Megan has gone through the premed process and medical school with a child. How did she do it? How can other single moms do the same?
We talk about her journey from working with children with autism to being in medical school with a child with autism, and the struggles that have come with that.
She also talks about the amazing advocacy that she has done for herself when finding a medical school and now looking forward to finding potential residencies that can support her and her child moving forward.
For more podcast resources to help you with your medical school journey and beyond, check out Meded Media.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[02:15] The MCAT Minute
The MCAT Minute is brought to you by Blueprint MCAT.
Remember that the far majority of medical schools in this country work on a rolling admissions basis. It means the earlier your application is in and complete, including that MCAT score, the sooner you will be reviewed for an interview and potentially an acceptance.
Make sure that you are planning your MCAT earlier rather than later. The end of June is the spot. You can take it later but you’re risking more and more to be later in the cycle and you could potentially lose out on the ability, even with a good application.'Selecting a test date is key to making sure that your application cycle is successful.'Click To Tweet
[04:13] Interest in Becoming a Doctor
Megan was a single mom and decided to become a nurse. So she went to a DNP program and found out she couldn’t do some of the research she wanted and some of the complexity she wanted to work with. Hence, she decided to go to med school. She thought being a nurse practitioner would be a good compromise so she could still have some time with her son and be able to do the work she wanted to do.
Megan did her bachelor’s degree in psychology and started working with kids with autism and Down syndrome in a school setting. Their parents were frustrated because they couldn’t find anyone with the training to take care of their medical issues as well as handle their behavioral issues. She then saw a residency that covers Pediatrics and Psychology.
At that time, she wanted to get into medical school. But then she had a child of her own so she thought she had to compromise considering the demands of being a single mom. She was actually swayed by what others told her about being a single mom.'If it's not your absolute passion, not the only thing that you can see yourself doing, you shouldn't be doing it.'Click To Tweet
Megan is proud to have a lot of life experience. She knows exactly what she wants to do. And it hasn’t changed since she came to med school.
She is happy to not be burning out. In fact, she’s constantly approaching rotations with an open mind, thinking about how these specialties can help her work for the kids she wants to work with.
And so, the day she decided to get into medical school, she asked for help from her parents in terms of helping her with caring for her child.
[12:50] Preparing for Her Application
Luckily, Megan had actually done several of the prereqs from her nursing program. And for those she had not finished yet, Megan found accelerated versions of them. So she was able to take them condensed into just four weeks. She was cramming a semester’s work of organic chemistry in four weeks, which she definitely doesn’t recommend.
Choosing a School to Apply To
In creating her medical school list, she wanted to find something that was more family-friendly. She looked for schools that had maybe students who were a little bit more active on social media and who talked about having kids.
She also looked at schools that focused more on rural populations or underserved populations. A lot of the kids she wants to work with are going to fall into that category. And with all of that put together, she ended up completing the applications for one school. It was just one school and she went all-in!
Moving Across Country
Megan then moved across the country since she was living in Pennsylvania and applied to Washington State. But she was moving closer to family or where her family wanted to be once they retired.
At that time, Megan’s son was around two years old and a half when they moved. Her mom came in to help her when COVID started and her son’s daycare shut down.
[18:07] Finding a School That Can Support Her Needs
Megan says that it took a lot of research to be able to find a school that gave her the support she needed. And this was pre-applying.
She looked on Facebook and contacted the school. She told them about her concerns as a single mom such as what if her kid gets sick or she comes late due to daycare issues. She also found students on social media who were active and asked them directly. And Megan was put in contact with students who also have kids so she could ask them directly.
[20:49] Her Transition to Medical School
Medical school is hard. The first two years are easier, schedule-wise, but a lot of work because you have all of the studying. Once you get into clinical rotations, it’s two full-time jobs basically, with all of the time that you’re putting in, in the hospitals doing clinical rotations. Or you may have to travel for clinical rotations, depending on what school you’re at.
All this worked for Megan, thanks to her mom who helped her with taking care of her kid. She also had backup help from friends.'Have your main person and then have every single contingency you can possibly think of having, somebody who's willing to watch a kid overnight or willing to watch a sick child.'Click To Tweet
Being a single mom to a child with autism, things were more challenging too. It was more difficult before he ended up having his therapies. And now he’s got a good routine which makes things a little bit easier. And he’s starting to learn some of those skills. So he doesn’t need to be constantly attended to anymore. He doesn’t need to be watched 24/7.
Basically, Megan’s whole journey started by working with kids with autism and Down syndrome. Even before he was diagnosed, Megan already had some tools in her toolbox of how to keep him safe while she was studying. So her career background definitely helped her navigate her own personal journey.
[27:24] Choosing a Residency Program
One of the first things she’s doing right now is checking anywhere that has good autism services, which is a non-negotiable for her. And so, this too has helped narrow down her choices.
She has also started active meetings with residents and program directors, and with people who are now attendings who went through the residency. They are aware that Megan has a child with special needs and that she has all of these questions.
Megan adds that she even has some strange questions for medical students, such as what their insurance policy is and whether it covers ABA therapy or music therapy. She also asks about what types of research they have or whether they’re creating autism programs in schools.
I just love the amount of intentionality that Megan has put into everything that she does. Not enough people do it. A lot of people just go through life, especially this premed journey, thinking they will just figure it out. And Megan is out there knocking on doors, sending emails, and doing all that in a respectful and tactful way is just amazing.
[31:07] Advocating for Yourself
Not only a mom to a kid with autism, but Megan is also neurodivergent as she has some issues with attention. So she also had to learn how to advocate for herself pretty young. She knew what she needed to be successful and what she could also bring to the table. She needed other people’s help to make sure she can be the best person she can be.
By learning how to advocate for herself, she got to the point where she was no longer scared or shy to just walk up and offer what she could bring to the table. At the same time, she makes sure she lets them know that they need to be a good fit for her as well. So she’s not afraid to ask what needs to be done to make things work.
[34:25] Final Words of Wisdom
Reach out. Ask schools, ask parents. Look at the areas. Take a look at the schools. If you have one that’s super competitive and they expect a whole lot of research during medical school, they honestly may not be the best medical school for you.“There is a medical school for everybody who really wants to do this. You just have to find the right fit and sometimes that means doing a whole lot of research and even delaying applying.”Click To Tweet
Reach out to those schools and check out what they can do to help you. Reach out to family and friends to see if any of them are willing to help you if they’re in the area. The big thing is to build your support systems and go from there. Make sure that wherever you go, you’re going to have that support because you are going to need it.