From Chef to Physician

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OPM 257: From Chef to Physician

Session 257

After 15+ years as a chef, Kurtis has decided to pursue a career as a gastroenterologist. How can he use his experiences to his advantage in his med school application?

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Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

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[02:40] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“My name is Kurtis and I have an AAS in Culinary Arts and have been a chef for 15 or so years. Throughout my career as a chef I’ve become fascinated with Gastroenterology and the effects the microbiome has on the health of the person as a whole. As such, I am wanting to become a Gastroenterologist. 

For about a year and a half, I was a chef on the patient floors for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. I have very little direct patient care but I was curious if there was some way I could use this as a beneficial experience in my application. Thank you so much!”

[03:37] Taking Previous Experience to Your Application

When you’re deciding, especially for AMCAS how to narrow down to 15 experiences, you’re creating the story of your life.

'Students too often pick and choose the experiences they think will be beneficial to their application, instead of just focusing on their story at large.'Click To Tweet

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard students leave stuff off of their application because they didn’t think it was important to medicine. But you need to mention this because it gives the admissions committee an idea of everything that’s going on in the student’s life. Obviously, not everything, but at least from a career standpoint.

Don’t forget all of the intangible things that come with the experience, whether it’s being a chef, whether it’s being a police officer, a teacher, a firefighter, a nurse, a PA, whatever it is. 

Those experiences and those intangible skills that you gained from your experiences can’t be ignored in an application. So you have to put everything you can in your application, and not look at it from the standpoint of it just being an application.

[05:41] Shift Your Mindset

Don’t think of this from a standpoint of what’s going to look good on your application. Show the admissions committee how such experiences taught you to become this and that, or whatever.

Show them why the experience was so important to you and not why it’s important to becoming a physician.

That is a huge difference between the admissions committee members understanding who you are and understanding what you think they want to hear. One is showing who you are. The other one is showing who you think they want you to be.

“A lot of students fail to focus on their story because they focus on their skills and traits and everything they think the admissions committees want and need.”Click To Tweet

[06:46] The AAMC Core Competencies: Don’t Fall into the Trap

This is one of the dangers of the AAMC having these 15 core competencies because students will look at those core competencies just to try to check the boxes. They think they should have one activity for every core competency.

That is not creating your application because that is just turning around and selling to the admissions committees what you think they want to hear. 

[07:58] Focus on the Story

You don’t need to make it beneficial for the application. The fact that you were a chef for 15 years is awesome. Talk about the most meaningful parts of being a chef, without trying to cram it into this hole of how being a chef is going to prepare you for medical school. That is not how you take this experience and translate it to the application.

'This is where students go wrong when you're not focusing on your story.'Click To Tweet

When you talk about being a chef in an application, talk about the most meaningful dish you made. Or talk about the one dinner night that some special VIP guests came in. And you served them the best meal ever, and they came back and they thanked you and they loved it. Then you got written up in the paper because of your food. Tell that story.

And guess what, 99.9% of the time, they’re not going to ask you how do you think being a chef is going to help you be a physician. They don’t care about that. 

Obviously, being a chef is going to give you skills that will translate to being a physician. It’s not your job to translate that for the interviewer. They’re going to look at your experiences and they’re going to understand your journey and your path. They’re going to look at what is important to you and what’s impactful for you. They’re going to look at what has resonated throughout your life.

[09:35] Talk About the Impact on You

Don’t talk about the fact that being a chef requires organizational skills and it relies on you being able to handle the pressure and stress and remaining calm during these stressful times. Especially during the rush hour when all of the patrons come in for dinner.

And then you tell them that you understand that because of your ability to remain calm in this stressful situation. And so you know you’re prepared for medicine. Because as a physician, you’re going to need to remain calm. But that’s how students poorly write an application. And it happens every day. Don’t do that.

Talk about you. Talk about your story and what was impactful for you.

A lot of nontraditional students are trying to fit all of their life experiences into the application. Or they avoid writing about parts of their story and their experiences because they don’t think it’s related to medicine. And that is the wrong way to think about it.

“Don't make it impactful for your application. You make it impactful for you and your journey.”Click To Tweet


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