Recently, I was doing some cleaning and came across two VHS videos that changed my life when I first saw them. It’s 2 part Nova series on PBS called “So you want to be a doctor.” When I was in Junior High, my uncle who was going through Medical School brought these videos home and showed them to me. I remember from that moment I was hooked. This combined with a relative in high school asking me about all it takes to become a doctor made me decide to write this article on my journey to get to where I am today. The following is my experience, but it can also be used as a roadmap for those interested in becoming a doctor as well.
As I said above, it started in junior high. I knew that going into high school I would need to work hard and get good grades to get into a good undergraduate school. High school came easy to me. First, I am by no means a genius. I did work hard, but I was able to cram for most tests and get good grades. I did not graduate a valedictorian. I missed it by 2 B+’s from my US History class. My love for the sciences got me a few scholarships to college including a half-ride to my eventual choice, Point Loma Nazarene University. The decision to go to Point Loma was easy because it was where I got the most scholarships. I eventually graduated undergrad free of any debt (that would come later in Medical School).
In college, I decided to major in both chemistry and biology as a joint major. Classes continued to be fairly easy but I did study more. Even though PLNU is located in beautiful San Diego, I was unable to enjoy the beach life as much as my friends due to studying and labs. I was again able to cram for most tests and still get good grades. I came out with a 3.9 GPA as I did get a few B’s along the way.
In your junior year of college, when you decide you want to go to Medical School, you have to take a test called the MCAT. This stands for Medical College Admission Test and it is a beast. Most of my friends decided to take a Kaplan study course to help prepare but I decided to study on my own. I bought a study book and studied weeks for the test. The scoring of the MCAT has changed in recent years but when I took it you would get a number between 3-45, wherein students in the 50th percentile received a score of approximately 25 along with a verbal score given by a letter ranging from J to T. I got a 28-O: a very average score. I was devastated but did not want to take the test again and decided to apply.
The application process for medical school is a daunting task. When I applied, it was in the early years of the process being online. Essentially here is the process: you first send out an initial application to all of the schools you are interested in (and of course each of these applications cost money). The schools that are interested will then send you a secondary application. You complete and send these back and then the schools still interested will invite you for an interview.
I sent out 14 initial applications, essentially every allopathic school in California, UNR, Creighton in Nebraska and Saint Louis UNiversity. Six schools returned wanting secondary applications including USC, UC Irvine, Nevada- Reno, Loma Linda, Creighton and Saint Louis University. Of these, three wanted interviews. Only three! I was placing my future career in few hands. I completed the interviews which included Creighton, Saint Louis University and Loma Linda University. Of these, Loma Linda University was my first choice since I wanted to stay in California close to my future wife whom I was dating at the time.
The interviews are stressful but fun at the same time. You get to go to the campus and see what the Medical School is like. You typically will get a tour from a Medical Student where you check out all of the didactic areas and hospitals. You then sit down for an interview where you get asked questions such as “Why do you want to become a doctor ?” and ‘What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Here is where you need to come up with an answer that will set you apart and make the interviewer remember you. I used the story you’re reading combined with some anecdotes through my life about my doctor to answer the questions. After all of the interviews are done… you wait.
Waiting is always the hard part. When you receive a reply from a medical school, it is one of three answers: yes, no or we’re placing you on a waitlist. Being waitlisted means that you are on a list that the school will go down as those accepted drop off if they decide to go to another school. I was denied at Creighton and waitlisted at SLU and Loma Linda. This killed me! The school year ended. I graduated and went home. I still had not heard anything.
I had no contingency plan. May came and went and halfway into June, I decided I needed to get a real job in anticipation that I would not be going to medical school. I applied and started interviewing for science related professions but none of them excited me. July came and I had still heard nothing. Loma Linda and SLU had start dates in early August, time was slipping away. Late in the afternoon on July 20th I finally got an answer.
I remember the day vividly, I was at my grandparents house doing some work around their house to pick up some extra money. My grandma came running out stating I had a phone call. This was weird because I didn’t live with my grandparents and if somebody had called them, they were really trying to get ahold of me. I timidly took the phone and had a conversation that changed my life. It was the admissions office at Loma Linda University stating a spot had opened up and asking if I wanted it. They had called my parents house and were directed to my grandparents because this was urgent news. I screamed “yes,” and finished the conversation maintaining my composure. I lost it after I hung up and cried. It was going to happen! I was going to be a doctor!
For the second part and to continue the story click here.