I want to invite any listeners planning to apply to medical school this summer to check out our med webinar, The 5 Part Framework for a Successful Medical School Application. In the webinar I break down the complex med school application process into 5 essential goals that you must achieve if you are to be successful and start medical school in 2018.
Our guest today can provide her own advice based her experience applying to and getting into medical school. She graduated from Arizona State in 2011. Later, she completed postbac studies at both Salt Lake Community College and UW in Seattle. Today Natalie Wall, of the Natalie Shoots People blog, is an M1 at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Welcome, Natalie!
Can you tell us about yourself? [1:55]
I grew up in Arizona, where I was really into dancing. Like you said, I went to ASU for college. I originally planned to go to law school, but I decided I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, so I changed plans. I moved to Utah, and here I am!
Why Utah? [2:20]
I had a thing with snowboarding… I decided I’d try to pursue that and maybe make a career of it, but a few hospital bills later, I realized it wasn’t for me.
How did you get from snowboarding to medicine? [2:45]
I come from a family of physicians, so medicine was something I was always exposed to from a young age. Partly because I’d pursued dance so seriously growing up, I wasn’t ready for the time commitment of medicine until I’d had a few more years to mature.
What else did you do during the time between college and med school? How long was that gap? [3:55]
I took two and a half years off from school. I did snowboarding (including time being injured), and also spent time coaching dance and gymnastics. And I ultimately went back to school.
Did you do a formal postbac program? Or more informal? [4:33]
It was pretty informal. I was a psych major in college, which I loved, but I hadn’t taken many hard sciences.
So I did all my core sciences in about two and a half years, going straight through the summer.
What was the hardest part of the application process for you? [5:30]
It’s pretty obvious I was a non-traditional applicant, so I think the struggle for me was trying to figure out my worth in this process that involved so many people who’d been working toward medical school since they graduated high school, and their entire resume was tailored to science and medicine.
How did you meet that challenge? [6:21]
I definitely had science experience, and exposure to hospitals, etc. I also tried to incorporate my life experiences. Those experiences have given me the confidence to interact with patients on a personal level.
What was the most memorable question you were asked at a medical school interview? [7:20]
One asked me what book I was reading. I happened to be reading a really awesome book, but I think if I hadn’t been reading a book at the moment it would have been harder.
Another that struck me as memorable, but not positive: the interviewer said, somewhat condescendingly: you have a lot of art background, but are you really ready for medical school? That really played to my insecurities. But I was able to turn it around and say that on top of my art background, I also have a significant medical background.
They’ll definitely try to throw questions your way to make you a little uncomfortable, but they’re really just looking to see how you respond under pressure.
Why did you choose U of Utah? Or did it choose you? [8:30]
I wanted to take into account the area around the school, not just the school itself. I’ve always been outdoorsy, so Utah’s a great fit.
What do you like best about Utah SOM? Anything you’d change? [9:10]
I really like the administration. I’m impressed by how invested everybody is in your success. If there’s something you want to achieve, they’ll help you accomplish it.
As far as changing anything, I could wish for more vacation – but I understand that’s not likely in the career I’ve chosen!
You wrote on your site that you were dreading cadaver lab but it turned out to be your favorite class. How did you deal with your anxiety and what did you like about it? [10:30]
I was terrified by the idea of gross anatomy lab – so I went in the week before school started and introduced myself, just to get comfortable with it. Anatomy lab ended up becoming the most amazing experience. There’s something so personal about working on and learning from one person for an entire semester – learning things from her body that she probably didn’t even know when she was alive.
What’s surprised you about med school so far? [12:40]
I was expecting it to be cutthroat, but everybody’s really supportive and goes out of their way to make sure you’re doing well.
Do you have advice for incoming med students on how to adjust? [13:25]
It’s not that the information itself is so difficult – by the time you come to med school you’ve studied basic sciences – but the volume is unlike anything I’d ever experienced.
A lot of upperclassmen recommended various apps and study tools.
My advice is to give yourself a month to adapt and figure out what works for you. What worked in undergrad may not work in med school, and that’s ok.
Do you have opportunities for clinical exposure in the first two years at Utah? [14:45]
Embedded in the curriculum is a decent amount of clinical exposure in the first two years. I’ve had the chance to do sutures, scrub in, etc. If you want clinical exposure early, I advise finding an awesome mentor.
What specialties are you interested in? [15:35]
Maybe surgery – I like that combination of art and medicine. I’m also interested in emergency medicine – I spend a lot of time in the emergency department.
Your blog is Natalie Shoots People. I assume that refers to your photography? [17:05]
Yes. I’m especially inspired by nature.
Any advice for premeds or entering medical students? [18:20]
If you feel like you don’t exactly fit the path that everybody else has taken to med school or the specialty you’re interested in, have confidence in what you have done. Figure out your personal brand and be confident in that.
• The 5 Part Framework for a Successful Medical School Application Register for the webinar
• Natalie Shoots People, Natalie’s website
• Natalie on Instagram
• Natalie on Twitter
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