Interview with Adam Goodcoff, fourth year medical student and co-founder of an online community for healthcare professionals [Show Summary]
Med student Adam Goodcoff shares info on what life is like as a med student, how he became interested in medicine, what he plans to do when he graduates, and his new digital platform, “The Med Life.”
Glimpse what life is like as a medical student [Show Notes]
Our guest today, Adam Goodcoff is a fourth-year med student and former graduate teaching fellow in anatomy applying to emergency medicine residencies this year. He graduated the University at Albany with a BS in Biology. During his sophomore year of college, he started a blog to document and share his attempts to gain acceptance into medical school. Once medical school started and time available shrank, Adam briefly switched to YouTube, which ultimately also proved to be too time consuming. Fast forward three years, and he decided to launch “The Med Life,” a community where all healthcare providers and students can find entertaining and educational content.
Can you tell us about your background? Where you grew up? What do you like to do for fun? [2:03]
I grew up in upstate New York, went to the University of Albany and then to a different state entirely for medical school. For fun I do a million different things – I particularly enjoy cycling, downhill mountain biking, skiing, travel, and photography. I also used to play in a band, so I’ve covered the gamut, always trying new stuff.
How did you become interested in a career in medicine? [3:10]
In high school I wasn’t the best student, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a swimmer, and it was sort of understood I would swim my way into college, but then I decided not to pursue it further. I was fortunate the University of Albany took me. I knew I liked medicine, as I did a short stint as a volunteer firefighter, which I didn’t enjoy. But I loved the EMS side of it, so I got a CFR (Certified First Responder). If you are not 18 you can’t be an EMT in New York, and I was 16 or 17 at the time. I learned the basics and volunteered at a local EMS agency. I stayed there for five years before going on to med school. I eventually did become an EMT and was hired as one just before med school. In school I enjoyed EMS so I thought maybe I should look at medicine, and it snowballed from there.
Did you go straight from college to med school? Are you happy with your decision whether you took a gap year or not? [5:07]
I did. I was relatively competitive and didn’t want to take a gap year. The student I am now isn’t the one I was applying to med school let alone the one I was applying to college. I was worried I would fall off the radar and not have the motivation to do it if I took a gap year. Hindsight is 20/20, and I’ve since thought of all the ways I could have taken advantage of that year, but I think it worked well.
Were there any challenges applying to medical school? [6:01]
For sure. It is tricky writing a personal statement and figuring out your voice. There are so many incredible students out there and I didn’t feel like I measured up – people creating a homeless shelter or going to Africa. Thinking back, my strong points were my EMS experience, my grades, coursework, and work ethic. On the leadership side I coached the school’s swim club team and took a leadership role in the Pre-Health Advisement group.
You’ve taken 5 years to go through med school. Why? How? And are you overall happy you did so? [8:56]
Yes I am happy I did that. People assume I failed something since it’s taken me five years, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I took a graduate teaching fellowship in anatomy/ultrasound – I am passionate about ultrasounds. The program adds on 26 weeks of clinical time and 26 weeks of teaching time. I was a faculty member, attended meetings, met students, and it taught me a lot about administration and working with people. With that job also comes tuition forgiveness, so I figured I would apply and see what happens, and if not accepted I would continue on the normal path. It was not easy, definitely the hardest was this past year seeing all of my friends I started with graduate, but the tuition forgiveness is nice, and I was able to publish a paper on ultrasounds. I love teaching and the more I’ve rotated through academic centers, the more I enjoy the academic side of medicine.
What have you liked best about medical school? [11:40]
The teaching fellowship portion, but I’ve loved all of med school. The first two years are pretty incredible, because you have no job other than to sit at your desk and learn, which is a really special time to have no responsibility other than that. I made great friendships and made the best of it. The third and fourth year are more fun, as we come to med school to do medicine. The stronger the foundation from years one and two the better, and the rotations have been amazing. You learn something from every patient.
What could be improved? [12:52]
It changes. If you asked me after second year it would be different. Looking back, with regard to the clinical relevance I never saw eye to eye with the department, as I would be frustrated that we’d learn something just because it’s there. Clinicians need to clinically correlate things, so focusing learning on things that are disease-based, and within a clinical context needs to be improved. From friends at other med schools, my school seems to do a pretty good job of showing the clinical relevance, but it is a mixed bag.
What’s surprised you about rotations? [16:00]
Patients don’t generally surprise me, which isn’t to say they don’t surprise me from a clinical perspective, but more that I had seen a lot of medicine before med school so I knew there wasn’t a whole lot that would surprise me in the general field of medicine. The variability of your third year is probably what surprised me the most. The first two years are very structured, and you are evaluated by an expected test. The third year is not like that, and it’s not like this everywhere, as some schools have stronger/weaker clinical rotations.
Some rotations will be with a fantastic instructor, and you get hands on experience, and others you may just be shadowing the whole time. There is a lot of variability. In one rotation I got to put in a central line, and with another I was just shadowing a doctor in his office. It is not specialty dependent, very much person dependent. Some physicians are comfortable with their students and dealing with mistakes made. For those who had office-based rotations talking with patients, maybe they’d had a bad experience with a student and weren’t comfortable having students see patients on their own.
Was there ever a time either in med school when you really wondered if you had made a mistake and thought about taking a different path? [19:16]
I give a patient 100%, which doesn’t mean I won’t be upset if something bad happens, but if something bad does happen I take comfort in knowing I was 100% there, which helps me deal with things that are out of my control. In medicine you can’t fix everything. You can do everything right, and things can still go wrong and it’s important to maintain perspective. It is totally normal to question from time to time whether or not you’ve made the right choice.
Right before I took the MCAT I have a distinct memory of thinking, “I don’t want to do this. Maybe I’ll take the test and not use the score,” so it’s normal to question things, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You are a self-described “Fitness Addict” and you also run “The Med Life”, which we’ll get to in a minute. How do you make time for it all? [22:18]
I wish I had a magic bullet answer, but I think it comes down to, if it is something you want to do you will carve out time for it. I think balance is important in life. I tell med students, maybe you can get a 99 on something, but maybe a 95 is better for your mental health. I use this perspective in a lot of aspects of my life. Could I be a body builder, sure, but I’d have no other life, or I can decide to balance fitness, study, and other jobs. Sacrifices are needed sometimes, too. You do the best you can. The Med Life falls under hobbies – I think everyone has a project in them, and this is one I want to give back to medicine and medical school and all of health care. It is a lot of extra work, and it was really small when I started – 10 minutes here and there, but now I call it my part-time full-time job.
You are the cofounder of The Med Life. What’s your goals for the site? When did you start it and how is it going? [24:35]
It’s launching officially 11/11. The website is not the main focus. The real focus is on YouTube and creating content – educational, motivational content for all of healthcare from students up to clinician level – PA, nurse, intern, resident, doctor, etc. There are fewer team efforts online bringing all of medicine together and that is what we are aiming to do, to share entertaining and educational videos. We launched the website primarily for the blog and guest writers. The medical education community is incredible. Instagram grew on its own and is about knowledge translation and providing a voice to over 30,000 students and practitioners, sharing educational and motivational content.
How do you see your career evolving after medical school? [28:53]
I am definitely interested in practicing in an academic setting. I really enjoy teaching, and may do a fellowship in emergency medicine. I have a couple of four-year programs I’ve added into the mix as well as three-year programs. To go into academics, many like some kind of fourth year also, so ultrasound is on the list. I could later go into medical education or maybe EMS as a medical director. I am keeping the door open, but currently interested in staying in an academic setting.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [30:08]
Maybe, “What is your favorite food,” as I always think that says a lot about somebody. I am a sushi guy, I love it. I am planning a trip to Japan and Thailand next year and am really excited about that.
• The Med Life
• The Med Life on Instagram
• The Med Life on Youtube
• What is Med School Really Like?, Interviews with Current Students
• Accepted’s Medical School Admissions Consulting Services
• UC Davis SOM’s Clear Message in its New Coaching Program
• Where MedEd Tuition Goes? This Resident Has a Surprising Answer
• Advice for the MCAT from an MCAT Expert
• Why Does an MD Need an MBA? This UCLA MD/MBA Student Tells All