From Low Stats and Chronic Pain to Medical School Success

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Session 343

Mila is a premed turned nurse and back to premed. Today, she talks about her journey to medical school, battling with migraines, her personal health issue, and much more! After seven long years, she finally got into medical school.

Meanwhile, please don’t forget to check out all our other podcasts on Meded Media as you go through your own journey to medical school.

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

[01:10] Interest in Medicine

At a young age, Mila shadowed her aunt who’s a cardiologist in Ukraine. She had some heart problems as well. Then her family moved to the U.S. when she was 15 years old. When she graduated from high school, she took International Relations as her major.

Realizing politics wasn’t for her, she went back to her love of helping people. From there, she considered becoming a doctor, resonating with what her aunt was doing.

She then switched her major to nursing. Coming to the U.S., she worked throughout high school and college. She felt that by taking nursing, this would give her more exposure to the healthcare field. She thought this would help her decide what she really wanted to do. She also thought this would allow her to work right away.

In Ukraine, students can go to medical school right away after high school. So it’s obviously different here in the U.S. She thought nursing was a great choice for her. Knowing the path was going to be long and hard, she considered nursing as a plan B in some way.

[04:40] Her Nursing to Premed Journey

When she realized she needed to switch majors, she ended up in undergrad for 5 years. She didn’t go to any counselor.

'I didn't know who to go for advice to so I reserved it to just researching online.'Click To Tweet

After graduation in 2007, she started working and went through a 6-month ICU orientation. But it wasn’t until 2012 that she began her premed journey since she had some health issues on the way that prompted the need for surgery.

While working in the ICU, she felt a bit overwhelmed with so much learning to do that she had to wait. After a year into the ICU experience, she felt she was ready for premed. But she got diagnosed with Schwannoma. She underwent cervical surgery and she ended up with a lot of pains. This pushed her journey back to a few years.

She was in so much pain that she didn’t know how to start school or even think about medical school.

She worked with a neurologist to help her figure out a pain management plan. At the same time, she thought she just had to live with the pain throughout her life. Basically, she suffered from migraines for three years through premed. Eventually, the migraine got cured through following a vegan diet.

'I don't think there will ever be a right time to start the whole premed journey. You just have to start it.'Click To Tweet

Even while struggling with her migraine episodes, Mila still wanted to become a doctor. She did consider going down the nurse practitioner route. But after working in the ICU with physicians and nurse practitioners, she just knew medicine was for her.

With her friends pushing her into being a nurse practitioner, this only pushed her interest further away. Nursing wasn’t for her.

[Related episode: ICU Nurse Turned Medical Student Shares Her Journey.]

[11:30] Taking the MCAT Twice

Mila took the MCAT in 2014, 2015, and 2018. The first time she took it, she was struggling with it as she was still dealing with her migraines. This made studying so challenging for her. She even recalls having migraine while doing the actual test.

The second time she took it, there was only a slight improvement. This became an eye opener for her, which pushed her to really get her health together. She had to fix herself first before she can apply to medical school. Her actually neurologist recommended she changed her diet.

Mila’s experience in the ICU helped her balance her life outside of work. She was able to take on multiple things.

She also joined the Premed Hangout Group on Facebook. She signed up but didn’t really use it as much as she didn’t have much time. Eventually, she realized the group was very helpful. More importantly, she got true support from her husband going through all this.

'I almost seemed like a betrayal to them that I'm going to medicine. Some were supportive, some were less supportive.'Click To Tweet

Mila admits getting through moments of depression, feeling like her journey would never be over. It seemed like everyday was the same thing over and over again. She didn’t feel like she was going anywhere.

Still not getting the MCAT score she wanted, she was able to figure out what had gone wrong. She didn’t take 1-2 days off from studying. This made her even more anxious. She also felt she wasn’t ready to take the old MCAT at that time. Plus, getting a low score back only made things worse for her.

'Take your MCAT when you're ready. If you have to take a year off, whatever time it is, prepare. Take it once.'Click To Tweet

Mila didn’t sleep the night before the exam. She basically did everything she could to help her sleep but to no avail. Her anxiety was caused by the fact that she didn’t do well on the other two exams. Plus, she already sent out an application to one of the schools.

[18:30] Nursing to Premed to Master’s

In nursing, they study about diseases and pathology and anatomy. She didn’t have to take biochemistry. When she went through the premed classes, things were different.

Although she has always loved the sciences, she just had to remind herself everyday that one day it will pay off.

Additionally, most of her premed tuition got paid for by the hospital so this helped her a lot. So transitioning from nursing to premed was not as difficult.

While doing a full-time Master’s program in biomedical sciences, she also began sending out applications. The school where she was doing her Master’s is an osteopathic school and she was hoping they’d just overlook her MCAT score.

In total, she sent out around 20 applications. She was settled on retaking the MCAT but with all the course load plus the secondaries she had to do, she got so overwhelmed. There wasn’t enough time for her to study for the MCAT. But she didn’t want to take the MCAT to have her score improved by one or two points. So she ended up not taking it and canceled it (and she got an interview at that time anyway).

Mila started her Master’s ten years after graduating from her bachelor’s. Her combined GPA was at 3.5 while her science GPA was 3.25.

While studying and working full-time, she didn’t do well in a couple of classes so she decided to take up a Master’s and applied to medical schools with her old MCAT school.

But the admissions director of the school telling her that she wasn’t going to get into any medical school with her MCAT score and GPA only pushed her more to do better. At that point, she doubted herself even more.

'The admissions director for the school actually told me that I will never get into medical school with my MCAT score and my GPA.'Click To Tweet

[25:10] The Interview Process and Acceptance

When she got the news that she was getting an interview, she was just ecstatic. She even had to make sure her name was right as she never really thought she’d be given an interview.

In preparing for the interview, Mila read The Premed Handbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview, which she read from front to back.

She also researched the school and looked at their list of interview questions. That being said, she was still very nervous.

Interview day came and she felt the school had a relaxing environment. She was also able to establish relationships before her interview so this put her at ease a bit.

The first question she got was why she got a C in pharmacology during her nursing course. She just froze!

But she was able to explain it well. She showed them how she was able to change her study habits and how this reflected on her grades, showing an upward trend. Overall, it was a friendly conversation.

After the interview, she literally cried as she still kept on doubting herself. A week later, she got called by the dean letting her know she got in. It was the happiest day of her life!

[Related tool: Medical School Interview Question Generator.]

[34:15] Transitioning to Medical School

Her nursing colleagues were happy for her. Although she felt there were some of them who felt betrayed by her for going down the medicine route.

Regardless, Mila is so excited for her journey. She knows it’s going to be definitely hard. But she understands that and she knows what things she needs to prioritize. She also knows self-care is just as important so she doesn’t get burned out.

Mila recommends to other premeds out there that if she got in, then you can also get in. If this is what you truly want, then go for it. It doesn’t matter what grades or MCAT score you have, everything can be improved. It’s what’s in your heart that really matters.

Mila also points out that surrounding yourself with people who truly support you is very important. She recommends joining the Premed Hangout Group so you too can get inspired but other people’s stories.

'Don't listen to anyone's opinions. Whatever is in your heart is the only thing that matters.'Click To Tweet

Lastly, do not put a timeline on where you’re supposed to be in medical school. Just take things one day at a time. Again, self-care is important. Don’t just focus 100% on school. Have a life. Have a healthy life. Eventually, it will all work out. Just give life a chance to take you there.


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The Premed Handbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview