In this episode, Ryan tackles a concern raised by an aspiring medical student regarding how shadowing with immediate family or volunteering for a family nonprofit organization will affect your medical school application.
Your questions, answered here on the OldPreMeds Podcast. Ryan dives into the forums over at OldPreMeds.org where he pulls a question to deliver the answers right on to you.
OldPreMeds Question of the Week:
Dave is a 30-year old software engineer looking to make a switch to a career in medicine; graduating with a degree in General Studies with GPA of 3.52. He decided 18 months ago to return to school to pursue his dream of providing care and service to the community as a physician. Dave has been taking as many courses at community colleges and almost done with base prerequisite coursework. Taking the MCAT in early 2017 and applying in June 2017 for the 2018 class. Dave is struggling to find time to take all the coursework, plan his study for the MCAT, find volunteering and shadowing opportunities, and fulfill his familial obligations (with his wife and a 5-year old). How are family connections to extracurriculars viewed? He has shadowing his brother who is a practicing DO. He has also volunteered hundreds of hours for a 501-C3 nonprofit organization made up entirely of family members where they help cancer patients and survivors. Is this considered valid volunteering? Will this be an issue?
Here are the insights from Ryan:
Shadowing family members is not a problem. The problem is in getting a letter of recommendation from the physician you’re shadowing.
A strong letter of recommendation comes from the physician you’re shadowing whom you’ve built a relationship with over a prolonged period of time. Quality, not quantity.
If you can shadow one physician for a long time, build an awesome relationship with that person then they can write you a killer letter of recommendation.
A letter of recommendation from your brother probably will not be looked favorably upon because you just can’t trust a letter of recommendation from a family member. It’s perfectly fine to shadow a brother but if you really want a strong letter of recommendation from a physician, have your brother help you find somebody else to shadow. Your connection with your brother is still very helpful because he can help you find someone else to shadow.
If you’re volunteering with a nonprofit, it doesn’t matter who else is volunteering or working there. The key thing here is the experiences that you talked about with interacting with cancer patients and survivors are what’s going to be so powerful as you write about them on your application. Your experiences will be huge here regardless of family ties.
Major takeaway from this episode:
Find a physician to shadow who can make a strong letter of recommendation for you while volunteering for a nonprofit organization makes a great experience for you regardless of who else is working or volunteering for that organization.
Links and Other Resources:
The Premed Years Podcast Session 195 features Cram Fighter, a software to help you plan your studies for the MCAT and create a custom schedule for you.
Dr. Ryan Gray: The Old Premeds Podcast, session number 39.
You’re a nontraditional student entering the medical field on your terms. You may have had some hiccups along the way, but now you’re now ready to change course and go back and serve others as a physician. This podcast is here to help answer your questions and help educate you on your nontraditional journey to becoming a physician.
If you’re not familiar with us here at the Old Premeds Podcast, go to www.OldPremeds.org and learn all about what we do to help you, the nontraditional student, get into medical school. If you haven’t signed up for an account over at the forums where we take questions and answer them here on the podcast, I highly recommend you do that as well.
Family Ties During the Application Process
This week’s question, again pulled directly from the forums, comes from Dave who’s a 30 year old software engineer looking to make the switch to a career in medicine. He talks about graduating with a degree in general studies, I didn’t even know they had that, general studies, with a GPA of 3.52. He decided about eighteen months ago to return to school and ‘do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is provide care and service to the community as a physician. Since then I’ve been taking as many courses as my schedule will allow at community colleges and am almost done with my base prerequisite coursework.’
He goes on to talking about taking the MCAT in early 2017 and applying in June of 2017 to be part of the 2018 class. He talks about ‘struggling to find time to take all the coursework, plan my study for the MCAT, find volunteering and shadowing opportunities, and fulfill my familial obligations.’ He has a wife and a five year old. His primary question is regarding how family connections to extracurriculars are viewed, which is interesting. He says his brother is a practicing DO, so it’s fairly easy to get meaningful shadowing experience from him, and his brother also allows him to interact with patients, but he worries how that will appear on the application.
Along the same lines, his sister passed away from colon cancer in 2008 and his family started a 501c3 nonprofit geared toward helping young adults diagnosed with cancer. He has volunteered hundreds of hours for this organization which is made up entirely of family members. He’s had some amazing experience with cancer patients and survivors through the years but worries how admissions committees will see how the attachment to family- is worried how that will be considered and if it’s considered valid volunteering or not. And his biggest question, ‘Do you believe that this will be an issue for me?’
So here’s a couple things to think about. Shadowing family members is not a problem. Where the problem comes in is getting a letter of recommendation from the physicians that you’re shadowing. A strong letter of recommendation from a physician that you’re shadowing, who you’ve built a relationship with over a prolonged period of time, which is why we always talk about quality and not quantity. If you can shadow one physician for a long time, build an awesome relationship with that person, they can write you a killer letter of recommendation. But one from your brother probably will not be looked favorably upon because you just can’t trust a letter of recommendation from a family member.
So I think it’s perfectly fine to shadow your brother, but if you are wanting a strong letter of recommendation from a physician, have your brother help you find somebody else to shadow. Having that connection there with your brother is still super helpful because he can help you find someone else to shadow.
Now the second question here about a 501c3 nonprofit. If you’re volunteering for the nonprofit, it doesn’t matter who else is volunteering and working with the nonprofit.
If you’re a volunteer and not listed as an employee, or a board member, or whatever of the nonprofit, then I think it’s perfectly fine. Even if you are labeled as a board member, it’s a nonprofit organization and the experiences- and that’s the key thing here. The experiences that you talked about with interacting with cancer patients and survivors, that is what’s going to be so powerful as you write about them on your application. It doesn’t matter that your family started this nonprofit, it doesn’t matter that they’re the only ones that run the nonprofit. You’re talking about the experiences of the nonprofit, and I think that will be huge. Don’t worry about the family ties because the experiences and how that’s impacted you, and how you have helped impact all of the other patients is huge. So keep doing what you’re doing, go find another physician to shadow if you need a strong letter of recommendation from a physician.
To help you plan your studies for the MCAT, go check out Cram Fighter over at www.CramFighter.com. We talked about them over on The Premed Years Podcast in session number 195 which you can hear at www.MedicalSchoolHQ.net/195. Cram Fighter is an awesome software that you use to create a custom schedule for you, and only for you, based on all of the services- or all of the books and services that you’re using. You tell Cram Fighter what you’re using, plug it into their system, and they’ll spit out a custom schedule just for you. Again that’s www.CramFighter.com.
Alright Dave, I hope that helped answer some of your questions and I wish you the best of luck on your journey. And to everyone else that’s listening, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen every week here at the Old Premeds Podcast. I want to take a second and thank one person that has left us an awesome rating and review from rely8DC that says, ‘My new addiction. I am so addicted to all these podcasts but I wish they were longer. Best podcasts out there for premed students.’
I’m sorry that these are too short for you. Go check out The Premed Years Podcast, it’s going to be a longer one. These podcasts here are short form but they are hopefully filled with awesome information for you on your journey. So if you would like to leave us a rating and review you can do that at
www.OPMPodcast.com/iTunes. Again that’s www.OPMPodcast.com/iTunes and I hope you join us next week here at the Medical School Headquarters and the Old Premeds Podcast.