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This is our first podcast dedicated to the osteopathic student experience. Today’s guest is Ashley Roxanne Peterson. She’s currently a 2nd year DO student. As an undergrad, she attended UNC Charlotte, where she majored in Anthropology and minored in Sociology. She’s now in her second year at the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Welcome, Ashley Roxanne!
Can you give us some background on your path to medicine? [1:35]
When I started at UNC Charlotte, I originally wanted to do something else, but through taking classes and volunteering I discovered that I loved medicine and helping other people in their journeys. Through shadowing, I realized medicine was the right path. I went straight to med school with no gap year.
Which experiences helped you see that medicine was right for you? [2:40]
Shadowing physicians – seeing how they interact with patients, how they use science. I saw that medicine was the marriage between science, different cultures, lifelong learning, and being a leader.
How did you fit science classes into your curriculum, given your social science major? [3:30]
I came in with some credit from high school, which was helpful.
I also took a heavy course load – at least 18 credits every semester (most people take 15).
At what point did you decide on medicine? [4:48]
Sophomore year. At one point I considered majoring in Chemistry, so I’d already taken some pre-reqs for med school, which helped.
Is your background in the social sciences helpful to you as a future physician? [5:37]
Yes! I feel I’ve been exposed to more social aspects of medicine – cultural competency (which is increasingly emphasized in medical training!), and how social determinants affect health.
I took a course on medical anthropology as an undergrad, where I studied how learned behaviors affect your health. I think that really helps me as a future doctor – understanding how my patients live every day: how culture and medicine meet.
Understanding people’s beliefs is also important, since people’s religious and cultural beliefs affect medical care, compliance, etc.
Did you apply only to DO programs, or to both DO and MD? [8:45]
I applied to both. I applied to schools whose missions fit my goals: a primary care perspective. In other words, whether they have a lot of primary care grads, put a strong emphasis on primary care rotations, etc.
Why did you choose the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine? [9:50]
The biggest thing then was the location – I have a lot of family in GA and AL, and lived here for a while when I was growing up (my father served in the military and was stationed nearby). It’s also not too far away from North Carolina. And one of my mentors went there for med school, and spoke really highly of it. And I chose it because of the mission – the emphasis on primary care.
What were the things your mentor told you? [11:25]
She highlighted the osteopathic integration in the program; the diversity of the class (background, age, experience, etc). She also said she was happy here, and that was meaningful to me.
What was the hardest part of the application process? [12:45]
The hardest part was realizing my weaknesses.
You want to be a top applicant with stellar MCAT, GPA, extracurriculars, etc.
I also wanted to make sure my materials would represent me the best way possible. I knew what I put on paper was what they would see first, and I struggled to make my personality come across.
The unknowns were hard.
I thought my MCAT was my weak point: I had an average score – I thought I could have studied more, and it was lower than my GPA.
What were the most memorable interview questions you were asked? [16:50]
At one MD school, my age came up: I was younger than most applicants and they questioned my experience. I was taken aback because I hadn’t prepared for the question, but I was able to talk about my experiences and try to show maturity.
In another interview, I had an ethical question where I was asked what I would do if I had a non-compliant patient, with 20 patients waiting outside. Would I see the patient? I said I would, because they’ve made the effort to show up to the doctor – and I would look into the reasons they’re not complying. (Maybe they’re having side effects?) But I can see why someone would say otherwise. Compliance is an important issue, and time is limited.
On your blog, you discuss networking. What do you mean by networking, and why is it important? [20:50]
Networking is about relationships. It’s important because there are doors you may not even know of, and networks expand your opportunities, and unlock those doors. And we can open doors for other people. We all stand on other people’s shoulders.
Any groups you would recommend for premeds? [23:35]
Start with your school’s premed clubs. Start there because they have local resources – especially helpful if you’re applying in-state. And the local chapters are affiliated with national organizations.
How did you handle the transition to med school in terms of workload? [25:50]
If premed is like a water fountain, med school is like a fire hydrant. You need a plan: put on your fire boots. Set up a schedule for the week. Plan your meals; schedule time for yourself (including anything you do to relax, such as exercise). If you have a family, work with their schedules.
You also need something to help support you – other firefighters. Make relationships with your classmates to make the workload more manageable.
And protect what is important to you outside of school.
Where do you see your career going? [29:52]
Probably family medicine. I’ve also considered geriatrics and psych. My father was in the military so I see the importance of strong psych care to treat things like PTSD.
I’m leaning towards family medicine in an underserved urban setting – I think that urban and rural areas are where we have the greatest need for primary care.
How do you stay positive? [31:20]
I try to think about the others who came before me – if they could do it, I can do it. I also think about the sacrifices of my family – the years of work my father dedicated to the country through the military.
And I stay around positive people, and try to be positive myself. Think about what comes out of your mouth – focus on solutions rather than complaints.
• Ashley Roxanne’s Blog
• Staying Positive in Medical School
• D.O.s for Diversity: Ashley’s Osteopathic Med School Journey
• Why I Love My DO Medical School
• What I Learned from My Shadowing Experience
• Medical School Admissions Resource Page
• M.D, Mom, Wife and Juggler
• Elliptical, Meet Med School: Interview with Andrea Tooley
• The Unbelievable Story of an Orthopedic Surgeon
• Insight from a Successful, Non-Traditional Premed and now M2
• MedHounD Hunts The Right Med School for You
• The Doctor As Renaissance Man
• Overcoming The Odds: A Story of Med School Inspiration