Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Dr. Barry S. Rothman, Ph.D.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees?
Barry: I was a Biology major for four years at Haverford College, located just outside of Philadelphia. I loved being able to understand aspects of life at cellular and molecular levels. I then went directly to CalTech in Pasadena, CA, where I spent six years doing neuroscience research as my Ph.D. thesis project. I was drawn to this area because it provided insight into how the brain, learning and memory work at the cellular and molecular levels. Specifically, I studied the molecular underpinnings of circadian rhythms, the ~24-hr biological clocks that run many of our physiological processes.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?
Barry: Dune. What an amazing construct, merging facts about desert life with a powerful imagination about an alternate world, rife like ours with political problems and addictions. Still seems quite relevant today, given the problems in the Middle-East.
Accepted: Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
1. I’m the grandfather of two beautiful girls, ages 10 and 12, who are half Japanese. They are bicultural and bilingual, ready to become global citizens. My wife and I are so fortunate to have them and their parents (our son and daughter-in-law) living only two miles away. We see them often, and love the time we spend together. We’ve done this since they were born. I just came back from spending two weeks in Japan with the four of them.
2. I love walking, especially starting at my doorstep in San Francisco. I’ve walked many of the city’s hills, parks and beaches. My longest walk was 12 miles. Walking is a meditative experience for me – it gets my mind off of work while providing great exercise. Walking with friends is OK, but walking by myself provides the alone-time I need.
3. I love language. I learned Spanish throughout grade school and continued studying it in college. I now speak it at a conversational level. I’ve started learning Japanese, so that I can connect more with my daughter-in-law and granddaughters. The language and culture surrounding it are radically different from the language and culture in the U.S. During my recent trip to Japan I greatly enjoyed striking up conversations with willing strangers, and hanging out with my daughter-in-law’s family in Okinawa. I thought I knew what “hot and humid” meant during Philadelphia summers while growing up, but the summer in Okinawa went way beyond my Philly experience. Stepping out of the house instantly erased any thought of outdoor exercise.
Accepted: How long have you been working for Accepted? What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Barry: I started with Accepted.com in June of this year, so I presently have only three months of experience.
I enjoy getting to know my clients and helping them with the challenges they are facing. Applying to medical school is an undertaking that puts one intimately in touch with one’s own flaws and shortcomings. I like helping my clients navigate these choppy waters. In so doing, I’m reminded of my own rites of passage, especially writing my doctoral thesis, which took nine torturous months (quite the gestational period). Despite the pain and suffering, I learned a lot about myself and about writing.
Accepted: Can you talk about the road that led you to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted? What jobs and experiences led you to this point?
Barry: After completing my doctoral studies at CalTech, I spent the next 10 years learning how to conduct biomedical research, writing journal articles and writing grants, first at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and then at UC San Francisco. This led to my being hired for a tenure-track Neurobiology position at San Francisco State University, where I’ve been working for the past 30 years. At SF State I’ve had essentially three careers, each lasting about 10 years. I began by setting up a lab and performing neuroscience research with grad students and undergrads.
No longer entirely satisfied with research, after getting tenure and being promoted to full Professor, I shifted into teaching at all levels of the Biology and Physiology curriculum. Through teaching I came into contact with many pre-med and pre-dental students, and developed my own interest in molecular medicine. This led to my establishing post-bac programs through which these students, many from disadvantaged and/or minority backgrounds, could receive much more substantial academic and advising support in exchange for higher tuition. Over the nine years that I directed these programs, they expanded to employ a staff of about 10, offer about 30 prerequisite and elective science and math courses, and enroll about 250 students at any one time. At the end of May I stepped down from my leadership role to enter “semi-retirement.”
I now teach half-time, advise SF State post-bacs and undergrads, and consult for Accepted.com. I have seamlessly applied the detailed knowledge of the medical and dental school application processes I gained while directing the post-bac programs to my position as a consultant at Accepted.com.
Accepted: Can you tell us about some of your research and about your interest in health and healthcare?
My post-doctoral research focused on the way peptide neurotransmitters function in the nervous system. There are over 100 such neurotransmitters in the human brain; each has its own special location and role. For example, enkephalins are located in the brain stem and spinal cord, and function to lessen the sensation of pain. They are essentially one of our self-made opiates.
As indicated above, I developed an interest in molecular medicine; that is, understanding disease processes at the DNA, RNA and protein levels. Through this interest I created a course for Bio majors, Molecular Pathophysiology, in which we studied the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, cystic fibrosis and obesity.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had my own dealings with the healthcare system. They have not been very satisfying, as our system is quite flawed. I’m amazed at how much work it takes me, a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, to get the attention and services I need. I shudder to think what happens to patients with little education and resources. In response to our flawed system, I help many friends and family deal with the healthcare system.
Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?
During my three months with Accepted.com, I’ve interacted mainly with pre-meds. Recently, I’ve started working with a client who wants to enter a Genetic Counseling program. Due to my extensive experience helping pre-dental post-bacs, I welcome the opportunity to work with pre-dental clients. At SF State I also worked with pre-vet, -PT, -PA and -optometry students.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
1. Don’t rush! The fastest way to med school is slowly. Don’t compromise your grades and/or MCAT score due to being in a hurry. Taking an extra year can provide the space you need to develop into the best applicant you can be.
2. Seek advice. Don’t be a “rugged individualist” when it comes to the med school application process – it’s very complex, and difficult to do on one’s own. However, don’t rely too much on peer advice, as in many cases it’s flawed.
3. Develop a balanced lifestyle. Integrate studying with regular exercise, a good diet and time with friends and family. This will increase the efficiency with which you study. Obsessive studying is inefficient, and often is merely a way to try to cope with anxiety. You’ll need a balanced lifestyle as a healthcare provider; better to develop it now.