When Becoming a Physician Is Illogical or Impractical

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PMY 420: 420: When Becoming a Physician Is Illogical or Impractical

Session 420

As a nontraditional applicant and a first-generation student from a disadvantaged background, becoming a physician wasn’t the logical choice for Hailey because it wasn’t the practical thing to do. What made her change her mind that she now has multiple acceptances to medical schools?

Hopefully, listening to this will give you the motivation and encouragement you need to realize that maybe the practical thing isn’t the right thing.

A lot of you are out there in tough situations and you need to help support your family. But at the end of the day, you also need to take care of yourself. Doing something for yourself will ultimately most likely allow you to give back to your family in even bigger ways in the future. So then maybe today is the day to start that journey!

For more podcast resources to help you along your journey to medical school and beyond, check out Meded Media.

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

[00:21] Interest in Becoming a Physician

Hailey describes how her family has an awesome relationship with their pediatrician. She also has a younger brother who is autistic and had a lot of health problems. So how they cared for her and her family had a great impact on her. She was just dead-set on being a physician up to when she got to high school and when she was applying to college.

Hailey grew up in Section 8 housing and her family got food stamps every month. Her mom was disabled in all of Hailey’s life so the entire process of going to college was just too stressful for her. She was carrying this burden that her family’s depending on her.

Somewhere along that transition from high school to college, she just got lost because the premed culture got to her. So she decided to take the easier path which was to get a four-year degree. She just couldn’t see herself being a physician at that time. It just seemed too far away and too hard knowing her family was waiting for her.

For her, it just wasn’t the logical thing to do because she thought she needed to get out as fast as possible, get a job, and make money to support the family.

[04:40] Her Undergraduate Path

There was a one-year Master’s in the accounting program at the college that she went to. Students from any background could apply and you can pretty much go into any field, make good money with great job security. She thought of doing that so she could then work in healthcare, and be on the business side of things. Then she could help with hospital operations or finance or something like that. That way, she’ll be able to make positive contributions to healthcare.

'At that time, it seems like a compromise between being practical and where my interests were.'Click To Tweet

The entire time during undergrad, she admits she had bouts of thinking about going to medical school but she always talked herself into it. She did have conversations with her mom a few times. Not that her mom wasn’t supportive of her because she was. But she did have concerns and questions about the cost and how long it was going to take. She knew nothing and so did Hailey. She even remembers her mom telling her to have a backup plan in case it doesn’t work out.

This is such a common story for first-generation students who are coming from a more disadvantaged background. They aren’t surrounded with their neighbors and friends and family who aren’t physicians to really fear the unknown of this whole process.”

Hailey went down the practical route and did her master’s. She knew the first week of her master’s program that it wasn’t right. But she didn’t want to quit because she thought she had to be responsible and smart and so, she had to suck it up and do it. Consequently, she just pushed down the idea of medical school.

'It felt wrong from the beginning. I knew that I wasn't where my heart was, but I just kept telling myself that's too bad.'Click To Tweet

[11:33] Seeing the Signs

Hailey finished grad school in 2017 and started working in the summer of 2018. She has been working for about a year when she had started googling again and found out about a great postbac program in her city.

In the background of grad school, and her first year of working, her mom got sick as she always had a lot of health problems. Then she started to get progressively worse. They had a nurse aide coming to their house five days a week, going to all kinds of specialist appointments and stuff all the time.

She was living a crazy life trying to be there for her mom and take her to appointments and give all the support she could. 

What pushed her over the edge was when she was talking to her boss about it at work and saying how she really wanted to do this. Surprisingly to her, her colleagues weren’t even surprised that it was something she wanted to do because they could tell her work at that time wasn’t just for her. Finally, she applied to the postbac program inFall 2018, got accepted, and started in May 2019.

[13:33] The Transition from Undergrad to the Workforce to Doing the Postbac

Hailey admits feeling very out of place. There was some business stuff she didn’t know how to articulate so the transition was hard for her from undergrad to the workforce. But working to going to her postbac was a great transition. The only concern she had was on the financial side. But she knew if it didn’t work out, her job was waiting for her. 

She had also done a good bit of shadowing and volunteering before she started doing her postbac. She wanted to make sure it was really what she wanted to do before she went all-in and quit her job. Finally, she felt she was on the right path.

[16:19] Shadowing and Volunteering Experiences

She understands the difference between taking care of family and patients not related to her that’s why she started volunteering at a local hospital. She got to see a lot of different types of patients and situations. She did as much shadowing as she could considering she had no prior clinical exposure during undergrad. So she could get comfortable in those settings of taking care of people who weren’t related to her.

'Through my volunteering and networking with physicians, I had a lot of really great people help me and let me shadow.'Click To Tweet

With how much she was exposed to medicine through her family, there was nothing that actually surprised or shocked her when she did her shadowing and volunteering.

[20:15] The Application Process

Hailey remembers sitting down trying to write her medical school personal statement at that time. She listened to a lot of podcasts and read all the Premed Playbooks. She also spent a lot of time talking to her physician mentor.

She also tried to stay away from certain websites that only stressed her out. It took her 20 times to revise her personal statement and worked on it over the course of almost a year. 

'I tried to not get caught up in what I thought other people were doing, what other people's applications look like, and try to just write my story very honestly.'Click To Tweet

In writing her personal statement, Hailey used her experiences to show her passion for medicine. She felt she talked a lot about personal things on her application.

In terms of how to put her experiences on the application, she tried not to put too much from undergrad. She only included those experiences she was involved in and she wrote about her job.

She added her volunteering and shadowing experiences as well as taking care of her mom. She explained why those were so impactful for her and why those made her want to become a physician.

A lot of her activities were not clinically related at all. Some of them were things she did as part of her master’s program like a TA. That being said, it was a significant experience and something she was really passionate about and cared a lot about when she was in undergrad and grad school.

[23:47] The Interview Trail

Hailey enjoyed all of her interviews. In fact, she cried when she got her first interview invite. In one of her first interviews, the first thing said to her was that her application was so well-written. They appreciated the personal stories she shared.

She and the interviewer had a lot of similarities in their backgrounds so they just connected over that. And so, it was definitely a huge self-confidence booster for her and that she was going to be okay.

'The whole interview was just a conversation.'Click To Tweet

All in all, she just did her best to portray her most authentic self. So she was happy she didn’t have any bad interview experiences. She was, however, a little disappointed she had to do virtual interviews so she wasn’t able to see the schools in person and all those things that go along with that.

[26:02] Choosing Which Medical School to Go To

Now having multiple acceptances, Hailey’s major consideration was her proximity to her family so she wanted to stay in North Carolina and practice there. Her next concern was money so she wanted to go somewhere it made sense to her financially.

One of the schools she was accepted to had multiple positions and she had shadowed and worked there. Also part of her thought process in choosing a medical school was having that mentorship close by.

[27:50] Final Words of Wisdom

Hailey says she always thought you had to do undergrad and four years and then went to medical school directly.

But she encourages students, especially, those who are also coming from underrepresented backgrounds to just try whatever it is they’re thinking of doing. Because that will give you more life experiences and you’ll know with absolute certainty what you need to do.

'Don't be so hard on yourself and take your time.'Click To Tweet


Meded Media

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Personal Statement

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview