Like most premeds and med students, our guest today, David Eisenberg, is a very busy person. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in neuroscience, took a gap year, which we’ll learn more about, and then began medical school at The Commonwealth Medical College where he is now an M3. Along the way, which is why I said he is so busy, he did research on Parkinson’s Disease, became an EMT, volunteered in Ghana, and has written for various pre-med and med sites. Welcome, David!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? [1:20]
I grew up in a suburb of Philadelphia. I was always into science, the earth, rockets. I also loved sports. I went to U Pittsburgh for college, where I was involved with water polo and became an EMT. That’s where I started to feel out my interest in medicine.
How did you become interested in medicine? Was it something you’d wanted to do since you were a kid, or did you decide based on your experiences in college? [2:15 ]
It developed over time. I was always interested in science, but I wasn’t sure of what I might do. I thought I might be a researcher. My EMT certification really drew me to the clinical side of medicine – that was one of the turning points. But science had always been on my mind.
Any other formative experiences? [3:10]
I worked in a research lab in college, studying mutations linked to Parkinson’s. It was exciting, but I was much more drawn to the patient interactions during my EMT experience.
How did you choose Commonwealth Medical College? [4:05]
It’s really focused on community medical education, and that appealed to me, along with the opportunity to get to know doctors one-on-one.
What do you like about it now that you’re there? [4:55]
The fact that they really listen to the students. To give one example, it was recently bought out by a large health center in the area, and they sent out a student survey to get our recommendation on the name for the medical center.
Anything you would change? [6:03 ]
More related to the medical education side, I would like to see schools adopt more new technologies/modalities for teaching, and see it more standardized school to school.
You’re in your third year – how have you found your rotations so far? [7:45]
Great and difficult at the same time. You’re constantly adapting to different personalities and situations, getting into the crux of medicine: we’re not working with machines, we’re working with people.
I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with patients – it’s really exciting, and it’s rewarding to see people improve.
I’ve also realized how much I still have left to learn.
Which rotations have you done so far? [14:18]
Because of the way my school structures rotations (with a shortened block rotation in the first semester and partial days in the second), I’ve already done almost all my rotations. I think the only one I haven’t completed is pediatrics.
I’ve done internal medicine, cardiology, OB/GYN, psychiatry, surgery, and anesthesia.
Which rotation did you like best? [15:15]
My favorite is psychiatry. It felt very down-to-earth and real to me.
I enjoyed the others – learning the problem. But the excitement for me wasn’t as much figuring out the disease process as helping the healing. So I gravitated towards psychiatry – you never know what is coming each day.
I’m interested in how diagnoses play into life experiences. You really learn a lot about people.
Looking back to when you applied to med school, what was the hardest part of the application process for you? [17:50]
I would say it was the personal statement. I’m working on one now for residency, and actually finding it just as difficult.
You’ve been thinking about medical school a long time, and it’s challenging to think through why, exactly, you’re doing it. The personal statement forces you to slow down for a minute and reflect on what you’ve done and why, which can be challenging.
You’re involved with a lot of activities, including creating PreMD Tracker (an app to help med school applicants track their progress) and serving on the Student Advisory Council of First-Aid USMLE-Rx. What’s motivating you? [21:30]
There is time in medical school; you just have to have good time management.
Academics are just one part of medical education.
I don’t just want to be part of a system if I can help make it better. That’s part of the reason I’m drawn to psychiatry. Medicine is changing, and I want to help drive that change.
What is the PreMD Tracker, and how did you develop it? [24:15]
During my gap year, I was working as an EMT, but I had some extra time, and I started brainstorming with a friend. I wanted to create something. We thought about things we’d done that could be done better.
For students who feel lost in the premed shuffle, this app can give them a grounding and help them through the process.
It was difficult for us, but important to do.
If we could go back, I would make it for IOS rather than just Android. People can download the app.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from users? [27:40]
Good so far! No negative feedback. We’ll potentially revisit it if AAMC updates the application process.
You took a gap year. What did you do? And was the break from necessity? [28:30]
If you’d asked me early in college if I’d take a year off, I’d have told you were crazy.
I could have not taken the time off, but my application process would have been rushed. I wanted time to strengthen my application: I wanted my senior year classes to be on my transcript. It also allowed me the junior year summer to prepare for the MCAT.
A friend had taken a year off to travel, and that seemed really attractive to me.
The time off gave me the opportunity to create a strong application, time to work a little bit, and time to travel. I worked for six months, saved some money, and then went to Ghana. I stayed with a family there and volunteered in a rural clinic.
That taught me something about medicine that I appreciate even more now: the doctor there did so much with so little. He relied on physical exams and histories, and his only tool was a stethoscope. I learned a lot from him.
You’re a student advisor for First-Aid USMLE-Rx. What does that mean? [34:00]
They’re starting to further develop their online resources, making it more user friendly. I’m helping with that, giving feedback as a med student – what we use, how we use online resources.
First-Aid is an excellent resource. It’s exciting to help revamp it and move it forward.
Med school is just as hard as people say it is. You can get frustrated and upset. But it’s also worth it. How do you handle the emotional strain of med school? [38:00]
Know your own needs. I like to exercise and talk to my family.
I also think it’s appropriate to seek therapy.
Don’t feel like just because you’re having a bad day, you’re not cut out for medicine.
Find somebody you trust, and have that person there as a resource to work with.
Any last tips for students? [39:15]
For third years, anticipate studying! Keep at it. It’s a long road, keep pushing through.
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