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 Samantha Armstrong…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Samantha: I am originally from a small town in Northwest Indiana, LaPorte. It is nestled right on Lake Michigan so I grew up playing on the Dunes. I moved to Indianapolis to attend college at IUPUI. My major was Biology, with minors in chemistry, religious studies, medical humanities and health studies. Having liberal arts minors really helped me be more well rounded on my application and also learn about the cultures and beliefs of future patients.
Accepted: Where did you attend medical school? When did you graduate?
Samantha: I attended Indiana University School of Medicine and graduated in 2015.
Accepted: How did you know your medical school was the right “fit” for you?
Samantha: Studying in Indianapolis for undergrad allowed me the opportunity to volunteer and shadow in the hospitals downtown and shadow physicians who are IUSM faculty. Seeing the dedication and enthusiasm these doctors had towards teaching residents, medical students and me, an undergrad, made me realize this is where I wanted to train and who I wanted to train me.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, did you experience any bumps along the way? How did you overcome them?
Samantha: THE MCAT!!! I took the MCAT the summer after junior year, while applying for medical school. I had terrible test anxiety and did not know how to manage it. Needless to say, my nerves got the best of me and my first score reflected that. I remember thinking “I will never get in to medical school. I will never be a doctor.” I almost postponed my entire application because of this darn test, but thankfully my very supportive mom reminded me that she has NEVER once asked any doctor their MCAT score or even knew what the MCAT was prior to me choosing medicine as a career. She told me that this test is just like any other, no need to study anymore and no need to be afraid of it…. she had already registered me for another test date 10 days after I received my score. This was the push I needed to move forward, because there wasn’t time to get worried. In those 10 days, I was maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding, moved back to college, and started resident assistant training. My second MCAT score was much better, and I can confirm not a single patient has ever asked me what my MCAT score was….. because that test does not define you as a physician.
Accepted: How was the match process for you? Was internal medicine your first choice?
Samantha: The match process was very exciting. I enjoyed applying, traveling for interviews and most importantly, meeting other medical students. It was always so fun to hear about their experiences at different schools and bond throughout the interview process. Internal medicine was my final decision on a residency – but I changed my mind about five times before this during my clinical years. I really loved every field while rotating through them.
Accepted: How has residency life treated you thus far? Have you learned anything about yourself through residency?
Samantha: Residency life has been the most amazing, and also the most difficult, journey so far. I stand behind the belief that a person makes time for what is important to them, with this in mind I have continued to live a balanced life. Yes the hours are long, yes I sleep in the hospital as much as I sleep at home some rotations, but I always make time to enjoy the people and activities I love.
Medicine is a field that will push you intellectually, physically and mentally. Through residency I learned I am stronger than ever imagined. Residency has made me a stronger and more confident individual, but most importantly this strength comes from knowing I am not alone and to ask for help when needed.
Accepted: You have a blog and Instagram where you share your life, residency, and health and wellness tips. What inspired you to start sharing your experiences with others?
Samantha: I love what I do everyday and want to share it with others. I wish there would’ve been Instagram when I was applying (yes this statement makes me feel old). It is a terrific platform to find mentors, ask questions and most importantly realize that while medical school/residency/application processes are strenuous there is always time and a need to live a healthy fun balanced life. I enjoy connecting with people everyday at various stages of this great journey and can only hope to inspire/mentor others in the future.
My blog was started for a more specific reason. Through medical school I struggled my first year to eat healthy and stay active. This lead me into the world of meal prepping and creating quick, easy and cheap recipes. My clinics in residency are filled with patients with the same issues most medical students, like myself, have…. they don’t know how to cook, are short on time and money. My blog is a way to share simple recipes along with information about how diet affect chronic diseases. A recipe for health, if you will.
Accepted: Lastly, can you share your top three tips for those who are just starting their medical school journey?
1. Make time for the things you love, and do NOT stop them no matter how busy you are. It is far too easy to cut out reading for leisure, going to a concert, or working out…. so resist the urge. Whatever you do to de-stress and have “you” time is as much a priority as taking that 15 millionth practice test. No-one can work every minute of every day, not even Beyonce….. so take a step back, laugh and enjoy life
2. Trust your gut. Don’t overthink an answer on any exam. Write your personal statement from the heart. If you always thought you were going to be a surgeon but fell in love with pediatrics, go with it. Medicine is a wild ride, and the only constant is change. Embrace this and don’t be scared to trust a feeling and run with it.
3. Focus on relationships. Make friends with medical school classmates. The bond I share with my classmates is one deeper than words. We survived the best and worst of times together. I have so many silly stories from late nights studying, and even more wild stories from late nights celebrating being done with exams…. and let’s not forget match day parties. These people will not only be your support through medical school, they will be your colleagues in the field and most importantly family. This same advice holds true for residency.
Also, focus on the relationships you have with your patients. Being able to care for someone during such a vulnerable time as being sick is truly unique to medicine, and it’s important never to take this for granted. Ask your patients personal questions about their lives, listen to their stories, and learn about life through their eyes. This is a gift I cherish every day.
Lastly, focus on your relationship with family and friends. Trust me, you will need them and all of their support through this process. Do not hesitate for a second to reach out to someone if you feel anxious/sad/depressed. There will be bad days, but you are not alone EVER.
You can follow Samantha’s journey by checking out her blog, A Recipe for Health, or by following her on Instagram (@doctor.diva). Thank you Samantha for sharing your story with us, we wish you continued success!
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Do you want to be featured in Accepted’s blog? If you want to share your med school journey with the world (or at least with our readers), email us at email@example.com.
• The MCAT: What do You Actually Need to Study?, an on-demand webinar
• 5 Personal Statement Tips for Residency Applicants
• MD, OBGYN, MPH Talks Med School and Residency Admissions, a podcast episode