From Pharmaceutical Sales Rep to Physician

Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts

OPM 288: From Pharmaceutical Sales Rep to Physician

Session 288

This student wants to know if their experience as a pharmaceutical sales rep will help or hurt their chances of getting into medical school.

Questions answered here on the podcast are taken directly from the Nontrad Premed Forum over at Please go ahead and register for an account, ask your question, and have fun with the community.

Sign up for Application Academy, which is now open for the 2020 to 2023 application cycle. There are great changes in store so reserve your spots now!  Also, please be sure to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as we try to bring you as many resources as you need on this journey.

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

[00:54] The MCAT Minute

The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.

Should you squeeze in that final MCAT retake in September? Or do you push it back to January? Ultimately, the question comes down to you. Are you ready to retake the MCAT? Or are you just trying to squeeze it in for the application cycle?

'Never rush the MCAT. Good things never happen when you rush the MCAT.'Click To Tweet

If you need to retake the MCAT and you’re struggling between squeezing it in September or taking it in January or later, just delay. Otherwise, all you’re doing is showing medical schools that you don’t have good judgment because you just kept on rushing and failing again and again. So don’t do the same thing. Don’t rush it. Push it back. Delay.

[02:16] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I am 27 years old and have worked as a pharmaceuticals sales rep for the last three years. I call on ophthalmologists and spend every day interacting with physicians – either in their office or surgery center. I thought this would be beneficial to my application but have come across some opinions as of late that disagree. Will my career be seen positively or negatively?

Can I use the hours on the job spent shadowing physicians in the clinic or in surgery as shadowing hours? Should I get experience shadowing physicians from different specialties?”

[03:05] Don’t Stand Out

'There is no moral judgment on anything that you do in your application. The thing that you do does not make your application good or bad.'Click To Tweet

A lot of students shy away from doing something they love to do because they’re afraid it’s going to hurt their application. They want to stand out.

Unfortunately, with thousands upon thousands of students applying to medical school, there’s nothing that you’re going to do to stand out. 

It’s not what you do that makes an application or that activity, good or bad. It’s how you reflect on it, how you write about it, what you learned from it, and how it impacted you that makes all the difference.

[04:40] Show Impact

The point of the application is to show the medical schools the impact that these activities have had on you. A common mistake students make is doing activities thinking it’s what’s going to make them good physicians.

But the point of the application is to show the impact they had on you as a person, not how they’re preparing you as a physician. The admissions committees can see who you are, not what they want you to be. 

“Show them who you are, not who you think they want you to be.”Click To Tweet

So make sure you’re not looking at all of your activities as to whether they’re going to hurt you or what’s going to help you. The goal is to be able to reflect on it. What was the impact on you and how did you impact it?

[06:38] No Judgment on the Title

Those people who are adding judgment to the title mean nothing. There are plenty of opinions out there and that doesn’t mean anything.

“Everyone loves to have an opinion. Unfortunately, a lot of people's opinions love to be negative. And so, you have to ignore them. They don't mean anything.” Click To Tweet

So as you are working on your application and writing your experience descriptions for this activity for this job, talk about the impact.

There may be reviewers that look down upon your title but you can’t predict what is going to happen. You can’t control how other people are going to react to that title of a pharmaceutical sales rep. What you can control is how you reflect on that experience.

[08:57] Writing Shadowing Hours

In terms of using the hours on the job spent shadowing physicians as shadowing hours, you certainly can.

For instance, you worked 100 hours as a pharmaceutical sales rep and 10 hours were spent shadowing. In your application, put shadowing 10 hours as one activity. And then in another activity, put 90 hours for pharmaceutical sales. That’s a very easy way to split an activity into two categories without double-dipping the hours.

'Don't double-dip those hours.' Click To Tweet

It’s a very common thing for students who are clinical research coordinators as well to split those hours so this is definitely something you can do.

[09:56] Shadowing Other Specialties

Whether you should shadow other specialties is up to you and your timeline. If you have time, great. Finding physicians to shadow is hard. During COVID, it’s even harder. And so if you can’t, don’t worry about it. It’s not a requirement.

Shadowing is a good thing that some medical schools will like to see that you’re out there shadowing other specialties.


Meded Media

Nontrad Premed Forum

Application Academy

Blueprint MCAT

The Premed Playbook series