Thinking about going to Medical School as a College Student?

One thing I am sure of is you do not have to be a STEM major to go to medical school. You only need the classes which are prerequisites for medical school application and you are good to go. 

However, it is not shocking that a lot of students think they have to be a biology or biomedical sciences major to go to medical school. What usually happens is that students who are looking to go to medical school are usually interested in science, and it is always an easier route and transition for them to pick a STEM major in college. 

Well, Jennifer Welch, MD/Ph.D., who is a doctor and the associate dean for student admissions and financial aid at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, gives her take on what she thinks is important for students to know if you want to come to medical school and be successful.  She speaks from her experience as to what helped her get into medical school, and what patterns she has observed as the associate dean of student admissions on what has helped students get into medical school successfully.

To be able to get to medical school, you need to take the prerequisites for medical school, which are basic chemistry. biology, physics and social science classes. You also need to network because connections are essential in the medical career. Welch advised that students look for and take any opportunity to shadow a doctor in a hospital, as well as participate in clinical research with a physician because all that networking will help them in residency. 

Residency is when a doctor picks their area of specialization, and it usually takes one year to complete. An area of specialization can be pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology and many more. “Making meaningful connections in your field will give you access to correct information and about topics related to your career, and it exposes you to people that can help you down the road,” Welch said.

“Other activities that can boost your application for medical school will be volunteering in a nursing home or in a hospice, where you care for dying individuals,” Welch said. This will prove that you genuinely love helping people, especially when they are sick. 

This is a student in Medical school trying to view a microbe with a microscope. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

Welch said to be successful in medicine you also need to have the skill of time management; making the best use of your time is crucial. There is a lot to do in a short time, and being able to learn and thrive, while also taking good criticism is necessary. 

Medicine is a field for growth and being able to listen is fundamental, as that is how you learn. Listening not just to doctors, but patients too is essential and has to be deliberate. “When you are intentional about listening to a patient, you are most likely to hear what they did not say, rather than if you were just listening because you should be listening,” Welch said.  You can hear what a patient did not say via their body language, mood or even tone. Patients need our help as future doctors and the ability to listen to them sensitively will make them not only comfortable around you, but make it easy to open up to you about what they are going through. This will in turn make the job a bit easier because diagnosis will not be as complicated. Strong communication and listening skills are really above just talking or hearing. “It can come in passive forms like having compassion, empathy or anything that shows you care about your job or what you are doing then,” Welch highlighted. 

This is a team of doctors performing a surgery on a patient. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.

There are challenges in the journey of becoming a part of the medical field. Welch noted that some of the challenges she faced in medical school were being able to accept that she did not know everything and being open to saying she did not understand. As mentioned before, medical school is a place for growth. Even after you graduate from medical school, learning never stops. If you are passionate about your medical career, you need to be honest when you do not understand something, so you can learn better and increase your knowledge on the given subject. 

Another challenge Welch faced was learning how to deal with difficult people. There are always arduous people and situations in all occupations. However, doctors need to realize that when faced with uneasy people, it is not your fault and the issue is more with them than with you. 

There are a lot of stereotypes that the Gen-Z generations just want to have fun and not work hard. However, Welch advised that as a student, what is valued in the medical field is showing that one is hard working and has a great work ethic regardless of what generation you are part of. In medicine, patients always come first because that is the reason there are doctors in the first place. Commitment to your job is a huge aspect of your career. Welch gave an example that, if a doctor should get a call that their patient needs them in the middle of their child’s birthday party, they should be there for their patient because their patient always has to come first. This simply shows how important medicine is and the amount of dedication needed to be a doctor. 

This is a picture of a medical student studying. Photo by RF._.studio on Pexels.

If you are interested in working in the medical field, be diligent by asking questions and doing research about medical schools, plus the requirements needed to get into those programs. Medical school usually takes up to four years, and the combined MD and Ph.D. program takes a total of eight years. The general exam you need to take to get into medical school is the MCAT exam, which stands for Medical College Admission Test. 

You can work in the medical field, but be prepared  to work hard, believe in yourself and your passion, and ask questions! 

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