This interview is the latest in an Accepted 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 Sarah M.…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you have any other degrees?
Sarah: I grew up in East Montpelier, Vermont. I went to SUNY-Albany for undergrad where I studied Public Policy and went to UNC-Chapel Hill for my Masters of Public Administration. My thesis was on special medical needs after disaster, inspired by my work after Hurricane Katrina.
Accepted: Can you share three fun facts about yourself?
Sarah: The only science class I took as an undergraduate was the required semester of biology. I started medical school the week before I turned 30. My husband and I were the first married couple to matriculate at the UVM College of Medicine.
Accepted: What year are you at UVM College of Medicine?
Sarah: I’m currently wrapping up my third year, expecting to graduate in May of 2017.
Accepted: Why did you choose this program? How are you a good fit?
Sarah: I grew up in Vermont, worked as a research coordinator at UVM before school and in fact, was born at the hospital where I now do my clinicals, so I was familiar with the medical school and reputation of the hospital. Will and I wanted to stay together if at all possible and UVM offered the most affordable way to get us both through medical school. Once we started school, it was clear that picking a familiar program in a familiar place had its benefits. We didn’t have to spend energy figuring out a new town and we knew many faculty members from living, working and running in Burlington, which made it feel like home.
Accepted: What is your favorite thing about that program? Is there anything you’d change?
Sarah: Our first two years are condensed (we take our Boards in March) so that we hit the wards earlier and get more clinical time. We also have clinical exposure during our first two years through the Doctoring in Vermont class. Although basic science was interesting, I’ve always been more interested in clinical medicine and patient interaction, so those early opportunities to work with patients were critical to avoiding burnout for me.
We also have a number of places where you can do your clerkships and the opportunity to check out other hospital systems has been a great one. My first rotation, for example, took me to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, ME. I was all by myself with no idea of what I was doing and the doctors there were just incredible in terms of teaching me how to provide care, how to think and how to transition to being a doctor.
Accepted: Based on your blog, you taking running and fitness really seriously! Has that passion influenced your decision to pursue medicine? And how do you fit all those miles in when you’ve got all that studying to do??
Sarah: We get one body and running is how I choose to maintain mine. I’ve been a runner as long as I can remember and for me, running is a bit like brushing my teeth. It just happens every day. Like anything, if you’re going to fit something in around work or school, it has to be your priority. Studying fits around my running and coaching, not vice versa, and although this might not work for other people, this forces me to be extremely present in whatever I’m doing.
When I study, I’m just studying. Sometimes I study when I’m running, either by talking though a case with a friend or by listening to a class podcast, but generally I keep the two separate. Coaching is how I stay human but also how I continue to give back to my community. I don’t have time to be part of student interest groups or student government as a result, but hope to go to a residency that values my long term relationship with my team.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far? Rotation?
Sarah: In terms of classes, I loved CRR (Cardiology, Respiratory and Renal) because I love physiology. To me, the body is a big machine with complicated mechanics that you have to take apart piece by piece to find the problem. This class was one of the first where I really learned how to think clinically and where I found myself totally enthralled with the perturbations of the human body.
In terms of rotations, I’ve liked them all but miss Obstetrics and Gynecology the most. It is an incredible diverse clerkship that includes surgery, primary care and of course, delivering babies. The hours were long, and the stress could be high, but I still looked forward to getting there every day.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other applicants who may be experiencing similar challenges?
Sarah: The hardest part of the application process is keeping the faith. When I was applying, my advisor told me I would never get in and that I shouldn’t even apply. I did anyway and was one of the first people accepted to UVM. Despite that happy ending, the application year is absolutely gruesome. You deal with more rejection and uncertainty than almost any other time in your life and if you spend any time on the internet forums, you come away convinced that you are just not good enough. My advice is threefold:
1. Make sure this is what you really want. Medical school is not so much about the difficulty of the material but the unending grind of classes and commitments. Even the most passionate find themselves exhausted at times, so make sure you come to this with passion and enough interest in enough things to get through it.
2. Don’t fabricate or embellish your application. Be who you are and represent that person proudly. Everyone comes to medical school with different backgrounds and the one thing I can tell you about the people in my class is that most of us had one or two things that we were really dedicated to rather than fifteen shallow extracurriculars. The trick is to demonstrate how your life experiences prepare you for medicine.
3. Use the application year to build good habits. This takes a lot of insight but medical school will take what you give it, so you need to have both a strong sense of what your boundaries are and have healthy habits already in place. For my husband and me, we weren’t willing to stay up all night, give up running or give up on our garden so we set limits and goals that allowed us to succeed in medical school without losing sight of the things that keep us human outside the walls of the College of Medicine.
You can follow Sarah’s med school adventure by checking out her blog, Runner Under Pressure. Thank you Sarah for sharing your story with us!
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