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 Daniel Bral…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Daniel: I was born and raised in Los Angeles California. True LA boy! I attended Yeshiva University for my undergraduate education and majored in Sociology and Talmudic Law. For my Masters of Science I attended Georgetown and earned a Masters in Physiology and Biophysics with a concentration in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Now I am in my third year of medical school at Nova Southeastern University.
Accepted: Can you share 3 fun facts about yourself?
1. I speak 4 languages; English was my third language.
2. I played water polo in high school.
3. My favorite color is neon orange.
Accepted: What motivated you to pursue a career in medicine?
Daniel: It’s been my lifelong dream and aspiration. I think the ObGyn must have been my inspiration as I was born because it’s all I have ever really loved and been this passionate about. However, surviving cancer definitely deepened that desire as I experienced the successes and failures of medicine, which only further motivated and inspired me. Being able to one day help change the form and shape of medicine is something that I know will be part of my legacy. Furthermore, I can’t think of a more noble and humbling profession as medicine. It’s truly a privilege to be on this road.
Accepted: You are doing a dual DO/MPH. Why did you choose this program? What is your favorite thing about that program? Is there anything you’d change?
Daniel: I have a clear dream and goal for what I envision and desire for my future career, life, and legacy to look like. Pursuing the DO/MPH seemed like a natural step in that direction. The Masters of Public Health degree is giving me perspectives and frameworks of healthcare and medicine beyond the walls of the clinic and hospital and larger in scope than one patient at a time. One of my favorite aspects of this path is that I am able to utilize portions of my brain that are not utilized often in the pursuit of medicine, which is a really nice break and yet you feel productive and less guilty about not studying for med school. An additional draw to pursuing the dual degree as opposed to earning the degree after completing my medical degree is the immense MPH tuition subsidy that is offered to the dual degree DO/MPH students.
Accepted: How did you your role as Chairman of the Young People’s Advisory Committee for Teen Cancer America come about?
Daniel: I have been involved with all sorts of different leadership activities and committees over the years but, I am very active within the cancer community. Most recently becoming a strong voice in the teen and young adult cancer community, both as a cancer survivor as well as the Chairman of the Young People’s Advisory Committee of Teen Cancer America. However, I originally started my advocacy in the cancer realm 8 years ago as one of the first ‘angels’ in Imerman Angels, a 1-1 support organization for cancer patients internationally. After college, I was asked to serve as the president of an advisory board at UCLA to establish the first designated teen-young adult cancer program in the nation, the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen and Young Adult Cancer Program. After working with Teen Cancer America in that role, I was asked by the Executive Director on behalf of their Board to take on the Chairmanship of the national survivor advisory committee for the organization. The organization, Teen Cancer America, was founded in America by The Who band members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend in response to a similar organization they established in the United Kingdom, the Teenage Cancer Trust. Both of these organizations have the mission of establishing a place in medicine for the forgotten and overlooked demographic of teen and young adult cancer survivors (survivorship being defined from the point of diagnosis). These teens and young adults don’t truly fit in the clown and balloon decorated pediatric wards nor in the white washed and institutional rooms of adult oncology. Medically they are different than both groups, socially they are unique, and most poignantly, developmentally in a vastly different universe than either of those groups. Recognizing these differences Teen Cancer America and The Teenage Cancer Trust are internationally paving the way for this new specialty in medicine, Teen and Young Adult Hematology/Oncology, by working with National Cancer Institute-Comprehensive Cancer Centers across the nation to establish physical wards designated for teen and young adults and specially trained medical and supportive teams to run these programs.
Accepted: Looking back at the med school application process, what would you say was your greatest challenge? How would you advise other applicants who may be experiencing similar challenges?
Daniel: Looking back my greatest struggle was trying to force things that weren’t meant to be, not being honest with myself, and rushing a delicate process. Taking stock of who you are as a whole person and applicant is really important. It’s hard to accept that some programs will only judge you based on a standardized score or based on one flaw or weakness you have and seemingly completely ignore the string components of your candidacy.
My greatest piece of wisdom for myself and others as we embark and continue along the arduous yet immensely rewarding path of medicine is to (1) trust the universe and (2) remain persistent. I reconsidered medicine multiple times, asking myself if this is really meant to be and if I am really cut out for medical school. I always ended up coming back to medicine in my theoretical job pursuits; I realized that medicine is honestly my one true passion. I remained steadfast and persistent and didn’t allow people to tell me to give up and I knew I would earn an acceptance to medical school. The pieces fell where they were supposed to. I ended up at the school that I believe was truly best for me and it was all because I put some trust into the universe that new would work out for the best for me. And I did it. I am in my third year, loving it, and working hard and succeeding.
Accepted: What has been the biggest unexpected challenge you have faced since starting med school?
Daniel: My biggest unexpected challenge during medical school has been being far from family. Since the age of 16/17 I have mostly been living away from home in Los Angeles. I started my collegiate years with a year abroad for religious studies in Israel, followed by 3 years of dual-enrollment in New York for college, then Washington DC for my graduate studies and now Fort Lauderdale/Miami for medical school. Throughout all those moves I really didn’t have any qualms about being away from home and family; it was always a matter-of-fact and part of life. However, reaching medical school and going through the first couple years, the drastic increase in dedication to medicine and my studies and classes and exams, left me at times desperately wishing I had family or someone to take care of other aspects of my life. Catching bronchitis or having a episode of varicella zoster during finals isn’t easy without family around, and I learned that the hard way.
Accepted: Post med school what are your plans? Do you know what kind of medicine you want to go into?
Daniel: I’m excited to be joining the ranks of medical professionals in the very near future! In terms of the specialty that I want to pursue, I have ideas of what I am interested in, but I am keeping an open mind as I go through my 3rd year of medical school!
You can follow Daniel’s experiences by following him on Twitter (@SDRBral). Thank you Daniel for sharing your story with us – we wish you continued success!
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