Hi you, I’m Alana!
Firstly, thank you, Angela, for the honor of my first interview-article being part of a series with such an impactful mission.
A few blurbs to describe myself: Empath. First-generation, second year medical student. Plant and Pitbull mama. Rooftop happy hour connoisseur. Sunset admirer. Virgo-baby. Natural sista. I’m also a huge advocate of living happy and place an emphasis on the importance of maintaining balance between our work and personal lives. My mentor consistently reminds me that if we don’t care for ourselves, we cannot care for our patients. That being said, this article isn’t a peek into my life in medicine, but instead, some info on my favorite way to deal with the stress that comes with this career. If you want more insight on my life as a medical student, check out @PagingDrBryant on Instagram!
My Life In Medicine
My journey to medicine is honestly traditional and boring. I never had an Aha-moment like a lot of people experience when it comes to medicine. No astounding visits to the doctor, no unforgettable life-saving measures that affected me as a child, just curiosity and interest in how our bodies work. Now that I am a medical student, I’ve learned for me, there exists no career more fitting than medicine. I can’t picture myself doing anything else or more meaningful with my life. However, a full-time, stay at home plant mom comes close second.
Growing up I’d always had a knack for science, so I chose a “safe” major and studied biology at Florida State. Go Noles! I (foolishly) didn’t realize my major would mostly consist of examining bugs and plants, so I joined a ton of clubs on campus to figure out what I liked to do. Everything led back to medicine. I started volunteering in hospitals, got a job working as a clinical trials assistant, secured a position in neuroscience research and did all the shadowing I could get my hands on.
It wasn’t until I was involved in all of these things—maybe do a little less than I did, I was stretched thin, that I saw medicine come to life. Research benchwork made medicine tangible, hospital volunteering taught me how imperative teamwork is, and working in a clinical trials lab turned patients into people. It’s important that you know the field you are going into, medicine is heavy. Do your best to get involved with it in full scope where you can.
In reality, med school can be really tough. Study days are long and stressful, and it can feel overwhelming a lot of the time. What keeps me going is knowing that one day my MD will positively impact many people in need. Until then, there is tons of work to do!!
My Biggest Challenge: The MCAT
My MCAT experience was extremely humbling. It was arguably my biggest barrier thus far on my journey. I have always generally been a good test-taker, so going into this exam I ignored a lot of advice and studied how I wanted to (lazily). Boy did this exam give me a run for my money (literally lol). Long story short: I took my exam and got a crummy score. Then studied for two months, retook it and got a lower score than the first time. It felt like a smack in the face, I was defeated.
Everyone told me “there’s always next cycle” but deadlines were fast approaching, and, again against most people’s advice I sent in an application. I figured it was worse to not try and never know than to try and receive a rejection letter. So, I sent my application to 16 schools, got two interviews and *thankfully* one acceptance.
HOWEVER, I would not recommend banking on this outcome. I ended with my best-case scenario but a lot of students do not. I was able to slide with my MCAT because I had a really strong GPA, a background in research and lots of extracurriculars under my belt. Do yourself the favor and take your entrance exams seriously. Looking back, real preparation and planning would have saved me a lot of time, money and effort.
A Piece of Advice
If medicine is your dream, don’t let any opinion (academic advisor, family member, bad grade, or test score) get in your way. I’ve experienced a fair share of upsetting academic advisor meetings, crummy scores and micro-aggressions from peers along the way—what matters is you keep going. Retake the class, send in next-cycle’s application, schedule another exam, tell the doubts in your head to kindly f-off. Your dedication and persistence will place you exactly where you are supposed to be.
If the school addresses ~insert your personal situation here~, find a way to highlight the ways you’ve grown from your situation and how you’ll put those lessons to practice in the future. This was super helpful in explaining my MCAT score in my interviews.
If I Could Change One Thing…
I would maintain more discipline with my studies early on. One of the caveats to finding balance is also knowing when it is time to get back to work. I think training myself to be more disciplined at an early stage in medical school would have saved me a lot of stress and heartbreak my first year.
One Thing I Would Tell My Younger Self:
Taking a break when you need one is a GOOD thing. Fully enjoy your breaks when you have them. The to-do list will be there when you’ve finished taking care of yourself.
Most importantly, be kind to yourself. XO