Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Why Community Health and Medicine

When I arrived at Tufts as a freshman I always imagined that I was going to be a “hard science” major. Whether that meant biology, physics, or chemistry, my preconceived notion of being premed demanded that I study science. However, I quickly learned that this was simply not true, and in fact, you can study anything you want and be successful.

As a freshman I followed the advice to take classes that were of interest to me, one of which happened to be Introduction to Community Health. Learning about aspects of health that were disconnected from medicine and science was refreshing and set the stage for my decision to major in Community Health. After taking a few more courses in the major, I knew with absolute certainty the field was for me. Being able to take courses ranging from race, ethnicity, and health to epidemiology was both rewarding and challenging. The field of Community Health allows you to explore areas that interest you, something that not all majors necessarily afford. Furthermore, the faculty in the CH department were constantly available to meet with me to help facilitate my interest in both Community Health and medicine, something that allowed me to pick the right courses and find research opportunities.

For the CH major you are required to do an internship, something that is unique and allows you to gain real world exposure. I selected an internship at Tufts Medical Center in the Department of Infectious Diseases, something that both satisfied my interests in medicine and public health. Through this internship, I gained both clinical exposure as well as opportunities to learn about intersections between public health and infectious diseases, something I had been exposed to in Introduction to Global Health. The ability to have this experience not only bolstered my application for medical school, but showed me that pursuing public health was of great importance to me.

As I now am in my final semester at Tufts I look back on my experience as a Community Health major very fondly. Whether it be the faculty I met, the public health research I have engaged in, or the aspects of healthcare that challenged the way I think I am very grateful for the knowledge I have gained. As I work towards my career goals in medicine, I can say with confidence that I will be not only integrating my knowledge of public health gained at Tufts, but looking to continue studying public health while in medical school.

Jacob Garrell, Class of 2018
Community Health

Why Be a Mentor?

I vividly remember the moment when I first took a look at the course listings required for a pre-medical track, biology major, CBS major, and everything else that was offered on SIS, and just feeling this overwhelming sense of being lost. But I also vividly remember sitting down with my mentor and fellow mentees for the first time during one of the first Pre-Medical Society events, and feeling that sense of overwhelming slowly dissipate. As I talked with my fellow freshmen and my sophomore mentor, I saw myself grasping an idea of the directions I would take in order to best handle the rigorous course loads ahead of me.

As the year went by and with each subsequent mentorship event with the society, I felt more and more comfortable with my work, my classes, my extracurricular activities, and just generally being more at ease with the inherent stress of being a pre-medical student. I had also decided to pursue a biology and CBS double major, so that did the exact opposite of helping the burden. However, never once did I feel that I did not know what I was doing, much thanks to the help of discussing my possibilities with my mentor and my mentor group, who were currently or had been in the same shoes as me.

The following year, as a sophomore, I wanted to channel the experience I had gained as a mentee toward becoming a mentor for the incoming freshmen. Through talking with my previous mentor, my own familiarity with several of the classes that the freshmen would be looking at, and my involvement with both biology and CBS, I knew that I could serve as a relatable and accessible source of information, as someone who was in their shoes not too long before. Where I felt an overwhelming sense of confusion the past year, now I had felt an overwhelming sense to give back and calm my mentees’ similar confusion.

The job of a mentor was just as fulfilling and rewarding as I expected it to be. Being on the other side, I felt that my job was essentially to be someone they could turn to at any time regarding any sort of doubts about their track, as both a friend and a mentor. During the events, I answered any questions that they might have, gave them advice about what classes they could take together or what clubs they could get involved in, and just general tips on how to manage the obstacles that may lie ahead of them. Getting to know my mentees as people and reciting the things that I already knew and had been through not only helped them, but was also a huge plus for myself, as I was able to solidify my knowledge as well as develop my ability to provide help to people who needed it. This stemmed from simply being able to talk to them and relate with their position in order to create an environment of comfort. And at the end of the day, that is one of the most crucial aspects of the interactions between a patient and a physician, so looking forward, the mentorship program has helped me come a long way in developing certain skills that are components which make up any great medical professional.

Vibhav Prakasam
Class of 2016
Biology Major

 

For similar articles regarding mentorship, please see the previously posted blog posts:
https://sites.tufts.edu/prehealth/2016/09/14/mentorship-program/
https://sites.tufts.edu/prehealth/2016/09/09/why-look-for-a-mentor/

Why Ask for a Mentor?

Entering college as one of the many students considering the Premed track, I was unsure about different aspects of that path and if it was truly right for me.  Since its not a major at Tufts, how would the premed requirements fit around the other classes I have to and want to take?  What order would be best to take the required classes?  Would there opportunities for me to study abroad?  Am I ready for the premed workload?  To begin down a road of seemingly endless years of schooling?

At last year’s GIM for the Premed Society, I immediately knew the mentorship program would be an avenue to have these questions answered, as well as to connect with other people with the same goals who were wondering the same things.  Indeed, throughout the year, I had access to peers with experience with the numerous premed-related decisions I needed face.  The resources that mentorship provides are invaluable; through leaning on older premeds I was eventually able to decide firmly that this was the path I want to take.  I was given advice on how to plan out my future semesters of classes with the right order and balance, and even where a Study Abroad program or a future gap year might factor into the equation.

These mentors are fellow students who want to help you on your premed journey and can offer guidance, support, and helpful tips on how to navigate the premed track at Tufts– I am certainly grateful that I took advantage of this program!

Matt Reppucci
Class of 2020
Biology Major

 

For similar articles regarding mentorship, please see the previously posted blog posts:
https://sites.tufts.edu/prehealth/2016/09/14/mentorship-program/
https://sites.tufts.edu/prehealth/2016/09/09/why-look-for-a-mentor/

The Journey of Medicine is Never “Done”

M.D. Those two highly sought-after initials that refer to the completion of medical school carry a special sort of weight. The title becomes part of one’s name, representing a shift from student to doctor – but even in all its glory, earning an M.D is just a speck in the timeline of one’s journey throughout medicine. The journey of medicine is never “done,” and this is sort of a grapple for pre-meds who spend every waking moment checking off things on a list, always fighting to get to the next step. This sort of miserable and unmindful existence is something that afflicted me, and I want to share my experience on how the light of passion and purpose shined into my  life.

Human health has always been a deep-rooted fascination of mine. Learning about human health helped me understand how my cousin, Reza, someone who never touched a cigarette in his life, could develop metastatic oral cancer and die at just 32 years of age. Even though I have genuinely always loved medicine, as I am sure you all do as well,  the constant anticipation and anxiety associated with jumping through the hoops leading to a career in medicine can act as a negative feedback loop where pre-meds may feel the need to compare themselves with one another. If you are looking exclusively at the next step, and only see the present as a stepping stone towards the next time you can check something off a list, you are going to miss out on exposing yourself to everyday pockets of beauty and new perspectives that can make you a stronger physician and a more fulfilled individual.

Paul Kalanithi, the late neurosurgeon and author of When Breath Becomes Air once said, “You can’t see [medicine] as a job, because if it’s a job, it’s one of the worst jobs there is.” I think that people often see medicine as a sort of guarantee of stability, prestige, and meaning. And the cloudy irony of all this is that the field of medicine and the paths that lead to it are chock-full of uncertainty. First off, the great majority of college freshmen who identify as pre-meds never go on to become physicians (for a multitude of reasons). In the day-to-day life, physicians are faced with a stream of challenging decisions that often have no “right” or “wrong” answers. Physicians are no strangers to the many grey areas associated with life and its preservation, perhaps explaining why they are often eloquent writers who can beautifully tackle the big questions of our time. I think Paul Kalanithi epitomizes that sort of excellence, but at the same time he represents the very uncertain reality that we all occupy. Being diagnosed with lung cancer at age 36, nearly at the end of his neurosurgical residency, Dr. Kalanithi’s decades of working towards that end goal of becoming a neurosurgeon withered away when he was given the news of his illness. Undoubtedly, the concept of delayed gratification helps to justify the stepping-stone-to- stepping-stone lifestyle, but the instability of reality and our place in the world has since dawned on me.

A highlight of my naiveté freshman year was coming in dead set on the double majors of biology and computer science along with an almost aggressive goal of going to medical school. I didn’t see it at the time, but this was a grave mistake for me; the unstable binary associated with this situation arose from the fact that it all looked terrific on paper. It was like a tiger mom’s wet dream. I did have a deep fascination with life sciences and technology, but by scheming to take as few classes unrelated as possible, I was setting myself up for a rather narrow undergraduate education. The lingering pleasure of knowing I was going down a “safe” path was very quickly shattered by a lifestyle that was more about strategic campaigning to get to the next step rather than about living, learning, and the beautiful struggle for meaning that I now embrace.

I quickly began to realize that my relationship with computer science was more of a short-lived courtship. I saw tech as a medium through which I could make a global impact and secure my future. But the hours spent behind blinding screens, endlessly typing code in a language that is more understandable to machines than humans proved to be toxic for me. In addition to still being under the impression that the only road to medicine is through being a robot, I saw my cousin, Kaveh, pass away after a lifelong battle with addiction. My campus’ bubble was not impenetrable to the outside pressures of my family falling apart back home. Death has this remarkable ability to distill life; it vaporizes the insignificant, leaving behind what truly matters. And so, one day I sat behind my computer and looked at the Intro to Comp Sci class on my transcript and committed one of the greatest sins in the proverbial pre-med holy book: I withdrew from the class. Almost immediately after, several questions suddenly darted through my psyche. What were medical schools going to think of this? How will I explain this to my parents? How could someone who has published four applications on the Android app store not be able to complete an introductory coding course? Yet like a rubber band being stretched beyond the point of no return, I felt a snap of relief. This is the first time in my life the almost-chaotic reality of uncertainty and instability felt okay.

I really began to fly as I completely stopped treating school as a chore. I had l glimpses into the beauty of the enlightenment provided by a liberal arts education, such as when my anthropology class fascinated me with the indefinite nature of aspects of everyday life that humans like to put into categories.. After shadowing a physician soon after, I was exposed to the everyday uphill battles and frustrations that are inseparable from treating patients. There were patients who did not trust the doctor’s word. There were patients who refused to take their medicine. There were patients who would yell in the waiting room if they were not given their Percocet prescription. Oddly enough, practicing medicine is very similar to farming. Dusk till dawn is spent maintaining delicate balances needed for crops and animal inhabitants of the farm to thrive. Sometimes irrepressible catastrophes happen, whether a tornado or a disease that clears acres of hard-won crop families. But it’s the grit and deep connection for the farm that makes a farmer, and there is no finish line. In the same vein, medicine is a lifestyle, and it is unforgiving to those who seek consistency, security, and comfort. Now, I treat every day as a rewarding time to make meaning out of the significant and the insignificant, and hope to go to medical school to continue to answer the big questions. I have never been happier.

Nick Kamkari

Class of 2020

Reflecting on my drive to become a physician – An Alum Story

Since graduating Tufts in May of 2015 I have worked as a medical scribe for a primary care doctor, continued my personal fitness training practice (testimonials can be found at leahloveslife.weebly.com), and obtained my Certification in Sustainable Health & Nutrition. In this past year, I have continued expanding my role as a medical scribe, pursuing clinical research, working as a personal fitness trainer, and furthering my nutrition and botanical medicine education.

Since implementing a mindfulness based intervention (MBI) in children with and without emotional behavioral disorders during my senior year, I have conducted a MBI literature review and submitted my paper to the Advances in School Mental Health Promotion Journal. I have also directed Belmont Medical’s 1st clinical trials exploring the role of integrative medicine in primary care and will submit my formal write up to an alternative and complementary journal before August.
 
Throughout my work, I have applied to 26 medical schools (MD and DO), interviewed at 7 schools, been granted acceptance to 5, am waiting on 2, and have withdrawn the rest of my applications. While it has been a long and seemingly never ending process, applying to medical school while working directly with patients has been very rewarding. I have enjoyed reflecting on my drive to become a physician and the experiences that have shaped me as I continue to take part in the many intimate patient encounters so deeply ingrained in primary care.
 
My work as a medical scribe has sharpened my direction in the health care world and confirmed my dedication to helping people in a primary care setting. I have been very fortunate to work with a compassionate doctor who has involved me in every step of the process and encouraged the deep relationships I have formed with his patients. I am forever grateful for my experiences in his practice and am excited to attend medical school in the fall.
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