Professor to Premed, How Identifying as LGBT Affected Apps

Session 298

Sarah is starting med school this fall and is excited to begin. Listen to her story and how identifying as LGBT affected her med school applications.

I helped Sarah with her applications. She took a nontraditional journey to get to medicine. As a college premed, she found another passion and then came back to premed. Ultimately, she’s now starting medical school.

If you need any help in your medical school application, maybe we can help. Find out all the services we offer and let us be a part of your journey to medical school. Also, don’t forget to check out all our other podcasts on MedEd Media Network.

[01:30] Interest in Becoming a Physician

Sarah describes it as a long and winding road. Her mom passed away from breast cancer when Sarah was 7. At 11, her dad remarried a surgeon. So she was around medicine at a very early age.

Going to college, she was premed and shadowed her stepmom in high school and thought it was actually cool. On the other hand, her brother was accepted to medical school when he was a senior in high school. That said, she had a lot of medical influence from her family.

When she was in college, she started tutoring and discovered she loved teaching. So she decided to be a teacher than a doctor. Hence, she began to pursue a career in education. She then got her Master’s and taught for three years. After which, she felt not as satisfied and started thinking again about going back to medical school.

Although the school got rid of this now, but part of the early acceptance program (which his brother got) was to initially give premeds more flexibility. This means no need for MCAT or they didn’t have to major in science and take all the prereqs. Apparently, they could take whatever they wanted.

[05:40] Her Love of Tutoring and The Premed Culture

Sarah admits to really like tutoring and she actually got into it by accident since she needed a job. She saw an ad and applied for it. In the sense of seeking opportunities in the premed field, she wasn’t very active.

Sarah actually lived with a bunch of premeds in the dorm during her first year which she found to be very interesting. But she didn’t really pursue going to the hospital and shadowing. Why? Because she thought she already knew everything about it having doctors in her family. But she thinks this is wrong. But at 19, it wasn’t that surprising for her to think such.

Additionally, she really didn’t think she connected well with the premeds she lived with on that floor. So she didn’t feel like they were her people and this pushed her away from it. In hindsight, she realizes she may have found premeds that were her people.

By “not her people,” Sarah describes it as it felt like everybody was out there trying to prove themselves and that they were more interested in medicine than you were. Also, she was curious about other things and to explore other parts of life, something those other premeds didn’t have so she saw their personalities diverging.

[09:00] The Life of a Physician’s Child

Interestingly, most people think that just because you’re a child of a physician that you want to do that as well. For Sarah, she describes that having physicians in her family both helped her and also kind of discouraged her to do medicine. As you can really see from a close perspective of how much work it can be and how challenging of a career it can be.

So this has given her a lot of great perspective. But in as far as going through college, this pushed her away a little bit.

While she was tutoring, she was pretty committed to working in higher education. In fact, she did put medicine off the table completely. But the rest of her family didn’t, encouraging her to take medicine every now and then. So for a while, her focus was on her higher education until she realized it’s not what she wanted to do.

[12:10] The Aha! Moment

After getting her Master’s she realized she no longer wanted to get PhD in Geology. And this has put her in a place where she wanted to move forward in her career but she wasn’t happy with where she is. However, she doesn’t want to get a PhD and move on in higher education. So she was trying to look for a career where she had everything she was looking for.

Seeing the commonalities between teaching and medicine, Sarah began to consider becoming a doctor. So she started having discussions with family members and friends. Then she also started to shadow and continued on to do volunteering and getting more involved to make sure it was something she really wanted to do.

She discovered that she loved everything she was doing that was medically related – shadowing, science, patient interaction, and impacting people. These were all important to her. She also volunteered in hospice to test if she would really like working in really hard situations with patients. She also found surgery as the coolest thing ever!

[16:15] Figuring Out the Next Steps: Call the Medical Schools

Being several years from being a “premed,” Sarah went to one four-year university and talked to their premed advisors, who were negative about her application. They said her academic coursework was so old (nobody’s going to accept it) and she was told to take a year to do some clinical or patient care experience, saying she didn’t have very much of it.

True enough, some of the courses on the MCAT she took eight to ten years ago. Anyway, she did her research. She called other universities and asked them. She got different results from the medical schools. Some said it was okay, others were a bit concerned but they said they still wouldn’t reject the application just because of that. Predictably, the ones that said they’d be concerned, she didn’t get interviews from.

Sarah was interested in these two school and so called them and tried to build a relationship with them. For her, one school worked while the other wasn’t very open to it. But she thought it was advantageous that she had not yet applied.

Another barrier she ran into is that she has been out of school for so long. She did her premed requirements back in undergrad, except for one class. But that was a while ago. Plus the fact that schools ask for two letters from professors. So she called and asked about this telling them she only had one letter and asked what else she needed to do. Again, some were open to it, others weren’t.

Sarah recommends that if you’re calling schools is that be mindful of when you are calling them. During interview season and during application season, they’re very busy. So be  more polite as to not take too much of their time.

[23:30] Picking Schools to Apply To

Sarah only applied to MD schools. She did seek a lot of advice regarding this and she found out that there certain things more fluid at MD schools such as clinical rotations.

Okay, to help you understand this better, the majority of DO schools aren’t affiliated with big, academic hospitals like the majority of MD schools are. And so it can make things a little bit more complicated for DO students.

Also, having two MDs in her family, she was told going to a DO schools i s great, although clinical experience might be significantly different. Also, they reminded her in terms of the bias in terms of the clinical specialties. So she didn’t want t put herself into a position where she would have trouble matching.

As far as geography, she wasn’t opposed to the fact that she’d be moving since she’s single anyway. She did look at midwest schools to be closer to her family. And then a few in the west, a few in the east, and a few in the south. In short, she applied broadly to a total of 20 schools.

As part of her sorting process, she read stuff like mission statements and looking at programs she felt were aligned with who she was as a nontraditional student. She also looked at places where she could do rock-climbing which she loves.

[28:11] Challenges During Medical School Application and Identifying as LGBT

For Sarah, the hardest thing was the waiting game as it could become a year-long thing and this was very stressful for her.

Moreover, Sarah identifies herself as and LGBT and this is a big part of an application. So many schools now for secondaries are asking questions about this. For her, incorporating this into her application was a very difficult decision for her. She was very worried how people would take it but she realized that identifying herself as bi and how it shaped her and her experiences has a lot of influence on what she wanted to do in medical school. She wants to be involved in LGBT groups and advocacy. And she wanted to be a physician advocate for obese populations.

So she really things being LGBT ties strongly with her career what she was looking forward to in medical school. Hence, it’s very important to her that she did include this.

When she was doing her research on schools to apply to, she did look for this and got mixed results. Most schools have this statement that they have an LGBT student group. But she thinks you don’t know what it really looks like. So it was something she didn’t want to seek out the information for. It’s funny even how one school listed that they had a group but when she asked some of students, they didn’t even know about it.

Surprisingly, Sarah said no interviewer has brought this up. She thought this was interesting. In fact the questions she got about diversity were more general questions. So it didn’t come up unless she directly brought it up.

Sarah recalls using a variety strategies. She had four interview by the way. In her first couple of interviews, she was open about it and talked about it. Some seemed to be positive while she felt the others were the opposite, saying the interviewing would cool off as they didn’t really know how to respond.

As a result of the mixed experiences she got, she became more cautious about talking about it. So she didn’t talk about it in her last interviews. So she only talked about diversity in general and how she wanted to be an advocate for underrepresented groups, without necessarily singling out one group.

[35:55] What Led to a Successful Application

Sarah explains there are so many factors going into the application. It helps to have good MCAT and GPA. It helps to work hard to fill in everything – volunteering, research, leadership. In particular, she found it very important to spend time in self-reflection thinking about who she was and how this was going to play out in her future career and how that formed her to be who she is today. By being really honest and spending a lot of time into this, really helped her a lot throughout this whole process. Sarah and I worked together on her personal statement. She actually had 15 or 16 drafts of it.

Sarah’s advice for those who are part of an underrepresented group and wondering whether they should bring it up in the application or the interview is that you have to spend a lot of time thinking about who you are and what’s important to you. Although it was scary for her to talk about it since it was really personal to her, she also felt it was something meaningful so she thought it was something she should share. Again, this all goes back to knowing yourself, do you want to do this, do you think this makes your application meaningful, and is this important for you.

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If you need any help in your medical school application, maybe we can help. Find out all the services we offer and let us be a part of your journey to medical school.

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