Archives—January 2018

Twists and Turns with Carly Joseph

Carly JosephI was speechless as I read the acceptance email from the Central Michigan University (CMU) College of Medicine in October 2017. Starting in fall 2018, I get to dive into the first year of my medical training in a program that could not be a better fit for me.

CMU College of Medicine’s commitment to rural and underserved populations in Michigan, research opportunities in neuroscience, and smaller class size immediately piqued my interest when I was deciding where to apply. I felt very at home with the school’s mission and curriculum structure that includes a longitudinal patient care experience. I was glowing with excitement after my interview experience at CMU.

While being accepted to medical school has been awesome, my journey to this point has been full of twists and turns. Some students know medical school is their goal when they start college. I was not one of those people. I’m majoring in biomedical engineering, and was initially interested in graduate school or working in the industry. I even spent a year double majoring in materials science and engineering. Three years in, the sum of my undergraduate experiences showed me that medical school was what I really wanted to do, since it would allow me to combine my passion for science with helping others in a very direct way.

I was able to accomplish more during undergrad than I had ever imagined.

During my fourth year, I had to take many of the medical school prerequisite classes that were not part of my engineering curriculum and build a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) study plan into my schedule. It’s OK if you’re not on the pre-med track right away when you start college; pursue experiences that genuinely interest you and rely on guidance from your faculty mentors to navigate your path.

There’s a lot of pressure to have as many leadership roles as possible and be involved in tons of student organizations. For me though, having a few deep and lasting experiences was the way to go. I chose to invest my time in research, improving my Spanish, and volunteering.

Starting in the Engineered Biomaterials Lab during my first year and sticking with it through my fifth year gave me the time to learn how to think critically and ignited my passion for science. I started off simply learning about biomaterials from older students in the lab, then gradually worked up to doing my own experiments and eventually presenting at conferences. It definitely didn’t happen overnight, but by choosing to make research a main priority each semester, I was able to accomplish more during undergrad than I had ever imagined. Consistently spending time in the lab over four years helped me form close relationships with my faculty mentors, which has been invaluable on my journey to medical school.

Pursue experiences that genuinely interest you.

It may be counterintuitive to take time away from the rigorous curriculum while at Tech, but spending a semester in Chile focusing on language, culture, and people challenged me in ways that technical classes couldn’t, and was critical in my preparation for medical school. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, do it. Communication and understanding different cultures are crucial skills for anyone entering the medical field, and medical schools look for applicants who make the effort to broaden their horizons culturally.

Another great way to prepare for being a doctor is to spend time volunteering in the community. The options can be limited here in Houghton, but I have really enjoyed working with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly. They have many different programs and services. As part of the Forever Friends program, I am matched with an elderly woman who I visit a few times a month. I’ve formed a great friendship with her, and hopefully, help alleviate some loneliness. It’s a win-win!

Dedicate your time to quality experiences that allow you to serve others, grow as a person, and grow as a scientist. Stick it out through the difficult classes and demanding schedules. The future doctor in you knows it’s worth it.


Erin McKenzie Tells Her Pre-Health Story

erin-mckenzieMy name is Erin McKenzie and I am pursuing an undergraduate degree in biological sciences, with a pre-professional concentration.

Preparing for medical school doesn’t just include studying for the MCAT and acing your interviews. The nice thing about Tech is that much of the learning experiences are designed to provide knowledge that is applicable to future education and careers. Tech isn’t an easy school, and many of the classes my peers and I took were also taken by chemical engineers, biochemists, and biomedical engineers. Having to network with peers to master material, to hone study skills, and to effectively manage time are all things required by Tech. Many of the teachers at Tech invest in their students’ learning and are open to going beyond what is expected to help a student in need.

“It’s understandable that medical schools like Tech students, since we have already mastered these personal skills in our undergraduate experiences that they expect in medical students.”

I applied to the Michigan State University Early Assurance Program (EAP) because a few local students I knew had, and from their experiences, I knew that Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine (MSU CHM) was where I wanted to complete my schooling. MSU CHM’s mission statement was what really drew me to them; their dedication to serving the underserved and excelling in primary care. The EAP gives students from colleges with fewer pre-medical resources a chance to apply before others who have more resources, to bring in students who are more apt to practice rural or inter-city.

I have always wanted to return to the Houghton-Hancock area, where I grew up, and to serve my rural community. MSU CHM has two certificate programs, Leadership in Rural Medicine (LRM) and Leadership in Medicine for the Underserved (LMU). Through LRM, I hope to participate in their Rural Physicians Program (RPP), which would allow me to complete my third and fourth years in Marquette, Michigan. Since I hope to practice primary care in a rural area, the RPP would allow me to be closer to the area I want to return to and to prepare for being a physician in an underserved area.

When applying for the EAP program, it is important to know that they prefer Michigan students from rural or underserved areas that want to return to the same type of area. If that’s not you, I would suggest still considering MSU and EAP. The application is free, since it’s an EAP, and it provides an opportunity to practice applying, writing essays and personal statements, and gathering letters of recommendation. Considering different schools gives you an idea of where you want to attend, and helps you choose the best school for you. Talking to students who have been accepted into medical school gives insights into interviews and medical curriculum, and reaching out to admission committees with specific questions are always options and very helpful. If you don’t get accepted into the school of your dreams, it’s OK! Schools have many applicants and can’t take everyone.

My dad, who has been a family physician for 29 years, often tells me, “An MD is an MD, it doesn’t matter where you go to school.”

A tip for interviews: be yourself. Practice and research what schools are looking for, and look into mission statements. Through interviews, schools are interested in learning who you are and what kind of student and person you are. Schools invest in students and their education and try to promote a good fit. A tip for the MCAT: study early. Everyone says to find a course/book that works for you. I used the Kaplan book series, and studied by reading, highlighting, and taking notes.

The Kaplan books went well with what I had learned at Tech and was outlined in a way that was very understandable and memorable. When you take practice tests, which I suggest doing many times, don’t let your score spook you. The real MCAT was not as hard as the Kaplan test, in my opinion. Also, your advisors can help you with your application processes and can help keep you on track.

Medical schools like to see commitment in their applicants, be it to sports, work, or extracurricular activities. In college I continued many activities I started in my youth. I worked, and joined several organizations at Tech including the Pre-Health Association (PHAT, of which I am the public and community service chair) and Blue Key National Honor Society (I am secretary). I’m also on the founding e-board and vice president of a new honor society, Alpha Epsilon Delta. It’s always easier to not join clubs and just do homework and relax, but devoting time now to extracurricular commitments is worth it in the long run. These experiences also give you good opportunities to get to know people who can write the letters of recommendation medical schools require.

All this hard work paid off. I was accepted to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in June 2017.