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 Elena Welt…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Elena: I’m originally from NJ, and went out to St. Louis to go to Wash U for undergrad. I was pre-med, but I was actually an English major. I’ve always loved to read and write, and I knew science would take up the majority of my future, so I wanted to get in as much reading for pleasure as I could before med school took over my life! I also had a minor in Spanish, and spent a semester in Seville, Spain which was so much fun, and definitely the best way to learn a language.
My favorite ice cream flavor is anything that has caramel in it! Salted caramel, dulce de leche, any of those. Yum. Although I don’t discriminate – there’s no ice cream I wouldn’t eat.
Accepted: Where did you attend med school? What was your favorite thing about the program?
Elena: I came back to NJ for medical school – I went to New Jersey Medical School, which is now part of Rutgers. (It’s the one in Newark. There’s another Rutgers medical school called Robert Wood Johnson that’s located in New Brunswick.) I loved training there, and I think the best part of the medical school is the amazing clinical experiences you get early on. It was also nice to be so close to my family – there’s nothing like your mom cooking you a home-made meal when you’re stressed about studying! The patient population in Newark can sometimes be challenging to work with, but it can also be extremely rewarding.
Accepted: Congrats on matching at your top choice residency program! What was it that drew you to Georgetown and to internal medicine?
Elena: I was one of those people who loved every single rotation in third year and I would probably be happy in most residencies. But it did feel like my personality meshed best with the internal medicine doctors. I’ve always been more of a “thinker” and internal medicine leaves a lot of space for thinking. It also felt like a non-choice, because there are so many ways you can point your career after training in internal medicine. So I have more choices to make ahead of me!
I wanted to be on the east coast for residency and in a city so that it would be fairly easy to travel home for a weekend and that there would be enough to do when I had a day off. DC fits the bill perfectly – it’s a very accessible city which I like. I loved Georgetown because the people I met on my interview day were wonderful, and the program just had a very educational feel about it. You can tell that the interns and residents work hard (probably harder than at some other programs), but that education and well-being is still emphasized. A few months in, I can vouch that what I felt on my interview day is absolutely true! I feel well-supported and that I’m getting great training.
Accepted: As someone who has applied to college, med school, and a top residency program successfully, you must have some tips to share! What would you say are your top med school and/or residency tips?
Elena: I think the biggest tip I have is to be pro-active! Schools and programs want to know that you are interested. Call, send letters, stop by (if it’s close). There are so many candidates at every step and everyone tends to blend together – countless people have volunteered at their local clinic and met an inspiring patient, you know? So if you can find some way for the program director (or probably more importantly, the administrative assistant or coordinator) to remember your name, that can only help you. Of course, it’s a fine line between being assertive and being annoying. Don’t send a singing telegram!
Along the same lines, get everything done EARLY. Do. Not. Procrastinate. Have your application in on DAY ONE (day two? already too late!). You want the people reading your application to be fresh and not burned out, and you want them to know how responsible and on-top-of-your-game you are. There’s no reason not to be the very first application in. You have to give yourself every opportunity for success that you can – don’t create roadblocks or challenges for yourself; there are already enough of them out there to overcome!
Accepted: What was the most challenging aspect of the matching process for you? What steps did you take to overcome that challenge?
Elena: Waiting was the hardest part! Once you send in your application, you can help yourself by calling programs, sending thank you notes, and scheduling interviews as they come. Same thing after interviews, but once your rank list is submitted, it’s out of your hands! Keep busy, and enjoy that free time as much as you can, knowing that you’ve done all you can.
Accepted: How did you spend your time between graduating med school and starting residency?
Elena: I traveled for the last month of medical school. I went to Tanzania and worked in a hospital for two weeks, and then spent another week and a half climbing Kilimanjaro and exploring the country a little. (I went through the program Work the World, and I highly recommend them!) It was an amazing, although expensive, experience, and a great way to end the year. It was very cool to see how medicine is practiced in another country, and getting to do a 6-day hike in the cold rain was umm, well…it was an experience for sure. (I guess my advice there would be go to a country that is not in its rainy season.) But once I got back, it was a whirlwind. Graduation, moving to a new city, getting all my paperwork done for residency – it keeps you busy! I made spending time with family and friends as much of a priority as I could.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What have you gained from the blogging experience and what do you hope others take away from your writing?
Elena: This is probably the hardest question to answer because I don’t think I ever had a clear-cut agenda with my blog. When I studied abroad in college, I loved sending emails home to everyone updating them on what I was doing, and I got great feedback about how enjoyable the emails were to read. So originally I just thought it would be a fun way to keep people updated on what I was doing. Even though I wasn’t far away, med school was a new experience, and I wanted my friends and family to understand what I was going through. Writing has always been an outlet for me, and trying to find the humor in some of the absurdities and frustrations of medical school helped to keep things in perspective. It was just an added bonus that it spread to people outside my social circle!
I hope that people going through medical school who read my blog can know that they are not alone in the journey, and all of the struggles that they are facing are things that all medical students go through. I also hope that it’s an enjoyable read, as my goal was really to entertain more than anything else! I decided not to continue blogging through residency, but I’m trying to record my experiences as they come, and I certainly hope that writing continues to play a role in my future.
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You can read more about Elena’s med school journey by checking out her blog, a med student walks into a bar…. Thank you Elena for sharing your story with us!
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