Wrestling and Bodybuilding on the Bumpy Road to Medicine

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PMY 369: Wrestling and Bodybuilding on the Bumpy Road to Medicine

Session 369

Today’s guest, Kevin started in community college and overcame academic obstacles. His background in wrestling and bodybuilding helped guide and motivate him.

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

[01:15] Interest in Becoming a Physician

Kevin has wrestled since high school and would be cutting as much as 20 pounds in days, which wasn’t healthy at all. That said, he has always been interested in exercise physiology from his many years of wrestling. He has carried this over to college where he started competitive bodybuilding. He also started volunteering at a physical therapy clinic and liked the dynamics within the facility being involved with their rehab process.

He came to college wanting to do physical therapy. But the more he was involved at the clinic, he saw more patients with conditions that physical therapy can’t help from a well being standpoint. He saw cases such as high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and other conditions physical therapy can’t treat. From that moment, he knew he wanted to help someone from a holistic sense.

'I want to be someone that can help someone in a more holistic sense, treating their wellness rather than just their physical health.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: Why Do You Want to be a Doctor? You Need to Know This!]

[05:55] The Desire to Do More

Kevin recalls being on a social justice trip, working with medical students helping migrant farmers and giving them free health care and education. They were serving mostly the Latino community.

He realized that certain minority groups in America are more prone to diseases due to varying circumstances that are not under their control. So he saw the need for physicians to care for and provide resources to these at-risk minority groups. This lit the fire in his heart to be an advocate for immigrants and minority groups. 

'There's a need for physicians to care for and provide information or resources to these at-risk minority groups.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: How This Doctor Encourages and Mentors Minority Students]

[08:30] The Impact of His Family’s Journey on His Journey to Medical School

In the spring semester of his first year of college in Michigan, he was studying for his finals. He got a call from his parents and learned they lost everything due to bankruptcy. After talking with the financial aid office at his school he went to, he learned he wouldn’t be able to attend there anymore due to inefficient funds.

He was obviously worried about his future and had to make quick decisions on what to do moving forward. He made the decision to move to a community college in California. He knew there was going to be a setback and not be able to graduate at the same time his classmates would.

He also lost his network in Michigan in terms of his professors and physicians as he was moving to a new state. So he knew he had to reestablish himself and build a new network.

'I had to learn how to adapt to change.'Click To Tweet

Eventually, he got to move in with an extended family so he didn’t have to worry about his room and board. This allowed him to focus on school. But he still had to work two jobs.

[Related episode: Securing Your Financial Future as Premed and Medical Student]

[13:40] Overcoming the Fears

There wasn’t any doubt that he was getting into medical school. His biggest concern at that time was the delay. He felt embarrassed. He was aware of the stigma around community college students not getting quality education like university students do. Those were all psychological stuff.

Kevin had great work ethics and he was able to translate all the skills and lessons he learned from wrestling to how he deals with the challenges in life. These are skills that can’t be necessarily developed in the classroom and which you can take wherever you go.

[Related episode: When Is It Too Late to Apply to Medical School? (MD vs DO)]

[16:25] Rebuilding the Network

When Kevin moved to San Diego, he saw there were a lot of opportunities to learn. Not having a friend or anyone in his family who was a physician or in health care, he knew he had to meet people in the right field in order to progress.

When he was at community college, he was doing research at another university. This got him to attend a research conference and volunteer at different hospitals. He was working with some medical students.

For Kevin, location is a big thing in terms of getting resources. He knew he had to network and build a network so he can explore medicine more. He made phone calls to hospitals and sent emails. Out of, say, 15-20 physicians that he emailed and called, only 1-2 replied.

'It definitely is a number game especially when you're trying to find physicians to shadow.'Click To Tweet

He also went to this conference at a science fair where he got to meet one of the scientists that did research in muscle atrophy. Kevin recommends going out there and attending conferences around your area. They’re widely available when you’re in a big city. Just be ready to talk about your research of interest.

Kevin additionally got involved with AMSA that had connections with other universities. There he was also able to grow his network.

[20:23] Transition from University to Community College and Another University

Kevin found that the academic rigor at the community college in San Diego was a lot greater than the university he attended. Then the rigor was even greater as he went from community college to university.

'Throughout my undergrad experience, my learning style and how I studied changed drastically.'Click To Tweet

Kevin had to tailor his learning style accordingly. He needed to be more efficient with his time and get involved more. He had to absorb information better or utilize resources better. Networking was another thing he had to do transferring to different schools, which got easier as he did it more.

Going into the university, he took on a greater role in research and did more extracurriculars. At the community college, he was doing competitive bodybuilding. He was still competing as he transferred to a university. But given the time constraints, he had to cut back on it.

[Related episode: How to Go From Community College to Medical School]

[25:00] Taking the MCAT

Kevin struggled with the MCAT. Being part of a premed fraternity, he was getting too much advice which he thought was his biggest mistake. People have different learning styles so you have to realize that. 

'My biggest mistake was taking too much advice.'Click To Tweet

For instance, one of his friends advised him to take a Princeton course which he did. It was a very expensive course. He didn’t do so well because he learned he wasn’t a good lecture learner. 

Consequently, he didn’t do well on the MCAT the first time. He spent the entire summer 2017 studying for it because he was shooting to apply in 2018. At that time, he was still doing research and taking classes. He was doing too much that it backfired.

He studied for the MCAT the following January of 2018 but he didn’t feel ready so he pushed back. He decided to take it in the following summer and studied at his own pace. He took notes and didn’t do any course.

He didn’t progress as well as he wanted to. It was at that time that he doubted his ability to do it. Each week he was doing the practice test, he didn’t see his scores improving. It just crushed him.

In summer 2018, his test was scheduled for September. He remembers taking a practice test in August and was just having too much anxiety. He didn’t even finish it. It was the lowest point of his premed career. He was questioning the ability to do well on the test.

His major advice to premed students is to have a great community. After reaching out to his friends and getting encouragement from them, he ultimately set the goal to go for it the following Fall of 2018. During that time too, he was starting on a Master’s program with the goal to apply in 2019.

Kevin also knows that he’s not good at studying at night. He doesn’t like drinking coffee. He doesn’t like to push himself. So he built this habit of getting up at 2-3 am and studying at their library on campus where they had 24-hour access. Then at 8 am, he’d do his master’s classes and his research.

[Related episode: 3 Biggest Mistakes When Preparing for the MCAT]

[31:15] Taking a Master’s Program

During community college, he did research but he didn’t have the experience to contribute to a research project where he was producing novel data. He wanted a true research experience. He had this hypothesis that he wanted to test out.

He didn’t do the Master’s because he thought he had to do it to get into medical school. But he really just wanted to do it.

One of the reasons he wanted to be a physician was to be the trifecta – treat patients, teach at a university in medical school, and do research. Being a physician is so multi-faceted that you can do all three. Additionally, Kevin saw it as a way to improve his GPA. It was average but after doing his Master’s it went above average.

That being said, doing a Master’s is expensive. And just to make it clear, you do not need a master’s degree to get research and be published to get into medical school. But this is Kevin’s journey.

[Related episode: Finding a Masters Program Postbac to Fix Early Mistakes]

[33:33] The Application Process

Kevin wrote 25 drafts for the personal statement. He thought the first five was so generic. He initially thought there was nothing unique about him. People advised him to show his experiences and what makes him unique.

'Your story matters.'Click To Tweet

After the process, he began to realize his story does matter. Coming from a family of refugees, it’s what led him to have a unique education. It did matter that he did competitive bodybuilding because it’s what led him to medicine. It mattered that he did wrestling because he learned the importance of resilienc

Basically, a lot of the things Kevin thought didn’t matter because it wasn’t research or any hospital volunteering or whatever, but it actually does matter.

That being said, don’t sell yourself too much. For instance, don’t tell on your personal statement that you learned resiliency, show how you gained resiliency.

'Show, not tell.'Click To Tweet

[Related episode: 4 Things You Need to Do Now to Prepare For Your Applications]

[37:38] MD vs DO Applications

As of this recording, Kevin already got one MD acceptance and 5 DO acceptances so a total of six. He applied to more DO schools than MD schools.

The MD application was a lot more expensive than the DO application. The DO application takes a lot longer. In all his DO applications, they wanted him to secure his seat by December 14. While for the MD, he has until June to secure himself.

'A lot of DOs are more pushy in terms of securing your seat or they're going to give it to someone else.'Click To Tweet

The DO deposit is nonrefundable. Some schools require $1000, other schools require $3,000. It’s crazy and obviously taking advantage of students. And a lot of students are struggling with this.

[Related post: MD vs DO: What Are the Differences (and Similarities)?]

[40:32] Figuring Out Which School to Go To

Regardless of which school he goes to, Kevin just wants to be who he is and be who he wants to be. He likes how the schools have jiu-jitsu places he could go to after studying as well as gyms around. They also have research opportunities. He developed a mentorship program so he likes to still be able to fulfill his passion while becoming the doctor he wants to be.

'Wherever I go, I want to stay true to who I am. I'm becoming who I want to be.'Click To Tweet

Location is big. One of his first acceptances was on the east coast. And he feels it would be nice to stay close to family.

Kevin is leaning towards the osteopathic route. He had a great experience shadowing an osteopathic physician. A lot of his volunteer and shadowing experiences have shaped who he wants to be and what he wants to do as a physician. 

He wants to pursue preventive medicine. And he feels he can advocate for this a lot better as an osteopathic physician than studying under an allopathic school.

[Related episode: How to Choose a Medical School & Put Together a School List]

[44:30] Final Words of Wisdom

Fail early, fail forward if you have to. If medicine is what you really want to, don’t give up trying to improve your score. But if your score is not improving, try different learning styles. 

Don’t necessarily do what other people say. But stick to your own learning style and how you best learn.

For people questioning their decision to go into medicine, this decision should never be forced. If you have to force yourself to think about it or want it, then you probably don’t want it.

Kevin thinks he didn’t choose medicine but medicine chose him. He just pursued what he likes and then saw a career where he can continue to do it.

[46:45] What’s Next for Kevin

Kevin is currently on a gap year. He just finished his Master’s program and he’s done with academics until next Fall. He hopes to compete in another bodybuilding competition as well as a jiu-jitsu competition and travel.

As a physician, he wants to be an advocate for minority and at-risk groups. He also hopes to pursue an MPH and be a physician that deals with policy.

'There are a lot of people making decisions on people's health that don't have experience in healthcare or caring for others.'Click To Tweet


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