Thanks for sharing your story, Dr. Crow!
Dr. Kevin Crow is a VT alumnus who is currently working as a resident physician in pediatrics as a member of the Johns Hopkins Harriet Lane House Staff. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2013, before receiving a Master’s in Biomedical Science from Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in 2015. Dr. Crow then graduated from EVMS with his M.D. in 2019, before beginning his residency in pediatrics.
What led to your interest in medicine?
As a young child I had said a few times I wanted to be a doctor but it was never a serious dream. I initially went to school to be an engineer like my father, which is why I went to VT. Found out very quickly it wasn’t going to be the career for me and shadowed my childhood pediatrician when I was 19 after my freshman year. I instantly fell in love with what he did because I realized how much of an art medicine is, how he came in with a smile doing what he loved, and the long lasting and rewarding connections with people you are able to have. Ever since that day I did everything I could to become a physician!
What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this area of study?
I majored in biochemistry because I knew many of the principles of medicine and pharmacology are based in biochemistry and a biology degree felt too “animal” heavy when I wanted a more human side of things.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
This is a difficult thing to do! But what helped me the most was setting daily goals on what to accomplish for my application. On one day I would focus on obtaining letters of recommendation, another day on my essay, another day on the contents of my application (CV). It may work well for some people like me, where I get burnt out if I work on one sole thing for too long. I would also implore anyone to please ask others for help! It is a hard enough process alone, so be humble and have others review your application and essay to make sure it is as good as it can be.
Were you successful on your first application attempt and if not, would you like to share your story with the students on how you recovered/planned for the reapplication?
Well I will be very honest… I didn’t do “medical school” well with my grades while in undergrad and knew I couldn’t get in after graduation. So I decided to better myself as a human being and participated in AmeriCorps in NYC for a year working as a medically oriented social worker for homeless men. It was a humbling and life changing experience to say the least! After that year of re-orienting myself I went to EVMS in Norfolk, Virginia for a “Medical Master’s” program which went well and ended up going to med school there! I was definitely not a “traditional” medical student so don’t worry if you aren’t!
How do you balance the demands of medicine with additional obligations and challenges?
By being myself. Even when I find myself slammed with exam preparation, residency interviews, or even large patient volumes as a resident I do my best to never forget to do the things that make me happy. Your free time is certainly precious and you need to use it to make your mental health and stress level as low as possible. Keeping an actual written/virtual schedule can really help with this and make sure you stay on top of your work and well being!
Do you feel that you were prepared for medical school interviews? What preparation advice would you give?
I feel as though I was relatively prepared for medical school interviews. You never really know what your interviewers are going to be like so that is certainly a tough part. As for advice I would say one of the most important things to do in preparation is to really know yourself. If you’re asked an opinion on something , know your opinion and know why you think that way. If you’re asked a tough question then answer it as honestly as possible, don’t tailor it to your interviewers (unless it is a very controversial question… which they aren’t supposed to ask). This last piece of advice may sound terrifying, but I would genuinely say that if you don’t know something to admit that. Ask for clarification and really see what they’re asking. A large part of medicine is knowing when to ask for help and knowing when you have a knowledge gap.
What do you enjoy most about medicine?
I’m extremely lucky that I get to work with children and their families. Taking care of the pediatric population is an unbelievable privilege given someone is allowing me to take care of their most prized possession. My patients make me laugh almost every single day, I get to help terrified parents through their child’s illness, and sometimes even be there during the last moments of their child’s life. Even though it is a tough field it is unbelievably rewarding. Another part of what I enjoy is realizing how much I have learned and how far I have to go to become the physician I want. It is all about learning and bettering yourself as a physician and human being which should be a never ending process.
Did you have to change any of your study habits when you entered medical school?
Absolutely! When I was an undergrad and a really tough time focusing and taking studying seriously. After my year in NYC and during my medical master year I worked extremely hard to study every single day to learn the concepts of medicine, many times up to 12 to 13 hours a day. I also realized during my medical master year that I am not someone that does well with face to face lectures and that watching recorded lectures (if possible) is much more helpful given I can stop it from playing and try to understand the concepts better as I go, rather than get behind. I also realized that there is a massive amount of information to learn a medical school, which can easily seem overwhelming, so I decided to stop taking as many notes and only try to focus notetaking on things I didn’t understand. I would typically make flash cards of the things I didn’t understand through the use of Anki online.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
That it is a long and difficult road but also extremely rewarding. My mentor once told me that it is one of the longest experiences of delayed gratification you can think of. With needing four years of undergrad, four years of Med school, and a minimum of three years of residency training it can seem like an almost impossible task. I can tell you it is not and that the entire experience is worth it if you truly have a passion for healing others.
Did you have any fears going into medicine?
I think almost every single person has fears going into medicine. At almost every single level I have experienced what is known as “impostor syndrome.” This is where I feel like at every level I am not cut out to be where I am…. and that is just not true. What I hope anyone who reads this realizes is that every single person in medicine has felt this at almost every step. It does not mean that we truly doubt ourselves and that you shouldn’t trust the doctors who are treating you or your future attendings, rather it means that it is a common shared experience and you are not failure. Don’t be so hard on yourself!!
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
Talking to my family whenever I can, exercising, eating well (for the most part), reading non-medical books, hanging out with friends (socially distanced when necessary), playing video games so that I can talk to friends who I don’t live close to. I would also say of course something that keeps me motivated at this point in my career is my patient population And the families that I get to work with every day. I go into work every single day with a smile, because I know I’m going in doing what I love.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell them off the top of your head?
Don’t be so tough on yourself. Many of us in medicine are type A individuals and perfectionists. But medicine isn’t perfect. You’re going to fail sometimes even if you did everything right, you’re not going to understand every single concept right away, you’re not going to always get a perfect grade, and not every patient interaction is going to go well. Do not beat yourself up for being in an already difficult field and know that us current doctors are excited to meet who you become as physicians!