naming reasons why I wanted to go to that school and serve that particular community. Luckily for me, I had edited a premed’s personal statement in that state, and they let me stay at their parents house — this saved me a lot of money in boarding. At their parents house, I got the whole run down on the local politics and their opinions. Since I heard my “ears to the ground” so to say, I felt comfortable speaking from experience of what I’ve heard recently. This was another good interview, where I wanted to definitely have a drink with my interviewer, the interview actually went over 15 minutes because we wouldn’t stop talking (even when they were knocking for me to come along).
At this interview, the dean also did a quick stop by, and nothing more.