This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with med school applicants and students. And now for a follow up interview with Danielle Ward, a second-year med student at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Georgia Campus. We first met Danielle last year – you can read our first interview with her here.)
Accepted: It’s been over a year since we last spoke. Can you bring us up to speed? How was your first year of med school?
Danielle: The year flew by so fast!!!! Medical school was a huge adjustment at first getting used to the heavy course load, and the term of everything neuro-related was definitely a struggle, but I survived! I just can’t stress enough how happy I am to wake up every day knowing that I am on the path to pursuing my dreams. I started my second year of classes today, and knowing hospital rotations are now only a year away, and that this is my last official year ever of classroom learning has me on cloud nine!
Interestingly enough, even though I was super busy just trying to stay afloat my first year, I somehow managed to stay involved in a bit of everything else too. I was able to keep up with my weekly blog posts (for the most part), became a Student Ambassador for my school, was appointed as the Student National Medical Association‘s 2015-16 National Co-Chair of Osteopathic Medical Schools during their annual conference this past April in New Orleans, and I became Director of Articles & Blogs for DiverseMedicine Inc.
My first year of medical school was very good to me, and I am hoping that this year will be even better.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine?
Danielle: My absolute favorite thing about attending Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Georgia Campus is the fact that I am surrounded by a group of amazing people every day. I am lucky to belong to a class where everyone tends to genuinely care about and help each other, and I love being surrounded by like-minded individuals who all share a similar goal of becoming physicians. I also probably would not have been as successful my first year if it weren’t for some of my classmates’ support in the form of helping with studying, babysitting, or pushing me to work even harder and believe that I could actually make it through.
As for the school in general, I love the faculty (they really do care about us doing well) and the location. Atlanta has so much to do, and it’s nice not being directly in the city and having to deal with traffic, but a plus being close enough to where you can get away for a little break if needed.
Accepted: If you could change anything about the program, what would it be?
Danielle: At the moment, there really isn’t anything I can think of about the program that I would change. I feel like they do a great job preparing us, but if I had it my way I would get rid of group assignments, days when we have mandatory lectures, and it would be nice if the school had a dedicated board exam study period. That’s just me being nit-picky though, because I respect and understand why certain things are the way they are, and I really don’t have a problem with them not being changed.
Accepted: What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in med school? How would you advise entering first-year students who may also encounter that challenge?
Danielle: That’s a hard question! I guess the greatest challenge I’ve faced would be self-doubt. There were so many times when I thought I wasn’t going to make it through my first year, and the fear of failing would always pop up in my head every now and then. I learned that many other students (both pre-medical and medical) deal with the same struggle, so I made a blog post about this a while back. It can be found here, and it details the challenge and the lessons I learned from my experience.
Accepted: What are some things you’ve learned since completing your first year of med school?
Danielle: I wrote a super long blog post last month titled “50 Things I Learned During My First Year of Medical School” that highlights pretty much everything I learned as a first year medical student. I’m sure I probably missed a thing or two, but I’ve received so much great feedback on it from students about to start medical school and even current medical students. I guess no matter the school, we all share some of the same struggles!
Accepted: Before you started med school, you had said you were considering a future in surgery. Has that changed?
Danielle: My desire to pursue surgery is stronger than ever! Being a medical student and holding positions with SNMA and DiverseMedicine Inc., I have had the chance to network with some amazing physicians in the field of surgery as well as other fields. I also serve as an officer in the GA-PCOM Surgery Club this year, so you can definitely see that my views have not changed.
During the third term of my first year of medical school, I participated in the Perry Initiative Medical Student Outreach Program in Orthopaedic Surgery that was hosted by Emory University in Atlanta. It was an amazing experience that included talks from female orthopedic surgery attendings, hands-on activities with real power tools and bone models, and a Q&A session with female residents in the Emory program. I’m still keeping my options open on what surgical subspecialty I want to pursue until I hit rotations, but I definitely make sure that I am involved when it comes to anything that is surgery related. ☺
I also had the opportunity to shadow an anesthesiologist during my summer break, and I was able to view a variety of surgeries. I love being in the OR, and as a medical student, it was really fun being asked questions by the physicians and actually knowing the answers to them. It definitely boosted my confidence because with the large amount of information that was thrown at us during our first year, I really thought that I hadn’t retained anything, LOL. This year, I am going to really focus on fully learning all the material presented so that I can perform well on my board exams and have a choice over surgical subspecialties for residency. Fingers crossed!
Accepted: Do you have any tips on home/school balance?
Danielle: The best tip I can offer on balancing life with medical school is mastering the art of time management!!!!! It’s so easy to get completely consumed with school that you end up putting off everything else and becoming miserable. Fortunately, as a single parent, I don’t have the option of only focusing on school since I have to make time for my daughter on a daily basis. She really does keep me grounded.
Last year, I always made sure I took one day a week to do absolutely nothing school-related (with the exception of exam weeks), and it really helped refresh my mind. I also recommend doing the same at least two hours every day. Studying non-stop will only burn you out, and it will be less tempting to waste time on social networks or other distractions when you’re supposed to be studying if you take a little time to get it out of your system. As for other tips, you can find my full blog post on improving study habits here.
You can read more about Danielle’s journey by checking out her blog, Aspiring Minority Doctor. Thank you Danielle for continuing to share your story with us!
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