Get ready to read about our next med school blogger, Sara Teichholtz, student at Florida Atlantic University and author of the blog Teich Does Medicine. Enjoy reading about Sara’s journey to med school and her insights into the admissions process!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself — where are you from, where did you go to college, and what did you major in?
Sara: I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. I attended Wellesley College for my undergraduate education, where I majored in Neuroscience. After graduation, I fled the snow to spend two years in Davis, California, where I worked as a research assistant for a neurologist and finished my pre-med requirements at UC Davis. I then made my way back across the country to Florida to start medical school.
Accepted: How many med schools did you apply to? How did you decide on Florida Atlantic University?
Sara: I applied to 21 schools in total. I originally applied to 20, but in February my pre-med advisor emailed me about the new medical school opening at Florida Atlantic University. I remember thinking there was no way I’d ever stand a chance since they were only accepting 10 out of state students, but I really liked the idea of being in the inaugural class of a medical school, so I applied.
FAU was the last of my eight interviews and by far my favorite interview experience. Every interaction that day was full of enthusiasm about the start of the program – especially among my fellow interviewees.
Our class is made up of people who wanted the opportunity to be a part of something new, and it’s been truly inspiring to be surrounded by so much leadership, creativity, and excitement.
Accepted: Did you have any clinical experience before attending med school? How important or unimportant do you think that is?
Sara: I had done a very limited amount of shadowing in the Emergency Room, some of which was part of obtaining my certification as a Wilderness EMT. Most of my clinical experience came from spending two years as a research assistant to a neurologist who was conducting clinical research. I was definitely thankful for that experience during my Neuro block last year! One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t have a lot of experience volunteering in clinical settings.
Looking back, I’d consider volunteer work one of the most valuable experiences an applicant could have. I think most applicants express some variation of “I want to help people” in application essays, but those who have a history of volunteer work really demonstrate that compassion and desire to serve.
Accepted: How does a social life fit into your busy med school schedule? Have you had trouble balancing school, friends, family, and other interests?
Sara: Until I figured out the study strategies that worked best for me, my social life definitely took a back seat to academics. There were definitely some days when I spent more time with Netter than…people. I’m happy to say that I’ve definitely found a much better balance these days. I make it a priority to be active every single day, so a lot of my study breaks include going to the gym with friends, riding my bike, or finding budget-friendly yoga classes. Of course, blogging is still my favorite study break.
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your medical school experience?
Sara: I first got the idea during college, when I babysat for the children of a local physician. She became one of my mentors during the medical school application process, and often told me that she wished she had written down more of her experiences as a medical student. I had always enjoyed writing, so I thought that blogging would be a great way to document my own experiences while sharing them with friends and family.
It’s also affected how I’ve reflected on my journey. A great friend once told me that everything is a good experience or a good story, so now I try to remember that the negative experiences can at least be turned into good stories.
Accepted: Can you share some med school admissions tips with our readers?
Sara: As someone who took two years off between college and medical school, I may be a little biased, but I would encourage applicants to take their time in beginning their medical education. In college, there seemed to be such a sense of urgency among the pre-med students to go straight through to med school. Even though I was still pretty busy taking classes, preparing for the MCAT, and filling out applications, my two years off gave me the time to gain a whole new level of maturity and life experience.
My other tip is that if you’re going to be flying all over the country for interviews, join an airline loyalty program! I used my accumulated miles to help cover my airfare to Nepal and Ghana, where I spent last summer learning about health care in developing areas.
Accepted: Can you tell us about your trips to Ghana and Nepal? What did you do in each of these places?
Sara: I was so lucky to be able to spend the summer between first and second year abroad. For the month of June, I was part of a group of 12 medical students that traveled to Nepal with a physician who runs a Family Medicine practice across the street from my school. He has spent his career doing an incredible amount of humanitarian work and every year he brings a group of medical students with him on one of his trips. It was an ideal experience for a medical student – in the cities, we were able to shadow local physicians in hospitals, while in the more rural areas we helped set up free clinics to provide basic care and screening for individuals who might otherwise be unable to access these services. It was an incredibly humbling experience – a reminder that even things that we view as so simple, like glasses, are absolutely life-changing to someone who has never been able to have them.
I then spent two and a half weeks in the Volta Region of Ghana with the program Blue-Med Africa. Here I was also able to experience a wide variety of medical environments. I shadowed local physicians in hospitals (and witnessed a birth for the first time!) and smaller clinics, weighed babies as part of well-baby screenings in smaller villages, and bandaged wounds in the cured leprosy village. The most valuable part of both of these trips was being immersed in cultures, and medical perspectives, completely different from my own. It profoundly influenced the way I view the practice of medicine. I’m looking into career paths that will allow me to focus on Global Health, so hopefully these experiences are just the beginning of my future travels.
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