Q&A From the Premed Hangout Facebook Group

Session 276

Today, we’re talking MD vs PA, DO shadowing, physician letters of recommendation and other questions premed students have asked in the Hangout!

The Hangout is our private Facebook group for amazing premed students like yourself. With almost 4500 students currently, the group fosters a collaborative environment. If you’re used to online communities of premed students packed with fighting and narcism that you don’t want to be around, then the Hangout is the place for you. Join the group, ask questions, and we will get you approved as soon as possible.

[02:35] Some Amazing Books to Help You on This Journey!

If you are struggling or thinking about preparing for you medical school interview and struggling with how to prepare for it, check out my book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview. It’s available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever you buy your books.

Also, make sure you pre-order my next book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement. Its paperback version is coming out in August and the eBook will be out before then.

Just to also give you a bit of a teaser, I’ve been working on the next book for 2019, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Application which will cover all about the application process.

Now, let’s move on to some questions posted on the Hangout that I want answered here on the show today.

[04:18] Taking Credits at a Community College

Q: “I’m a non-trad premed looking at summer classes. I did my first year of credits at a community college but I’m now at a four-year college. Would it be okay for me to take those summer classes, Physics 1 and 2 at community college? I will still return to my four-year college in the Fall. But the summer classes at the community college would fit into my life schedule better.”

A: This is a super common question for students. They worry too much about “too much” minutia, all the little details. Stop worrying about all the small details. They will not keep you out of medical school. Rather what will keep you out of medical school is having a poor GPA, poor MCAT score, applying late to medical school, applying to the wrong medical schools, poor extracurriculars, not having the right extracurriculars. Those are the big picture items that you need to make sure you handle when it comes to applying to medical school. Then all those other questions beyond these are minutiae that you shouldn’t be focusing on

So yes, you can take classes during the summer at community college. Understand that there may be some medical schools that may question that. They may never ask that question during the interview. They may wonder why. But a lot of students actually do this. They go to their university during Fall and Spring. And then for summer and winter break, they will take something at home. And a lot of times, they go to a community college.

[06:58] Will It Hurt Your Chances to Get Into Medical School?

Most likely, this will not hurt your chances in getting into medical schools. There will be 3-4 schools that will prefer all premed prereqs be taken at a four-year university.

Yes, you can do all your prereqs at a community college. This may pose a bigger red flag to some schools. But yes, you can. In everything you do, do well. Whether that be taking classes at a community college or a four-year university, however you’re studying for the MCAT, whatever it is, do it to the best of your ability. Again, stop worrying about these small details.

[08:08] Shadowing a DO Physician

Q: “I’ve never shadowed a DO physician before, but I will be applying to several DO schools this cycle. Will I be at a significant disadvantage?”

A: This is another common question for students applying to DO medical schools. The CIB (College Information Book), which is the DO equivalent of the MSAR (Medical School Application Requirements), will tell you some application requirements for DO medical schools.

A lot of the osteopathic medical schools want you to shadow a DO physician and on the CIB, they would, for instance, state that they strongly recommend that you shadow a DO.

While you don’t need to shadow a DO to apply to DO schools, you probably should. I talked to a student before here on this podcast, where she applied to DO schools. She was given a conditional interview that stated that she can only interview at their school provided she shadowed a DO prior to coming to medical school to make sure this is what she wanted to do.

[10:10] DO vs. MD

Being a DO and MD are very, very similar. But osteopathic/DO medical schools often have an inferiority complex They want to make sure that you understand what an osteopath does. Even though at the end of the day, an osteopathic physician is a physician. And there are a lot of osteopathic physicians out there who don’t practice OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment). So if you go to find a DO to shadow and they don’t practice OMT, then you’re practically just shadowing an “MD.” A lot of students will ask themselves this.

I don’t believe in the DO holistic philosophy as they sell it. I think that to be a good physician, MD or DO, you need to to treat patients holistically. That’s not a monopoly that DO physicians have. They may have some secret sauce in their curriculum that helps students do that. But at the end of the day, treating patients holistically is something that good physicians do whether you’re an MD or a DO.

Back to the question, would you be at a significant disadvantage if you don’t shadow a Do before applying to DO schools? Yes. But there are students who get accepted to DO schools without shadowing a DO. But a lot of the DO schools want you to shadow a DO. A lot of them want a letter of recommendation from a DO. So don’t limit yourself by not shadowing a DO.

[12:50] How to Find a DO to Shadow

Google the state osteopathic medical society in the state you’re in. Contact them and tell them you’re a premed student. Tell them you’re interested in shadowing a DO and ask if they can put you in touch with one. Google around and ask. Ask your friends and family members. Call hospitals.

[13:50] At a Crossroads: PA School vs. Medical School

Q: “I’m currently at a crossroads. Do I want to go to PA school or do I want to go to medical school? I have all premed prereqs done but I haven’t taken the MCAT. I have taken the GRE but don’t have all PA prereqs done depending on the school. Something unique about my situation is that I’m actually married to a physician in residency. The prospect of adding toward debt and my not contributing to the family income for four years is quire daunting. I just have so much regret that I let a false friend sway me from applying to medical school while I was in college. I feel like I wouldn’t be that stellar of a candidate for either path just because it has gotten so hard to gain entrance to either type of school. I have a B.S. in Biophysics with a 3.73 GPA and an MPH 3.51 GPA. I don’t have a ton of volunteering hours in the last few years. Also currently, I am underemployed as a tech at a hospital and a substitute teacher since we are only in our current city for one year for my husband’s intern year. And there were no job openings in my field. Has anyone been in a similar situation? What has been your thought process?

A: After four years, you’re either going to be a physician in residency or internship or you’re going to be a practicing PA. Now, sit down. Close your eyes. Picture what your life looks like. Which one feels right?

You have to ignore the debt as it’s going to be there as a physician. And the debts will go away as a physician. It could take five years to get rid of medical school student loans. If you plan appropriately and don’t overspend, you can pay off your loans very quickly as a physician. You cannot be concerned about the debt. This is actually a big point of contention I have with how expensive it is to go to medical school.

A lot of underrepresented minorities are thinking about debt and not going to medical school because of that. However, you should not worry about the debt. It will be there but it can be easily handled as a physician. It does add an extra layer of stress in your life, just like mortgage and car payments.

If you want to be a physician, be a physician. Don’t be a PA just because you don’t want to not contribute to the family for four years. Or just because you don’t want to add to the debt burden of your family.

[18:10] Letters of Recommendation

Q: “Is having a letter of recommendation from a physician we shadowed an important thing for medical school apps. I’ve seen some schools that ask for it and some that don’t.”

A: A lot of DO schools want letters of recommendation from DO physicians. While a lot of the MD medical schools don’t specifically mention letters of recommendations from physicians.

I talked with a Dean of the Admissions Committee one time and he thought letters of recommendation are basically pretty useless. Who isn’t going to write a letter of recommendation that isn’t positive? You’re actually hard-pressed to go find somebody that’s going to out of their way to write you a bad letter of recommendation. So the majority of letters out there are going to be positive.

All this being said, students worry too much about letters of recommendation. Go and get what’s required. Start thinking about the schools you’re planning on applying to. Then look at what they require.

The general rule of thumb: Have a couple of science professors. Have a non-science professor. Have a physician (have a DO if you’re applying to DO schools). Research PI is not that important. But if your PI was a science professor who taught you, then that’s a good letter. But outside of that, the research letter won’t really matter unless you’re applying to MD/PhD programs or DO/PhD programs. So it’s not a big deal.

In a nutshell, get a letter of recommendation from a physician just to have it. So if the school requires it, you have it. It’s probably not a big deal if you don’t have one unless the medical school you’re applying to, requires it.

[21:05] When to Start Studying for the MCAT

Q: “I’m a current undergrad sophomore, when is a good time to start studying for the MCAT? I was thinking of starting this summer. The only premed prereqs that I have left to take are Biochemistry and Physics. Also, has anyone taken prep classes? Were they helpful?”

A: Although it’s not required, a prep class with will help you. And based on the data I saw, about half of the students who apply to medical school have taken a formal prep course from Kaplan, Princeton Review, Next Step Test Prep, etc. While half of the students are doing okay without it. The best thing you can do is to listen to The MCAT Podcast.

Additionally, one of the best ways to prepare for the MCAT is by forming a study group. Find those students around you. If you already have the date for the MCAT, search for MCAT Study Group on Facebook. Find the date you’re taking it. Find the study group date that you’re taking the MCAT. And you’ll find a group of students there who are taking the MCAT the same day as you. So you guys can help each other.

The best time to start studying for it? The summer of your sophomore year is probably too soon. It really only takes three or four good months of studying for the MCAT to be prepared for it. You can start earlier. Buy the books and go through the outline. Go to the AAMC. Buy their materials. Get that and look at the outline as well as the topics it covers. And as you’re going through your classes now that you now what’s probably on the MCAT, then you can look into them a little bit more.

But if you still have a lot of prereqs, it might be harder to actually start doing questions and full-lengths and reading all the content as you’re still trying to learn materials. But you can follow along while you’re doing your classes and use the MCAT material as supplemental information.

Again, get a good three to four months depending on your other time requirements. What else is taking up your time can play a factor in how much time you have to study. Work that all in. Try to take the MCAT by March or April of the year you’re planning to apply, which is the year before you’re planning on starting medical school. Taking it at this time gives you time to get your score back and figure out what to do next. It gives you time to not worry about studying for the MCAT so you can focus on your primary applications, secondaries, interview prep, etc.

[25:30] About Next Step Test Prep

If you’re looking for full-length practice exams for your MCAT prep, the Next Step Test Prep is where you want to look. I regularly get feedback from students that the full-lengths from Next Step are, hands-down, the most accurate outside of the AAMC full-length exams. Use the promo code MSHQ and save 10% off of any of their full-length practice tests or on anything they have to offer.

Links:

Join the Premed Hangout

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

CIB (College Information Book)

MSAR (Medical School Application Requirements)

The MCAT Podcast

MCAT Study Group on Facebook

AAMC Study Materials for the MCAT

Next Step Test Prep

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