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Medical School Discussion Happening Here!!!

Renny, Caroline and Bari!  Welcome to GAINS!

Thank you for taking time to connect with our students and share your medical school experience.  I was hoping you would start the conversation by posting a bit about how you became interested in attending medical school.  

GAINS Students feel free to respond and ask questions!  Our volunteers will log in a over the next two days to respond!

  • Hi! I'm Sophia Klein, a junior at Greenwich Academy. I have two questions.

    What was your major in college?

    Did you ever question whether you wanted to go to medical school and if so, what compelled you to go?

    • I'm Annabel Stickel, a sophomore at Greenwich Academy, and I also have two questions. 

       

      What are you planning to do now that you are finished with medical school?

      What was the most challenging experience you went through in medical school?

       

      Thank you so much!

      • Im Jalinette Reyes, a sophomore at Greenwich Academy, and I also have two questions. 

        Were you ever intimidated by your colleagues in medical school or was everyone on about the same scale? 

        Were there any challenges that made being in medical school extremely tough? 

        Thank you!

        • Hello! I'm Isabelle Tindall and I'm a student at Thaden.

          My question is:

          What area of medicine are you interested in and why?

          Thank you!

          • Hi, I'm Alisha Shahriar, a sophomore at Thaden School in Arkansas. I have three questions.

            What kinds of strategies did you use to study for your exams in medical school?

            What advice do you have for a person interested in pediatric medicine?

            What did you think prepared you the most for medical school in college?

            Thank you for your advice!

              • Hi Sophia! 

                I definitely questioned whether medical school was the right decision for me, especially when my pre-med counselor in college had told me I should think about pursuing other careers in healthcare as he wasn't convinced I would be a competitive applicant. It was a huge bruise to my self-confidence and made me question if I'd be cut out for it, but I knew that if I let other people make my biggest decisions for me, then I would be giving in to what he thought about me and would be proving him right- that I'm not meant for the career.

                Instead, I felt compelled to enroll in a graduate program (called the Special Master's Program in Physiology) at Georgetown that gave students an opportunity to take medical school courses with the first-year med students and prove that they were right for the career. Here I am a year later in medical school after being told I wouldn't be a competitive applicant.

                If you question pursuing a medical career because YOU aren't sure it's what you want for yourself, then I definitely think you owe it to yourself to analyze what it is you want out of the career and what other things you might see yourself doing. For me, I was dissatisfied with any other career opportunities and knew I had one path ahead. But if you question the career because of what other people say or think - let my story be a lesson that only you can judge your preparedness and dedication!

                - Caroline

                • Hi! I'm Wafa Nomani from King School in Stamford, CT. 

                  I've wanted to go into medicine for a long time. However, right now in my life, I think I have lost my motivation to do anything in life. 

                  Have you ever had times in your life when you have questioned whether you should go into medicine or moments where you have lost motivation?

                   

                  Thanks,

                  Wafa

                  • Hi Annabel!

                    I am currently a first-year medical student, so I am just getting started in the career. After four years of college and four more years of medical school (during which you rotate through the majority of specialties and begin to decide what you might specialize in yourself) you undergo the "match" process. This is during your fourth year of med school, when you interview at various hospitals across the country and rank your options (and they rank you!) You are then "matched" into a residency program, which is decided based on your mutual ranking of one another, and at that point you begin your training in a specialty (i.e. OB/GYN, internal medicine, general surgery, oncology, etc.) For me, though I am far off from needing to narrow down my list, I am thinking about a surgical specialty or something procedure-based! 

                    After a year in my Master's program (which was the first year's medical curriculum at Georgetown) and a few months into my first year, I have found the most challenging aspect to be time management and knowing when to take a break. There's a lot of volume to the coursework we are doing, so it's difficult to draw the line in knowing when to stop studying and be satisfied with the effort you've put in, but it's also hugely important to take breaks and take a night off and spend time with friends to unwind from all the stress. That said, though it's something I found challenging at first, I've become much better at knowing when that extra three hours of studying at night won't make much of a difference, but that taking the night off and watching a movie or getting dinner with a friend will have a huge payoff in helping me relax and make me a more efficient studier in the coming days!

                    - Caroline

                    • Hi Jalinette!

                      There's something we discuss regularly in medical school, which is called "imposter syndrome" - the feeling that somehow you're existing in your own life as a fraud, that you didn't actually get to where you are because of your true merit but rather due to chance or mistakes or other's overestimation of your worth. When you're surrounded by some of the smartest people you've ever met, it's easy to feel like you don't belong. But these feelings go away when you realize you're part of an incredibly special group of people who are extremely gifted, and that not everyone in the world is as lucky as we are to do what we do. It's a constant struggle to feel like you're equipped, but it's also important to remind yourself that you were part of the tiniest percent of people admitted to medical school. You were chosen to be here and you are just as gifted as your peers. We may not all get the same grade on every test, but medicine is more than just your GPA. We all make up valuable parts of the team and each person is able to contribute to the care team in a meaningful way, and oftentimes this is unrelated to one's ability to memorize a textbook. Remembering a patient's face and name, asking if your patient is comfortable, having close relationships with those you work with, whether nurses/doctors/physician's assistants, etc. - those things go a long way. With regards to challenges in medical school, I wrote a response about time management to Annabel that you can take a look at!

                      - Caroline

                      • Hi Isabelle!

                        I've always been interested in a specialty that is procedure-based. I am fascinated by surgery and what we can do for patients, and I love to work with my hands. Further, I like the idea of being in a surgical specialty that has long-term care for patients where I can develop relationships with my patients over time and be a constant source of support in their lives. For that reason, I am attracted to surgical specialties like breast cancer surgery, neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery, or general surgery. A lot of these specialties have the capacity to build relationships with patients with chronic conditions and be part of their long-term care. And for the patients who come in with acute crises and need your help once and maybe never again, I would feel privileged to have been able to play a role in drastically and positively affecting their health outcome.

                        - Caroline

                        • Wow Caroline! Great advice proven through your own experience! 

                          • Hi Alisha!

                            To answer your first question, I realized pretty early on that there is just far too much information to be able to know it all. You have to strategize and figure out which pieces of information are more important for you to know and which ones can take the back burner. I felt uncomfortable going into my exams feeling like I hadn't memorized absolutely everything but I'd come out on the other side realizing that medicine is more of an art than a science and that being able to synthesize the importnat points is a more valuable skill than being able to regurgitate every memorized fact. So with that in mind, my strategies have been more focused on how to integrate material learned from different lectures and professors. I study things in groups based on an area of the body for example. Many schools will have separate courses that teach physiology (healthy systems), pathology (diseased systems) and pharmacology (study of drugs) as different entities, but I usually try to take the information I've learned about the heart, for example, in each course and learn about the system, its diseases, and its treatments all at once, since that's how we will encounter it clinically in our careers anyway!

                            If you're interested in pediatrics, it's never too early to start shadowing! Reach out to pediatricians in your area and ask if they'd be willing to have you along for the day when they see patients - most are more than willing. 

                            My preparedness in medical school came from my solid foundation of sciences coming in. I think this is something I gained even tracing back to my time in high school, where I was constantly pushed to stretch my mind and go one step further. The same was true in college, where I was able to choose my courses within my major (Biology) and was encouraged to take courses that aligned with my interests. This made me more excited about what I was studying and helped me develop a strong foundation in the sciences, which was strengthened further by my time completing my Master's degree last year. If you have the freedom to pursue sciences in the areas that interest you most, it makes learning about other areas in the future that much easier once you've mastered how to study and how to learn!

                            - Caroline

                            • Hi Wafa, 

                              I wrote a post to Sophia about my experience in college and being told I might not be a good fit for the career, and how this made me question whether I was prepared to be a doctor. Please take a look at that post and let me know if there's something more specific I can answer.

                              It's easy to feel unmotivated day to day as the long-term goal isn't on your mind when you're trying to make it through your tedious short-term tasks. For example, I have finals coming up throughout the month of December and feel unmotivated to continue studying to pass these tests. But when I remind myself that all this studying for this one series of tests is part of an opportunity to build my knowledge base for my career in the future and is a chance for me to make myself a better doctor to my future patients, I feel reassured and reminded why I chose this path in the first place. Unfortunately, the long-term goal does not become a reality without completion of the short-term tasks - but as long as you can remind yourself why the long-term goal is important to you and why you want your life to play out a certain way, you'll find that it's much easier to stay focused on the things that don't seem important at the moment!

                              - Caroline

                              • Hi Sophia! 

                                Thanks so much for your questions!

                                I majored in biology in college (mainly because I loved biology in high school...I had no idea at the time I would be a doctor)!

                                I never thought I would be a doctor.  Growing up, I was extremely squeamish and hated blood/needles/going to doctors.  I thought I would be a research scientist and work in my own lab studying cancer therapies.  There were two things that made me decide to go to medical school: 1) I'm definitely a people person, and was often lonely working in silence in my lab with my bacteria or fruit flies :)  2) I saw how long it can take for bench research to actually reach patients, and wanted to not only research for the future but also help patients in need now.  I realized as a physician, you can still do research, but as a PhD I would not be able to treat patients.

                                I hope this helps...let me know if I can answer anything else for you!

                                -Bari

                                • Hi Annabel!

                                  Great questions!

                                  I'm finishing up my third year clinical rotations now, and will graduate (hopefully) in 2020.  Next year I will apply to combined residency programs in internal medicine and pediatrics, and will start my residency training after graduation.  The road in medicine is a bit of a long one, as you will need to complete a residency after medical school in order to practice in a given field, and then many people will go on to do a fellowship after residency depending on what kind of doctor they want to be (for me, I hope to do a fellowship in hematology/oncology, for example).

                                  The most challenging part of medical school so far for me was studying for my Step 1 exam.  I had about three months of dedicated study time to prepare for the exam, and was often overwhelmed by the amount of information I needed to study and the number of practice questions I was still getting wrong even after weeks of studying.  It helped to talk with my peers who were going through the same process to realize that I was not alone in my insecurities.  

                                  Let me know if I can answer any other questions for you!

                                  - Bari

                                  • Hi Jalinette,

                                    Thanks for your great questions!

                                    I would say I am constantly impressed and amazed by my classmates, which can definitely be intimidating at first.  It helps to remember that everyone comes from different backgrounds, and that we all got to medical school along different paths.  Some of my classmates have incredible life experiences or publications that I do not have, and I'm sure many have gotten better grades/Step 1 scores/etc.  However, I know there are things that I bring to the table that are unique as well.  I find it best to celebrate the fabulous accomplishments and attributes of my peers rather than be envious of them!

                                    The biggest challenge for me in medical school has been being away from home.  I grew up near Boston, MA, attended college in Cambridge, MA, and then worked at a cancer institute in Boston before coming to Atlanta for medical school.  While I definitely appreciate the opportunity to see another part of the country and work with a different patient population, I've also missed a lot that was happening back at home.  When family members have had significant health troubles, I wished I could be closer to home to see them, and when my sister got married I wished I could have taken an earlier flight and not missed her rehearsal dinner.  

                                    I hope these answers are helpful...let me know if there's anything else I can answer for you!

                                    -Bari

                                    • Hi Isabelle,

                                      I want to be an oncologist, specifically a leukemia doctor for both children and adults.  I think there is so much room for research in the field of oncology, and I am passionate about helping patients diagnosed with cancer feel like there is hope.  I love both the research and patient care aspects of oncology.  

                                      While most oncologist only treat children OR adults, I think there is room for crossover communication and research in how we approach these classically separate fields.  I'm excited about hopefully being able to bridge that gap in my career.

                                      Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

                                      - Bari

                                      • Hi Alisha,

                                        Thanks for your questions!

                                        I've found studying a little bit each day to be effective.  In college, I often found myself cramming for upcoming exams.  There is so much to learn in medical school and our schedules are very busy, so I've found it best to carve out a chunk of time each day (even if it's just an hour or two) to study something relevant to my current work.  That way, I'll have studied many of the relevant topics for my exams already and can review my weaker areas again before the test rather than having to cram in all the information at the last minute.  

                                        If you're interested in pediatrics, I think it is helpful to spend time with children (and possibly parents) to see how you like working with them.  I love working with kids, but it is definitely a challenge when they can't follow your instructions during a physical exam or scream the minute you enter the room :) 

                                        I don't think there is any one particular thing I did during undergrad to prepare myself for medical school (since I didn't know at the time that I wanted to be a doctor).  Overall, I think getting used to working really hard prepared me well for medical school.  I was used to dealing with stress and feeling overwhelmed from my time at MIT, so starting medical school didn't seem so bad.

                                        I hope this helps...let me know if you have other questions!

                                        - Bari

                                        • Hi Wafa,

                                          Thanks for your really honest question!

                                          I never thought I would go to medical school pretty much up until I applied, so I'm impressed by you having the long-term goal!

                                          I think it's normal to have times when we feel burned out or overwhelmed, and that can make it hard to stay motivated.  For me, my passion to become an oncologist stems from watching one of my best friends battle leukemia when we were in college.  Whenever I'm having a bad day or feel that medicine is too hard for me, I think of him and that gives me the strength to keep pushing through.  If you can make a list of reasons why you want to become a doctor (or accomplish a different goal you have in mind), you can refer back to it as motivation when you're feeling down.

                                          Hope this helps!

                                          - Bari

                                          • Hi I'm Julia Sulkowski and I am a junior at GA. Thank you so much for answering questions these couple of days! I had two questions for you about your undergrad experience, 

                                            1. I was wondering if you felt that your path towards a career in medicine limited you broadening the classes and the academic path you took during your undergraduate years?
                                            2. Did you feel that it was important to know that you wanted to be in medicine early on in your college career or that was a decision that could be made later on in your academic path? 

                                            Thank you so, so much!

                                            • Thank you so much, Bari, especially for understanding. I'm feeling a little unmotivated but that doesn't mean I want to quit medicine. I will make a list of reasons why I want to become a doctor, thank you for the suggestion!

                                              • Hi! I'm Maddie Galbraith and a senior at Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, CT. I am interested in liberal arts colleges but I want to go into the sciences and medicine. Do you think this will hurt my chances of being a competitive medical school applicant? Do you think there is anything I need to prioritize at a liberal arts school in order to be better prepared for medical school? Thanks so much for answering our questions!

                                                • Hi Maddie, 

                                                  Thanks for your question! I definitely do not think it will hurt your chances as a medical school applicant if you attend a liberal arts college! I, too, was interested in science and medicine but attended Yale University. I found it very manageable, and enjoyed having the opportunity to take classes besides those that were STEM-oriented! 

                                                  A few recommendations: 

                                                  1) Definitely reach out to the pre-medical advisor at your college to make sure you are on track to complete all of your requirements for medical school. Additionally, you may place out of some basic sciences based on the classes you took at GA, so it is helpful to have this guidance! 

                                                  2) Volunteer! Whether it is at a clinic or at the hospital in your town, it is never too early to get that community service started. 

                                                  3) Research! Talk to older premedical students or your pre-medical advisor about clinical / lab research you can do during your summers.

                                                  Good luck! 

                                                  -Renny

                                                  • Hi Julia, 

                                                    Thanks so much for your questions! My answers are below: 

                                                    1) I definitely did not feel like my choice to pursue medicine limited the classes I took at college! I attended a liberal arts college. Although it sometimes took a little bit of juggling, I was able to take classes across a wide range of subjects (history, English, film studies...you name it!) while also completing my pre-medical requirements. I will say that for the most part, many of my pre-medical classmates did pursue majors in the sciences (biology, engineering, chemistry), but there are definitely exceptions. One of my closest friends was an English major at Stanford and went on to attend medical school at Harvard!

                                                    2) I think that it is helpful to know you want to be in medicine early on in college for two reasons: completing your requirements and getting good extracurricular experiences. However, you can certainly make it work if you are not 100% sure! My suggestion would be to take 1-2 science classes your freshman year so that if you decide you DO want to pursue a career in medicine, you can complete your pre-medical requirements without having to do a post-bac program. Additionally, it is becoming increasingly common to take time off between college and medical school (I took 3 years off!) so you can certainly have time to get some good volunteering/research experience under your belt. 

                                                    Good luck!

                                                    -Renny 

                                                    • Thank you so much. I really appreciate it!

                                                      Maddie

                                                      • Thank you so much Bari! I'll definitely keep your advice in mind as I work toward becoming a doctor! <3