Learn how real students navigate their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Lily, an MS3 with a passion for mentorship, surgery, and track.
Lily, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Can you share three interesting or unusual facts about yourself?
- I regularly practice yoga and it has really helped manage my stress and anxiety throughout medical school.
- I love being in the kitchen and cooking new recipes.
- I’m taking up calligraphy/lettering as a new hobby!
What do you love most about being an M3? What’s the hardest part?
Lily: My best thing about MS3 is finally transitioning out of the classroom and working with patients as part of the healthcare team. I love having the opportunity to listen to patient’s stories, empathize with their hardships, and comfort them through difficult times of illness; it’s extremely fulfilling. I also love getting any chance to scrub into the operating room and assist with surgeries!
The hardest part of third year is being constantly evaluated by attending and resident physicians. As medical students, we are evaluated on our medical knowledge, clinical skills, professionalism, ability to work as an effective team member, etc. Since these evaluations are usually a significant portion of our grade, it can be stressful at times.
Which rotations have you enjoyed so far? What are you most looking forward to?
Lily: I have really enjoyed my OB/GYN, ENT, and surgery rotations. I love specialties with variety. For instance, I love going from clinic to the operating room, from seeing a child to an elderly patient, from treating a benign illness to malignancy. I also value specialties that require technical competence and skill. I was most looking forward to my surgery rotation which I’m in the midst of right now!
How did you develop your interest in surgical specialties?
Lily: I developed an interest in surgical specialties when I realized the similarities between performing surgery and being an athlete. Throughout high school and college, I competed in track and field as a sprinter and hurdler. My favorite thing about being an athlete was working as a team, having the pressure of performing your best on race day, and putting in the work to perfect your technical skills. To me, surgery is very similar. I want a career where I can improve a patient’s health outcomes by honing my craft in surgical skills!
I love your comparison of surgery and track! Can you expand on that and tell us other things you learned from track that you can apply to medicine?
Lily: Definitely! Being a Division 1 collegiate student-athlete while majoring in a competitive major was extremely demanding. One of the best skills I inherently learned as student-athlete was time management. As an athlete, I needed my sleep to perform well at practice, so staying up late to study for an exam was not an option. Thus, I learned how to make use of random 15-30 minutes blocks of free time between classes, forced myself to study on long car or plane rides to track meets, and only took on extracurricular commitments that were important to me.
Being an athlete also taught me how to work effectively as a team player, especially with people from different backgrounds, how to develop a strong work ethic which meant never giving up in times of extreme difficulty (physically and mentally!), and how to respond well to feedback.
Lastly, I learned that progress is not always linear, but that tenacity and persistence can get you very far. I’ve had many setbacks throughout my premed journey, but I knew my goal was to become a physician and I persisted until I was accepted into medical school.
In medical school, I had a tough time adjusting to the rigors of the preclinical medical school coursework, but studied really hard and did well on Step 1.
As a premed student, it’s important to know that not everything will come easily. It’s okay to have setbacks. It’s okay to ask for help. Just don’t ever give up on your dreams!
Where and how do you study best? Have you been able to use the same strategies for organization and studying that you used as an undergrad?
Lily: I study the best at home where it’s absolutely quiet! Although I still use some of the same study strategies I used during undergrad, most of it has changed. For example, I still like to handwrite my notes and I organize them very similarly to my undergraduate notes. However, instead of reading textbooks, my learning style in medical school has shifted to mostly watching video lectures, doing dozens of practice questions, and using flashcards to retain the large amounts of information.
What volunteer experiences did you participate in as a premed? What extracurricular or volunteer activities do you currently participate in?
Lily: As a premed student, I was involved with various clinical and non-clinical volunteer experiences. I volunteered with organizations associated with homeless shelters, soup kitchens, foster children programs, the Red Cross, and the Make-A-Wish foundation. Clinically, I was a patient volunteer at a few different local hospitals. One of my favorites was the Hoag Hospital Clinical Care Extender program where I had the opportunity to rotate through gynecology/urology, telemetry, mother-baby, NICU and labor and delivery units.
Currently, I volunteer at the student-run clinics at my medical school. At these clinics, medical students work with attending physicians to provide care for underserved patients. We treat patients with a variety of complaints, provide routine immunizations, and administer tuberculosis skin tests.
As an MS2, I was president of a Culinary Medicine program at my medical school. This program provides free cooking classes to the community and teaches healthcare professionals how to cook and provide useful nutritional information to our patients. As the president, I organized fundraisers and medical student cooking events, held meetings to plan these events, managed various roles of the board members, and increased the social media presence of our program.
Other things I’m involved with include serving as an interviewer on the admissions committee, organizing health fairs/first aid tents for local community events, and serving on the honor board.
Your blog, lilyinmedicine.com, contains a wealth of information for premeds, med students, and those considering a career in healthcare. When and why did you start this blog?
Lily: One of my biggest passions is mentorship, which was the catalyst for creating my blog, Lily In Medicine. After having so many premed and med students reach out to me asking for advice, I decided to start a blog to make the information I shared more accessible. I started this blog during my third year of medical school as an extension of the information I post on my Instagram. Since I know how exceptionally grueling these times can be, my goal was to help students successfully navigate their premed/med journey by sharing my own experiences and the knowledge I learned along the way.
Were there any difficulties that you encountered as you navigated the medical school application process that were unique to your situation as the child of immigrants? How did you deal with those difficulties? How can the profession of medicine become more accessible to students of diverse backgrounds?
Lily: Yes, navigating the medical school application system can be difficult for students from “disadvantaged” backgrounds. Firstly, applying for medical school is very expensive. AMCAS application fees alone can be around $3,000 depending on how many schools you apply to. This doesn’t include the cost of traveling for interviews, applying to DO programs, paying for transcripts fees or a letter of recommendation managing service, etc. Thankfully, the AAMC offers a fee assistance program for students with financial needs. Since I qualified, the cost of applying to medical school was much more manageable.
I encourage those who think they may qualify to apply for the program early. The program can also provide MCAT resources if you qualify.
Other difficulties I had with navigating the application process was in the general understanding of the application process – the timeline, which schools to apply to, writing a strong personal statement, etc. Since I have no family members in medicine and my parents didn’t attend college, it was hard for me to find advice for applying to medical school from them. However, this challenge significantly developed my resourcefulness. I sought out mentors through my undergraduate school and I did a lot of online research to find the answers I needed.
Currently, with the presence of many medical students and physicians on social media, information about the process of applying to medical school has become much more accessible than it had been in the past. Being able to easily connect with so many premed students from all backgrounds is truly a gift and is one of the reasons why I created my blog.
As for the field of medicine, I know my medical school has done a great job of increasing mentoring/outreach programs for the inclusion of students from diverse backgrounds. More mentoring programs such as these can help students from underprivileged backgrounds get the exposure and access to information they need to successfully apply to medical school.
What advice do you have for premeds at the start of their med school journey?
Lily: When starting the premed journey, students should set a goal to figure out why they want to pursue medicine. Medical training is a long and arduous process, so it’s best they make sure they’re pursuing it for the right reasons. Some things they can do to help them figure this out are shadowing doctors, talking to people in the field, and getting clinical experience.
Premeds should also learn about what it takes the be a competitive medical school applicant. Unfortunately, it can sometimes feel like checking boxes when completing all the recommended experiences for med school applications (i.e. clinical experience, research, shadowing, volunteer work). The advice I have for making this process more enjoyable is pursuing experiences that align with their interests.
Lastly, students applying to medical school should not be discouraged if they don’t have perfect grades. Most schools consider applicants holistically and you can still get into medical school with less competitive scores.
Do you have questions for Lily? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Medical School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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• Med School Admissions: What You Need to Know to Get Accepted, a free guide
• Apply at Your Best: Advice from a Med School Admissions Expert, a podcast episode
• The BEST Advice for New Med School Applicants