Introduction and a question about extracurriculars

Hi all, I’m Dave, and I’m a 30 year old software engineer looking to make the switch to a career in medicine. I graduated with an undergraduate degree in General Studies (pretty bad, right?) with a GPA of 3.52. I decided about 18 months ago to return to school and do what I’ve always wanted to do, which is provide care and service to the community as a physician. Since then I’ve been taking as many courses as my schedule will allow at community colleges, and am almost done with the base pre-requisite coursework.

My plan is to take the MCAT in early 2017, and submit my application in June 2017. I am struggling to find the time to take all the coursework, plan my study for the MCAT, find volunteering and shadowing opportunities, and fulfill my familial obligations (wife and 5 year old). My primary question is regarding how family connections to extracurriculars are viewed.

My brother is a practicing D.O., so I can fairly easily get long, meaningful shadowing experience with him, where he allows me to actually interact with patients, but I worry how that will appear on the application.

Along the same lines, after my sister passed away from colon cancer in 2008, my family started a 501c3 non-profit geared towards helping young adults diagnosed with cancer. I have volunteered hundreds of hours of my time for this organization, which is made up entirely of my family members. I have had some amazing experiences with cancer patients/survivors through the years, but I worry admission committees will see it attached to my family name and not consider it as valid as volunteering for some other organization. Do you believe this will be an issue for me?

I have some additional concerns that were raised after touring and talking with an admissions adviser at a local D.O. program, but I’ll save those for another post.

I don’t personally see a problem with shadowing your brother, but most schools want/require an LoR from a practicing physician, and one from an immediate family member isn’t likely going to be taken seriously. Does your brother practice with other physicians? What might be ideal is seeing if he can set you up with one of his colleagues to shadow (in addition to shadowing him). This should presumably give you a solid LoR, and increases the number of physicians you shadowed. I personally shadowed 10 different doctors, (6 MDs, 4 DOs) and got LoRs from two of them.

As far as the volunteer work goes, it’s a registered 501c3, and seems like a solid focus for your personal statement. As long as you were a volunteer and not an employee I wouldn’t think there would be any issues. Honestly, even if you were an employee you could probably incorporate it into your application pretty easily, just make sure not to list it as volunteer work.

Thanks for the response. How many shadowing hours total did you have between the 10 docs?

If memory serves it was about 65-70 total.