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Before we turn to our guest, I want to invite any listeners planning to apply to medical school next summer to our next med webinar Get Accepted to Medical School in 2018, to be presented by Alicia McNease Nimonkar on December 14 at 5 PM PT/ 8 PM ET. The medical school admissions process is a marathon, not a sprint. Launch your training for the next application cycle with this webinar so that you are ready to jump out of the gate come June. The webinar is free, but you do need to reserve your seat.
Our guest today is Tulane MD/MPH third year student Ajibike Lapite. She’s originally from NYC. She lived in Louisiana, and then attended Princeton University where she studied Molecular Biology and Global Health and Health Policy. She is now an M3 doing rotations with the USMLE Step 1 exam in her rearview mirror. Welcome, Ajibike!
Can you tell us about yourself? [2:13]
I was born in NYC, and grew up there for a few years until my dad switched residency programs (he’s also a physician) – that’s how my family ended up in Monroe, LA. My family is Nigerian, and like a lot of Nigerian families, stresses science. I considered a PhD, but in college I shadowed physicians and realized medicine was for me.
What other experiences led you to medicine? [3:30]
I was involved with the premed society at Princeton. I was the Social Chair – which gave me access to alumni. I got to see how they used medicine in their careers. I also became interested in public health.
Why are you doing the MD/MPH? How do you plan to combine these interests in your career? [4:28]
I’m not 100% sure how I’ll use both. But I want to get background on health systems and infrastructure, and global health. To make an impact, it has to be systemic. I’m really happy I chose the dual degree.
Why did you choose Tulane? [5:25]
In part, I wanted to be closer to home. I have younger siblings and wanted to be nearby for important events in their lives.
Also, because I was interested in the MD/MPH, there are a limited number of programs. Tulane has a 4-year dual degree program, so I could do the dual program without extra time.
What do you like about Tulane? [6:09]
Tulane prides itself on community service. Being in New Orleans, you see how important that is, especially after Katrina.
Anything you would improve? [6:50]
It’s extremely relaxed. I know that’s a weird thing to complain about! But I’m a little type-A and it took a while to get used to – that emails seemed last minute, etc.
What has surprised you about med school? [8:30]
One thing people say all the time is the volume of information is insane – like drinking from a fire hose. I thought, “Princeton was hard.” But med school is really hard. It’s not just the material or the volume, but the pace – you have to motivate yourself to study, which is different from college. Staying motivated and reminding yourself it’s important can be challenging, but it’s important.
It takes almost all of first year to get used to it.
What do you like about rotations? [11:10]
I’ve really enjoyed them! I’ve done internal med, family med, surgery (which I didn’t like at all), and now I’m doing pediatrics.
You see the source of your motivation every day. The only thing that’s frustrating is that you have a big exam afterward, and keeping up a study schedule on top of the work schedule is tough. M3 year is more satisfying in terms of learning style than the first two years.
Have your rotations affected your goals for the future? [13:30]
I came into med school thinking I wanted to do pediatrics, and my rotation has confirmed that. I also enjoyed internal medicine, which is a similar thought process. But I really love pediatrics.
Looking back, what was the hardest part of the application process? [16:50]
Dealing with the emotional stress.
It wasn’t writing essays – I actually like writing personal statements, I like that process of introspection. But being OK with hitting “submit” was tough. (I’m a bit of a perfectionist.) Then being stressed about waiting for interviews, waiting to hear back – and meanwhile, hearing from friends who’d already heard.
If I did it again, I would submit earlier and not share as much.
What was the most memorable interview question you got? [19:22]
It was actually a question they weren’t allowed to ask: whether I was comfortable going into a time-intensive specialty as a woman, since I might have a family.
I know you’re supposed to say you’re not comfortable answering that question. But I answered that in general, going into medicine, it makes it important for me to have a supportive partner and create a balance. But I also told him he should ask male applicants that, because children also suffer from absent fathers. This shouldn’t just be a female-oriented question.
You provide lots of advice on your blog. What do you think is your most important post? [22:05]
I think the most important post was one I wrote about how I felt during first year, talking about loneliness and how the medical school community doesn’t always feel close or supportive. A lot of people reached out to me to say they felt the same way.
Mental health is so important. We don’t always take care of ourselves. Even though some people disagreed with my post, I was glad that people could relate to what I wrote.
What did you do in M1 to take care of yourself? [23:45]
There’s a lot of emphasis on making friends. It’s not hard to make superficial friends, but deeper friendships are not as easy. So along with keeping up my relationship with my family, I made an effort to keep in touch with my close friends from college.
Are you planning to be a clinician, or work for a health organization like the WHO? [26:00]
I see myself combining my interests, but not right away. I would eventually like to work on a systems level, like with the WHO.
Do you have advice for premeds? [26:35]
Apply when you’re ready. There’s no point in taking time off if you’re not doing something you enjoy.
Apply when you feel it’s best for you and you feel confident.
For med students – whatever field you’re interested in, study like you want to be an orthopedic surgeon. Don’t fall into the trap of setting your expectations low.
Why did you start your blog? [28:15]
I’m very interested in writing and in narrative medicine. I wanted a space to share my experiences in medical school, and now to start sharing some narrative medicine vignettes. When I get down, I look back on the post when I got into medical school and remember how happy I was. Also, when I was applying, I was inspired by other people’s blogs.
• Get Accepted to Med School in 2018 [Register for the webinar!]
• Stilettos + Stethoscopes
• Interview with Ajibike: Stay Calm. Stay Focused. Submit Quality Apps Early
• A Noble and Humbling Profession: The Journey of a DO/MPH
• Abraar’s MD/MPH Adventures through Yale, UCLA & Harvard
• Health, Justice, Advocacy & Yale’s Dual MD/MPH Program
• Becoming a DO
• M.D., Mom, Wife, and Juggler
• Elliptical, Meet Med School: Interview with Andrea Tooley
• The Unbelievable Story of an Orthopedic Surgeon
• Johns Hopkins Medical: How to Get In
• How to Pass the USMLE and the COMLEX
• SUNY Upstate Medical and PA Admissions: Holistic Admissions
• How to Match Successfully as a Couple