Get ready to read about Heather who will be starting med school in a few months. Heather blogs at Pretty Strong Medicine where she writes about prepping for med school, getting in shape, and her weekend shenanigans. Thank you Heather for sharing your story with us!
Accepted: Let’s start with some basics: Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Which med school do you attend and what year are you?
Heather: I grew up in Cincinnati, OH all of my life until I moved to Bloomington, IN for college. I graduated for Indiana University in May 2012 (Go Hoosiers!) and then I moved back to Cincinnati for a gap year working as a nursing assistant and reapplying to medical school (CNA).
I majored in Biology while picking up minors in Chemistry, Political Science, and Psychology. If I could go back I would’ve majored in a non-science field. I love the sciences but I was always interested in the humanities. I would have loved to major in History, Political Science, or Economics. I also wish I would have gotten Business certificate which is an area that many doctors aren’t too savvy about.
I will be attending Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine (MU-COM) in Indianapolis, IN this fall as an incoming first year and a member of their inaugural class! I couldn’t be happier or more excited for this opportunity.
Accepted: How many med schools did you apply to? Why did you choose your MU-COM?
Heather: I am a reapplicant so my most recent experience was very different from my first time applying. The first time I applied was between my junior and senior year of college and I applied to about twelve schools and I sent secondaries back to eight. I applied to very poorly selected schools – many schools that were a long shot for me. I sat on the wait list or was rejected from all 12 schools.
This year I applied to fourteen schools, most of which were osteopathic medical schools. When I applied to medical school the first time, I only had a vague idea of what osteopathic medicine was so I only applied to one DO school. After I did more research on osteopathic medicine, I realized the philosophy and training (including osteopathic manipulative medicine) was something that I felt strongly about and something wanted to learn more about.
The most important factors for me when deciding on a school were location, curriculum, and rotation quality. I was accepted to two schools literally days apart in November, one of which was MU-COM. After much research and debating, I decided upon MU-COM and withdrew all my other applications.
I knew I wanted to be somewhere in the Midwest, preferably in a big city. Indianapolis is the perfect mix of big city life with a hometown feel along with being a life sciences hub with premier hospital systems and opportunities for research. Since I’m only about two hours away from my hometown, I’ll have a great support network close by as well as many friends from college in the area. Looking down the road, I would love to do my residency and practice medicine in Indiana or elsewhere in the Midwest.
MU-COM’s curriculum is something that really stuck out to me as it is systems-based instead of subject-based. In college I took a physiology class that was structured very much like a systems-based medical school class. I learned and retained more information from this style of learning than in any of my other classes so I knew this would be a great way for me to learn. I like that all the information is integrated and will be used repeatedly – this will make studying for boards much easier down the road.
While I do not have first-hand accounts of what rotations will be like from other students, I do know that MU-COM has a great plan for rotations. They have already signed agreements with premier hospitals in Indiana and the community support is tremendous! Unlike many DO programs, the clinical sites are all in Indiana – so there’s no traveling across the country although away rotations are encouraged.
Accepted: What are you most looking forward to at MU-COM? Least looking forward to?
Heather: I am very excited to start at MU-COM and I am looking forward to a lot of aspects of school. I can’t wait to be in Indianapolis and to be a member of the inaugural class at Marian. There is the tremendous amount of excitement and support for the school from the community, local physicians, hospitals, and more. Indiana is in desperate need of another medical school (IU is the only other one) so there is a very welcoming atmosphere.
Meeting my fellow classmates and attending my white coat ceremony will be the highlight of my year!
The only negative is that attending a new school is a bit of a risk. There are no older medical students to share information with our class. Instead of receiving second year mentor, we receive a physician mentor at our white coat ceremony which may prove to be more valuable in the long run! We are the “guinea pigs” but you wouldn’t realize MU-COM is a first year school based on the strong community support, amazing faculty, and the innovative curriculum, among other things.
Accepted: Did you go straight from college to med school? Do you think that is the ideal situation?
Heather: I took a year off between college and medical school and I’m definitely glad I did! When I knew I needed to take a gap year, I focused on improving two areas of my application: my MCAT and my clinical experience. I ended up improving my MCAT from a 26Q to a 30T. I did more shadowing and I also decided to take a two week class to become a certified nursing assistant.
While working as a nurse assistant, I was able to interact with a variety of patients on a daily basis. Every day I learned something new because I spent more time with each patient than anyone else on the healthcare team.
Doing this type of work reinforced for me why I want to be a physician. I often felt helpless because I was very limited in what I was able to do for my patients. I know now more than ever that I want to be the head of the healthcare team. I want to make the final decisions with the patient and have the most control over helping the individual reach optimum health.
Taking a year off wasn’t all positive. I’m a year behind my friends that went to medical school this year (hopefully I can learn from their experiences!) and I moved back home which was a hard adjustment.
Overall taking a year off was the best decision for me and I highly recommend it if there are areas of your application that need work. Don’t waste your resources by applying before you are ready.
Accepted: Where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
Heather: In 10 years I will be fresh out of residency and just starting my career. Creating balance in my life is really important to me. I want to be a successful physician but I also want to be a wife and a mother. Right now my interests lie in OB/Gyn and Emergency Medicine which are two very demanding specialties and not necessarily very family friendly. I hope to join a well-established, supportive group practice that will allow me to make time for family and well as be an excellent physician for my patients. I think if you are doing your very best to care for all aspects of your patients lives and creating balance in your own life, everything else will fall into place!
As far as where I want to practice, I definitely want to stay somewhere in the Midwest. Working with underserved populations is very important to me as well as I am very interested in issues like poverty, rural medicine, and public health. I would love to work both in the city and in rural areas because these populations often have the same problems like access to affordable, quality healthcare which I think all people should have.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about your blog? What sort of topics do you write about?
Heather: My blog is called Pretty Strong Medicine and I just started writing a little over a month ago so it’s still growing and evolving. I started my blog with the purpose of staying in touch with my family and friends while I’m away at medical school. I also wanted to have something to look back on down the road that documented my experiences in order to see how my views and preferences change over time.
Since I do not start medical school until August, I’m also using my blog to document my journey of getting healthier in all aspects of my life. I share my weight loss goals, clean eating recipes, workouts, inspiration, and more with a wonderful community of bloggers.
My blog is a great way to stay accountable to my goals and document my progress.
The blog is a creative outlet for me to develop my writing skills which suffered a lot since the only writing I did in college was for lab reports and analytical papers. In addition to medical school and getting healthy, I sprinkle in random things from my life – my weekend shenanigans, traveling, my life goals, medical articles, etc. In the future I plan on doing some vlogging, DIY, product reviews, and medical school advice. Really, I’m just a normal twenty-something girl who is about to embark on a new adventure!
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