Thanks for sharing, Julia!
1. What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these areas of study?
I majored in Physics with a pre-health concentration and also received minors in Chemistry and French during my time at Virginia Tech. The two minors were easy for me to tack on, as I was only a class or two away from getting my minor in Chemistry and I enjoyed the extra classes I needed to take. My French minor was something I pursued as a break from the science-heavy courses, and it has been a unique skill that I’ve been able to use on occasion to talk with those I’ve interacted with through clinical experiences and volunteering. As for my major, I had enjoyed my physics courses while I was in high school and have always loved solving puzzles. For me, physics provided a number of puzzles and challenges to solve, which is what initially drew me to the field. While some of the classes challenged me in ways I’d never thought possible, the critical thinking skills that I learned have already greatly helped me in consolidating information and working to create links between different topics in medicine. While the subject matter isn’t something that I am actively using my knowledge of in my medical studies, the way that I learned how to think and approach a problem is a skill I use every day during medical school.
What made the medical school you chose the right fit for you?
I applied to a wide variety of medical schools during my application cycle. I applied to both MD and DO programs, as while I was leaning towards a few DO programs, I wasn’t 100% sure when I originally submitted my applications and wanted to cast my net wide. I was accepted to multiple schools and ended up being lucky enough to choose between them. While I struggled slightly deciding which school to pick in the end, I ultimately went with my gut feeling. During the interview process and acceptance process, there are little moments in your interactions with each school that help you see how you would fit in at their school, not just if you like the way they portray themselves in their interviews and advertising. Personally, I found interacting with current students and other prospective students to be the most helpful way of determining where I would be happiest. Don’t be afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions to students. One of the best distinguishing questions that I asked was: “What are your favorite and least favorite parts about your school?” How each student chose to answer that told me a lot about the school and the environment I would be potentially learning in. VCOM made me feel welcome from the start of the interview process. I was the most comfortable in my interviews for their program and had great interactions with students and staff alike. That, combined with my interactions with other prospective students helped me realize that the environment VCOM provides would be the best place for me to learn and grow during my medical education and I couldn’t be happier that I ended up pursuing my medical degree at VCOM-Virginia.
3. Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered medical school?
I definitely had to change how I studied when I entered medical school. Since my undergraduate degree was in physics, except for my pre-requisite courses for medical school, most of my courses required me to constantly do practice problems as our exams and assessments required us to solve problems similar to those we learned how to do in class or on our homework. However, I immediately realized that medical school would require a very different way of studying. I first employed methods that had helped me succeed in my undergraduate pre-requisite courses for medical school. While this worked for the first few exams, it wasn’t a sustainable method as there wasn’t enough time to approach studying in that manner and get through all the material I needed to. Figuring out how to study in medical school is a constant process where you assess how your current methods are working and tinker with them to make them fit each individual course. I’ve developed different methods for each course, and I continue to refine them, so I am maximizing my effective study time. Personally, I mainly use active recall and spaced repetition methods and tend to integrate practice questions towards the end of my preparations for an exam; however, it varies based on each course. For example, there are some courses where I find that studying with a friend and quizzing each other or diagramming out processes works better. Ultimately, you have to figure out what is going to allow you to succeed in your courses. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, or how they are studying, as long as you have something that works for you. It can be difficult to ignore all of the different methods that everyone employs, but catering your studying to your personal strengths and weaknesses allows you to not only succeed in your classes but also have a balance between school and your personal life.
4. What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
Be passionate about medicine. You won’t be happy going into this field if you don’t genuinely enjoy the subject matter and the future job. If you aren’t sure, go shadow different health professionals. There is such a wide variety, and every profession has its own niche in the healthcare community. Going to medical school and becoming a physician may be your path, which is wonderful. But don’t force yourself to head down this path because you think others expect you to or because you don’t know what else there is that you might be interested in. Explore all of your opportunities and make an informed decision. It isn’t an easy path. Medical school pushes you and challenges you, unlike anything you experienced in your undergraduate studies. You have to really want to become a physician to make it. If you do have that desire and drive, it is definitely possible to accomplish, if you put the work in.
If you already know that you want to become a physician, do everything you can to experience the healthcare field, while still enjoying some downtime. Take advantage of the opportunities you have through Virginia Tech and outside the university to learn and grow as you navigate the process of applying for and getting into medical school. Take advantage of the medical-related ones, but also make sure to pursue your passions. Don’t shove yourself into a box for the application process and only do activities that would look good on a resume. Pursue different opportunities because they genuinely interest you. If you do, when you talk about them on your application, the admissions committee will immediately be able to see your passion and drive in your application. Make sure to keep your passions, both for medicine and things outside medicine alive during this process. It will be difficult, but it is worth it in the end.