By Laurence Black
“Choose medicine because you have a passion for science and the human body that would not be fulfilled by any other profession,” says Katherine Menezes, a first-year medical student at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. “Choose medicine because you would choose it over and over again, despite the rigorous process and lifestyle.”
When choosing to take the pre-medical path in undergraduate school, students often have many questions about what activities to get involved in, in order to better their chances of acceptance into medical school. Katherine Menezes, a graduate of UGA in Biology and Psychology, offers her advice to pre-medical students.
1. Shadow a practitioner
Shadowing is an important part of the application process. Students can get involved in shadowing by contacting local hospitals and private practice clinics that contain specialities of their interest. In the Athens area alone, there are many shadowing opportunities available such as those offered at Athens Regional Medical Center and Georgia Cancer Specialists. Medical schools are searching for students who have a realistic understanding of medicine. “I had upwards of 150 hours of shadowing experience,” says Menezes. “Shadowing is the only way that a pre-medical student can experience the synthesis of science and human interaction that constitutes being a physician.” The act of shadowing allows for pre-medical students to be immersed in the daily expectations of a physician, a component that is essential to understand before beginning medical school.
2. Get involved in the community and on campus
It is vital that pre-medical students have more to their application than a competitive MCAT score and a high GPA. “Get involved in anything that you are passionate about,” says Menezes. “If you are dedicated to a cause or an activity, it will be recognized [by the admissions committee].” Contrary to popular belief, these extracurricular activities do not all have to pertain to medicine; the admissions committees of most medical schools will look at these activities to learn more about applicants’ passions and interests.The University of Georgia has endless opportunities for students to get involved in, both on and off campus. Menezes took advantage of extracurricular opportunities in the Athens area, such as volunteering at Mercy Healthcare, Athens Latino Center and UGA Miracle. In addition, Menezes had many leadership roles through the Catholic Center at UGA, leading two Catholic service and education trips.
3: Choose wisely when applying to schools
During the third year of undergraduate school, traditional pre-medical students are prompted to start the application through the American College Application Service (AMCAS). Near the end of the application, students are required to select the schools that they wish to apply to. “Initially you will want to check off a lot of boxes on AMCAS,” says Menezes. “Your primary application is a stepping stone to the secondary applications, which begin to flood your inbox after your application has been approved.” Menezes recommends to be liberal with primary applications, but to think carefully about which secondary applications are returned. “Just be cognizant of the responsibilities that you will have and the fact that you want your application to be thorough,” says Menezes. “Quality over quantity.”
4. Seek advice from mentors and other pre-medical students
Pre-medical students are often faced with a lot of stress from the rigorous coursework, such as obtaining the perfect MCAT score and balancing rigorous coursework, while filling out secondary applications. This means it is critical to know where and from whom to seek counsel while at UGA. Alpha Epsilon Delta, the pre-medical honor society at UGA, and the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) are two invaluable sources that aid in gathering knowledge and advice. Through these organizations, pre-medical students on campus are able to learn from other pre-medical students and guest speakers about important topics pertaining to medicine. In addition, these organizations offer free practice MCAT sessions and volunteer opportunities. “Most importantly, an academic advisor who understand the process is an absolute saving grace throughout a pre-medical career,” says Menezes. “I was lucky enough to have Dr. Karl Espelie as mine.”
The most important piece of advice for pre-medical students: do not stress out. Menezes advises students to take a step back every now and then to readjust and remember their reasons for pursuing medicine. “Never forget the reason you are studying to be a physician and the immense significance of that,” says Menezes. “It will be worth the late nights and excessive caffeine consumption. Good luck and Go Dawgs!”