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 Trisha Therese…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where are you attending med school?
Trisha: I am originally from a small town just outside of NYC. I went to Harvard University for undergrad where I studied Psychology with a focus on Social and Cognitive Neuroscience and I minored in Global Health and Health Policy.
After graduating in 2013, I took a gap year, during which I finished work with an NGO in Haiti and I worked as a scribe at an ER close to home. I am currently a third year medical student in sunny Los Angeles. Feel free to check out my about me page on my blog if you’d like to learn a bit more!
Accepted: What motivated you to move across the country for med school? How is it for you being away from friends and family?
Trisha: I was really fortunate to have been accepted to my first choice medical school. It was my first choice because the mission really aligns with my future career goals (more about that below) and getting to live in sunny California was a definite plus. When I got accepted I immediately dropped my other acceptances, took myself off waitlists, and withdrew my apps to other schools because I was so sure I wanted to come here and live in LA. At first, I really didn’t think much about moving across the country. I figured it was no big deal and I’d be too busy to miss home. I really underestimated how hard the distance would be.
Although I lived away from home during undergrad I wasn’t this far away. This move has been really beneficial in terms of maturing and growing up. I have a bunch of classmates who have never left California and a few who never lived away from home before medical school. While that may work for them, I’m glad that I forced myself to step outside my comfort zone and experience some place different. It’s been really hard being away from my family and friends but I constantly remind myself that at the end of the day, this is temporary and I don’t have to stay in LA forever. Knowing that this isn’t a permanent change makes the distance from my loved ones a lot easier. Also, FaceTime and talking on the phone helps a lot too. I make sure talk to my family and friends almost every day.
Accepted: What motivated you to pursue a career in medicine?
Trisha: Growing up, my mother was a nurse and a single mother, and sometimes I was forced to go to work with her. As a result, I have so many memories in the nursing home that she worked in. I was supposed to stay in a back room where I was set up with a TV and snacks but I always found myself sneaking out to roam the halls, to visit my favorite patients, and to put on “piano concerts” at the piano in the main lobby. My experiences in the nursing home triggered an early interest in medicine and healthcare.
As I got older and learned more about healthcare, I realized that not everyone is afforded the same opportunities and access to care. I saw this first hand by seeing some of the hardships and experiences that my family members who came from Haiti had to face when seeking medical and dental care.
During my time at Harvard, I took a course taught by Dr. Paul Farmer & Dr. Arthur Kleinman that focused on the social determinants of health. At that time I also started doing more work in Haiti, and that’s when I truly became passionate about global health, working with the underserved, and working to address socioeconomic barriers that limit access to affordable and quality health care.
Accepted: Did you take a test prep course to prepare for the MCAT? Why or why not?
Trisha: I took a Kaplan course because I felt like I didn’t have enough of a science foundation and I wanted a structured study schedule. The course helped to keep me on track. Keep in mind that there is A LOT of homework and time consuming quizzes and reading. You technically don’t have to do it all and they let you know which are the most high yield assignments, which is nice if you start to get behind or feel overwhelmed.
I got a concussion in the middle of MCAT studying so I had to stop for a few months and then start again. During my second time studying, I preferred to use Examkrackers. The Kaplan books had a lot of information and created a good foundation but I found that Examkrackers resources did a better job at being concise and telling you exactly what you needed to know for the exam.
Overall I enjoyed my course. My review books were the exact same as the ones sold on Amazon or at a bookstore, so if you don’t want a class or if you don’t want to spend all that money you can still get the same Kaplan review books to study on your own. Keep in mind though that you won’t have access to the Kaplan online resources if you don’t sign up for a class.
Accepted: Why did you choose the current school you are in? How did you know it would be a good fit?
Trisha: Like I said before, I got accepted to my first choice medical school. When I was applying, I knew that I wanted to work with the urban underserved, and since addressing health care disparities in underserved communities is part of my school’s mission, I knew it would be a good fit for me.
Honestly, no school is perfect and there are definitely things I wish I could change but at the end of the day, I knew that this is where I would be best supported and encouraged to pursue my interests.
If anyone is having trouble figuring out if a place is a good fit, then speak to current students and ask them what they love and what they wish they could change. I think that allows for a more realistic perspective of what a school has to offer and any potential issues or challenges you may not anticipate facing.
Funny story, but my second choice was Duke because I like that their accelerated curriculum would have given me an opportunity to focus on my other interests without having to take extra time off. Because of careless mistakes, I actually forgot to add Duke to my AMCAS (to this day I still don’t know how this happened) and didn’t realize until after the application cycle was over. Please don’t be like me and double check your applications! In the end, I think it worked out to my advantage and the universe clearly didn’t want me to be at Duke. With that being said, I’m so grateful because I truly believe that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be!
Accepted: What has been the biggest unexpected challenge you have faced since starting med school?
Trisha: I am really surprised at how homesick I am. In undergrad I NEVER came home. If I had a break I was almost always abroad doing research or global health work. In the 4 years of college, I think I went home outside of holidays only once. So I was really surprised at how much I missed home when I moved to LA.
In medicine there are going to be sacrifices. You’ll miss birthdays, weddings, and other events. But for me, the frustrating part is when I have to miss these key events solely because of distance. There were plenty of times that a free weekend lined up perfectly with a family celebration but I couldn’t go because 12 hours of travel time (6 hours each way) and $500+ for a flight was just unreasonable. If I chose a school closer to home, it would have been easier and way more affordable to make it to family functions and events on the weekends or during short breaks.
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?
Trisha: I think my biggest challenge was the fact that I didn’t find mentorship early. A lot of my friends got plugged into the pre-med advising very early (basically the second they walked on campus). I didn’t reach out until much later when I realized I was taking organic chemistry before chemistry (bad idea by the way). In some ways, my nonchalant attitude was good because I did my own thing and ignored all the craziness and stress that all the other premeds seemed to be experiencing. But in hindsight it made life much harder navigating the premed scene since I didn’t really have much guidance, hence why I took my science courses out of order. Because I didn’t have a mentor or a premed advisor, I never heard about awesome programs and opportunities that were available. Even though it worked out for me, I really encourage everyone to avoid my mistakes and I suggest that you don’t try to navigate the premed life on your own. Ask for help when you need it and know that it’s never too early to get counseling and premed advice.
Accepted: When did you start your blog Three Thousand Miles? What inspired you to start it?
Trisha: I started Three Thousand Miles in January. I actually wanted to start a blog for a while now, but I never got around to doing it. Sharing bits of my life on the internet was really nerve-wracking at first but I’m glad I forced myself out of my comfort zone. I really thought that only my family and friends would read my blog and maybe 1-2 others. I’m surprised to see how much it’s grown in only a short amount of time.
I already journaled regularly, so it’s no surprise that I ended up writing. Starting my blog actually caused me to rethink career goals and I know now that in the future I definitely want to use media and writing as a means to promote the causes and issues I’m most passionate about. For instance I wrote about social media for medical education here.
Originally my blog was supposed to be a creative outlet free from medical things. I simply wanted to have a fun way to keep my family and friends back home up to date with my life. Over time, this evolved and my goal is to simply inspire others. Before medical school I really had no clue what I was signing up for and felt like I was entering this journey without knowing anything (seriously, i was so clueless!). I really feel like I’ve been winging it for the past two years and learning along the way, so it would have been nice to have someone who can share their experience with me and give me a bit more guidance. I hope that by sharing bits and pieces of my life, faith, and journey, I can mentor, inspire, and help guide someone else so that they aren’t as in the dark about medical school as I was when I first started.
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