Dr. Benjamin Chan is the Assistant Dean of Admissions at the University of Utah School of Medicine and currently works as an inpatient attending physician at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). He is also the host of the podcast Talking Admissions and Med Student Life.
Today, he shares with us his thoughts on the changing landscape and trends of the medical school admissions process, about nontraditional students, and a look into why requirements are not standardized for all medical schools.
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Benjamin:
Benjamin’s path to medicine:
- Switching from pre-law to premed at Stanford University
- Applying to medical school in California while still maintaining his Utah residency
- Got into University of Utah School of Medicine
- Knowing he wanted to become a pediatrician until going through his pediatric rotation and not loving it
- Doing a rotation at child psychiatry, loving it, and deciding to become a child psychiatrist
- Matching at George Washington University in D.C.
- Underwent adult training and a 2-year child psychiatry fellowship and matched at University of Maryland in Baltimore
- Moving to Salt Lake City after graduation for family reasons
Reason for switching to medicine on top of helping people:
- Serving a volunteer mission in France at homeless shelters, nursing homes, orphanages
- Saw medicine as a much more direct route in helping people
- Benjamin shadowed different doctors and lawyers but found physicians to have more patient interaction
The importance of shadowing:
- Seeing the lifestyle of a physician – the good and the bad
- Helps you become prepared for what’s in store (how regulated it is and how much training goes into it)
Challenges Benjamin had to overcome:
- Switching from pediatrics to psychiatry
- Picking your field at the end of your training
The importance of mentors:
- Mentors play a great role in answering student’s questions and easing their concerns
- University of Utah is creating a new program called Core Faculty to help med students through mentors
The reason for the different medical school requirements among schools:
- Schools as fiercely proud institutions
- AAMC has guidelines but they treat different schools like states with their own kind of experiment going on
- Medical schools hate students who just check off the box; they like to see the passion, determination, and motivation among students
The 5-core criteria at University of Utah School of Medicine:
- Research experience
- Community experience
- Leadership experience
- Physician shadowing
- Exposure to patients
Shadowing vs. patient exposure:
Physician shadowing as a passive activity
- Interacting with patients
- Returning phone calls
- Paperwork for insurance companies
- Meet with families to break news or explain a procedure
- Being sensitive to what the lifestyle is like and what it means to be a doctor
Patient exposure means getting your hands dirty
- Interacting with patients (nursing facility, hospice, group homes for children with disabilities, respite care)
General Overview of the Medical School Admissions Process:
- Robust growth of the premedical offices
- Getting to medical school like going to the Olympics (having coaches and trainers along the way)
- More and more premed offices are taking a prominent role which provide valuable services:
- Helping them with mock interviews (traditional and MMI)
- Reviewing personal statements
- Identifying students who are interested in medicine and mentoring them for their 3-4 years of undergrad
- Greater emphasis on behavioral sciences
- A whole new section for MCAT 2015 with more focus on behavioral sciences (ex. psychology, sociology, anthropology)
- Medical school curriculum now has more emphasis on the behavioral sciences
Nontraditional students fitting in with medical school:
- Benjamins tags the University of Utah as the “land of nontraditional students” with an average of matriculating students about a year to a year and a half older than across other medicals schools for socio-economic reasons.
- The admissions committee loves the maturity and wisdom of non-traditional students.
- Nontraditional students write more passionately about their life experiences.
Why he started his own podcast:
- The craving for information Benjamin has noticed among colleges
- Conceiving the idea of interviewing people affiliated with the university, premed advisors, and medical students to centralize knowledge and provide equal information to everyone
- Podcast as a great learning tool being able to learn more about their curriculum, their hospital, and people’s lives
His podcast’s target audience:
- Premedical students
- Current medical students
*Half is geared to University of Utah while the other half applies to anyone.
Benjamin’s favorite episodes in his podcast:
- Conversations about the fun stuff of being a doctor and interacting with colleagues
- Talking with med students (one episode featuring Kyle talking about male fashion)
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
- Follow your passion.
- Branch out and go outside your comfort zone.
- Start volunteering and stick with that.
- As you get more experience and the people you work with see the leadership within you, you start to be given more responsibilities in the organization.
- It’s not about checking the boxes, but making the world a better place and show the admissions committee what you can do.
Links and Other Resources:
Check out Dr. Benjamin Chan’s podcast Talking Admissions and Med Student Life
If you need any help with the medical school interview, go to medschoolinterviewbook.com. Sign up and you will receive parts of the book so you can help shape the future of the book. This book will include over 500 questions that may be asked during interview day as well as real-life questions, answers, and feedback from all of the mock interviews Ryan has been doing with students.
Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out oldpremeds.org.
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