Before anyone objects to CA “girl”… I decided after I turned 30 that I was old enough to be called a girl again. In the right context, of course.
Finally getting around to joining the forum, after finding it tremendously useful so many years ago when I was a pre-med and oh so confused. At this point, I’m starting my 5th year at Yale, after doing a year of research.
Not sure if my whole application saga is useful, so I’ll write an abridged and not very poetic version and expand on request.
1. Decided fixing computers was not the career for me.
2. Traveled for a year in SE Asia (did anyone ever grumble… gosh I wish I hadn’t spent that year traveling, I could have started my medical career a year earlier?)
3. Night classes at the local (quite good) community colleges for gen chem while working FT.
4. Work --> PT and eventually quit. Daytime classes at local (cheap, not so good) university for org chem, bio, physics.
5. Started low-pay work at academic medical office / journal editorial office as admin assistant. Advantage: I learned how a medical journal’s editorial process works and got a stellar rec letter from the division head.
6. Shadowed a family practice doc a few hours per week for over a year. Ended up writing some educational pamphlets for her patients on alternative therapies for problems where she was explaining the same thing over & over (allergies, PMS). Advantage: she wrote me a rec letter, also led to…
7. 2nd low-pay PT job with an international non-profit. Advantage: $ discount on clinical rotation in Ecuador since I was doing some work for the non-profit. Physician contact in Ecuador for a future research project, which I did the first summer in medical school.
8. Volunteer at Stanford children’s hospital. Everybody should do the volunteer thing, but not if it’s just a superficial experience… that shows on the application, so don’t waste your time.
9. BTW, I’m on the admissions committee at Yale, so I’ll throw in bits of advice from that perspective occasionally. Obviously, I can’t go into specifics, but am happy to share general impressions of what successful applicants have done. And I’m only one person at one school, so take what I say with a grain of salt.
10. Application process: it’s so arbitrary, both from personal and now the inside perspective. We try not to be, but so much depends on who you interview with. In general, a solid and well-rounded applicant with something special --an outstanding experience or characteristic – will do well with anyone.
11. My application experience: somewhat arbitrary, here’s the tally as I remember it:
Yale: accepted, now I’m here
UCSF: wait list, pulled myself off list in May
Stanford: rejected post-interview (terrible interview with a surgeon who commented on my age and its impact on my personal life)
UC Davis, UC Irvine, U Michigan, U Pitt: accepted
UCLA, UCSD, Harvard: rejected pre-interview
12. So here I am in New Haven after 4 years, and have absolutely loved going to school here. No competition (except on the soccer field or trivial pursuit game), lots of flexibility, amazing academic resources. Whenever someone gets accepted here and goes somewhere else, I want to shake them and say, What’s wrong with you? Actually, New Haven’s not the greatest place to live, so if that’s a priority… but it’s a whole lot better than its reputation, and I have enjoyed living here. Particularly the big apartment I can afford here by myself, as opposed to the tiny studio I would have in the Bay Area. And NYC less than 2 hours by train.
13. What I’ve done here besides the usual:
* medical anthropology research in Ecuador with poor women who have more children than they would have liked, figuring out what went wrong (funded int’l fellowship for a summer)
* Spanish interpreting at the hospital
* one-year clinical research fellowship (Doris Duke) on health status outcomes in coronary artery disease patients one year after hospitalization. Amazing mentors, learned epi, stats, and research design in extensive didactic courses, then really learned through hands-on data analysis and poster- and paper-preparing.
* Admissions committee last year, probably not so much this coming year. Very interesting experience.
* Peer advocate: we’re elected by classmates, global purpose is to influnce the culture of the hospital working environment in a direction towards more respectful and professional. Handle calls from peers bothered by incidents of minor sexual harassment, abuse, or anything else disturbing (often misguided flirting by a resident). Mostly we talk things through and serve as a sounding board/reality check, but we can also refer things to higher-ups like student affairs or the ombudsperson, or mental health services (happens only rarely).
14. Research: I had absolutely no research experience when applying, but wanted to learn. This is a difficult thing to accomplish, but not impossible. To learn research, you have to go to a school where that’s important, or apply for a research fellowship done elsewhere, like the Doris Duke or Howard Hughes or Sarnoff. But, research-oriented schools like to see research experience. If this is you, be sure to have some fairly concrete ideas of the type of research you would like to do and why. And you need to have some solid, meaningful clinical experience, and high MCATs/grades never hurt.
15. Scores: probably not as important as you think. Crazy high scores will not get you in by themselves. Low scores will not keep you out if you have an interesting and impressive application otherwise. The broad middle ground gets a glance and that’s it.
16. Letters: very important, get strong letters from physicians and/or PhD researchers. Think about this early in your process, not when it’s time to get letters, i.e. if you want a letter from an MD, then you have to work with an MD in some meaningful capacity for a significant duration. Get a letter from your supervisor in your previous career, even if it has nothing to do with medicine. Make sure they understand the culture of these letters – they’re not the place for restraint of language if they really like you (how you communicate this to your letter writer… very tricky, I’ll leave that up to you). e.g. “X was always on time and performed his/her job duties better than most.” – Kiss of death. What you need is, “X is the most productive and creative employee I have ever had the pleasure of working with.” Lots of specific and strong adjectives and examples of why you’re so great. Projects where you took initiative, that sort of thing.
17. There is no perfect applicant. You’ll read all about what you need to do for the strongest possible application, but nobody actually does everything. Focus on what you can do well and truly enjoy… that’s what will make the interview go well.
18. Residency: next on my list of things to do. Planning on internal medicine, with a women’s health fellowship. I plan to try academic medicine. I like clinical research, but I’m not sure if I like it enough to trudge through all the grant applications, etc., so we’ll see. Geographically, my top choices are probably going to be San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston programs.
That wasn’t so abridged after all
I’m happy to answer any questions about anything, really. And I’ll be looking for others applying for residency to commiserate with
Oh, BTW, I’m single and have found dating in New Haven at age 35 exceedingly frustrating. On-line dating (match.com, eharmony.com, etc.) is the way to go, but even that can’t make interesting and intelligent single men appear where they don’t exist. Consider this in your choice of schools if it’s important to you – a big cit
y might be a better choice.
Good luck all!
Nice, outline – I almost applied to Yale, but then decided not to send in my secondary. I’m about 40 –45 minutes east of you on 95. Give a yell if you want to have lunch sometime.
I have a friend, Dr. Kansky Delisma who should be finishing his Internal Medicine Residency up there at Yale. He was a great friend who graduated a year ahead of me from Howard. He is a great friend.
Welcome back to OPM! Please refresh my memory as to when you were previously involved. Was it during the list-serve days?
I know a couple of folks at Yale that you may know. A first year IM resident named Samir Haydar - good personal friend & classmate of mine. And, the Chair of Anesth/Critical Care, Roberta Hines. I know her from coming up to Dartmouth & having taken care, as a resident, of people she knows in this area.
It was back in the listserve days, and I don’t think I ever wrote anything – just an invisible reader of advice from others, probably around 1997-99 as I was trying to figure out where to do post-bac classes, what kind of job I could find in the medical field, etc. Your friends are both familiar names to me, but I haven’t crossed paths with them (yet). I’m back in the hospital now on electives/sub-I, so I’ll be sure to invoke you should I meet them
Congratulations on not being an intern anymore (or at least soon…)!
Sharon - great insights! Ironically, I was JUST putting my schools into AMCAS and I decided to add Yale to it. Five minutes later I was reading your post. Spooky.
I think your list of things to look for in med school is awesome. I was worried about my lack of research experience and applying to certain schools. Still a bit of a worry, but I feel pretty strong with the rest of my app.
My only concern: Are pre-meds reading this forum? I don’t know why I am trawling through the ‘med student’ links tonight, but I normally focus on the pre-med threads. Any way to get your list moved over to the ‘applying to med schools’ section? Just a thought.
I had the same doubts about whether I was posting in the right place. I’ll peruse the different forums and see if I can get the info somewhere where pre-meds will see it.
Good luck in the application process – most of your hardest work is done. Well, I guess the secondaries require some exertion, but the interview is just talking about all the cool stuff you’ve worked so hard to accomplish, so enjoy it! Of course, ask me any questions that come up along the way about Yale or med school in general.