Learn how real students navigate their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our What is Medical School Really Like? series.
Meet Jacqueline, an MS4 at NYITCOM (New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine)
Jacqueline, thank you for sharing your story with us!
Was there a particular person or event that helped you decide that medicine was the right path for you?
Jacqueline: Yes. I’m actually more of a non-traditional applicant. I was taking the premed classes because I liked science but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I have a BA and MA in urban affairs and was considering a career in public health. During my second year of college I went on a social service mission to Nicaragua to build classrooms to teach sustainable farming and ended up getting really sick and going to the clinic there. I was 3 hours outside the capital with no running water and seeing firsthand the health disparities people faced, I knew I wanted to do something about it. After this experience, I thought there was no better way to advocate for health than being a doctor and on the frontlines of medicine.
How do you hope to confront health disparities as a physician? Is it only disparities overseas, or are there disparities within the U.S. that you feel should be addressed?
Jacqueline: I was always taught when growing up that doing good deeds should start at home. When I got back from Nicaragua I started volunteering in a homeless shelter and at the hospital, and yes, there are health disparities in the U.S. There are problems with access to care and affordability. I did my entire third year in an underserved hospital and a FQHC. My plan is to continue in a residency program with similar ideologies and provide primary care to underserved communities. Long term, I hope to get back involved with public health and advocating for my patients.
How did you decide which schools to apply to? If you had a significant other at the time you applied, how did you find a school situation that would work well for both of you?
Jacqueline: I did have a significant other at the time. He said he would follow me anywhere, but I applied regionally just East Coast and hoped for the best.
Did you experience any bumps along the road to medical school admission? How did you identify and deal with the issues?
Jacqueline: I think the anxiety of not knowing what’s going to happen is one of the hardest issues of applying. Just anxiously waiting for an interview or rejection. For me, I applied with a borderline MCAT score, so I knew it was a shot in the dark kind of situation, so I had to let myself just ride it out and see where it would go and then if I didn’t get accepted reevaluate what I wanted to do.
Once med school started, what was your favorite class?
Jacqueline: My favorite block was MSK.
What do you wish you had known about your program before starting out?
Jacqueline: I thought it was important to know class schedules, how classes are run (streamed vs. live), labs, resources for students including library, printing, online resources, advisors, learning specialists and so on. How friendly faculty are, how they set up rotations, match rates.
Was this info easy to gather? Was there anything that really took you by surprise once school started?
Jacqueline: I definitely learned the most on the tour on interview day. It’s important to ask a lot of questions and make the most of your interview day. I think as much as everyone tells you how rough first semester is, you truly don’t understand until you’re in it.
What do you think your classmates would be surprised to know about you?
Jacqueline: I got one interview and one acceptance.
You must have had a lot of hopes riding on that interview! What was the interview experience like? When you finished the interview, did you have a feeling that you’d be accepted?
Jacqueline: I had a really positive interview experience which is why I think I knew the school was a good fit. I was nervous, but when you are genuine it shows through. I left the interview feeling really good but had no idea if I would get accepted. I got a letter in the mail about 4-6 weeks later with the acceptance.
Do you have any study habits that sound crazy but really work?
Jacqueline: Rule of threes. You have to study something three times for it to stick. The first time is when you are learning it in lecture. The second time is when you are reviewing it. And the third time is when you put your knowledge to test with practice questions. Definitely for medical school, using practice questions is the best way to study. I like to see how they can ask the same thing over and over but in different ways.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Jacqueline: My daughter is my alarm clock. She wakes up at 5:30am and then takes a bottle and goes back to sleep till about 8am, so depending on what rotation I’m on I either get up then or at the second wake up. Her nanny comes at 8am and watches her while I’m out.
Get dressed, eat breakfast, go to rotations.
Come back, make dinner. Feed my daughter while dinner is cooking. Bathe her, change her into pajamas, play time, and then put her to bed.
After she’s asleep, then I do whatever I need to get done whether it’s a workout, studying, watching TV, prep lunch for the next day. At this point, since I’m a 4th year and already took all my boards there’s not much studying getting done. I’m trying to enjoy time with my husband and daughter before intern year starts.
If you had a 25th hour in the day, how would you spend it?
Let’s talk cooking! How have you made time to pursue this passion during medical school, and how has it helped to keep you grounded? Any favorite “recipes for success”?
Jacqueline: When you take the time to make yourself a priority, you find the time. Medical school is stressful and the sheer amount of studying can really burn you out quickly. Learning to take consistent breaks will make your studying more efficient by ensuring you have the stamina and mindset to keep going.
Cooking helps me disengage, unwind and also take control of my health by knowing what I’m putting inside my body. It also ensures that I feed my family homemade meals.
I’m actually producing a cookbook now with the support of my school and it includes 26 recipes to get you through medical school. I try to post frequently on my Instagram so I highly recommend all premeds and medical students follow! I like the crockpot recipes because you can prepare it the night before, throw it in the crockpot and just forget about it all day while you’re studying, and you get rewarded with a yummy meal!
What do you wish your med school did differently to be more accommodating to students who are parents?
Jacqueline: There’s a lot of room for change. One thing I helped set up was a lactation lounge on campus and a student physician parent support group. I think there should be a maternity leave policy or a way to decelerate from the program, but right now there isn’t.
Graduation is in May! Can you tell us a bit about your experience with residency applications? What specialty do you hope to pursue?
Jacqueline: I thought residency applications were so much better than medical school applications. I went from being offered one interview when applying to med school to being offered over 20 interviews for residencies. Scores are important but there’s so much more that residencies are looking for because you have to work every day with these people for at least three years. I am hoping for family medicine. I love primary care and have an interest in geriatric medicine.
Do you have any advice for applicants/new students beginning their med school journey who either have or are planning a family?
Jacqueline: Definitely ask on the interview trail. I didn’t when applying to medical school because I wasn’t even thinking about it at the time. My husband and I had just gotten married three weeks before school started and I was more concerned about the transition of the first year of medical school. It’s one of my first questions now on residency interviews. I would also find an upperclassman who has kids to specifically ask all the questions you might not be able to ask administrators.
My advice in general is that it’s a decision between you and your spouse. There are times in training where it is “easier,” such as 3rd and 4th year, and I say this with quotes because it still has its own obstacles, but when you and your spouse are ready to grow your family is when you should start trying. Each year has its own unique challenges.
As for applicants with children already, I think having a supportive spouse is what will help you be successful. First year has anatomy which is challenging and requires you to put in hours of studying. I know I would sometimes stay out till 2am in the anatomy lab. But it’s temporary. Again, finding support for your spouse would be helpful too. Try to include them when you can and carve out time for them in your schedule.
Do you have questions for Jacqueline? Questions for us? Do you want to be featured in our next What is Medical School Really Like? post? Know someone else who you’d love to see featured? Are there questions you’d like us to ask our students in this series? LET US KNOW!
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• Med School Admissions: What You Need to Know to Get Accepted, a free guide
• Family Practitioner, Author, Advocate: An Interview with Dr. Alexa Mieses, a podcast episode
•How to Get Into NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, a podcast episode