Corpsman & Community College to His Dream Med School

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PMY479: Corpsman & Community College to His Dream Med School

Session 479

Today, we chat with Justin, who came from a position in the military, got academically dismissed, completed many pre-requisites at a community college, until finally getting accepted to medical school.

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

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[02:43] Interest in Becoming a Physician

When Justin got enlisted in the Navy and found out he had a problem with his eyes, he was given three options. It was either to be a cook, to go into logistics, or become a corpsman. And he chose the last one.

His first job out of training was in labor and delivery where he got to assist in his first birth. When the baby was handed over to him, he knew it was something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

Justin initially wanted to be a pilot but it didn’t work out. When he went to go get his physical, he failed the color vision test by two points. And so, it put an end to what he had been dreaming about since he was in elementary school.

[06:06] The Premed Struggles

Justin was already in college at that point and it hurt his GPA pretty bad, which was also attributed to what was going on with his family life at that time. Justin tried for a second year and it didn’t work out. He even changed his degree four times. Then at the end of his second year, he got academically separated and put on probation from his college. He had to write an essay to the dean to get back into college to promise that he could change.

Justin had some shares of premed struggles. In the end, he got kicked out because he couldn’t maintain a 2.5. Realizing he messed up in college, he was committed to doing a medical-related route such as PA or NP. And he didn’t pick up wanting to be a physician for a couple of years.

[10:03] Steering Away from Medicine and Into Paramedical

The doctors Justin was working with were talking about their journey and what it took to get into med school, which scared him off. Then reading forums such as what he describes as “the notorious SDN,” steered him away and pushed him down other paths for a while.

Justin’s first duty station was in Japan so there wasn’t much he could do in terms of college. But on his last year there, he started doing online classes and knocked out a few courses knowing he needed to get his bachelor’s done.

'The beauty of the military being a corpsman is you get a lot more liberties than you would as a civilian.'Click To Tweet

When he got stationed in San Diego, Justin found the MSHQ podcasts and that gave him hope that he could still get into medical school.

As a corpsman, Justin was doing paramedic work out of the fire stations and got to bounce around a lot. He also worked in mental health and got to see different specialties in the medical field like speech-language, pathology, and neurology. He got to see the PAs in the ER. That being said, he was drawn to emergency medicine but being a physician was still at the back of his mind.

He also recalls having a mentor in Japan who was a DO, along with the other MD/DO mentors that he had who have impacted a major part of his decision to pursue medicine.

In building up the courage to get into medical school, Justin created an FB post sharing his story. Then he went to a meet-up with me in San Diego, and after hearing he had a chance of getting in considering his upward trend, that gave him some hope. And so, he did commit to go for it.

[16:45] Working on the Grade Repair

Justin went to a couple of community college classes and didn’t do science classes at first. During the first semester, he took some extracurriculars and night classes. He remembers getting off work to go to the barracks change, and then head out to the school for night classes. His purpose was just to figure out what he needed to do to succeed in school. And then it didn’t quite work out the first semester.

It didn’t quite work out the first semester but he thinks it helped a lot to figure out what he needed to do to succeed and change his mindset a little bit on how to best study.

Justin went to three different schools. He did online classes and went to his community college for most of his prereqs. Then he was advised to prove academic capability at a four-year university. So he went to a local four-year university and took a couple of science classes there at the same time.

Justin was academically dismissed and was doing 90% of his prereqs at a community college and doing an online degree, but none of that came up in any of his interviews.

'Work in the military doesn't translate a lot into the civilian world.'Click To Tweet

When Justin got out of the military, he worked as an MA without needing any special certification and stuff. After 220 credit hours completed, all of his prereqs were done and his degree was complete. He finally was looking at a 3.0 GPA.

[24:24] When Do You Know It’s Enough?

When to know it’s enough is a question that only you can answer. It’s a matter of your comfort. Are you comfortable enough knowing you could do another semester or another year? Or do you want to apply now and knowing it’s going to be super hard. And each person is the only one that can truly determine that.

[25:56] The Acceptance

Having read all the Medical School Application Books, Justin figured out that the overall theme is to tell your own story and honing on the most impactful moments for each activity. For Justin, crafting the personal statement and the secondaries was way more than he thought.

Justin didn’t do the greatest on the MCAT so it didn’t bolster his confidence at all. But he just had to push forward and put those those negative thoughts aside.

Finally, getting that first interview was just an amazing feeling. Justin had 10 interviews in total. He did a virtual interview and he was scared and nervous due to his first interview. Then he ended up doing another four interviews and stopped there because he got two acceptances in the same day.

At this point, Justin is getting back in shape from all those stress pounds over the years and just getting ready for the craziness of the next four years.

[38:07] Final Words of Wisdom

'When you have this big thing from your past, looming over you, and it makes you stressed out and it's tough... you shouldn't let your past dictate where you're going to go in the future.'Click To Tweet

Justin encourages other students who may be going through the same journey as ha has to leave it in the past where it belongs. Move forward, learn from it, get your mindset right, and reset.

He also stresses the importance of support network and be open to meeting new people. Look for those people and stick with the people with the same mindset as you.


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