Transitioning To Premed- Where Do I Start?

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Session 173

This student is seeking to start their premed journey and wants to know how to start to have the strongest application possible.

Ask Dr. Gray: Premed Q&A is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT. Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[00:22] Question of the Day

Q: “I’m currently looking into transitioning into the medical field. But I’m still trying to assess whether it’s something that I do want to do. One of the steps I’ve taken is to enroll in a scribing position. I just completed my online training. The only thing that I have left is the in-person training. And so, that will be a huge determining factor if I would enjoy the role as a doctor. 

But if this is something that I want to pursue, I want to make sure that I pursue it in the most appropriate way possible. You mentioned that you shouldn’t be checking off checkboxes. But I do want to make sure that I have a very solid application. From what you’ve said that it’s getting even harder and harder to apply to a lot of these schools. So I just want to make sure that I look like a good candidate.”

A: Scribing is a great clinical experience. The only downfall is it limits your ability to interact with patients.

If you can find maybe a volunteer hospice position, or something else, where you can actually be with patients that would be great. Find something where you’re not just in the room and listening to doctors and typing all of the notes and doing all that stuff, and find one where you can actually just be with patients.

“At its core, that's what medicine is, it's being with patients.”Click To Tweet

[02:34] Taking Prereqs or Retaking Classes

Q: I come from an engineering background. And my grades in school were never 4.0s. I made decent grades. I think in undergrad, I had a 3.49. And I recently got my master’s and I had a 3.5. There’s not much marginal improvement. And so if I were to enroll in medical school, I know that I don’t necessarily need to go back to get another degree. 

But I do need the prereqs taken at an accredited college. And from what I understand, it’s better to take them at a four-year university than it is at a two-year university. I’m looking at taking those classes. I’m also making sure that I make A’s from here on out, and then also making sure that I at least score decently on the MCAT. 

But the median GPA in my dream school is 3.8, and their average MCAT score is around 517. Those are the two requirements that I think I can possibly with a lot of studying, obviously get into the MCAT. But there’s no mathematical way that I can reach the GPA requirement. 

Should I retake science classes that I didn’t score well in and then just continue on with the required classes for the MCAT?

A: Average and median are very different or can be very different. The average may be exactly the same. We don’t know that.

In terms of classes, when we look at a C from Chem 1 from however many years ago, there’s no hard requirement that you have to take that again. The C minus is typically the cut-off and it is not passing for medical schools. So then you have to retake anything where you got a C minus in a prereq. 

Outside of that, the question always is, what is your foundational knowledge to be able to take that next class and the sequence? Build the foundation to get the science credits and trend up, and build the foundation for the MCAT.

Additionally, check out the different course classification guides of the different application services to see specifically where your classes may wind up.

At the end of the day, you can label something as a science credit class, even if AMCAS says those classes aren’t science classes. You can label it science and you can have the AAMC check into it. They’ll look at the syllabus, they’ll talk to the school, and figure out what’s being taught in that class. Then they could agree that it’s a science class.

[10:34] Consistent Clinical Experience

Q: “This upward trend is alongside me working two positions, working as an engineer full-time and working as a scribe part-time going to these classes and studying for MCAT. Is that something that they consider in the applications if I don’t have that many clinical hours? Or is that something that I would have to spell out? Because it is a lot of work.

A: The amount of clinical hours isn’t important, what’s important is that you’re getting them and you’re consistent with them. Hopefully, you’ve reflected on them enough so that you can write about why they’re important to you. 

There are plenty of students out there with 4,000 hours of clinical experience, for instance. And they just do it because they show up and they get the hours. They think that’s the important part of it. But those students aren’t going to do well when it comes to writing about it and talking about it because it’s not about the total hours, it’s about doing it consistently.

I don’t care if you have 5,000 hours of clinical experience, but if you stopped in 2019, then that tells me that you don’t like it enough to continue being around patients and doctors.

[15:07] Shadowing Hours

Q: “If I need to study for the MCAT, I will need some time. So I probably would have to quit my full-time job. Should I add any shadowing hours?”

A: In general, clinical experience is more important than shadowing. But shadowing is very important that’s why you should have it and it should be consistent with all that fun stuff you’re doing. So the big picture is to have more clinical experience, and then if you can shadow once a month or so, then do that.

“Shadowing is just as important as clinical, especially if you're in this career-changer world.”Click To Tweet

Our student is also concerned regarding any age discrimination out there being a nontrad student. But he comes with lots of other experiences so he would be great for a particular class out there. He brings a lot of real-world knowledge and experience to the table that a lot of traditional students don’t have.

So if anything, being a nontrad will only strengthen your application to medical schools. Understand that the world is not fair and that there is bias out there but one acceptance is all it takes to become a doctor.

[20:02] The Most and Least Like Things About Medicine

Q: “What have you found in the medical field that you’ve enjoyed? And what have you disliked?

A: My experience is different because I served in the military as a military physician. And so, I didn’t have to deal with a lot of the bureaucracy and insurance issue nightmares.

But you have to do charting everywhere you go, no matter what. The far majority of physicians will talk about charting as the bane of their existence. Charting was not invented to make doctors’ lives easier. It was invented to increase billing for hospitals and clinics so that we’re checking off all the boxes that Medicare and all the other private insurance companies say we have to do to get our $5 for a patient visit.

Hopefully, as an engineer, you can create the next great EMR, or the next great artificial intelligence and speech recognition software.

On the other hand, the best thing about medicine is just being with a patient behind closed doors. And you’re not worrying about who’s paying for what and if the insurance company is going to deny or approve a test or what have you. It’s just being there for another human being – and the feeling of that interaction is irreplaceable.


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