Big Announcements!

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PMY 547: Big Announcements!

Session 547

Today, we’re joined by Rachel Grubbs and Savanna Perry as we discuss the future of MSHQ and Mappd! We made the announcement a couple of days ago, that Savanna and The PA Platform have joined the Mappd family which Medical School HQ is part of as well.

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.

Savanna’s Journey

Savanna’s journey began as a Physician Assistant (PA) and evolved into so much more. Recognizing the lack of information and awareness about the PA profession, she started The PA Platform about eight years ago. Her goal was to educate others about the possibilities and advantages of becoming a PA.

Savanna noticed that many individuals discovered the PA profession later in their educational journey, without access to proper guidance or resources. Understanding the complexities of the process, she took it upon herself to provide valuable information through blogging and other means. This initiative gradually grew into a community dedicated to simplifying the path to becoming a PA.

'People didn't know that PA was an option, that it was a profession that they may want to look into or consider.'Click To Tweet

With the help of advice, resources, and tools, Savanna and her team have made a significant impact in the pre-PA space. They have connected with aspiring PAs as well as individuals pursuing other healthcare professions like premed. Through these interactions, they have been able to learn from each other and expand their knowledge base.

Savanna’s passion lies in helping students navigate the pre-PA journey. She has always felt a calling to be an advisor, and through The PA Platform, she is able to fulfill that role and stay connected to the pre-PA process.

Collaboration and professional support are highly valued in her community. Hence, this collaboration with MHSQ is unparalleled. Savanna’s commitment to making the PA profession more accessible and providing guidance to aspiring PAs has created a positive impact on the lives of many individuals. Her efforts continue to inspire and empower those who dream of becoming healthcare professionals.

The Birth of Mappd: Empowering Premed Students from the Start

Mappd was created through a serendipitous meeting between Ryan and Rachel through their work on The MCAT Podcast. Rachel had been working at Next Step MCAT (now Blueprint MCAT), where she connected with Ryan, the host of the podcast.

Having extensive experience in MCAT preparation and a passion for premed advising, Rachel always wished she could guide students earlier in their journey. 

Driven by a Shared Vision

Rachel has witnessed countless students facing obstacles and making crucial mistakes on their path towards medical school. Many lacked essential knowledge about prerequisites, grades, and the importance of hands-on patient care experiences.

Coincidentally, Ryan shared the same dream of providing comprehensive guidance to premed students from the very beginning. They envisioned a tool that could connect with students as soon as they embarked on their premed journey, supplementing the advising they received at their respective schools. Recognizing the challenges faced by overworked advisors or those without access to proper guidance, they sought to make a difference.

'A lot of advisors are overworked. If you don't have an advisor, how could you get that help? And so, Ryan, and I decided to get together and make that a reality – that's where Mappd came in.”Click To Tweet

Turning Their Dream into a Reality

Driven by their shared vision, Ryan and Rachel decided to turn their dream into reality. Together, they founded Mappd, an innovative platform designed to empower premed students and set them on the right path from the start. Mappd aimed to bridge the gap in knowledge and support, ensuring that students were well-informed and equipped for success.

With Mappd, premed students gain access to invaluable resources, personalized guidance, and comprehensive tools that supplement the advising they receive. Whether students have a supportive advisor or are navigating the journey alone, Mappd serves as a reliable companion, helping them make informed decisions and avoid common pitfalls.

The birth of Mappd represents Ryan and Rachel’s unwavering commitment to empowering premed students and improving the landscape of medical school admissions. Through their collaboration and dedication, they have created a transformative platform that supports aspiring medical professionals on their path to achieving their dreams.

Mappd and The PA Platform: Collaborating for a Better Future for Pre-Health Students

In May of last year, Savannah and The PA Platform team joined forces with Mappd, embarking on an exciting journey to enhance the platform for pre-PA students. Recognizing the need for improved design and functionality, they set out to make the process of becoming a physician assistant (PA) easier and more efficient.

The collaboration between Savannah, the mastermind behind The PA Platform, and the Mappd team began with a conversation about their big-picture plans. As Medical School HQ continued to grow and Mappd emerged as a transformative tool for premed students, they saw an opportunity for a much larger collaboration.

A Powerful Partnership

After exploring various options, it became clear that merging The PA Platform and Mappd would create a powerful synergy. In July, the official announcement was made, solidifying the partnership and paving the way for exciting developments.

With this collaboration, Mappd is not only focused on supporting premed students but also expanding its reach to encompass other pre-health fields such as physical therapy, veterinary medicine, and dentistry. The goal is to provide comprehensive guidance and resources for students pursuing various healthcare professions.

Streamlining the Pre-Health Journey

The growth and direction of Mappd are fueled by the shared mission of helping aspiring healthcare professionals achieve their dreams. By combining their expertise and resources, Savannah and the Mappd team are dedicated to ensuring that pre-health students receive the support they need in navigating their respective paths.

The collaboration between Mappd and The PA Platform represents a significant step forward in streamlining the journey for pre-health students. With a focus on continuous improvement and innovation, they are poised to make a lasting impact and revolutionize the way students approach their professional aspirations.

Exciting times lie ahead as Mappd continues to evolve and expand its offerings, guided by the passion and expertise of Savannah and the collaborative efforts of the entire team. Together, they are forging a path toward a brighter future for pre-health students across various disciplines.

Mappd: Empowering Pre-Health Students with Comprehensive Tracking and Guidance

At its core, Mappd serves as a premed and pre-PA tracking tool, simplifying the complex process of taking courses and calculating application-specific GPAs. For premed students, Mappd calculates AMCAS, AACOMAS, and TMDSAS application GPAs, providing a clear overview of academic performance. Similarly, for pre-PA students, Mappd showcases their GPAs, easing the confusion surrounding GPA calculations.

The Power of Data Visualization

Mappd’s ability to present GPA information through visually appealing graphs has garnered significant appreciation from users.

By leveraging mathematical equations on the back end, Mappd transforms raw data into informative visual representations. This feature enables students to easily comprehend and analyze their academic progress.

Addressing GPA Calculation Challenges

One common challenge faced by pre-health students is determining which courses are considered science and how to calculate their GPAs accordingly. To alleviate this concern, Mappd aims to enhance its functionality and provide improved guidance. This ensures that students have a clear understanding of the calculation process. By doing so, Mappd strives to simplify the often confusing task of determining GPA.

Expanding to Support Various Pre-Health Fields

While Mappd initially focused on premed and pre-PA students, the long-term vision extends to supporting other pre-health fields, including pre-dental, pre-vet, and beyond.

Mappd aims to become a comprehensive tool that allows students from diverse healthcare career paths to enter their information and gain a comprehensive understanding of where they stand in the application process.

Affordable and Accessible

Mappd is committed to providing an affordable or even free service to students. The ultimate goal is to empower aspiring healthcare professionals by removing financial barriers and ensuring access to valuable tools and resources.

Mappd’s vision revolves around enabling students to track their progress, comprehend the requirements of their chosen field, and navigate the path towards their desired schools. By offering comprehensive tracking, guidance, and affordability, Mappd strives to empower pre-health students and increase their chances of success.

Embracing Non-Traditional Paths: Unveiling Untold Potential

The Power of Non-Traditional Students

Medical School HQ often works closely with non-traditional students, each with a unique story to tell. Among them, one particular student stood out as a remarkable example of a non-traditional applicant. Having been out of school for nine years, his application lacked the typical extracurricular activities typically seen on med school applications.

Uncovering Hidden Gems

Curiosity led me to inquire about his experiences during his time away from academia. It turned out that he had worked as a manager at Walmart, a detail missing from his application. This revelation sparked a realization of the untapped potential hidden behind traditional notions of extracurricular activities.

Translating Transferable Skills

The experience of managing a team at a big-box retail store spoke volumes about the student’s abilities and character. Although he didn’t explicitly discuss his impact, leadership, communication, and organizational skills were implied by his managerial role. This glimpse into his non-traditional background allowed me to envision his potential contributions to our class and future endeavors.

Redefining the Applicant Narrative

The encounter with this non-traditional student shattered preconceived notions about what makes a competitive medical school applicant. It highlighted the importance of recognizing the transferable skills gained through diverse experiences outside the realm of traditional healthcare activities.

Valuing Individual Journeys

The story of this non-traditional student emphasizes the significance of embracing non-linear paths to medical school. It encourages admissions committees and mentors alike to look beyond the expected checkboxes and delve into the rich tapestry of an applicant’s life experiences.

Empowering Non-Traditional Students

By acknowledging the unique perspectives and accomplishments of non-traditional applicants, we pave the way for a more inclusive and diverse medical community. Their unconventional journeys bring fresh insights and valuable skills that enrich the classroom and contribute to the future of healthcare.

Strategies to Improve MCAT Preparation

AMCAS sets a seven-time limit for taking the MCAT due to the fact that many individuals attempt it multiple times. It is crucial to understand the significance of this condition and reflect on ways to enhance preparation strategies.

Effective Approaches for Success

When considering your MCAT preparation, it is essential to ask yourself how you can make positive changes. This could involve adopting more active studying methods rather than passive ones or addressing logistical challenges. Engaging with friends and family during the preparation process, especially for non-traditional students, can also yield remarkable results.

By involving your support group and communicating openly about your needs, you can find valuable time and resources to dedicate to your MCAT journey. Remember, it takes a collective effort to achieve success in pursuing a career in medicine or PA school.

Understanding the PA Profession

While doctors and nurses are widely known, the Physician Assistant (PA) profession is often unfamiliar to many. The PA profession emerged relatively recently in the 1960s and 1970s, making it a comparatively new field when compared to the longstanding history of doctors. This lack of awareness contributes to the limited knowledge about PAs among the general public.

'We all know what doctors and nurses are. Most people don't know what a PA is until later.'Click To Tweet

Personal Journey and Decision-Making

Personal experiences play a significant role in choosing a career path. Savanna’s discovery of the PA profession occurred during their senior year of high school, catalyzing an exploration of different healthcare roles through shadowing opportunities.

Conversations with PAs and doctors, extensive questioning, and witnessing the teamwork between PAs and physicians helped solidify her decision to pursue a career as a PA. Factors such as patient care, the collaborative nature of the profession, and personal preferences played a pivotal role in making this choice.

Finding the Right Fit

Making a career decision can be challenging, particularly when considering the possibility of pursuing medical school. Individuals who find themselves wavering between paths should engage in conversations and seek out resources like podcasts and videos. They have to gather as much information as possible to make an informed decision that aligns with their aspirations and values.

“Whether you're a doctor or PA whatever job you're in, you've got to figure figure out how to make those logistics work in your situation.”Click To Tweet

It is crucial to understand that both doctors and PAs are vital in the healthcare system, and the right fit ultimately depends on individual preferences and goals.

Prerequisite Science Course Grades and GPA Minimums for PA Schools

Importance of an Upward Trend in Prerequisite Science Course Grades

PA schools value an upward trend in grades for prerequisite science courses, even if they have been retaken. While some schools may have a hard minimum requirement, a 3.0 GPA is often considered to be the magic number for most programs. It is crucial to meet this minimum threshold as failing to do so may result in your application not being considered.

No Rounding or Cap in GPA Calculation

It is important to note that there is no rounding or capping of GPAs in the admissions process. Even if your GPA is close to the minimum requirement, such as a 2.99999, it will still be considered a 2.99.

PA schools want to ensure that applicants have the ability to successfully complete their program and pass the necessary exams. By setting GPA minimums and analyzing trends, schools are not only protecting themselves but also ensuring that students do not accumulate significant debt without the means to repay it.

Protecting Applicants and Schools

The establishment of GPA minimums and the examination of trends serve to protect both the schools and the applicants. PA schools want to ensure that prospective students have the academic capacity to succeed in their rigorous programs, ultimately leading to a successful career in the medical field.

By setting standards and evaluating academic performance, schools can make informed decisions about admissions, safeguarding both their reputation and the future success of their students.

Retaking Classes and the Consideration of Online Classes by Med Schools

Treatment of Retaken Classes

There seems to be some confusion surrounding the treatment of retaken classes. To clarify, retaken classes are counted just like any other class and are not subjected to any form of averaging. Therefore, there is no need to worry as retaken classes hold the same weight as all other classes.

Varied Perspectives on Online Classes in Medical School Admissions

Regarding online classes, opinions among Physician Assistants (PAs) regarding medical school admissions differ. Some schools accept online classes, while others do not. It is worth mentioning that certain individuals challenge schools that do not accept online classes given their experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has made a significant policy shift by accepting online classes both during and after the pandemic. This progressive stance recognizes that teaching medical students online during COVID-19 was successful and that students were able to excel in courses like Organic Chemistry (o Chem) while studying remotely.

Praise for Progressive Policies

Acknowledging the efforts made by institutions like Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, it is commendable that they have adapted their policies to accept online classes. This recognition stems from the understanding that online education can be effective for medical education, especially during times of crisis. 

By embracing this approach, institutions demonstrate their commitment to innovation and ensuring that students receive quality education regardless of the mode of instruction.

Categorizing Experiences in Medical School Applications: Finding the Right Fit

When applying to medical school, you have the flexibility to categorize your experiences in a way that you believe best represents them. For instance, if you worked at Taco Bell, you can classify it as patient care experience if you perceive it to align with that category. However, the final decision rests with the schools, which can introduce some ambiguity.

Different schools may interpret experiences differently, with some considering scribing as healthcare experience and others labeling it as patient care experience.

The Complexities of Categorization

Categorizing experiences becomes more complex when considering the varying levels of hands-on involvement in a scribe job. The extent to which you directly interact with patients and perform tasks commonly found in a medical setting can influence how you classify the experience.

It is important to carefully consider how your experiences fit within the given categories and accurately describe them in your application.

“If you're genuinely trying to put everything in there correctly and not stretching things, you'll be okay.”Click To Tweet

Avoiding Misrepresentation and Overthinking

Placing an experience in the “wrong” category will not result in penalties unless you deliberately attempt to inflate your hours, which raises concerns. Approach the categorization process objectively, assessing the nature of your role and aligning it with the definitions provided.

It is crucial not to overthink the categorization process and avoid unnecessary worry. While there are some red flags to be mindful of, as long as you genuinely represent your experiences and accurately portray them, you can navigate the application process confidently.

Preparing for PA School Interviews: Understanding the Landscape

Variations in Interview Formats

The world of PA school interviews can be quite peculiar, especially since it is a relatively newer practice compared to medical school interviews. Some schools may claim to conduct Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI), but in reality, they may follow a format with stations and traditional interview-style questions. It’s essential to approach your interview preparation with flexibility and readiness for any type of interview format.

Comprehensive Preparation Strategies

To best prepare for PA school interviews, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with MMI strategies while also practicing various question types. Ryan’s book, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview and the PA school interview guide can be valuable resources to explore.

Additionally, searching for The PA Platform and specific topics like The PA Platform MMI on Google can lead you to informative podcasts, videos, and other resources to aid your preparation.

Optimizing Interview Performance

One common challenge in mock interviews is managing the time allotted for each response. Many candidates tend to feel finished after two minutes, leaving substantial time remaining. Developing the skill to optimize your responses within the given time frame is crucial.

If you require personalized guidance and feedback, consider engaging in one-on-one mock interviews with PA coaches who can help you refine your approach.

'Don't be dogmatic… Your response should involve the questions they're asking, not just the things you're going to do.' Click To Tweet

More Tips for Successful MMI Experience

In MMIs, traditional questions can still be included, but when facing ethics, professionalism, cultural sensitivity, teamwork, or polarizing health issues, the goal is not to convince the interviewer of a specific response. Instead, it’s about showcasing your thought process and opening your mind.

Similar to showing your work for partial credit in math, it’s important to demonstrate your reasoning rather than solely focusing on reaching the answer.

In ethics scenarios, it’s easy to say what one should do theoretically, but in real-life situations, dealing with humans adds complexity. The knee-jerk reaction of contacting authorities may not always be the right choice. So, when faced with such situations, consider the questions you would ask and how you would respond, rather than solely stating your planned actions.

'You're not a doctor yet. You're not a PA yet. So don't think you have to know this information. Just talk and think and explore your inner dialogue.'Click To Tweet

Tips for Managing Communication during the Application Process

Tackling Email Spam

To ensure you don’t miss important communications, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with all forms of spam in your email account. Take the time to explore and understand features like Gmail’s promotions category and make any necessary adjustments to your settings.

Regular Email Checkups

Checking your email at least once or twice a day is recommended to stay updated on any communication regarding your applications. Additionally, avoid letting unknown numbers go straight to voicemail, as unexpected interview opportunities may arise with short notice.

Enhancing Accessibility with Mappd

Utilizing tools like Mappd can streamline your communication process. By providing your application service with an additional email address, you can receive both email and text message notifications. This allows you to promptly check your inbox and explore other locations if necessary.


Meded Media

The PA Platform

Blueprint MCAT


The MCAT Podcast

The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview