This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Natalie Uy…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Natalie: Howdy! I was born in New York but grew up most of my life in San Antonio, Texas. I went to Stanford University in California (the best college ever in my humble opinion) where I got a dual degree with a BS in Biology and a BA in Art Practice, graduating in the c/o 2012.
Accepted: Where are you currently in med school? What year?
Natalie: I am currently a 3rd year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
Accepted: If you could change one thing about med school, what would it be?
Natalie: There isn’t really anything that I’d change honestly. I really like how my medical education has been structured – here we have 1.5 years of pre-clinics and 2.5 years of clinical rotations.
My least favorite part is studying for boards. I know it’s a rite of passage, but Step 1 is something I’d rather not endure again!
Accepted: What’s been your favorite rotation so far? Do you think this is what you’ll eventually specialize in?
Natalie: It’s been surprisingly hard to say. I started off with psychiatry thinking I wouldn’t like it, but it was a great experience. My first clinical experience as a young MS2 was interviewing a psychotic patient in the county hospital ER – nothing teaches you the DSMV criteria for schizophrenia better than the patient himself. Similarly, I thought I wouldn’t like surgery but seriously considered it after I had particularly exceptional teachers in vascular and ENT.
I’ve decided to go into Internal Medicine – not because of my specific rotation per se, but because of what I felt was the best fit for me. I think when choosing a specialty it’s important to look at the specialty itself and filter out biases like the hospitals, the attendings, the residents, etc. I knew I needed a lot of interaction with patients and decided to stay with the cerebral side of medicine. I liked the variety of diseases in IM and although I enjoyed a pediatrics a lot, I liked being able to directly converse with my adult patients. I also knew I want to have a family in the future and be involved with raising my kids, so it was also a flexible choice. I will probably further subspecialize in IM, but exactly when remains to be seen.
Accepted: Did you go straight from college to med school? How would you advise others who are deciding between taking a gap year or not?
Natalie: Although many people from Stanford take a gap year, I went straight. I knew exactly what I wanted to do – be a doctor! – so I was ready to start medical school, and I don’t regret not having a gap year.
Taking a gap year is always a personal decision of course. My friends who took gap years did it because they were burnt out from school or wanted to strengthen their applications with research or boost their GPA or have other life experiences first. I don’t know anyone who regretted taking a gap year, so I don’t think it’s ever a bad idea. The only thing to consider is that the longer you wait, the harder it may be in getting back into the habit of classes and exams, as some of my older classmates were 5-10 years out from college.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your food blog? Is there any connection to your passion for medicine in your blog? Can you direct us to your three favorite posts?
Natalie: Oh yes – to take time off from studying, I run a food blog called Obsessive Cooking Disorder (fondly known as OCD). I started it just prior to medical school to document recipes I tried and liked, but it’s definitely grown; all the photography and writing is done by me. The art of food photography – styling to make the food look amazing is always a fun artistic challenge. I’ll write about a variety of topics – history and tips on a particular food, funny conversations with friends and family, and often, stories on my medical journal.
It’s also nice because I can share with other fellow students what life is like – good days and bad – as well as document how I felt on a given rotation. Medical school goes by in a flash, and I want to remember every moment of it – from preclinicals and clinics to studying for boards to Match Day!
Here are a few recipes about my medical journey.
• Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)
• Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia
• Cinnamon Craisin Walnut Sourdough
• All American Brownies
• Mocha Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream
Accepted: How have you shared your love of food with your patients / the Medical Center/ the Houston community?
Natalie: I’ve been able to channel my culinary skills with patients as one of the leaders for CHEF (Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh), our student organization promoting wellness and nutrition. We run an amazing unique cooking elective where trained chefs teach our medical students how to cook (we cook 3 course meals right at Baylor over the course of a semester) and started a Farmer’s Market co-op for the medical center. We also do hands-on cooking classes with adolescents at Texas Children’s Hospital Bariatric program and Rice University’s PAIR refugee program at local high schools. We’ve have cooking demonstrations at numerous community health fairs and wellness races, which people always love.
I’ve been lucky to be incredibly involved with both the student and the greater community through cooking – I love writing up new recipes and educating patients on healthy options! No matter what the age, race/culture, or location of your patients, everyone loves to eat, so it’s a great bond.
Accepted: Looking back at the med school admissions process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? What steps did you take to overcome that challenge?
Natalie: The most difficult part was doing everything while I was currently a college student. Because I didn’t take a gap year, I didn’t have as much time to get things like research publications on my resume or study as much for my MCAT. I had to study for my MCAT in the midst of applying for research grants, getting my honors thesis proposal ready, and taking an enormous load of courses because of my dual degree (I completed 5 years of courses in 4 years). Time management was definitely key, but it prepared me very well for medical school.
Accepted: Do you have any tips for incoming first year students? What do you wish you would’ve known before starting med school to make your transition easier?
Natalie: The most difficult part of adjusting to med school is realizing that not only is everyone incredibly smart, everyone is also so hard working. Don’t stress if you’re not in the top of your class anymore – just strive to be the best doctor you can be. I encourage people not to see fellow medical students as competition, but as future colleagues and co-workers. After all, you’d want to refer your grandmother to the best doctors in the future – your classmates!
Definitely the most important thing is to have a work-life balance. I make a point to exercise daily, cook/bake with my blog and make artwork. Also remember to have fun and socialize – I could not have made it without my significant other, friends, and family. Medicine is a journey, not a destination!
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You can follow Natalie’s med school adventure by checking out her blog, Obsessive Cooking Disorder. Thank you Natalie for sharing your story with us!
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