Shadowing, Grades, Research and more Premed Q&A

Session 147

Session 147

This is another Q&A segment where Ryan will answer a few questions raised by our listeners as well as members of the MSHQ Facebook group. Hopefully, you get a ton of information from today’s show.

Let's get started…

Q: A pharmacist interested in going back to do medical school. He gets a lot of patient care and involved directly with patients. Should he be doing further shadowing?

A:  It's a phenomenal patient care experience but you need to understand the admissions committee wants to know that you know what the whole “physician thing” is all about and not that you just hang out with patients as a pharmacist or an EMT. They want to make sure that you know what it's like to be a physician. That's what shadowing offers you.

So think about your extracurricular in terms of clinical experience and shadowing. Shadowing is not clinical experience but allowing yourself to understand what life is like as a physician.

Q: How much weight do ADCOMs put on update letters throughout the application cycle?

A:  Update letters are great but wait to send an update letter until you've heard something from the school (like you know you got rejected or they're waiting to offer you an interview). They must be substantial enough to warrant the interruption that it's going to give the AdCom member. What is it about the update that is going to make them stop and take a look at your application again. How substantial is it?

Q: 50-100 hours of volunteering across several organizations vs. 50-100 hours at one organization?

A:  It comes down to your level of involvement at that time. What impact did your presence make while you were there? That will make all the difference in the world. Again, you don't have to fill up all 15 spots in those extracurriculars. Make sure there is good stuff in there.

Q: At what point in the application cycle should you seriously begin considering applying next year?

A: As soon as you know that all the schools that you applied to have rejected you. If there's a chance you're not going to get in, continue to volunteer, shadow, and make an impact in your community so if you have to reapply, you have more stuff to talk about. Continue strengthening your application.

Q: Current postbac student: Can a postbac student get bad grades?

A: B's are not bad grades. All B's can be bad, but a B is okay. As a non-traditional premed, you have a cool story to tell. But you need to show that you can handle the rigors of medical school by getting good grades in the post bacc classes. But a B is okay.

Q: Evaluating new medical schools ready to open?

A: You have to narrow down where you want to go. New schools are not fully accredited so there might be issues getting full student loans to those schools. So there might be a lot of challenges there including the quality of education or you don't get to see a match list to see where students are matching. But remember, the medical school does not make you great. You make yourself great. No matter what medical school you go to, you put in the effort to do well, not the school.

Q:  Which medical schools are more research-based and which ones are not?

A:  Check out the MSAR and the CIB (College Information Book). Next, look at the actual school's website and see what kind of research they're doing.

Q:  What extra classes would you suggest a student take to prepare for getting through medical school?

A:  Whatever classes you may take in medical school, if they're available for you and within your price range, go ahead and do it. Knowing something and having a little bit of foundation will help you on the way.

Links and Other Resources

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Transcript

Dr. Ryan Gray: The Medical School Headquarters Podcast, session number 147.

Hello and welcome to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast; where we believe that collaboration, not competition, is key to your premed success. As always 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 a physician.

If you haven't yet checked out www.PremedLife.com, go check them out. Premed Life Magazine is an awesome bi-monthly magazine with tons of great information and articles that you, the premed, need to hear. Again, www.PremedLife.com.

And if you're struggling with MCAT prep, go to Next Step Test Prep. They offer one-on-one tutoring, that is their specialty; one-on-one tutoring especially for re-takers. Mention that you heard about them from the podcast and they'll give you a lovely discount on their services. Again, www.NextStepTestPrep.com.

Alright welcome back to the Medical School Headquarters Podcast. I hope that you have thoroughly enjoyed what episodes that you have listened to so far. I hope if this is your first episode, that you will go back and listen to all 146 episodes. I think the record is about a week or so for somebody listening to all the episodes as fast as they can, which is phenomenal. Again this is session 147, our special show notes for this episode is www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/147. All of the episodes if you want show notes, you can go to www.MedicalSchooHQ.net/ and then the session number.

Today we're going to do some Q&A. As I've mentioned before, I get a lot of email. If I haven't responded to one of your emails personally, I apologize, I have about 100 plus in a backlog and I'm slowly getting to them. But I wanted to answer a couple today and then I also put it out in the Medical School Headquarters Hangout, which is our private Facebook group you can go to and join for free. www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group. We have almost 750 members in there, which is a phenomenal group, and getting more activity lately which is amazing. We actually just sprouted off two new groups from that group; a study hall group for students to talk about their struggles that they're having in specific classes, and then a journal club group for students that are interested in critiquing journal articles and kind of learning how all of that works. And I think we may actually do a journal club like once a month and record it, probably over Blab which is the kind of technology that I used a couple episodes ago to have a couple people on the show live and ask questions. But Blab is amazing and would work perfect for a journal club. And I may actually take that and turn that into a whole separate podcast, kind of learn how to critique journal articles. So yeah, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group. Tons of fun stuff going on there.

Clinic & Shadowing

Alright so the first question that came in is one that was emailed to me, and it's from a pharmacist who is interested in going back and going to medical school. Now the reason I'm- this is a very kind of specific question, but I've had a lot of emails recently from pharmacists which is interesting. A lot of them going back and wanting to do medical school. So the question that came in, this pharmacist works in a clinic, which a lot of Pharm.D's can do. He completed a PGY-1 year, so post-graduate year, and so he's a Pharm.D, and a lot of Pharm.D's can kind of practice on their own and see patients for things like hypertension and diabetes and high cholesterol. And so this kind of led to him wanting to kind of do more for the patients, and that's why he wants to go back to medical school. But his question is about shadowing, and he obviously gets a lot of patient care, and is involved directly with patients. And he questioned whether I recommended doing further shadowing. And I said the patient experience that he's getting- the patient experience when you're in this type of situation, is phenomenal patient experience. A popular premed thing nowadays is getting your EMT and doing that pre-hospital emergency care, which is great patient care.

But what it's not doing is giving you the experience of what being a physician is like. What it's like behind closed doors when they're doing their ‘physician' thing. And that's something that as an Adcom member, they want to make sure that you know what this whole physician thing is all about, and not that you just like to hang out with patients as a pharmacist, or hang out with patients as an EMT. They want to make sure that you know as a pharmacist or an EMT that's leaving that and going into medicine that you know what it's like to be a physician, and that's what shadowing offers you. So whenever you're thinking about your extracurriculars you have to think in terms of clinical experience, and then you have to think in terms of shadowing. Shadowing is not clinical experience. Shadowing is allowing yourself to understand what life is like as a physician. And that's where you have to kind of draw the line and understand the differences.

Update Letters

Alright, I had a series of questions come in- or one email with a lot of questions from a fellow gator. And a lot of the questions were very relevant, so I'll talk about a few of them here. The first question he asked is how much weight do Adcoms put on update letters throughout the application cycle? This person seems like they wrote that they didn't have sufficient time to do a lot of the shadowing, and the volunteering, and the extracurriculars as they wanted at the time, and now that they're doing those things, how important is it to update the schools with this information? And one of the things that I'd mentioned to him was that update letters are great, but I would typically wait to send an update letter until you've heard something from the school. Unless you know that you got rejected, or you're in the process of- or they're waiting to offer you an interview, or if you've heard something from the school, then go ahead and send them an update letter. Let them know. Say, “Hey, this didn't make it onto my application.” Or, “Only a couple hours made it onto my application, but here's what I've been doing now.” Update letters are okay, but they need to be substantial enough to warrant the interruption that it's going to give to the Adcom member. Remember, they're sifting through thousands of applications, and so what is it about your application? What is it about the update that you're going to give them that's going to make them stop and take a second and look at your application again? Pull it out of the pile and look at it again. So think about that when you want to send an update letter. How substantial is it?

Extracurricular Activities

His other question talks about the continuity of extracurricular activities. He specifically states that he has 50 to 100 hours of volunteering across several organizations, versus having 50 to 100 hours at one organization. And it really comes down to how involved you get in that time. What's the impact that you make? When you're writing your experiences in your application; whether it's the AMCAS application or the AACOMAS application, what is that impact when you're writing the description? What did you do when you were there? What impact did your presence make? That's what's going to make all the difference in the world when you talk about kind of quality versus quantity. So don't think about needing to fill up- we talk about it all the time. You don't need to fill up all fifteen spots in those extracurriculars. Make sure that you have good stuff in there to put in there, because they can smell the fluff from a mile away.

Applying the Following Year

Another question he asked was at what point in the interview cycle, or the application cycle really, should you seriously begin considering applying next year? And that comes down to as soon as you know that all of the schools that you applied to have rejected you. Before then there's really nothing that you can do. You want to be proactive if there's a chance that you're not going to get in, which for everybody there's a chance that you won't get in. Not everybody, even if you have perfect grades and perfect MCAT score, and perfect extracurriculars, it doesn't mean that you're going to get into medical school. So while you're applying in this downtime, continue to volunteer, continue to shadow, continue to make an impact in your community so that if you do have to re-apply, you have more stuff to talk about which is amazing. So don't ever just submit your application and rest on your laurels and say, “Okay, I'm done. I'm going to get into med school,” and that's it. Always keep in the back of your mind that you need to continue to strengthen your application.

So a lot of questions, he had a couple more but I think that's good for that one.

Less than Perfect Grades in Post-Bacc

So the other question that came in was from a current post-bacc student. She started college premed, and had to switch some gears and worked doing some other stuff, and is now going back and doing a post-bacc. And she is worried she got a couple B's during her post-bacc- or is looking at getting a couple B's. She was kind of foreshadowing out and assuming she was going to get a couple B's. And she was worried that these B's would kind of shoot her in the foot into getting into medical school. And we've talked about this before about bad grades, and how to fix bad grades. But now she's a post-bacc student and can a post-bacc student get bad grades? And I would say B's are not bad grades. And this person's father is a physician so he's coming from a standpoint of ‘you have to be perfect to get into medical school.' And so number one, as a nontraditional premed, she has a cool story to tell which is very different than a traditional premed student, so you have to add that into the equation. Yes, you need to show that you can handle the rigors of medical school by getting good grades in the post-bacc classes. But a B is okay. Just don't make them all B's. A B is okay, it really is. I promise, it really is.

Alright we had a couple more questions come in through our Facebook group. I had put it out there that I was going to record this podcast, a bunch of questions and answers. And so we had- again this is out on the Hangout which you can get at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/group.

Evaluating Newly Opened Medical Schools

The first question that came in talks about evaluating new schools that are getting ready to open. I'm assuming new medical schools, and there are a lot of new medical schools opening. And so this is a valuable question. When you're sitting down and you're going through the list of medical schools to apply to, you have to kind of narrow down where you want to go. And we've talked about this before- I did a whole podcast on it recently about how to choose what medical schools to go to. One of the questions is what about new schools? New schools aren't fully accredited, so you have to think about that. A lot of times there may be issues getting full student loans to those schools because they're not fully accredited, and some of the money that pays for medical school, loans, won't pay for a not fully accredited medical school. And so there's a lot of challenges there, and how do you know what the quality of the education is going to be? You don't see a match list to see where students are matching. But ultimately we talked about this before. The medical school does not make you great. You make yourself great. And no matter what medical school you go to, you put in the effort to do well. You put in the effort to find those away electives that get you the exposure to get those great residencies. That's you, that's not the school. Yes the school may have some connections, a school like Harvard may have some connections to get you in somewhere else that you may not be able to go. But you have to understand it's you.

So I would use all of the criteria that we've talked about previously in session 142, again www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/142. Use that criteria and determine if that new school is worthy of being on your list. And if it is, apply there and worry about the rest later. Obviously new schools open more recently a lot, and students go there, students graduate, students get a residency spot, and so it happens. It's just a different route, another obstacle, another kind of thing to think about on the way. But it's possible and shouldn't be a huge hang-up.

Gathering Information about Schools

There was a question that came in about which medical schools are more research-based, and which ones are not? Now the first place to always look is the MSAR, and the College Information Book- the CIB. Those two resources- one for MD schools, one for DO schools, will give you a lot of information about the school. The next best place to look is the actual school's website. Go to their website and see what kind of research they're doing. Unfortunately a lot of that stuff changes all the time, and so their website is going to be the most up-to-date (hopefully) resource around. And I've actually talked to several people who have talked about a medical school's website being another criteria that they've used to apply to medical schools. If you go to a medical school's website and it's not very good, then I've talked to people that say they won't apply to that school which is kind of interesting.

Extra Classes in Preparation for Medical School?

Alright another question that came in is what extra classes would you suggest a student take if they are so inclined in order to prepare for getting through medical school? So if you wanted to take- they're saying if you want to take a gap year and decide to take a few extra classes in the process. So they gave an example of toxicology, histology, anatomy, physiology, immunology- yes, all of those. Whatever classes you may take in medical school, if they're available for you and they're in your price range, and you want to do it, then I would go ahead and do it. I think it's a great opportunity to get a head start. A lot of advisors, a lot of premed advisors specifically at the colleges will tell you not to take anatomy, they won't tell you to take physiology. But going into medical school knowing something, having a little bit of a foundation is amazing and only helps you on the way. So whatever you can get your hands on, whether it's online through something like the Khan Academy, or through iTunes University, there's tons of stuff out there, so go and look.

Final Thoughts

Alright that is a shorter episode today, lots of questions coming in. We got a ton of great feedback with the interview podcast last week, session 146. If you haven't heard that to listen to that, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/146. In a couple weeks I'll be interviewing a dean of a medical school about his school's transition to the MMI and what that means for you as an applicant, which will be an interesting podcast. So if you have any thoughts about that, you can stay tuned. Make sure subscribing on iTunes, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/iTunes.

If you still need some interview help, I've taken on a lot of new clients recently but if you need some interview help or application help or whatever help you need, email me Ryan@medicalschoolhq.net. Specifically if you need interview help, I know it's kind of a time crunch right now. You can put in the subject ‘Interview Help' and I'll make sure to get to that one sooner rather than later.

Alright let's talk about iTunes reviews. I know I've mentioned it before, I mention it every podcast episode, iTunes reviews are a phenomenal way for you to show your love to us. And we get a ton of great iTunes reviews, we have over 320 five star ratings now which is phenomenal, and I want to take a second to thank a couple that have taken the time to leave a rating and review.

So from Dr Whodat, they say they're a current Navy Corpsman and potential nontraditional medical school student. “This is a fantastic podcast for a wide range of information relevant to anyone interested in a career in medicine. I've already taken a few notes that I'll be referencing in the future.” Awesome, thank you Dr Whodat. I'm assuming a Saints fan.

Sam from Boston says, “I can honestly say I have learned so much from yours and Allison's podcast about the path to medical school more than I have from my college premed organization and frighteningly more than from my college premed advisors. I always recommend your podcast to friends-” PS, this is not in the review. If you are listening to this and you have friends who are premed, go tell them about this if you haven't already. Okay, back to the review. “I always recommend this podcast to friends who are interested in applying to medical school because it is such a wonderful resource and helps to humanize the path to medical school.” Thank you Sam from Boston. Sam from Boston was actually on our Blab- our live call-in episode a couple episodes ago, hi Sam from Boston.

Lulzerz says, “Excellent show. This series contains a lot of good information for the student wishing to join the medical community. You will absolutely find value in this series.” That's a great one.

And then one more here, Nately C says- oh a podcast for chiropractic students. So Nately C. hosts the Exploring Chiropractic, a podcast for chiropractic students and she loves to listen to- I'm assuming she, loves to listen to the Medical School HQ. “Keeps me informed about what my peers are doing, gives me ideas for my own show, and the episodes on MCAT and match day help remind me how easy I have it.” That's awesome. So if you're thinking about going to chiropractic school and you're listening to us for some reason, go check out the Exploring Chiropractic Show.

Alright we have a ton more reviews to get to, but that's enough for today. Again, www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/iTunes if you would be so inclined to leave us a rating and review. I would greatly appreciate it. As always I hope you got a ton of great information out of the podcast today, and I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters.

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