How I Found My Pre-Med Identity & Why is it important?
I had gotten the chance to visit a medical school and meet with a dean of admissions that I had met through Diverse Medicine. It was great – we talked about their curriculum, their mission, my interests, and goals, as well as the future of health care and health education. At the end of our meeting, I thanked him for his time and asked if he had any advice for someone about to jump into the next application cycle. To my comfort, he said, “Lauren, there’s nothing I can tell you to do that you haven’t already done.” It was reassuring to hear that I was on the right track. But to my surprise, he said the most common mistake premeds make regarding applications is not applying to the right schools. We all know stats can be a strong indicator of how competitive our candidacy is, but more importantly, you must be able to connect with their mission.
Each school has a mission statement that summarizes their most important values and core beliefs. Arguably, this may be one of the most important factors to consider. You might have the right GPA and MCAT score, but a school won’t just grant you admission if you don’t seem to share a common mission. So how do you find your premedical mission statement? This takes a lot of introspection.
I sat on this for a while. As I was trying to define my premedical identity, I found it easiest to reflect on my most impactful and valuable experiences over the past few years. I threw myself into research and found myself looking for opportunities to attend and present my findings at conferences. I noticed a lot of the time my mind drifted to how we could apply modern science to investigate current health issues or design follow up experiments to those discussed in class. I realized how passionate I am about education. I assumed a role as an educator by being a peer tutor throughout school, partaking in community K-12 science outreach programs, and educating my patients on health results and screening guidelines. Lastly, I found gratification in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and becoming a leader. This last one has multiple paths I’m still exploring – leading by example, mentoring, supporting and encouraging my peers, and learning to speak up about issues.
I think by taking the time to define some of the aspects I value the most I found clarity on where I want to go next. I want to build on all of these qualities throughout medical school and incorporate them into my practice as a clinician. It only makes sense for me to go to a medical school where I can do that. On the other hand, it only makes sense for a school to want me if I match what they’re trying to create. All in all, I suppose this was just a roundabout way of saying to remember that this is a two-way street. DEFINE YOUR CURRENT AND FUTURE SELF. Then look for the best opportunities that are going to help you get to where you want to be. You may not know your future self at the time, but you can certainly dream of it and make it come to fruition.
Hindsight is 20/20
What I wish I did looking back...
1. Apply broadly – Cast a WIDE NET
Looking back, I recommend NOT ONLY applying to programs that are within the same niche. When you make your school list KEEP AN OPEN MIND – you may find yourself loving a program or location that you had never thought about before.
2. Apply MD and DO
I only applied to MD programs because I felt like many programs had a strong emphasis on research, and one day I see myself going into academic medicine. I was VERY self-conscious about applying to DO programs because I did not have any direct one-on-one experience working with or shadowing a DO physician. I let my insecurities over that prevent me from filling out an AACOMAS application and may have missed out on learning about some incredible institutions.
About the Author
My name is Lauren Kanzaki and I’m a 2nd year MD student at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. I graduated from undergrad in 2016 and then took 3 gap years working as a researcher in a developmental and cellular biology lab and exploring a wide range of clinical endeavors. I came from an undergrad institution that is very premed concentrated, and it took me a while to get comfortable and confident in my path to medicine when it looked different from others. I’m passionate about mentorship and premed advice! Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions via Instagram or Diverse Medicine!