Getting Involved in the Premed World

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PMY 511: Getting Involved in the Premed World

Session 511

Guest and co-founder of Mappd, Rachel Grubbs, talks about getting involved and working in the premed world as a non-premed.

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.

[01:14] The MCAT Minute

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[03:29] Rachel’s Background

She graduated from college and worked for a few years actually in a staffing agency. It was a perfectly fine job, but it wasn’t a career. She was looking for something more rewarding and where she could really use her brains since the job was by the book.

She then landed a job as an assistant director at the Princeton Review, which is one of the major test prep companies. There, she was supporting pre-college and pre-graduates as well as premeds, and she was there for 12 years.

Rachel noticed how students who had to take the MCAT were more nervous and anxious. She felt excited to work with someone who wanted to work hard – and she just fell in love with premeds. Without really meaning to, she became an MCAT specialist in the company.

Eventually, she joined Next Step Test Prep (now Blueprint MCAT). Since then, she has been working in the premed space, and where she is now dedicating her time to Mappd as the co-founder.

[09:03] Why Premeds?

What she likes about premeds is the sense of accountability to the world and not just to their own success. And that’s what makes them so passionate. The other part of it is that it’s just extremely challenging to get into med school. It’s no joke.

People who are getting ready to apply and at the MCAT stage have already done a lot of work. They’ve survived a lot of opportunities that, unfortunately, weed out premeds. And so, they know they’re there in it to win it.

[11:31] The Weeding Out Process

Medical schools are weeding out for a reason. They have to make sure our future physicians have passed a lot of checkpoints for academic rigor, commitment, and for emotional maturity.  And so, that’s not really a bad thing.

'I'm very glad to live in a country where we really make sure our future physicians have passed a lot of sort of checkpoints for academic rigor, for commitment, and for emotional maturity.'Click To Tweet

Rachel stresses the importance of not letting people rush into this very serious career where you’re literally holding other people’s lives in your hands. She cites one professor who was failing a majority of students in a science course that’s rarely used once you get to med school. He used it as his process for deciding whether or not students should go to med school.

If you’ve been academically successful for your whole life, then it was supposed to test how you would handle taking a course that does not come to you easily. That’s because med school may not come to you easily. And so, it’s a good barometer for your ability to learn new study skills, how to handle uncertainty, and how to push yourself to use all the resources you can to survive the course.

That being said, one undergraduate course should not make or break your career. And Rachel says she had seen people who got Cs in organic chemistry on their second attempt and are now amazing physicians.

[14:56] A Call for Change and Transparency

Rachel thinks there are some changes that need to be made in our culture of training future physicians. In general, residents are overworked and treated unfairly although this varies from program to program. But Rachel raises the idea that there are too many stories out there of people who are shamed when they need bathroom breaks or have to eat.

The Challenge of the Rolling Admissions Process

As a community, Rachel believes we have to keep trying to do better, and consider changes. Having seen the premed landscape over so many years, Rachel thinks the process has gotten even more competitive and challenging. 

Part of the challenge is the process of rolling admissions that medical schools have. Rachel also thinks things could be better if there were more transparency considering how the rolling admission pressure is already so high.

Medical Schools Need to Be More Transparent

Medical schools need more transparency in this process but it hasn’t changed, unfortunately. Obviously, med schools aren’t going to be able to share the analysis they made on every single applicant. But at least, they should be honest about what they’re considering and how the timeline works. 

Hopefully, we’re doing some things over at Mappd where we’re actually gathering more data and we’re developing an application tracker as we’re aiming for more transparency. We hope that every premed out there will utilize our resources at Mappd. We offer free resources, and we also have some paid services for us to keep doing what we’re doing.

Because there is this lack of transparency, we could lobby the AAMC and the other application services to make all this stuff transparent. Or we could just take action into our own hands, which is what we’re doing here at Mappd.

A More Diverse World of Medicine

Rachel hopes to see better representation from students who have historically not been represented in med school. In fact, an NIH study shows that racial correlation leads to better health outcomes and lower health expenditure.

We need more doctors who look like all of America, and not that doctors should only serve patients who look like them.

'We need a healthy mix of physicians from multiple demographics and walks of life so that patients can find the doctor that's the right fit for them.”Click To Tweet

[26:24] Where Medical Schools Applicants Fall Short

Getting Too Fixated on Your Science Courses

Rachel is seeing a lot of premeds who are so fixated on science and math and those discrete quantifiable skills. And they forget that they will actually succeed further in life, and not just on the MCAT, if they develop their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Don’t ignore English and social science courses because a lot of premeds fail to realize this is an opportunity for them to stretch their brains.

Failing to See Medicine as a Whole

With Western medicine in particular, we’ve decided to look at the body in a lot of concrete parts, instead of looking at things more holistically. With that perspective at hand, Rachel thinks you have to be a better reader, writer, and thinker so that you can have those conversations with the patient. Then you’d be able to pick up on the subtle clues that give you those data points.

“If people are thinking more about systems and remembering how closely everything works together, then the level of care is just going to be higher.”Click To Tweet

The Power of Listening

Understand that as a physician, even though we use the word “patient,” they are your customers also. And so, you have to treat patients with respect, compassion, and empathy.

[33:34] Final Words of Wisdom

You’re smarter than you think you are. A lot of your success is about resources and attitude, not about brain power. You probably have the brain power.

A lot of premeds think they’re not good enough. The truth is, there are a lot of challenges in the system.

If you only get a C+ in O-Chem doesn’t mean you’re a failure. And even if you have to take it twice, those kinds of things are going to be blips in the road later. So just keep an attitude of, this isn’t about whether or not you’re good enough. It’s just about how hard you’re going to work and what you have to do.

Some people come with more advantages than others. Acknowledge what your challenges are, but then have a conversation with the people in your life to support you to make that space.


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