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Session 97

session 97

In today’s episode, Ryan and Allison takes questions from their listeners. The comments and questions coming in have been amazing and overwhelming, it might be a great idea to come up with a separate Q&A podcast soon that is solely focused on answering questions raised by the audience.

Here are the questions talked about in this episode as well as Ryan’s and Allison’s helpful insights:

Jake: On how to properly address patients’ names:

Allison’s thoughts:

  • Being conscientious when meeting a patient.
  • What you’re taught in medical school.
  • Asking patients how they want to be best addressed.
  • Being conscious of people’s cultural background.

Ryan’s thoughts:

  • Check two patient identifiers: Full name and date of birth

Linda: On acceptance rates, the level of preparedness, and rigor of the curriculum

Allison’s thoughts:

  • The implications of going to a less known school in terms of measuring you and your grades.
  • Do not sell yourself short.
  • Don’t let the school or the numbers hinder you from applying to the school that you want.
  • Build yourself and your application the best way you can.
  • Figure out where you want to be and what school you might thrive at the most.

Ryan’s thoughts:

  • It’s not the institution, it’s who you are as a person and as a student.
  • It depends on what effort you put into your studies, what you learned and your extracurricular activities.
  • Ryan recommends the book Freakonomics, an amazing book that challenges everything that you think about. It backs the story of going to the school that you can thrive in and not the school that you think will get you into medical school.
  • If you have a list of undergrad schools you’re interested in going to:
    • Visit those schools.
    • Check out the campus. Look at the area.
    • Talk to students.
    • See where and what school fits you.

David: On other Medicine podcast and tips for high schoolers

  • Ryan’s theory why a lot of medicine podcast in the iTunes are emergency related

Advice for high school students:

  • Work really hard because the GPA matters.
  • Get into the habit of being a good student.
  • Expose yourself to as much clinical experiences.
  • Don’t be afraid people are not going to take you seriously.

Keith: On what they would have done differently in their lead up to medical school

Allison’s thoughts:

  • What Allison could have done differently:

Ryan’s thoughts:

  • How to prepare for medical school once you get in.
  • What Ryan could have done differently.

Mo: On shadowing vs. internship

Allison’s thoughts:

  • When you’re already contributing like getting the vitals and the history, it could already be a clinical internship.

Ryan’s thoughts:

  • How internship is defined according to Merriam Webster

Zoe: On how to seem authentic when you’ve got little time to prepare for admissions.

Allison’s thoughts:

  • Major thing is to get the clinical experience.
  • What admissions committees expect from applicants.
  • Take you time and immerse yourself in as much clinical exposure as you can.

Ryan’s thoughts:

  • Quality vs. quantity
  • How students think that there are all these checkboxes that need to be checked off

Links and Other Resources:

Any questions? Record a voice message, call us, or simply write an email over our “Ask Us a Question” page.

To download the 30+-page report with tricks and discount codes for MCAT Prep go to

MSHQ Podcast Episode Mentions:

Book: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

List of Medicine-Related Podcast:

Connect with Allison at

Did you like today’s episode? Tell us what you think and leave us a review on iTunes or Stitcher!

Hang out with us on our private Facebook group where you will also find tons of resources.


Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 97.

Hello and welcome to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast; where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. I am your host, Dr. Ryan Gray, and in this podcast we share with you stories, encouragement and information that you need to know to help guide you on your path to becoming aphysician.

Now in that intro I said, ‘We believe,’ and that’s because today- I always say ‘we,’ but today I have Allison back in the studio with me.

Dr. Allison Gray: Hello.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I think you get weirder and weirder every time you say, “Hello.’

Dr. Allison Gray: Did you just call me weird?

Dr. Ryan Gray: You used to say, “Hello everybody.”

Dr. Allison Gray: Hello everybody. I don’t know, it’s 8:30 at night and I’m old, I have to go to bed soon.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. There you go, the life of a doctor, folks.

Dr. Allison Gray: I get weirder as the night gets older or something.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, how are you?

Dr. Allison Gray: I’m great, how are you?

Dr. Ryan Gray: I’m doing well. How long has it been since we’ve had you on?

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t know, you tell me. I don’t remember.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I’m looking back at our podcast list here.

Dr. Allison Gray: My memory is not so hot these days.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It was back in- I don’t even know.

Dr. Allison Gray: Was it 86?

Dr. Ryan Gray: 89.

Dr. Allison Gray: 89, that sounds right.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Maybe? Yeah, 89. So it’s been a couple months.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, but there have been some great interviews since then.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I think so.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What are we talking about today?

Dr. Allison Gray: We are doing Listener Q & A.

Questions & Answers

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So we get lots of questions from people. We’ve had some people call in questions, because I was asking for people to call in questions recently. And I love those because they’re easy to play here on the podcast. We were actually thinking of starting a whole different podcast all about just Q & A.

Dr. Allison Gray: Well there’s another one we’re thinking about, too. We’re thinking about a lot of podcasts.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, we have lots of ideas for podcasts. But- and I still want to do this, so if you have questions you can call them in if you just go to that will take you to our question page where you can send us an audio file that we can play in a podcast. And I’d like to get a bunch of these together and just answer one question in a short little like five minute podcast. I subscribe to a couple of those types of podcasts, and I love them. They’re short and sweet and I get a ton of information out of them. So if you have questions, go to and we can answer that question for you.

But today we’re going to answer a couple of those questions that were sent in, and a couple email questions that were sent in as well. But before we get started with that, if you’re planning on taking the MCAT soon, go to and download our thirty plus page report with tips and tricks, and even some discount codes for MCAT prep. Go to

So I’m going to jump right in here and play the first question, although it’s really not a question, it’s a comment from Jake. And I think it’s a really good comment, so we’ll talk about that. So Jake, here we go.

Patients’ Preferred Titles and Pronouns

Jake: Hey Ryan and Allison, this is Jake. I am a premed, currently in application cycle right now and I’m calling from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I am listening to podcast 86 right now, and just had a really quick suggestion for you all. I work with homeless youth, many of whom are LGBTQ and are gender nonconforming. And throughout my two years of [Inaudible 00:03:40] where I’ve learned that it’s always important to ask what somebody prefers to be called, and what their preferred pronoun is. Sometimes you can’t tell based on someone’s name what pronoun they prefer. So just a quick suggestion for you all; keep up the awesome podcast and the great work.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So that’s Jake. What’s your initial reaction to that?

Dr. Allison Gray: I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s something that is not thought about as much as it needs to be, and it’s something that I think any physician or healthcare provider who’s paying attention needs to really be conscious or conscientious about when you’re walking out to that waiting room or maybe even to the exam room if someone has actually brought the patient in for you. Regardless, when you’re going to meet a patient, sometimes- while in medical school you’re taught to address people formally. Mr. So-and-So, Mrs. So-and-So, Ms. Dr. – whatever it may be. But the problem that there is with that, is that sometimes you’ll butcher the last name, and it may sound silly but it’s kind of a crappy way to start an encounter.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. I’ve butchered first names, too.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh absolutely. But I think- you know and some people, I’ve actually had patients tell me, “I really do prefer to be called Mr. So-and-So, or Mrs. So-and-So. And I can tell you growing up, everybody who I was friends with, all of my friends, knew my dad as Dr. Cohen. There was no Mr., there was no Roger, it was Dr. Cohen. So and that’s because he grew up that way and it was the respect that he felt-

Dr. Ryan Gray: He grew up as a doctor?

Dr. Allison Gray: No he grew up- well in a traditional- that’s right. He grew up in a traditional environment and he- and there was a formality that came with titles and that’s just something that was very important to him. And so that’s fine, but the point is some patients like to be addressed formally, and the risk you run is that you do call them by the wrong pronoun, you do say Mr. or Mrs. when that’s not what they would prefer to be called, and you may butcher their last name. So my feeling about this is actually to take more of an informal approach, and I actually like to go out to the waiting room and call people by their first name because I think- yes, some people might be somewhat annoyed that you’re being informal with them, but you don’t worry about using the wrong pronoun and you- pronoun is the wrong word in this case. You don’t say Mr. or Mrs. when that’s not what they would like to be called, and you don’t butcher their last name, so yay!

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. You always have to check two patient identifiers. Full name and date of birth.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s true. Well, or- yeah, that’s true you can’t just do last name really and date of birth.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Full name and date of birth. That’s something you’ll learn.

Dr. Allison Gray: But it’s nice though right? I mean you say, ‘So-and-So,’ and then they come into the room and just as you greet them and you shake their hand you can say, “So tell me how may I best address you,” or “What’s the way that you would like to be addressed?” And I do that with patients all the time. Or I’ll apologize sometimes for butchering their name and say, “Tell me, how do you pronounce your name correctly, and how would you like me to address you?”

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah I’ll say, “I’m not even going to try to pronounce your name, how do you pronounce it?”

Dr. Allison Gray: But I think he raised a really good point, Jake, that we all need to be very conscious of people’s cultural backgrounds and that includes ethnicity and race and sexual preferences and gender preferences and all of these things; it’s really not okay anymore- if it ever was okay, to not take these things into account. Even when you’re rushing, you always have to remember that there’s a person behind and that person deserves the respect that we all want, no matter what their background is.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I agree. So thank you Jake for that comment.

Dr. Allison Gray: Great suggestion.

College Acceptance Rates and Preparedness

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yes. So I’m going to read a question that was emailed in to us from Linda. And she asked a very specific question that we talked about. She said, “Regarding Goucher, Juniata, Skidmore and a couple other colleges, what are the medical school acceptance rates from these institutions, and can you speak about the level of preparedness and the rigor of the curriculum?” So she’s asking what’s the acceptance rate to medical schools for the students at those colleges, and how well do those colleges prepare you for medical school. Now this is something I think we’ve talked about a lot. And something that I covered way back in session number three, back when I was still a rookie at this, and if you go back and listen to it it probably sounds terrible. But you can listen to it at where we talk about picking an undergrad school, and what that means to your future endeavors. And what it comes down to is who you are as a person and as a student, and what effort you put into your studies, and what you learn, and your extracurricular activities. That’s what makes the difference between getting into medical school and not; not the institution. And for all of you out there, and I know Allison is one of them- and everybody is, I am too, we all have these preconceived notions or thoughts. I challenge you, go read ‘Freakonomics.’

Dr. Allison Gray: What are you saying I have preconceived notions?

Dr. Ryan Gray: We all do. We all have these thoughts. So go read a book called ‘Freakonomics.’ It’s an amazing book that challenges everything that you think about, and it’s just great. I read it recently and it kind of backs this theory of go to the school that you can thrive in, not necessarily the school that you think will get you into medical school. So that’s my thought on it, I don’t know what your thought is Allison.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, I just think back to a comment you made a long while ago on one of our podcasts about how the only real disadvantage- and disadvantage is really the wrong word. The only downside- whatever it may be, to going to a school that is not as well known, is that the admissions committee is not going to know really how to measure you and your grades as well alongside other students from schools that they do know. Because they’re just not familiar, they’re not as familiar. So if it’s a lesser known university it’s just a smaller school, or it’s not as ‘popular’ or common, that just makes it a little bit harder for the admissions committee, it’s a little more work for them but it doesn’t at all diminish your chances of getting in. What really matters in the end is exactly what Ryan said, it’s what is your GPA? What clinical experience have you had? How great is your personal statement and your interview skills? And how good is your MCAT score, and what are all of the different things that go into making you who you are and all of the experiences you have that you can draw from to talk about why you want to be a doctor. It’s that that matters, and we’re certainly not trying to- I mean it’s great that she wrote in and asked that question. I think it’s just we’re trying to say, “Hey maybe look at it from a different angle.” If you go online, or if you go to some of the books out there and try to look at all the percentages in terms of admissions rates and everything; all that is, is really a bunch of numbers. I think if you have a very non-competitive GPA and you’re looking at trying to understand what is the lay of the land in terms of not sort of spending money on applying to schools that are way, way, way, way, way outside of the realm of where you think you might be. But I’ll tell you something, Ryan’s looking at me right now and frowning because he probably thinks- I don’t know. That you shouldn’t sell yourself short either by not applying to places that you think you’re ‘not good enough to get in.’ The punchline is don’t look at the names of schools and the percentages of admission rates and think that that means that you do or do not fit into applying to this school. You know that you should or should not apply. Just try to be the best applicant you can, build up yourself, your application, as best you can and make yourself as strong an applicant as you can and then figure out where you want to be. Where do you want to be in the United States? What schools do you think you would thrive at the most? Just like Ryan said, I really agree.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, and we’re obviously not discounting the fact that yes, some schools are easier to get an A at than other schools. That’s taken into account when an admissions committee sees, ‘Oh this person got a 4.0 from School A, we know that a 4.0 from there because we’ve seen other applicants really means maybe a 3.8.’ And so that’s what Allison was talking about when she said that if you go to kind of a no-name school somewhere in the middle of nowhere that doesn’t really have a lot of students applying to medical school, then admissions committees might be a little thrown off by that.

Dr. Allison Gray: But it doesn’t mean that if that’s the school for you, you shouldn’t go there.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So if you have a list of undergraduate institutions you’re interested in going to, just like medical schools, go visit those schools, check out the campus, look at the area, talk to students, see where and what school fits you.

Dr. Allison Gray: You know and this is a perfect analogy, and it’s the wrong profession because it’s law, but I’m just going to bring it up because we just saw some-

Dr. Ryan Gray: We don’t talk about lawyers.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah I know, but that’s okay. We’ll make an exception. We just saw some really wonderful family friends who we’ve known for ages, and it just came to mind just now that the two of them- they’re six years apart in age, they’re both lawyers. One works in a corporate firm-

Dr. Ryan Gray: We’re friends with these people?

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes, they’re family friends. Anyway- my uncle’s a lawyer, we have uncles in the family, I don’t know what you’re-

Dr. Ryan Gray: The doctors and lawyers, it’s like the Sharks and the Jets.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, we get along, it’s fine. We just think differently, and we don’t speak each other’s languages very well. But anyway, so my point is these two people, they’re sister and brother, they’re both lawyers. One works in a corporate firm and he works a million hours a week and it’s very rigorous. And the other, his older sister, she works in a government job as a lawyer. So they both are lawyers, both work really, really hard, both very smart and the sister, she went to New College which is a very small I think liberal arts college and not known by name to a lot of people. But she talked about- and she’s talked many times about how it was the perfect school for her, so it wasn’t some big name school but it was exactly the kind of nurturing and smaller school environment that she needed to really grow and to thrive. And she’s doing fabulously in her career. And then her brother who is in this corporate job, where did he go? He went to the University of Florida which makes Ryan very happy.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Smart, smart man.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes. So he went to a huge school, right? Very well known, obviously a great school. And he’s-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Obviously.

Choose the College that’s Right for You

Dr. Allison Gray: And he’s also doing very well. So it just goes to show though, completely- I mean they’re from the exact same family, right? They’re sister and brother, they’re six years apart, they are both very smart, very hardworking, went to two completely different schools and they’re now doing great. And because they both are driven and ambitious and hard workers. So I mean yes, it’s law, it’s not medicine but it’s a great analogy because it proves the point that it’s not about the name, it’s about what you do, it’s about what you put in, what you get out. Not about focusing on percentages and things like that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: There you go. Alright, let’s get another question from our friend David, the ninth grade high schooler- that’s what his username says. Although he’s in the tenth grade now.

Other Podcasts as Resources

David: Hello Dr. Gray, this is David the ninth grade high schooler. My question for you is what podcast you would recommend about medicine besides your great podcast? And what tips you would have for high schoolers? Thank you, and have a great day.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I didn’t know there are other podcasts out there.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh, jeez.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Just ours. Just kidding. You know what I actually don’t listen to a lot of medicine podcasts. There is one that I know of a lot, but I don’t listen to a lot. The one that I recommend is somebody who I’ve had on the podcast before, and that’s Dr. Ginger Campbell. She has the Brain Science Podcast that has been out for a long time. And we talked all about her path to medicine, and what she’s doing, and her podcast back in session 64 which you can listen to at But there’s a bunch of them out there. Somebody who I know, Dr. Carroll, he’s a DO. He’s got EM Basic which is a great podcast, I’ve listened to a bunch of episodes of his podcast. It’s interesting, so in the iTunes world a lot of the medicine podcasts are emergency medicine related. And I have a theory of why that is. I think it’s because EM, the Emergency Medicine world is shift work, and so you work a day and then you have a day off. And then you work a day, and then you have a day off, or whatever schedule you have. So they have maybe a little bit more free time bunched together instead of random nights and weekends. So they like and enjoy podcasting for some reason. But yeah, there’s EM Basic, there’s EMCrit- however you want to pronounce that with Dr. Weingart, and there’s a bunch of Emergency Medicine ones. There’s another interesting one- and again another person who I’ve had on the podcast, and she has the Art of Medicine Podcast, and that was interesting. So you can check that one out as well. There’s a bunch of them out there. ERCast is another big one; so all of those. And we’ll have links to all of those in the show notes which you can get at the special show notes for this page, I’ll ask Allison but I know she doesn’t have any suggestions for podcasts.

Dr. Allison Gray: I think that’s the third insult of the night.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s not an insult, you don’t listen to podcasts like I do.

Dr. Allison Gray: It’s just the way you said it, it’s so disparaging. So okay, when I’m in the car I choose to listen to the radio and yes, many times songs I’ve heard 3,000 times.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Blasphemous.

Dr. Allison Gray: I’ll have you know that on the way home I put my playlist on really loud and I sing the whole way home because that’s how I unwind.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay.

Dr. Allison Gray: So I don’t listen to podcasts as much as maybe I should, but I do other things. I read, and you know, I take care of our daughter, and I-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Oh now you’re saying I don’t take care of our daughter.

Dr. Allison Gray: No, you do but I’m just saying that I just- I don’t know, I don’t have a lot of free time for extra bandwidth.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. See? I knew I shouldn’t have asked you.

Dr. Allison Gray: Same thing, I’m not on Twitter. I’m just- put me on the roof why don’t you?

Dr. Ryan Gray: @Allison_MSHQ, go say hi to her.

Dr. Allison Gray: I’m very responsive by email.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So he asked a second question, what advice do you have for high school students?

Advice for High School Students

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah. Well I think we’ll hear from Moe in a little bit but I think he is doing such a great job at getting out there as a high school student, getting exposure to medicine and getting clinical experience. And I think advice I would give to high schoolers, first of all work really hard in school because that GPA is going to matter when you apply to college, just like your college GPA matters when you apply to med school, so keep working hard.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And that’s a habit thing, too. More important than GPA is getting into the habit of being a good student.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh yeah, being a good student, being a good studier, absolutely. Building that craft of being a good studier- your studying skills. But in general I think just expose yourself to as much clinical experience as you can. Whether that’s dissecting animals in the lab at school, like Ryan did- Mr. Bigglesworth the cat. Or volunteering in a hospital. I think it’s never too early to get involved in a volunteering position, and to maybe even ask your pediatrician or your primary care physician if you’re a little bit older, as them about shadowing in the office, I think. So just get exposure, get experience.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, the earlier you know this is what you want to do, or on the flipside the earlier you know this is not what you want to do, the better. So it’s good to go out and get those experiences.

Dr. Allison Gray: And yeah, and don’t be afraid you know as a younger person you might be concerned that people aren’t going to take you seriously, or they’re not going to give you the time of day. Physicians and other healthcare providers who are interested in teaching are always excited to teach people. And you’re really never too young. I mean if you’re seven and you want to go watch like an open-heart surgery that might be pushing it, but certainly if you’re in high school and older. You know I think a lot of people are open and excited to have students of all ages. I remember when I was in MDH, we would certainly have high school students from time to time who would come in and observe on rounds.

What We Would Have Done Differently

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So David, that’s our suggestion for you. Alright so another email herefrom Keith, he is talking about doing HPSP stuff which is awesome, and he asked, “I’m wondering what you would have done differently in your lead up to medical school if given a second chance under your circumstances.” And I’ve seen this question elsewhere, on forums and other places online where students are accepted into medical school and they want to know, “Okay, what do I do now? How do I prepare for medical school?” And I always have the same answer, but I want to hear your thoughts first.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh see it’s funny, I heard that question so differently. I heard it as sort of how would have changed things as a premed in general.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Maybe. You can go both ways.

Dr. Allison Gray: I think I would have- as a premed in general, I would have learned the lay of the land a little bit better in terms of what it means to go to a Canadian undergrad. Because as an American, I was super excited about going to McGill and I still wouldn’t change anything about it-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Are you anti-American?

Dr. Allison Gray: No, I’m just- let me explain, damnit. Oops, is damn a PC term? Sorry. Not PC, PG- I don’t know what I’m saying.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Explicit tag on this one.

Dr. Allison Gray: Okay, what was I saying? I was saying that when- in all seriousness. When you go to a Canadian university, the competition is very, very steep among Canadian premeds in terms of applying and getting into Canadian medical school because there are just very few of them compared to in the United States. And the GPAs that a lot of Canadian undergrads are also lower than what they are at the equivalent sort of in American or United States’ schools I should say. And I don’t know quite why that is, I know that it’s very rigorous and it’s a European style curriculum and a lot of Canadian schools like it is at McGill where-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Do they not curve?

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t think they do, I don’t remember them curving, no. And you work really hard for your grades. So I just- not to say, obviously in a lot of schools in the United States you work really hard too, but the GPAs are a little bit lower than they would be at the equivalent in the US. So I think it would have been helpful for me to just be little bit more informed about what the lay of the land was, because as we’ve talked about before I went to my advisor and the first thing she said to me was, “Well what’s your backup plan?” Because again, that’s the framework there that well most people aren’t going to get in. And I made it work, and I applied, and I went obviously to medical school in the United States, but I think it would have just been helpful to kind of understand how things were a little bit different. It’s really not the case that if you go to Canada it’s just- oh it’s like it’s the US. It’s a very different- it’s very different, it’s a very different culture. So that’s the first answer. And then in general once I got into med school, how would I have prepared myself? That was his question, right?

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s how I took it, the lead up to medical school.

Dr. Allison Gray: So what would I have done differently? Hmm, well I mean I can give you my honest answer.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What’s your honest answer? No, lie to us.

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t lie. So I think at the time I was dating someone and I think I knew that it was not going to last because we were headed in such different directions and we kind of hadn’t faced the music, and then we waited until I was already in med school, and it kind of unraveled very quickly and then I met Ryan, and yada, yada, yada, here we are-

Dr. Ryan Gray: We just got very personal.

Dr. Allison Gray: Okay, well you asked and you told me I lie, and I’m doing the opposite, I’m being super authentic. No, but it actually goes back to a different- it’s reminding me now of another podcast that we talked about, or that we did in which we talked about relationships and how things change. I don’t know if you can pull up that number, Ryan, but we talked about some of the challenges to relationships when you’re a medical student and a physician in medical school. And we talked in that podcast about how a lot of relationships, people went into med school with long distance relationships and those relationships didn’t pan out. And part of that has to do with just the sort of- the difference in your life that happens when you become a medical student and things- it can be very hard to relate to all of your friends around you who are not involved in this very, very vigorous engrossing experience that you’re having. And that was sort of what happened with me, and the person that I was dating at the time. And anyhow, and then I met Ryan and, you know.

Dr. Ryan Gray: The rest is history.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Then we started the podcast.

Dr. Allison Gray: So that’s my answer.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That was Session 46.

Dr. Allison Gray: So I guess- you know kind of take things into- just face the music, realize what’s happening, and-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So here’s my take on the question. Is how do you prepare yourself for medical school once you get in? You don’t. You enjoy your last free- one of your last free summers. So my advice has always been go and start getting into an exercise routine, go and start getting into a healthy eating routine.

Dr. Allison Gray: Well it’s all going to go by the wayside.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Well you get into the routine that you hopefully will stick.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s true, that was very pessimistic of me.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yes, it was.

Dr. Allison Gray: Well I just think back to how many cans of Diet Coke we had in medical school.

Dr. Ryan Gray: We survived.

Dr. Allison Gray: It’s like a well. I used to think that we had like the equivalent of a well of Diet Coke.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It helped.

Dr. Allison Gray: Got to stay awake.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So that’s my advice. Once you get that acceptance letter, there’s nothing that you need to go study and start learning, and don’t go start buying books, just relax.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, definitely. You’ll get the curriculum- I mean you will have exactly what you need, believe me, everybody goes right to the bookstore or the library right after class starts and gets all the same books. You definitely, definitely don’t try to one up people by studying early. Don’t start like pre-med school by being a gunner, oh gosh. Yeah, like Ryan said, go skydiving.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I didn’t say go skydiving.

Dr. Allison Gray: Go enjoy yourself, and soak it in because it’s true, you have that summer and then the only other summer you really have is between your first and second year and a lot of people take advantage of that to really further their careers and other things. So just enjoy that moment, that blissful moment of being accepted.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, so the other part of his question as far as how would I do anything over, I’d probably reiterate what you talked about as far as just getting more information.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, which is what we’re trying to do.

Dr. Ryan Gray: If this podcast was around, I would take a listen to the podcast.

Dr. Allison Gray: We would listen to ourselves.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I wouldn’t talk to myself, that would be a little weird.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, yeah that would.

Dr. Ryan Gray: But yeah, so it’s all about- and it’s hard when you’re premed, and I talk to- I obviously talk to a lot of premeds and I know you do too Allison. Some of the stuff that we talk about, they’ll give us this premed look. They’ll give us this perplexed look like, “Whoa, I didn’t even think about that. Or I didn’t even think I should be thinking about that. I didn’t know that question should even be asked.” And so there’s a lot out there on this journey through premed and through medical school, and we’re- with this podcast hoping that we just open your eyes to a lot of things so that you start thinking of those questions to ask.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, it’s helping the ‘you don’t know what you don’t think you know.’

Dr. Ryan Gray: You don’t know what you don’t think you know.

Dr. Allison Gray: No, you don’t know- never mind.

Dr. Ryan Gray: You don’t know what you don’t know.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, exactly.

How to Classify Intern-Type Work

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, glad we got that settled. Alright so the next question we have is from Moe who is actually our ninth grade high schooler’s mom.

Moe: Hi Dr. Gray and Dr. Gray, this is Moe. I am the mom of the ninth grade high schooler. And we just listened to podcast number twelve again, and I had a question. My son is seeing patients with two family medicine doctors, and a PA, and he actually gets close enough to smell the patients as you guys would say, and he touches them. He takes turns with the doctors and the PA listening to heart and lung sounds, abdominal exams, neurology exams, checks eyes and ears and then he also gets to take blood vials and sends them in some kind of a machine, I don’t know what it’s called. The nurses work with him on [Inaudible 00:27:39] and vitals and things like that, and he also interacts with the patients verbally and then he gets to go home and does research on either meds, symptoms, and he comes up with differential diagnoses and he reports back to the doctors and the PA the next visit, and he explains why he came up with these things and then they explain to him why the agree or disagree with what he came up with. He has at least nine patient contact hours a month, and to me I think that’s more than job shadowing, but I don’t know what to call it for when he fills out college applications or scholarship forms and things like that. And I’m wondering if you guys have any ideas? You’ve both been such a blessing to our family, and you’re also a real encouragement in a world that tends to not view teenagers as having any viability out there, you know like people think that teenagers kind of goof around a lot, and I really appreciate you guys thinking that teenagers can be a part of things and learn at a younger age. Thank you very much, bye.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Teenagers don’t goof around.

Dr. Allison Gray: I am so blown away by that. First of all, thank you Moe, that was just so awesome to hear and we’re so glad that we can help. And I’m so blown away by what her son, David, is doing. David what you’re up to is so incredible-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Can you imagine doing that stuff as a high schooler?

Dr. Allison Gray: No I think it’s- I mean it’s incredible, it’s awesome. I mean you are doing, David, what a lot of us wanted to do when we were like 20 or 21. I mean and you’re making-

Dr. Ryan Gray: What a lot of premeds struggle with in college-

Dr. Allison Gray: Exactly.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Trying to find those relationships and get in and shadow.

Dr. Allison Gray: And you’re getting that amazing one-of-a-kind unique clinical experience, you’re getting those hours every month, and building relationships with that physician and PA you’re working with, and learning about team approach- I mean how to create a differential diagnosis and you’re in ninth grade, or tenth grade now. That is just phenomenal, so kudos to you. And I think what you could call it is shadowing, it’s clinical shadowing or clinical experience, clinical observership is another word. And you may find, as I have found with my shadowing experience, is that it almost becomes more than shadowing. It almost becomes sort of like an internship. So at some point when you’re actually really contributing, and you’re getting vitals and you’re maybe even taking some of the history and helping to formulate the differential diagnosis, participating in the exam; you might even call it a clinical internship because really that’s what it is. So fabulous, that’s so awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I just pulled up the definition of internship. And according to I don’t even know what is; I’m going to pull up Merriam Webster because that’s a real site. Sorry,

Dr. Allison Gray: We have great resources on this show.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So intern, ‘a student or recent graduate who works for a period of time at a job in order to get experience.’ So you are a student, and you are working for a period of time at a job-

Dr. Allison Gray: To get experience.

Dr. Ryan Gray: You’re not getting paid but it’s still a job.

Dr. Allison Gray: But it doesn’t matter, yeah there are nonpaid internships all over the place.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I saw- yeah I would call what you’re doing an internship. Clinical internship.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, as would I and I think it’s just awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, that solves that. So thanks Moe for that question and yeah, I think-

Dr. Allison Gray: And the feedback.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yes, the feedback is definitely awesome. As teenagers we all have our moments of slacking off and goofing but yes, David as a tenth grader doing all of this stuff is awesome so congratulations to you, David.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

How to Seem Authentic to Admissions Committees

Dr. Ryan Gray: So another written question sent from Zoe, she talked about her undergraduate- she’s a mechanical engineering student, she’s in her fourth year, hasn’t really been sure what she wanted to do with herself, and then she had this ‘ah-ha’ moment, her epiphany of wanting to be a physician. But now she’s kind of late to the game, ‘What do I do now?’ And she says, “As I’m finishing up my degree and taking the necessary prerequisite courses which will take another year of school, I plan on shadowing and volunteering and doing all that I can to prepare myself. How can I work all of these activities into the next two years without it seeming insincere to med school admissions?”

Dr. Allison Gray: So it’s a great question. I think that it may seem like a lot of activities, because there are a lot of things that you have to do as a premed in terms of getting ready to apply to medical school. But in essence it’s getting your pre-req’s and getting your MCAT completed. And aside from that, I think the major thing is to get that clinical experience, because at some point in your path you’ve realized that you really want to be a physician. And what admissions committees are now going to expect is that no matter when you figure it out, you need to prove to them before you apply that yes, this is the right path for me, I’ve been close enough to smell the patient, I’ve been in a healthcare environment, I’ve seen what doctors do every day, I can see with my own eyes, my ears, what exactly is going on and what this kind of career means, this profession, what this is. So I think it’s fine to tell admissions committees, “Look I just came upon this and I realize,” because look there are people who do twenty years’ worth of engineering and then decide that they want to go become a physician. So it’s fine whenever you figure it out. I think to answer your question about seeming inauthentic, I think to make sure that you’re not sounding inauthentic, just take that time and really immerse yourself in as much clinical exposure, clinical experience, as you possibly can.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, quality.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So we talk about quantity versus quality. And it’s something we talked about last week with Dr. Rivera from NYU, about students thinking that there’s all of these checkboxes to check off. And I don’t know if that’s where you’re coming from as far as trying to figure out exactly everything that you ‘need’ to accomplish before you apply to medical school, but that’s not the way anybody should be thinking about it. There’s ‘Okay I need to get some clinical experience, I need to do some shadowing and see if I like this whole patient thing.’ And so you go and you find somebody to shadow, you go and you find a place where you can do some clinical volunteering and do that long-term. If you do that over a year, then that’s showing sincerity.

Dr. Allison Gray: Absolutely, yeah. Definitely. I don’t think you need to go out and feel like you have to be on some kind of committee or get involved in a whole bunch of extracurricular activities. I think the main thing- you know you’re applying to a professional school, you want to show that this is the profession for you, that you’ve taken the time to be around doctors, be around patients, and really know what that’s about.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So that’s it.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Allison Gray: Okay.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That was a lot of questions.

Dr. Allison Gray: Mm hmm.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Do you have anything to add?

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes, I just realized that my glasses are broken.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What did you do?

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t know but the nosepiece is missing on one side and I’ve been wondering this whole podcast why they’re not fitting on my face. So there you go.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright.

Dr. Allison Gray: Totally a digression. Do I have anything else to add? I think these questions are awesome, and keep sending them to us, we love going through them and don’t be mad at us if we take a little while to get back to you. Sometimes it’s because we’re pooling them to create a podcast like this, and sometimes it’s because we’re just trying to take that time to get you a really well thought out answer. So thank you and thank you for writing and calling them in. It’s such a pleasure and thank you for listening to us and letting us help you.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So again go to and that will send you to our Ask a Question page where you can record a voice message, call us and- or just leave an email for us. Then like I said we love getting these questions, like Allison said, we love getting the questions, we’re thinking about and would love to start a whole separate just Question and Answer podcast, and we need you to do that. So send us those questions. Part of sending us stuff is the amazing feedback that we get from you guys as far as ratings and reviews. This is session 97 and I had a goal of getting to 200 five star ratings by session 100. And we’ve eclipsed that already by session 97, so that’s awesome. More than two ratings per show.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: We’re sitting at 201 five star ratings in our US audience; and iTunes works a little weird, you have to change countries and stuff. But we have 201 ratings in Canada- not Canada, in the US. We have 5 in Canada.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yay!

Dr. Ryan Gray: And one in France.

Dr. Allison Gray: Very cool.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And one in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So lots of people sending us ratings and reviews. If you haven’t done that yet go to and you can do that. If you listen on Stitcher, we love you there too, you can go to /stitcher and leave a review there. But we really like the ratings in iTunes because that’s where really the majority of our people come from. But there are several people I want to thank this week.

We have LQ- I can’t pronounce these ones, they’re so hard. I’m going to have you do them from now on. No?

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t know.

Dr. Ryan Gray: LQ [Inaudible 00:36:49] says, “Number one podcast for premeds.” So thank you.

We have DomLuvsOrganization who says, “Excellent mentoring.” He says, or she says, “I’ve intended to review the show since session twenty-something.” 97, 20 that works. Hey, better late than never so thank you DomLuvsOrganization.

ThomasKetterman says, “Great podcast, easily the most informative podcast for anyone interested in the path and life of a physician.” So thank you to those guys for your ratings and reviews. Again,


Dr. Allison Gray: Yes, Ryan?

Dr. Ryan Gray:

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Awesome magazine for premed students.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes, it’s our friends over at Premed Life; we love what they do.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So is our partner magazine, you can go to and sign up to get email notifications when they release a magazine issue, and they do that every two months. Right now is their July and August- as we record this, 2014 issue. The best medical schools for the entrepreneurial student, tips to prepare your finances before medical school, and eight pieces of information every premed should know. Hey, that’s ours.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So they’re taking some of our older podcasts which are still great content and turning them into articles for their magazine, which is awesome.

So go check them out, and tell them we sent you. So I think that’s it for today. I hope you got a ton of great value out of today. I really enjoy doing these question and answer podcasts because it helps us connect with you, and you connect with us, instead of one-sided conversation we’re getting everybody talking and that’s the ultimate goal of this podcast. So thank you again, go to and ask questions.

One other quick thing. Our hangout on Facebook is growing by the day.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: If you go to, then you will be taken to our private Facebook group where we just kind of hang out and talk about the shows and other cool news that we find in the world.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yup, lots of resources, absolutely. Very fun.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, so And with that, I will bid you ado. Allison, say goodbye.

Dr. Allison Gray: I think it’s adieu.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Okay. It’s the English redneck version, ado.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh jeez. Goodnight everybody, good luck to all of you in whatever stage you are in and thanks for joining us here at the Medical School Headquarters.