Learn how real students and recent grads have navigated their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Guido, graduate of the George Washington University in Washington DC Class of 2022 and current first-year internal medicine resident at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Internal Medicine Residency Program.
Guido, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Let’s start at the beginning… Where did you go to undergrad and what did you major in?
Guido: I went to the University of Maryland – College Park and Majored in Nutrition and Food Science with a concentration in Food Science.
What was your inspiration or epiphany for deciding to pursue a career in medicine?
Guido: I definitely come from a more “non traditional” background. Originally I wanted to pursue a career as a chef or in food science, but ended up getting a research internship at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (RIID) as a bridge between college and a professional career. While at RIID, I fell in love with biomedical science and knew that I wanted to continue to explore careers in medicine or research. My epiphany moment happened while I was in the cell culture room when I was overcome with clarity that, although I loved being in the lab, I truly missed the strong human element that came with food. I knew I had to pursue a career that allowed me to unify my new found interest in medicine with my old passion for human connection.
During the application process, were you also working full-time? What did that look like and how were you able to balance it all?
Guido: Yes, I was working full time as a clinical research manager – this was about 4 years after graduating from college. It was certainly difficult, but thankfully I had the support of my supervisors. They allowed me to work four, 10-hour days a week which gave me extra time for studying, preparing my application and interviewing at programs. Being able to balance everything was just a matter of organization and staying motivated.
Which “tools” – such as an app, technique, lifehack, website, guide, mantra, or advice – got you through the application process and into your target school?
Guido: There were so many things that I used to help me through the application process. I know Student Doctor Network has a somewhat controversial reputation, but I found that after filtering out all the noise, it actually had some great information. I used the Lizzy M calculator to get a general understanding of how competitive I may be. I also liked the AAMC MSAR, which I used to learn more about programs. The best advice I got was to just trust your application and not worry too much about others.
There are so many factors that go into accepting an offer at a med program! Which metrics did you use and what was most important to you?
Guido: The biggest factor for me was location. I wanted to be a a program where my partner would be able to have a successful career. He wanted to apply to law schools, so I knew that I needed to be in a major city where he would be able to attend a competitive law program. I also heavily weighed cost of attendance as well as research opportunities. Luckily, GW offered a decent financial aid package and recruited me with the GW METEOR program. Through the METEOR program I was able to complete research during my first two years of medical while being supported with a small stipend. This later turned out to be an excellent opportunity and I credit the METEOR experience for making me competitive for an American Society of Haematology research award as well as for residency applications!
Studying is a huge part of any med school student’s life – and studying truly never ends for medical professionals! What is your approach to studying? What does an ideal study session look like for you?
Guido: This is a really good question. Medicine is definitely a career that involves life-long learning. I would say that my general approach was to break things down into the general concepts and strive to master those first before attacking more nuanced or complex topics. I also made sure to not overextend myself when it came to studying. I was really good (maybe to good) at allowing myself time to relax and spend time with family, friends, and my partner. I will say that it’s very hard to learn things completely by yourself, so I highly endorse forming a small study group and learning as a team. I had a group of 3 other medical students that would hold review sessions the day before every exam. It was such a joy to teach each other and reinforce our understanding of the material. I would say an ideal study session would be spending the 1-2 hours reviewing material individually, followed by 2-3 hours of group review and reinforcement. I also have to put in a plug for Anki. I was really late to the Anki game, but it changed the way I learned medicine. Everyone should give it a shot as soon as they start med school.
Med school is intense, to say the least! How has it forced you to get outside your comfort zone?
Guido: Yeah, medical school is such a formative time in your career. It’s filled with challenging and emotionally complex experiences that are not limited to patient care or academia. I experienced countless challenges in the lab, with my relationships, with patients, and with members of the hospital. It has forced me become more resilient whenever I am faced with adversity as well as more willing to offer others grace whenever they may make mistakes. by far, I think medical school pushes you to take ownership of your personal and professional story arc. You are quickly forced to decide what kind of person you want to be in the field of medicine and in the lives of patients, which can definitely be an uncomfortable transition.
Does George Washington have any traditions or superstitions that med students participate in?
Guido: I can’t really think of anything too specific to our program. I will say that every year our M1 students lead an HIV public health summit where they are able to propose policy changes to either top officials around the country and here in DC. Dr. Fauci usually speaks at these events which is always a treat. Also, at Children’s National, there is a fun frozen yogurt machine, and its a little tradition that on your last day of inpatient pediatrics, everyone gets frozen yogurt. The machine is actually like something you would find in an arcade. It plays music and has flashing lights – it’s a favorite stop for all the kids!
Where can people follow your journey to get an unfiltered view of what it’s like to be a med student?
Guido: Well I just graduated from medical school this past May, so no unfiltered views of student life. But, I am starting as an Internal Medicine Resident at the Washington University in St. Louis/Barnes-Jewish Hospital residency program. So, you can definitely get a glimpse of life immediately after medical school by following me on Instagram (@the_national_gdp) or on twitter (@guidopelaez1). I am happy to have premed students or medical students reach out for any advice or tips!
And finally… What advice would you give your younger self just beginning the med school application process?
Guido: I would say, go easy on yourself. Get to know your patients and their stories. And above all, invest in your classmates and loved ones. They are going to carry you over the finish line and will contribute more to your success as a student than you could achieve on your own. The relationships you make during medical school are ones that will last a lifetime!
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