This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Carlos Guzman…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?
Carlos: Well, My name is Carlos Guzman. I was born in Guatemala and I came to the United States at the age of 9. I have lived in Los Angeles ever since. I went to UCLA and received my BS in Biochemistry in 2008.
I typically like reading stuff that is completely out of left field, such as Tricks of the Mind or Confessions of a Conjuror by Derren Brown. I tend to read books that have little structure or scientific content to balance out the medical texts I have to go through. It’s is nice to get your mind working in a completely different gear.
Accepted: Where are you currently in med school? What year?
Carlos: I am currently finishing up my 4th year at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about DGSOM UCLA? And if you could change one thing about the program, what would it be?
Carlos: I love the fact that it balances multiple important facets of scholarship, including research and didactic rigor, with a healthy environment which allows us to grow in multiple ways, including the arts. For example, I played guitar in a small band with a few of my classmates, while others undertook photography, poetry, and travel.
I really like the program, and doubt that I would change anything. It is a place where learning is encouraged and self motivation is expected. I love that.
Accepted: What are some things you wish you had known as an incoming first year that would’ve made your adjustment to med school easier? How would you advise other incoming students?
Carlos: I really wish somebody would have told me how fast paced everything is! I understand that nobody is ever really prepared for the first year of medical school, but if I could go back, I would tell myself to brush up on my human biology and basic anatomy. I would have also looked into getting a job as a clinical scribe. Scribes learn how to write medical notes, which is one of the most tedious parts of medical school education, and one of the most useful skills to master.
Accepted: Did you go straight from college to med school? If not, what did you do in between?
Carlos: I did not. My path was a bit odd, as I did not get accepted after my first application. I went back to school, increased my GPA, and reapplied. In the interim, I taught MCAT OChem for the Princeton Review.
Accepted: Can you tell us about Pinfinity? How has your work there influenced your career decisions?
Carlos: My path into Pinfinity came in a rather serendipitous manner. I was contacted out of the blue by the CEO, Jeff Eakin, who was looking for self driven, motivated students who wanted to write medical content. Seeing as teaching and writing are both facets of my future career that I look forward to, I decided to get my feet wet as soon as possible.
This became not only a truly amazing learning experience, but also a way to overcome one of my remaining fears, namely business. I quickly became aware of my abilities as a leader and learned how to maximize my time and effort. I learned tidbits about what running a business is about, and I learned that there are many students out there who, like me, are eager to work, write, and help others.
We are currently making big moves regarding publishing study materials for medical school testing. One of the next big steps would be writing study materials for the new format MCAT. You wouldn’t happen to know a few medical students hungry to write and get published would you? (*NOTE: If this is you, contact Charles at email@example.com.)
I have learned to love the long term goals that come inherent to the world of business, and intend to make it a permanent part of my career as well.
Accepted: How do you juggle work and school?
Carlos: I think one of the key skills learned in medical school is time management. Once you start looking around, you will notice that there are a million little things throughout the day that just kill your work and productivity. Things like TV and Facebook are huge time suckers.
I told myself, “If I did anything as often as people check their friend’s status or watched TV, I’d be a millionaire!” So I started doing that. Instead of watching too much TV, I look up topics to write about or work on research. Instead of getting on Facebook, I fire off business emails or get some shadowing scheduled in! I read interesting topics while walking to and fro from places like the parking lot to the hospital or cafeteria.
Sitting at red lights is also a huge waste of time: Why not practice surgical knots on your steering wheel while you wait? Look for the time wasters and get rid of them!
Accepted: What are your top 3 med school admissions tips?
Carlos: 1) Be strong all around, meaning your life outside of medicine as well. Study hard to keep your grades up, sure, but love the rest of your life as well! Play an instrument? Show that you are passionate by playing shows or teaching others how to play! Like sports? Be a leader or coach little league! Don’t be the student who doesn’t care about anything other than school. Life balance is key! Remember that being a healthy, normal human being is one of the most important things in life!
2) Get into research ASAP. An applicant with some research experience will always shine! Even if you don’t get a publication, being able to talk about your research and the current literature intelligently will show the committee that you are ready to take into account one of the main facets of present day medicine: evidence based approaches to health.
3) Make sure that if you have any weak points in your application that kept you from getting accepted, you get them resolved in very tangible and obvious ways. Is your GPA weak? RETAKE that class that hurt you and SMASH it (happened to me!). Is your MCAT weak? Retake it and show them that you are great! DO NOT just assume that not getting accepted means that you have to change your career path. It just means you have to persevere!
Accepted: Did you have any shadowing experiences or work on any research projects before you applied to medical school?
Carlos: I was fortunate (and aggressive) enough to get both shadowing in clinics as well as research during the end of my high school years and throughout college. The opportunities are out there, and you have to be aggressive to get them! Don’t be afraid to ask, the worst thing that will happen is that they will say no. At that point you can move on and look elsewhere. Keep looking and you’ll eventually find something!
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