DPT Alumna Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. McDermott!

Brooke McDermott, DPT, is a VT alumna who is currently working as a licensed physical therapist in Roanoke, VA.  She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2017 (HNFE major) and attended Radford University to pursue her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.  She recently graduated from PT school in May 2020 and now works in a skilled rehab facility.

1. What led to your interest in Physical Therapy (PT)?
“I knew from a young age that I wanted to go into the health care field because I got to see first hand through my mom’s work as a nurse and various professionals who helped take care of my grandma after her strokes (PT, OT, MD, nurses, SLP, etc.) and had an appreciation for how much positive impact these individuals could have on someone and their family’s lives. I knew going into college that I would pursue a degree in health care, but it wasn’t until I started my shadowing experiences that I chose PT.
I fell in love with physical therapy for many reasons, which are also reasons why I love my job now. I love that as a PT, I am able to spend a great deal of time 1 on 1 with my patients and that helps to tailor treatments to the needs of the individual, not just based on their diagnosis or primary problem. I love that every day is different and that I have to be able to think quickly on my feet to meet the challenges of each new day. I also appreciate that I have the ability to work in a variety of settings throughout my career (outpatient, hospital, skilled rehab, home health, etc.) with a variety of specialty areas (geriatrics, pediatrics, cardio, orthopedic, neuro, etc.)”

2. What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
“I was a Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE) major at VT and I chose this because I always had a strong passion for not only human anatomy and exercise science, which are what a lot of schools offer as majors, but HNFE also had nutrition courses which I had always been interested in learning more about. Additionally, HNFE had many of the same degree requirements that my pre-requisite classes had for physical therapy school (biology, chemistry, anatomy, physics, etc.)
Of note – Most physical therapy programs do NOT require a specific major. In fact, it can serve to your benefit to have a major in a completely different area because this shows other interests and makes you well-rounded. Most PT programs only require you to have taken pre-requisite courses (see above) and as long as those are fulfilled, you can have had a completely unrelated major.”

3. What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for PT school?
“I was active in two groups: College Mentors for Kids and Pre-Physical Therapy Club
Both allowed me to improve leadership skills and manage time more effectively, to interact and network with other students/organizations/programs, and to enhance my application.
College Mentors for Kids is an organization that connects college students with local grade school students and gives the kids an opportunity to learn about higher education and careers, culture and diversity, and community service
Pre-PT club is a student-led group that allows students who are interested in applying to PT schools to connect and learn about different programs, the application process, and how to strengthen applications. I served as the club’s Historian for one year and the Vice President for one year.
I also worked 2 part-time jobs during college, which helped me to manage my time effectively.”

4. Do you feel that you were prepared for PT school interviews? What preparation advice would you give?
“Start by doing a Google search for “PT school interview questions” and “medical school interview questions.” This will give you an idea of general questions you should expect to be able to answer.
Practice answering these questions out loud (alone or with friends to get feedback) – important not to over-prepare or sound rehearsed. Just have a general idea of what you think is most important to say.
The most important advice I would give – don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to gather your thoughts. No matter how much you prepare, there will likely be at least 1-2 questions they will ask that you couldn’t have seen coming (situational, ethical dilemma, etc.). My best advice for this is to say, “that is a good question, would you mind giving me a moment to think about my answer?” – The interviewer will expect this and will appreciate you waiting to give the best response. I did this twice in one interview and once in another interview.
Take a notepad and prior to the interview, write down some key points you want to touch on during your interview (experiences, questions, etc.) that way you can reference your own notes if you get stuck. Also, come prepared with questions for the interviewer as well.”

5. What do you enjoy most about Physical Therapy?
“I enjoy the challenge that comes along with meeting/evaluating every new patient and determining the best plan of care that meets the needs/goals of each individual patient.
I love that no two days are exactly alike. Even if I have the same patients on my schedule two days in a row and have a set plan for treatment options that day, I have to be able to think quickly to re-plan treatment sessions based on how each patient presents that day, and I have to be comfortable deviating from the original plan when plan A doesn’t work out.
Working alongside other health professionals – I am lucky to have a very supportive and experienced team of colleagues to work with every day and bounce ideas off of. I value the ideas and input from the other team members (OT, SLP, nursing staff, etc.)”

6. What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the PT school prerequisite classes?
“Travel and Tourism Management, Human Sexuality, Abnormal Psychology, Classical Literature, Agricultural Economics”

7. How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools?
“I applied to 4 programs – Radford, VCU, ODU, and Mary Baldwin.
I applied to these programs because they were in-state and had good licensure pass rates. I was accepted into all 4 programs, however, I ultimately chose Radford to pursue my DPT.
What made the PT school you chose the right fit for you?
As above, I applied to 4 schools that were all in-state and I would have been happy to attend any of them. I toured all of the programs so that I could get a feel for the program’s atmosphere, staff-student relationships, etc. What made Radford my #1 choice was due to its location and small class size allowing for close relationships with staff and students.

8. Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered PT school?
Yes. The courses I took in undergrad mostly required me to study in order to repeat the information for the exam, which only required memorization for the most part. My study habits had to change in PT school because the exams require a deep understanding of the course material and require you to thoroughly explain the concepts (for written tests) or demonstrate, perform, and verbalize thorough understanding of the material (for practical/competency exams)
Additionally, the material builds upon itself throughout PT school, which means you can’t think of each class individually and compartmentalize the classes. It requires you to continue to recall and demonstrate understanding of concepts that may have been covered in coursework 3 semesters prior in order to be successful throughout the program.”

9. What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for PT school?
“I utilized federal and private loans. The majority of my private loans were used during undergrad because in grad school, FAFSA covers the majority/all of the cost of tuition. I received $3,000 in scholarships and thankfully my family was able to assist me for cost of living/rent during school so I only took out loans for education. I am comfortable sharing my student loan debt – I completed both degrees totaling ~$114,000 in federal loans and ~$32,000 in private loans for a total of ~$146,000 of student loan debt. ”

10. Did you have any fears going into Physical Therapy?
“I felt like I was always afraid of not being successful. Originally when I decided to go to PT school, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get in. Once I got in, I was afraid of failing out of the program and throughout the program I was afraid that I wouldn’t pass my licensure exam in order to actually practice as a physical therapist. What helped me to manage the stress/fear was realizing that I was accepted into the program because my professors believed that I would be successful, that my classmates were feeling the same way, and that the fear of being unsuccessful was actually driving me to work harder and harder to ensure success.”

Dr. McDermott writes: “I have responded to a few of the interview questions, but if you have any additional questions (PT related or otherwise), I would be happy to serve as a resource for you!”

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Medical School Admissions Advantage

Medical School Admissions Advantage, a networking event for VT students and representatives from allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, will take place on Zoom on Sunday, November 1, 2020, from 5:45 – 7:45 p.m.  Students should plan to arrive to the waiting room by 5:40 p.m.

Meet and learn from representatives of various medical schools in five, ~15-minute small-group conversations.  This year, the event will be hosted virtually via Zoom. This is a great opportunity to learn about various medical schools and find out what they look for in applicants.

Registration for this event is now open.  Please register here by October 23rd at 4 p.m.  You will need to be logged into your VT email account to register.

Please note that this is a professional commitment and that by signing up, you are agreeing to attend.  Check your calendar before signing up; make sure you are not taking this opportunity away from another student as space is limited.

We hope to accommodate ~100-130 students for this event. However, please be aware that if student interest exceeds our capacity, we may need to place some students on a waitlist. Early during the week of October 26th, registered students will receive an email from us confirming registration or notifying the student of a waitlist placement.

 

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Medical School Virtual Expo

If you are interested in osteopathic medical school, please see below:

“With students from Virginia Tech in mind, our team at AACOM has tried to make exploring options for medical school as easy as sitting on their couch.

We ask that you please encourage your students to join us on October 13, 2020 from 12:00 PM-6:00 PM ET, for our virtual medical school expo! Registration is free, but required to attend, so please remind your students save their place today.

Register today

Here’s what we have in store for them:

  • live presentations and opportunities to meet with medical school admissions representatives, faculty, and current students via online chat rooms
  • detailed tips about applying to medical school, the interview process, and life as a medical student
  • discuss your questions live with AACOM representatives, med school admissions teams, current residents, and more
  • get to know the programs and decide which medical school is right for you

Zero travel required to participate (unless you count the walk to your computer).

Thank you for sharing.”

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DO Alumnus Interview

Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. Griffin!

Dr. Steve Griffin is a VT alumnus who is currently working as a resident physician in pediatrics at Carilion Children’s Professional Network.  He graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Biology, then graduated from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine with his D.O., before beginning his residency in pediatrics, working with children in inpatient, outpatient, nursery, and ICU settings.

1. What led to your interest in medicine?
I have always seen the human body as an almost perfect machine. It heals, responds to the environment, adapts more than most things in nature.
Therefore, switching from mechanical engineering to Biology and Pre-med was not that far of a leap. Once I started truly pursuing medicine, I met a family medicine doctor that told me: “ You never have to ask if you are making a difference at the end of the day because you’re making a difference in every patient’s life you see”. After he told me that, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else with my life.

2. Who or what inspired you to pursue medicine? 
I actually decided to switch to medicine late in my academic career. My roommate in sophomore year of college was pursuing Osteopathic medicine and told me all about it, prior to that I was majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He talked a lot about osteopathic medicine and how their focus was preventive medicine, keeping patients healthy so you didn’t have to come to the doctor because you wouldn’t be getting sick as often. Osteopathic medicine also certifies you in OMT which he likened to chiropracty and gives you another tool to help patients and treat a lot of aches and pain without using medications, opioids or other expensive options.
 
3. What activities did you participate in as an undergrad that shaped your preparation for medicine?
I was a late transition into pre-med. Due to that, I didn’t have a very full application full of extracurriculars compared to other applicants that had been pursuing this career from Day 1. I decided to join a volunteer fire company in my spare time and attended the county’s fire academy and get some true hands-on experience with pre-hospital medicine. I also worked at a free clinic in Christiansburg as a volunteer at the front desk to see more of the outpatient side of medicine. Shadowing people in the healthcare field is invaluable for your application and helps you decide if this is right for you. Finally, I was also involved in the refounding of the Pre-Students of Osteopathic Medicine Association club on VT’s campus.

4. Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
I actually got waitlisted at every school I applied to. I ended up sending Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine a letter of intent. This is basically a professional letter saying “if you take me off your wait list, I will definitely attend your school” and gives you a chance to stand out from the waitlist. Medical school has rolling admissions up to and a little beyond classes starting and there are stories of students getting in the day before classes start. I ended up getting pulled off the waitlist less than 30 days before classes started and had to drop my job, find an apartment and move to Pennsylvania before classes started. There are no penalties for re-applying the next cycle, just make sure your application is not the exact same. Do extracurriculars, work, volunteer in the meantime and reapply stronger and earlier the next year.
 
5. Do you feel that you were prepared for your medical school interviews?  What preparation advice would you give? 
I would say I did not feel prepared for interviewing at medical schools. I essentially went in blind as I was applying after being out of college for a year or two. I would recommend reaching out to graduates, people who have already been through the application process to learn their experiences. Pre-med clubs will often have mock interviews to help prepare you and I would advise taking advantage of these. There is such a thing as being too prepared as well. If your answers are rote and robotic, they won’t seem genuine. Prepare enough you aren’t stumbling over your words and show them you’ll be an excellent fit for their next medical school class. Many online discussion boards will also give examples of questions to start thinking of answers before you interview. No matter how much you prepare, they may pull questions out you aren’t ready for, so just roll with these and be genuine and professional. Finally, during the interview get a sense of the school, attendings, interviewers, admin and if this school doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, that is okay too. You are interviewing them as much as they are you.
 
 6. What do you enjoy most about pediatrics?
The most rewarding part of pediatrics is being able to see a patient from birth, being there in case the baby needs help after birth, to filling out their college physical forms. You really become an integral part of this child’s life and can keep them on the course for success.

 7. What was your favorite undergraduate class outside of the pre-medical prerequisite classes?
One of my favorite classes I had was leftover from Engineering. It was a welding lab where we got to do arc welding, casting of metal, machining etc. It had nothing to do with my medical career but it was a good source of stress relief and fun between other classes. It also provided some talking points to the interviewers while they were reviewing my packet.

8. How many schools did you apply to and what criteria or resources did you use to select these schools? 
I applied to probably 3-4 schools and all of them were Osteopathic schools. By that time I had already decided that it would be a DO or nothing for me. For me being close to my friends and family, or at least drivable was important.  My sister had her daughter while I was in medical school and while I had exams when she was born, I was able to be around and close enough that my niece knew who I was through her early formative years while I finished medical school. As for selection, I basically applied to all schools within a 4-5 hour drivable distance. The choices were significantly reduced due to there being less DO schools in total. I ended up interviewing all around but LECOM and their problem-based learning seemed the best fit for my needs and learning styles.

9.  What made LECOM the right fit for you? 
LECOM in Pennsylvania has some different tracks of learning away from the traditional sit in a lecture hall and take a nap in front of a powerpoint. As I had been working and out of college for a few years, I did not want to go back into that style. LECOM had problem based learning which is all small group based. You work as a team of 8 medical students working through cases based off of real complaints and patients and comprehensive tests are built off of knowledge you needed to solve the case. It was this real-world practical approach that really drew me to LECOM and kept me engaged and motivated through medical school.

10. Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?
Throughout my undergrad course, I was actually told not to be a doctor and pursue a different career path. This only made me buckle down and drive for it even more. If you are set on being a physician, keep pushing through and don’t let others deter you. I ignored the naysayers and couldn’t see myself anywhere else.
 
11. What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for medical school? 
Many students interested in medicine that I have talked to are concerned for the financial burden of attending school. With the exception of only a select few, students take out student loans for medical school. The loans are designed to provide living expenses as well since the course load of medical school is so intensive. To compare the workload to your undergrad career, an undergraduate degree gives you 120 credit hours over 4 years.  You will earn more credit hours than this in your first year of medical school, so working your way through is not feasible. Also compensation once you are practicing will be enough to pay off your student loans in a timely manner. There are other options such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the US Military Health Professions Scholarship program to pay off your loans and pay for medical school.

12. Did you have any fears going into medicine?
A big fear of many people, myself included going into healthcare is “Imposter Syndrome”. This is where you don’t feel like you are supposed to be there, you aren’t good enough or smart enough. Working through that was and still is one of the fears and hardest things I’ve faced going into medicine.

13. What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated? 
For me, stress always has a very physical component. The way I can combat this is by staying physically healthy and active. I enjoy packing up the dogs and heading out on a hike through the blue ridge mountains. If hiking isn’t doable, lifting at the gym, in-home cycling rides always keep me active between tough clinic or hospital days. Spending time with my pets and my family is rejuvenating.

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Podiatric Medicine Virtual Fair – October 8th, 2020

Hi students,

If you are interested in podiatry, please see below:

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Podiatry Fair_Oct_2020.png

“The American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine would like to invite you to register for the Virtual Podiatric Medical School Fair on October 8 from 11AM to 6PM eastern.

LEARN: 

This is a free virtual event for all students who are interested in exploring careers in medicine.  We’ll be covering podiatric medicine as a career choice – from surgery to wound care to sport medicine, podiatric physicians provide a wide range of care for their patients.

DIG DEEPER:

Representative from all nine U.S. schools of podiatric medicine will be available during the day to chat.  Have questions about our COVID19 admissions modifications?  This is your chance to ask your questions! Additionally, we’ll have current students, faculty and DPMs available to share why they chose podiatric medicine.

See yourself in a white coat when you Discover Podiatric Medicine.  Registration is available here:

http://careereco.com/events/podiatry

We look forward to meeting you then!”

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Pre-Optometry Virtual Fair – October 1st, 2020

What: Virtual Optometry School Fair- Meet Representatives from Schools & Colleges
of Optometry in a Live Virtual Setting

Where: Virtual (See registration link)

When: October 1st, 2020 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. EST

Register: https://www.careereco.com/Fair/EventDetails?fairId=c8a24ffe-e57f-4f06-9ee9-abf4014b2856

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MD Alumna Interview

Dr. Lauren Wingfield is a VT alumna who is currently working as an Emergency Medicine doctor.  She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, did her residency at VCU, and is now a medical education fellow at UVA to pursue her interest in academic emergency medicine.

1. What are some words of wisdom about the application process?  What would you have liked to know ahead of time?  What do with someone would have told you before applying?

Applying to medical school takes a lot of preparation.  I recommend waiting until you are truly ready and your application is as good as it can be.  For most people, including me, that means taking time after undergrad to get more experience.  I did a Master’s in Biomedical Science that really helped me prepare academically and get more hands on experience through volunteering.  I think one of the best experiences available to pre-medical students now is scribing where you get tons of exposure to patients, learn medical jargon, and spend a lot of time with physicians.  This experience will help you be more confident in your decision to pursue medicine.

2. What do you enjoy most about Emergency Medicine?

When I was in medical school I enjoyed all my rotations throughout the hospital but nothing was as rewarding and fun to me as working in the Emergency Department.  I love that each patient is a puzzle that I get to solve.  I have the privilege of taking care of patients of all ages and with all problems.  In the same shift I might see a critically ill gun shot victim, a child that needs stitches, a suicidal man, and a woman in labor.  There is never a dull moment!

3. How do you balance the demands of medicine with additional obligations and challenges?

Emergency medicine’s biggest challenge is the schedule.  Two thirds of all shifts are evenings, nights, or weekends.  The emergency department never closes which means I work holidays.  My schedule is a stress on my family.  My husband is an attorney so he has more of a 9-5 schedule.  Sometimes we have to get creative to spend time together which means we might go on a date on a Tuesday or plan a weekend together a few weeks in advance so that I can request those days off.  We also have a young daughter and a dog so it’s a constant balancing act and communication is key.

On the flip side of the crazy scheduling is that EM doctors generally work less hours than other physicians, typically less than fifteen shifts per month.  This means I can typically attend all doctor’s appointments for my daughter, take the dog for a bath or to the vet, and do most of the household chores during the day.  We make it work!

4. Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?  

I was surprised as a pre-med how many people told me to stay away from medicine, which I find really sad.  A lot of doctors I worked with told me to be a dentist because they have better hours and don’t have to work with insurance.  While they were right about the better hours, I wouldn’t change what I do for the world.  Loving what you do makes working all those nights and weekends an easy choice.  My advice is that if you love medicine, go for it!  All the weekends off in the world wouldn’t have made me happy doing something else.  Medicine has plenty of challenges but there are a lot of rewards too.

5. What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?

To me, being a doctor is the best job in the world.  There are challenges of course, which is why shadowing or volunteer experience is so important so that you see these first hand and can decide for yourself if the benefits will outweigh the cons.  If you feel the same way that I do, you should go for it!

Remember that applying to medical school is a marathon, not a sprint.  When I applied, I sent in my application on June 1st, the first day that the application opens.  I didn’t get in until June 20th of the next year!  Persistence pays off and getting a good mentor to help you go through the process is invaluable.  Talk to people who have gone through the process before you so that you can get all their tips.  If you don’t know anyone or know where to start, try the pre-medical office at VT or connect with me through Hokie Mentor Connect.  We can meet on Zoom anytime!

6. What is your top tip for applicants preparing to take the MCAT?

Study!  This is not a test you want to take multiple times so spend a solid 4-6 weeks studying.  Take a lot of full-length practice tests.  I think a lot of people don’t commit to studying as much as they should or decide to take it cold without studying the first time they take it because you can repeat it but I think its better to really concentrate and focus the first time and be done with it!  Also, try to remember that the admissions committee will review your entire application, so if you score isn’t what you hope, don’t give up.

7. Did you have any fears going into medicine?       

Of course!  Being a doctor comes with a lot of responsibility so I had plenty of fear about that.  I also had imposter syndrome (and sometimes still do) despite completing my residency.  What helps me the most is having my friends from residency to talk to. You quickly realize that everything you’re feeling is the same as what they are feeling and being able to talk it out really helps me cope.  I also have a wonderful, supportive husband that is my biggest cheerleader when I need it.  Doing things I love like walking my dog and listening to my favorite podcasts help me manage my stress too.  It is important to have a life outside of medicine.

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