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 Helena Do…
Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? When did you graduate?
Helena: My name is Helena Do. I was born and raised in sunny Southern California and ended up studying biology at the University of California, Irvine as an undergrad. I graduated in June of 2014 and actually didn’t get to walk across the stage because I had a flight to Ghana for a Global Medical Brigades trip that morning!
Accepted: Where are you currently going to medical school? What year are you?
Helena: I am currently studying at Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine (KYCOM) and my expected graduation date is 2019.
Accepted: Looking back at the application process, did you experience any bumps in the road? How did you overcome them?
Helena: To be honest, my path before medical school was rough. I didn’t know that I wanted to go into medicine until halfway through college, so I had to work extra hard in terms of raising my statistics before applying. I actually ended up doing a lot of clinical research in the hospital as well as multiple medical mission trips during the last two years of undergrad. I think my experiences more than anything showed my interviewers that I was serious about choosing to go into medicine.
Accepted: How did you prepare for the MCAT? Did you feel like the best prepared test taker on exam day?
Helena: The MCAT was such a terrible experience for me. I definitely would rather take my two board exams over the MCAT any day – that’s saying something, right? I prepared for the MCAT by taking a review course – Berkeley Review – over the summer. I chickened out the first time and voided my score because I was just terrified, so I took it a second time. If I had to offer advice… take it once and be done with it if you can! Your motivation starts dying if you have to do anything over again.
Accepted: Along with your clinical research, what other experiences do you think made the difference in your med school apps?
Helena: I think my experiences volunteering abroad in Honduras and Ghana helped give me a broader understanding of healthcare in the US. Sounds almost counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Preventative care is emphasized so much more in areas where there are few resources and I noticed that patient education played a very significant role in long-term health maintenance. Despite the vast amount of resources we have in the US, we don’t focus nearly enough on prevention, but instead on treatment of preventable diseases. This was (and still is) an issue that I am passionate about and I made sure to convey this through my personal statement as well as during my interviews. If you really want to stand out, you have to truly discover what you’re interested in – what changes you’re willing to fight for, what you’re truly looking to improve in healthcare – and convey it clearly with not just your words on paper, but actions as well.
Accepted: Why medical school? Have you always wanted to be a physician?
Helena: Despite my MCAT nightmares… I still knew I wanted to be in medicine, regardless of how I got there. As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t really start college knowing I wanted to pursue medicine. I chose biology as my major because I thought science was interesting. It was really my experiences in the emergency department doing clinical research that led me in the direction of medicine – especially emergency medicine. That, in addition to my global medical mission trips abroad, gave me a direction in life and an increased interest in preventative care as well.
Accepted: Have you experienced any difficult times during med school thus far?
Helena: Medical school is daunting. I don’t believe there are nearly enough resources to help students who are struggling and while that is an unfortunate issue, so many individuals have stepped up to support each other and bring awareness. Having my significant other and friends around helped me deal with my stress and anxiety.
Accepted: Lastly, can you share your top three tips for medical school success?
1. My first tip is to find out how YOU study best. So many people have different methods of studying and the first month of medical school will be you figuring out what works best for YOU. Methods that worked in undergrad may not necessarily work in medical school, so figure that out fast to maximize your success.
2. My second tip is to find an outlet (exercise, hobby, movies, etc.). Do not study 12 hours a day. Take care of your mental health whenever you need a break because that should be your top priority.
3. Lastly… medical school is a marathon, not a sprint! Pace yourself, balance your life with fun things, and enjoy the ride as much as you can (especially the summer after first year). The days are long but the years are short!
You can follow Helena’s journey by following her on Instagram (@hmhdo). Thank you Helena for sharing your story with us, we wish you continued success!
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