__Host: 今天非常有幸邀请到我们社区的两位非常优秀的二代，在这里和我们聊聊医学院申请和院墙里面的故事，欢迎大家踊跃提问。Helen已经在Johns Hopkins University 学医两年，应该算是医学院的insider了。 Amber则是刚刚被UCLA 医学院录取， 而且是Geffen学者，是merit-based，入学新生中仅有1/5才会得到的荣誉。 Helen也获得了OHSU的全额奖学金，但是选择了Johns Hopkins。所以，这给我们要学医的后生们信心，只要是想走这条路，学费应该不是一个问题，虽然不像NYU那样人人都有，但是，只要肯努力， 经济不再是一个负担。简单介绍一下两位才女。Helen毕业于sunset高中，2010年进入Gonzaga University。Amber毕业于Lake Ridge 高中，2014年进入耶鲁大学攻读生物专业。在校期间还发表过4篇papers， 这在本科生中并不常见。在正式开始之前，应该提到华人医生日渐其多相信这个趋势会越来越明显。如果您想知道本地华人医生名录的话，这个网站我自己粗粗验证了一下，是蛮全的， 估计是从哪里得到的完整数据 http://physician.cmgforum.net/ 今晚Helen在医院on-call， 只有一个小时时间。Amber也已经开学3个星期，今晚可以和我们聊到9点。所以，我们争取尽快进入群友提问阶段。
__Host: Now let’s start. Helen and Amber, it is a big honor to have you two with us tonight and thanks Martha for giving me this opportunity to host the on-line talk with our community members. Helen, would you mind introducing yourself first?
Helen: Hi everyone, my name is Halen, I am a 3rd year medical students at Johns Hopkins University. Thank you so much for the introductions, I am very excited to be here tonight.
__Host: Thank you, Helen! Then, Amber, could you please say hi to the group too?
Amber: Hi everyone! My name is Amber, I graduated from Yale this past spring and am currently a first year medical student at UCLA. I’m excited to be here and answer any questions you all might have!
__Host: Thank you, Amber! My first question is if you have this career path back in high school? In other words, when do you start to make up your mind going on this track?
Helen: So, mine is a little bit different from most medical students. I was started college as a nursing student and I didn’t decided until my junior year, which is the 3rd year, to go into medicine and medical school instead.
Amber: For me, I was definitely considering going into medicine when I was in heigh school, but I wasn’t 100% sure that I would ultimately pursue medicine. I did enter college as a biology major, so I had a relatively straightforward path towards medical school. However, I did take some time to explore other fields my freshman year.
Lin: Why do you decide to go to medical school? Please state top three reasons. Thanks!
Helen: For me, I like the aspect of caring for patients that something that nurses also do, but I think as a physician, you get to look at the longitudinal planning for your patients, which is the first reason. The 2nd reason is that I became heavily involved in basic science research during undergraduate and I like to continue basic science research as career and medicine allows this. My 3rd reason is because the field of medicine itself is very diverse, there is a lot of different opportunities within it, you can go into private practice, academia, you can start your own business which is private practice, or you can do a group practice. or you can go into consulting business side or the law side, I feel like I am not closing any doors by going into medicine.
Amber: I’ve always really loved biology, so as I mentioned before I entered college as a bio major. As I took more bio classes I decided that I really enjoyed learning about physiology. Like Helen, I also wanted to be able to work with patients in a longitudinal way. My last reason is that I’m really interested in public health and global health and how that connects to medicine. I did a global health certificate (which is kind of like a minor) in undergrad, and so I was really interested in how working in the health care field can help resolve health disparities within communities in the US and also abroad.
__Host: Sounds like having passion is the first thing.
__Host: To be on this track, to be in medical field, just want to be clear, do you have to major in bio or chemistry back in college?
Amber: You definitely don’t need to major in sciences. There are certain science classes you need to take (like biology and chemistry). Some people who decide to go into medicine later do a separate program after college to take their science requirements as well. I definitely know a lot of people in medical school who were not science majors!
__Host: Just be curious, any examples of non-science majors?
Amber: I think there is a lot of diversity in majors. I know people who were English, philosophy, economics majors for example.
Helen: Medical school likes to see diversity, diversity not just being race or gender but diversity in experiences. That being said, some non-science majors I have seen in our class has been economics, art, philosophy, literature as well as other languages. Most of these non-science majors are supplemented by a minor in biology or biochemistry.
__Host: Very good point! Diversity with experiences.
Lin: What kind of research were you doing in college that leads to publish four papers?
Amber: I did research my first year in a neuroscience lab working on epilepsy research. After that I did global health research for the rest of my time in college working on building models for infectious diseases like HIV and antibiotic resistance.
Lin: Your paper is about epilepsy or various public health issues?
Amber: I coauthored papers in both labs that I worked in throughout undergraduate! I definitely got very lucky to have supportive professors and mentors in my labs that encouraged me to contribute to their papers. It’s definitely not necessary to publish in college.
Jia: Do you observe a higher than average level of depression among medical students?
Helen: Depression is a lot higher in medical students, this has been very well studied. Ppeople aren’t very sure exactly what the cause the depression is. It could be situational, it could be predisposition, it could be from environment, it could be from stress, or combination of all these things. There is report that anywhere between 30-40% of medical students experience severe depressions at some point in their medical education. So in response to this, most schools have a lot of resources for students who experience depression.
Amber: Just to add to what Helen said I think burnout and depression is quite common among medical students (and college students) so medical schools are doing a lot to try to emphasize the importance of mental health and wellbeing so balance is always important.
DongZi: When did you both start getting interview invites?
Helen: I turned in my application late because I wasn’t planning on applying for that cycle, because I had decided so-it-to-go apply for medical school. I start to receive my interviews approximately one month after I submitted my Secondaries, That was approximately October or November.
Amber: I applied relatively early so I started getting interviews a bit earlier – around late August. But I received interview invites later on as well in December.
Jia: Thank you – this is super helpful!
__Host: Do you need to have a very high GPA in order to be even considered in the application?
Helen: I like to tell my students that having a high GPA keeps doors open. It is harder to get into more schools if you have a lower GPA although it is not impossible. In the first round, medical school will score you based on your GPA and your MCAT score, if your scores don’t meet minimum, they will toss your application.
Amber: Definitely not! While GPA is important there are a lot of factors that go into the application. As Helen said before, med schools really value diversity and think about what you bring to the class.
Lin: What are the popular questions or topics on medical school application essay?
Helen: Most popular question is: why medicine? And another popular question that I saw in my applications were: what diversity could you bring to our school? Why did you apply for our school in particular? What is one defining experience for you? Amber, I am sure they changed those questions for your cycle, they might be a little bit different.
Amber: I think most of them are focused on why you want to go into medicine. Med schools just want to make sure that you’re truly passionate about medicine!
Jia: At what point do you decide on “specialty”? What are some of the most “dreaded” specialties?
Helen: You probably decide on the specialty by the end of your third year, and so you can do sub internships as well as away rotations. So few weeks’ additional training in that specialty that you want to go into. So when you actually apply for your specialty, it is going to be fall or the beginning of your fourth year. The most “dread specialties”, that is a very good question, surgical specialties are considered very difficult to get into. Some of the most difficult ones are neurosurgery, plastic surgery and orthopedic surgery, ENT. And ophthalmology has become a lot more competitive. For competitive non-surgical specialties, innerthisnology remains very difficult to get into, radiology and urology as well.
__Host: Do you think there is an (invisible) entry barrier for some specialties? Hard to see minorities at orthopedic surgery specialty.
Helen: The only entry barrier for some specialties is your Step One Score. For very competitive specialties, having a low Step One Score would automatically knock you off a lot of schools’ match list. And just to clarify, what the match list is, so when you choosing specialties, it is a very complicated processes in which schools will submit the top residents that they would like to take, and medical students submit the schools they would like to go to and there is this complicated process where students are matched to the residency in the hospital.
__Host: In your own medical school, in the year you applied, what is the acceptance rate?
Helen: For my class, the acceptance rate was 1.3%.
Amber: I think mine was around 4%.
__Host: Now I can understand why parents are so proud of their kids getting into medical schools. Can you also talk about the scholarship, not small grant, we are talking about covering most if not all tuition for 4 years?
Helen: For large scholarships, it often not a separate application process. What happened with me was that the financial aid office will take the highest scoring applicants from each cycle and award those applicants with scholarships. At OHSU, I was awarded the scholarship given to the highest ranked applicant for that year. At John’s Hopkins, my scholarship fits the profile of President Scholarship so I was given that.
Amber: Certain schools will offer merit-based scholarships (e.g. Northwestern, University of Michigan, UCLA, etc.). Like Helen said, there is no separate application for these scholarships, so it’s decided with your normal application.
Lin: So what most important characteristics make you stand out?
Helen: One important thing that makes you stand out is that you really enjoy what you do. And I think when you really enjoy what you do, it shows in the application process and it also shows on your Resume because then you start achieving and doing well in that area.
Amber: I think medical schools wat to see that you’re passionate about something, so for some people that can be research, for others it can be public policy.
__Host: I totally agree. And that applied to anything you do.
Mary: What types of volunteering did you do?
Helen: For volunteering, I worked very intermittently with St. J children’s research hospital which is a research hospital that focuses on childhood cancers as well as other rare diseases such as amino deficiencies as well as Sicoso diseases, just a few examples. When I was in college I did a lot of local volunteering with children’s hospitals, I also was the president for over 4 years for the fund raising committee.
Amber: I did some volunteering abroad due to my interest in public health and also did some clinical volunteering in the pediatric ward. I also taught community health and science classes in elementary schools and high schools in New Haven.
__Host: Can you give a little bit introduction about the process for applying for medical school, based on your own experiences, also lessons?
Helen: The process for applying for medical school is a little bit long. First you have to have the MCAT score which is a test that is now 8 hours long. The 2nd thing you need to have is all your prerequisite classes. Once you have these done, you can apply using a first round, which is the AMCAS, so in this application you just write an essay, put in letter of recommendations, and then you can send out your applications to different schools. The process in this entirety is called the primaries, once those have been sent to the schools, the schools can invite you for secondaries. The secondary application is usually associated with a small fee as well as more essays. After you submit your secondaries, schools can invite you for interviews. And after you interview with the school, they either put you in acception list, rejection list or wait list.
Mary: What is the Step One score?
Helen: The Step One score is the test that all medical students take, usually at the end of their second year, but there has been a transition to take it at the end of third year. The Step One Score is an accumulative exam that looks at all of your preclinical knowledge, so this will include basic science as well as a little bit of medicine. Most school will use your Step One Score to gauge how competitive you are on different specialties.
Mary: What is the best way to prepare for the MCAT?
Helen: The best way to prepare for MCAT is to learn the material really well when you are in that class that you are taking. For example, the MCAT covers a lot of organic chemistry so make sure that you learn that really well when you are going through the organic chemistry, and that helps your GPA too. For the MCAT, most student have the best score when they have a dedicated time just for the MCAT, this could be a summer break, or they don’t have anything else as well. Best way to prep for MCAT… I actually worked with a MCAT preparation company, both as a tutor as well as a content editor and writer. I wrote a lot of questions for the MCAT and edited the book that came out. I want to be able to share the schedule with everyone so I did publish this on a website and I can share that link with everyone on what an ideal and CAT schedule looks like. Post for MCAT study schedule: https://whitecoatblackheels.wordpress.com/category/premed/
Amber: I think a lot of people take classes through Kaplan or the Princeton Review which can be really helpful. I mostly just purchased study materials and studied on my own. I also agree with what Helen said about learning well in your classes to prepare for the MCAT!
Mary: How did you spend your freshman year of college?
Helen: Freshman year in my college I was still a nursing student, so I focus most of my time … on my nursing courses.
Amber: My freshman year of college, I took a lot of my science classes for my bio major, but I was also taking English classes and humanities classes. I tried to take a lighter schedule so that I could also adjust to college life and meet new people!
Yinlin: How many hours of sleep do you get on average?
Helen: How many hours of sleep that I get per night is dependent on my schedule. The first two years probably 7-8 hours because you do have flexibility based on how you study. During clinical years, it depends on what your rotation is, there happens that some rotations where I can get 7-8 hours’ sleep with no problem; it happens that for some rotations I get so busy that I don’t get sleep for 2-3 days.
Amber: it has definitely varied. I just started medical school so I don’t have a great idea of how much sleep I will typically be getting, but my guess is 6-7 hours.
Yinlin: No sleep for 2 to 3 days? That’s really tough. There would be one of the biggest challenge for medical students I guess.
Jia: how do you “protect” yourself form the sufferings of your patients? Compassion is great, but where do you draw the line?
Helen: Thank you for asking that question. That actually a question that I am still working on. It is very difficult whenever a patient passes or have to give bad news, one thing that seems help a lot is having other people to talk to. My team that I work with mainly in the hospital is really good about to have team meeting to talk about what had happened to make sure that everyone is OK. At Johns Hopkins there is a movement to recognize care providers as second victims to tragedies that patients go through as well. There is a lot of support for providers who experience a lot with patients. For me, whenever I am having a very difficult time, I always call my parents. Talking to my mom seems help a lot with handling these emotions.
Jia: Glad you have your mom and your peers to talk to.
__Host: Physicians definitely deserve a whole lot of respect.
Yinlin: Totally agree.
Jia: I read that “every (neuro) surgeon has a cemetery in his/her heart”. Must be a very tough profession.
__Host: Back to high school years, do you still remember if you had this (going to medical school) in mind at all?
Helen: In high school I didn’t think of going to medical school at all, it was not a possibility inside of my head.
Amber: I definitely thought about medical school when I was in high school, but honestly didn’t know that much about medicine or what it entailed. So I wasn’t really serious about it until college.
Helen: Highs are high, lows are low.
__Host: What about parents? Did they ever influence you in some way to go on medical career?
Amber: My parents definitely supported my interest in science but I also didn’t feel any pressure to pursue medicine from them. I also don’t have any doctors in my family so I learned most of what I know about the medical field from outside sources. Helen: My parents gave me a lot of independence in my career. They supported me based on whatever decision I had decided, but growing up there wasn’t a particular direction they pushed me in. Instead they emphasized on finding an independent and compatible career option. For me it took me a little longer to figure out that medicine is perfect for me, but once I decided I was absolutely sure about it.
Mary: How would you build good relationships with professors in college and medical school?
Helen: Hi Mary, I think that is a really good question. One of the most important things for me is mentorship in college and medical school. So, with building a mentorship with professors or other advisors or mentors, you need to think about it as a two way street. So you receiving a lot of very good advice from your mentors, but at the same time they want to become part of your life, you should keep them posted and updated of what you decided and other things happening in your life as well.
Mary: Thank you!
__Host: My observation is doctor’s kids tend to not follow the parents’ path. Is that true,
Lin: I don’t think this is true.
__Host: Of course, I did see dad/son even in the same medical group, in different time period though. I once knew Dr. Olson at Providence and both were leading the medical group there.
Amber: I am not sure what the actual statistics on that are, but my impression is that it’s not necessarily true. I think people who have doctors as parents are able to get a lot of insight into the medical field so they can decide earlier on if it’s what they want to pursue or not.
Helen: I agree with Amber, I think a lot of these children of doctors can decide earlier than most other people. That being said, a lot of my classmates have parents who are doctors, including classmates whose parents work at Johns Hopkins.
__Host: That is convincing.
__Host: so what do you want to talk to our kids at middle and high schools if they have this thought in their mind?
Helen: For middle and high school students, my piece of advice is to start taking initiative and looking at ways that you can get involved. This could be look for shadowing opportunities so you can see the different sides of medicine; this could be looking at different opportunities and science so maybe doing research somewhere or taking more courses to learn more about science. My one piece of advice is understanding that the opportunities are not passive. You have to go look for these opportunities and take advantage of every offer that is given to you.
Amber: I think the application cycle for college and med school can definitely be very stressful and some people might think there’s a ‘checklist’ of things that have to be done in order to get to a certain place but I think it’s more important to find what you really enjoy because that’s also what you’ll be good at. It’s helpful early on to get a breadth of experience in things you’re interested in so you can determine what you want to pursue and once you do you can dig deeper into that subject. But I also agree with what Helen said about opportunities not being passive. You definitely have to open up doors for yourself and take initiative to pursue the things you want.
__Host: Wow, you two are so deep in thinking about those tough questions.
Yinlin: Very good advices! Thank you both very much!
__Host: Can you talk about how parents communicating with their kids in selecting the career path? Helen: I think parents should empower their kids with the confidence to select career path. So for example, my parents always told me that if I work very hard I could probably just do whatever make me the happiest and because of that I chose the career path that I am very happy in, and I think that makes me work harder and it makes me be the best that I can be right now. Amber: I agree, I think it’s important for kids to know that they have the freedom to choose a career path that they are really passionate about, but at the same time know that they’ll have to work hard to get there whether it’s medicine or computer science or English or art.
__Host: Thank you so very much, Helen and Amber, for the excellent talks, advice and sharing your lives with us. I personally learnt a lot. I especially feel encouraged by you two representing a new generation of we Chinese.
Jia: I want to thank Helen and Amber for their great insights and advice. Kudos and best of luck to both of you!
__Host: Yes, we all wish you a success in your studies, career and personal life.
Helen: Thank you for having us here today. If anyone else has any other questions or if their children want to reach out with questions, I am always here. You can contact me through Wechat or you can always contact me through my mom. Thank you again for having us here tonight.
Amber: Of course! These were some really wonderful and thoughtful questions! Thank you for having us.