Homeless borderline flunkout to neuroscientist, academic mentor and prospective med student

Hello pre-med / med community, my names Ben and I wanted to share with everyone on my current journey as a pre-medical student. Hopefully, we can all exchange dialogue in my reflection on my journey as a pre-med student from NYC.

[Fresh out of high school, freshly clueless]

Being fresh out of high school I had no foundation in academics, no mentors and no discipline nor drive. I still remember the college coach at my HS looking at me like I was stupid for submitting my real college application instead of the practice. I thought I knew everything when In fact, I knew nothing. I transferred from my community college to a senior college (CUNY) with a downward trend in my GPA. This, of course was the biggest regret in my life. I should of stayed and seized the opportunities that are more easily available in community college. Yet my pride tore me asunder.

[From a 1.8 cGPA to 3.3GPA (sGPA: 3.0) building up from ground zero]

Once in senior college, I turned to advisors (in the pre-med and general science dept.) for help. They all shut the door on me. None had referred to resources, not one advisor sought to help me in my time of need. After my 4th death knell of a semester, my cGPA TANKED to a 1.8. I was done for. (During that time, I also escaped a controlling cult on campus but that’s another story for another time). With my GPA on the lifeline, even the head of academic standards said I was on my way to flunking out. I said NO! not this time. This time was different and so I constructed my foundation and built up my academics from this ground zero. Within the span of 2017 to now, My GPA leaped from 1.8 to 3.3 (with sGPA being raised from below 1.8 to 3.0). Along the way I met mentors outside the sciences that helped me considerably. None of this is owed to the pre-med or science departments in my school.

[From the beautiful busy skyline of lower Manhattan to the dark and dank shelters without a home]

I was in the best environment when I first started in community college. There were free tutors, expert advisors, a beautiful campus (in Manhattan) with many free to low-cost resources in maintaining a perfect GPA. I squandered so many early opportunities because of my arrogance, ignorance on how college worked (or lack thereof) and little to no guidance on what it takes to be a stellar- let alone decent pre-med student. When I first began college, all I had were my parents who’ve both dropped out of college in the past. They egged me on to get my degree and get perfect grades, yet they failed to achieve such a feat. During my journey in building my upward trend, family and legal conflicts led to an eviction and homelessness. Once we were in a shelter, I was tasked with not only continuing in my academics and interning at a prestigious hospital at Columbia University, but I was also tasked with finding a home for myself and my family. Imagine studying in a one room (like a jail cell) with other shelter dwellers in other rooms, yelling and banging the walls during the night. Imagine placing your backpack through a metal detector every time you come from school. I reached the placed where most pre-meds would in fact give up and still kept trucking. 7 months after the initial shelter placement we found a place. All the while I achieved straight A’s in all my psych, neuroscience and even bio courses. I also completed my internship in working with neurologists, at the ED and other various clinics.

[Training volunteers, lecturing a medical course, Submitting a peer reviewed research on COVID19]

I was still volunteering after my internship, and I was promoted in training other volunteers and teaching them how to adapt in the ED. I had the pleasant opportunity to not only excel in a medical course taught at my school, but I also became a TA and lectured to over 150 students in neurological diseases and psychology. I also had the opportunity during the lockdown to submit research that compares neuro immune components with the cytokine storm that is triggered from COVID19. I came a long way. College has been a tough teacher and the hardest lessons were outside the classroom. Although I graduated, I mentor students on campus who may be going to similar struggles and lend my strategies so they may avoid the same fate I once fell into.

[The war as of now and the battles currently being fought]

I plan on taking the MCAT this August and again next year before applying so I may have 2 chances at attack. Now I want to be clear, I have absolutely no desire to enroll in a DO program. DO schools require to take 2 licensing exams to be competitive (USMLE/COMLEX) and significantly little residency opportunity compared to MD (you also have to with MD and fellow DO). I have never worked nor even saw or spoken to a DO physician. I do not believe that the DO profession is increasing and it’s just more sensible to throw dice at the “match” after taking just one licensing exam. I have not narrowed down each individual medical school yet, however the MD programs are my priority. I have experience in shadowing DPM and have considered their path as well (despite only 2 nearest medical schools being NYCPM and Temple). This is because of a prior family foot injury which exposed me to the field of pod and one of my recent mentors who is a foot surgeon. What are your thoughts? Does this former semi-flunky underdog stand a chance with rolling with the big dog MDs? How fast would NYU or Columbia med reject me lol (no bets please). Lastly, I have not- and probably will not consider SMPs or a cert. post bacc. Part of my upward trend includes a post bacc with hard sciences. Yet both SMP and grade enhancer post baccs are too expensive and too few out there in the country.

[Closing remarks]

Reflecting on my story, I know there are many details I left out, but this was just the short-sweet version of hellish experience to hopefully reach out to fellow pre-meds on discussing my chances. I could not help but take a step back from all the Jack Westin practice questions I’ve been doing to just reflect on how far I’ve come. I made so much progress yet, I still feel sometimes that I somehow missed the mark. My top three desired specialties are Neurology, anesthesiology, and EM. There is also of course podiatry. I hope my story can be an inspiration to many of those on the journey and to med school admissions officers who decide to give me the opportunity in the career of healing.