A Student on the Spectrum With a Medical School Acceptance

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PMY 473: A Student on the Spectrum With a Medical School Acceptance

Session 473

Rohun is an awesome student who shows that people on the autism spectrum can make it into medical school. He talks about how he was able to build up strategies to help himself integrate better into conversations, socially, and everything else, and ultimately earn himself a spot in medical school. Here’s his inspiring story.

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

[01:01] The MCAT Minute

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[03:02] Interest in Becoming a Doctor

Rohun had a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome for a very long time. It was mild enough that it went undetected for over 10 years. Then he noticed over time that he wasn’t getting along with other kids at school.

By middle school, other kids had better manners and knew how to read body language, but he didn’t know any of that. He was also stuck into the same interest that he had since kindergarten. When he got diagnosed, there was finally a name attached to his behavior, but he didn’t get too much help. 

Rohun recalls having a traumatizing experience when the psychologist he consulted with screamed at him. After that incident, he didn’t trust anyone who said they would “help” him. So he had to learn human interaction from the ground up and he made steady progress.

Over the span of about five years, Rohun mastered reading faces, telling jokes, and holding a conversation. He was at a point where if you didn’t know he had autism, you probably could have never guessed. He says he was finally maturing into his own unique personality that covered a lot of that.

Then when his mom got hospitalized, when the doctor walked into the room, his expectations were completely blown out of the water. Seeing his mom brighten up because of the doctor’s demeanor was Rohun’s seed that made him want to become a doctor.

And playing off the analogy a little more, the soil that the seed was planted in is his history with Asperger’s Syndrome. He came from a place where he didn’t believe in professional assistance after his trauma as a child, to watching this physician do his magic that made him want to be just like him.

[09:16] Overcoming the Negative Talk

For Rohun, rather than taking that as a negative thing, he challenged himself to take that as a positive thing. He adds that if you’re able to look at life a little bit differently, whether it’s by background or by mental status, it’s beneficial to whatever you want to do in life. Because you’re able to contribute an extra perspective that maybe normative-minded people might not have gotten.

'Diversity really helps a wide variety of physicians connect to an even wider variety of patients.'Click To Tweet

Rohun admits struggling during his first two years of college. He went into college without any study strategies because he did so well without any effort. And so, it came back to bite him a bit. That’s a very common struggle point transition for students. It’s either they hit that roadblock either in undergrad or in medical school.

From a clinical interaction point of view, he thinks that the jump from normal interaction to interacting with patients in a clinical setting now that he’s working as a scribe has never been that immense.

A lot of people have concerns about these interactions and about bringing it up in their applications and other places. They’re worried that their difference is going to hinder them. And it’s wonderful how Rohun sees his difference as just a difference since we’re all humans after all. That’s just the way people are because everyone is different. It’s a great way of putting that into perspective.

[18:01] Figuring Out His Study Strategies

Having no study strategies, Rohun says he stopped being complacent at the end of sophomore year. He buckled down and started trying new things again, almost as if he was trying to figure out social interaction like he was in high school. That being said, he doesn’t think Asperger’s played too much of a role in how he viewed study strategies.

Additionally, Rohun says that the hardest part of being a premed was professional development. In the first two years, he struggled with his grades. He was also struggling to find professional development opportunities. He wasn’t having any luck with research or shadowing. And so, it was a huge shock for him that developing yourself to go where you want to go is no longer limited to the tech.

[19:55] Putting Asperger’s on the Application

Interestingly, Rohun put Asperger’s disorder as an activity in his application. He says he was comfortable with writing his personal statement but he also never thought to make Asperger’s a huge part of his application.

He thought that the more he included Asperger’s, the more he’s just shooting himself in the foot. He had the fear that a lot of premeds have who are on the spectrum. He was concerned that people looked at him differently because he included it in his application.

[24:21] His Interview Experience

Rohun got one interview that turned into an acceptance. The interview was purely MMI. It boosted his confidence a lot thinking that someone saw his application and they still endorsed that. Rohun also knew that the school that gave interviews to their students would accept their students 90% of the time. And that gave him the confidence to go into the interview as well.

He decided he was going to roll with that and he wasn’t going to try being someone he’s not. So he just followed the strategies that he had arranged to parse different MMI scenarios. Once he got an idea of what he wanted to say, he would go into the rooms and he was able to talk that talk.

Rohun was a neuroscience major in his undergrad because he wanted to learn something about himself. And so,he wants to go into medical school with that same philosophy because right now, he’s also scribing for neurology.

'Being able to relate to a more diverse patient population is definitely a green flag, it's an upside that shouldn't be ignored.'Click To Tweet

Rohun says that seeing someone endorse neurodiversity on their campus means that he’s welcome. It brings him a lot of confidence that someone has seen his story.

[32:14] Final Words of Wisdom

Rohun wants to encourage students on the same path as his that there is a right place for everyone. The right school will accept you, and when they do, there are some positives that they did not ignore. And there are some positives that they want to foster when they accept you into their incoming class.

'You can relate to a different patient population that other people can't, you can relate to the same population in different ways that other people can't.'Click To Tweet

At the end of the day, Rohun says that you want to make that white coat a part of you and how you wear that white coat is something that you can develop in medical school and beyond.


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