Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Jackson Jills

I became a member of the Jackson Jills within my first week at Tufts—before I had my first Bio 13 lab, before I ever identified as “Maya, from Berkeley, California, majoring in Biology and Community Health and taking the pre-med requirements.” Singing a cappella is not a “typical pre-med” extracurricular activity, but it gave me incredible experience that I needed to grow and to fully enjoy my time at Tufts.

It is an honor, and a ton of work, to be a member of the Jills. We rehearse 7.5 hours a week, not including gigs on and off campus. We release an album every other year, and go on a tour during the alternate spring break. We devote ourselves to producing impressive music, to hard work, and to being role models of what all-female groups can accomplish. Though being in the Jills takes constant effort and all that one has to give, rehearsals are also an incredible relief from the world of classes, labs, and tests, a chance to feel accomplished based on something other than a score. I often find that my entire day is spent on academic endeavors until 10pm, when I go to Jills rehearsal and am able to leave the stress of projects and tests and grades behind me and make beautiful music with phenomenal women.

The fact that Jills is somewhat of a stress relief from classes has often caused me to view it as completely separate from my passion for pursuing a career in medicine, and this separation feels amplified by the fact that singing is not one’s first thought in terms of health-based extracurricular activities. And yet, when I truly consider the two, my passion for singing a caJackson Jillsppella has a lot in common with my passion for medicine. Music is all about communication. In a fifteen person a cappella group, communication with each other must be impeccable. We must communicate how we feel in order to be able to get along for hours on end, and we must communicate with our voices to ensure proper tuning within each and every harmony. As an entire group, we have a job to communicate with an audience—to convey emotion and enjoyment. Medicine, too, is all about communication. To be a successful physician, one must be willing to consistently discuss with and learn from fellow health care workers, from other specialties and from within one’s own clinic or department. Arguably more importantly, one must be able to communicate with patients in a culturally competent, compassionate, and emotionally understanding manner. I find that within the Jills, when we work on our performances, or on our introductions, we are honing these communication skills each day. Music and medicine are also both centered on sharing. It is of my opinion that everyone has the right to equal access to health care, and also has the right to share in art and music. The Jackson Jills make sure to perform in places like homeless shelters and retirement homes, places where people may have less access to art like a cappella music. I have found that many of these populations have overlapped with marginalized populations that I work with in hospital and clinic settings, and that compassion and willingness to share parts of oneself is necessary in both settings.

I have found it exciting to realize over time that a part of my life that I consider so separate from my interest in pursuing medicine actually contains a lot of the same passions that drive me towards medical school. That is not to say, of course, that I am not forever grateful to the Jills for providing an outlet to relieve stress that piles on from the academic rigor of Tufts. I could not have asked for a better group of women to cry with,  to laugh with, and to sing with. I look forward to continuing to consider both medicine and music important parts of my identity, and I will always be grateful that I was able to engage in both during my time at Tufts.

 

Maya Ball-Burack  Class of ‘17

More Than a Pre-Med

As a pre-health student it is quite easy to fall into the trappings of the “pre-health only” mentality. Such a mentality places emphasis on activities that are medical in nature or only serve the purpose of strengthening your resume. While such activities are important, a sense of fulfillment is an often forgotten but important aspect of any activity we dedicate our valuable time and energy to as pre-health students. That is not to say medical activities are always boring or unfulfilling, but rather, that any activity has the potential to be so if you’re not enjoying yourself. As a freshman, I had known that I was pre-med and was already well-aware of the importance of “building up your pre-health resume”.

Personally, football was an activity that brought me a great sense of fulfillment even though it was not health-related.  I learned that through perseverance and resiliencSkellye a team or an individual can accomplish anything. However, fulfillment can be achieved off the field as well and as a community health major I was required to complete an internship in the greater Boston area. When choosing the internship I was presented with a choice between positions that were clinical versus those that were behavioral. I ultimately chose the position focused on behavioral public health research and as a result was able to have one of my most rewarding research experiences. I spent part of that summer working on the Tufts Responds to the Epidemics of Addiction and Hepatitis C Together (Tufts REACTs) project. The goals of the study were to identify factors related to Hepatitis C (HCV) transmission among young people who inject drugs (PWID), and interest in, acceptance of, and potential adherence to HCV treatment. Through recruitment and interviews with participants, I learned about stigma around substance use disorder and how pervasive this stigma is, even in medical practice. I also learned that cultural competence and a commitment to doing justice are important characteristics of a health professional.

Although my internship experience was devoid of “medical experience” per se, I certainly learned a lot about myself, why medicine is my chosen career path, and what it takes to be a health professional. I can certainly say this experience made me better as both pre-health student and as a person. Being a pre-health student at Tufts can be as rewarding an experience as you make it, so don’t be afraid to do what you enjoy because it can teach you more about yourself and help you become a well-rounded person and future health professional. Finally, remember that undergrad is a time to grow as a person, not just a pre-health student, so don’t be afraid to do activities that you enjoy and leave you with a sense of fulfillment because you are more than just a pre-med.

Osemwengie Skelly Enabulele Jr.
Tufts University – Class of 2017
Community Health Major

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

Six students shared their experiences from their summer health-related opportunities at our annual panel in early December.

Wilna Paulemon (Child Development, ’18) spent her summer at the University of Michigan Summer Enrichment Program (UMSEP) in Health Management and Policy.  Her tip is to read the Health- E Newsletter because this is where she saw this internship posted.

Andy Nguyen (Cognitive and Brain Science ’19) went to Rwanda with Tufts Hillel for ten days after the end of spring semester.  He then returned to the camp for children with developmental, social, and learning disabilities in Upstate New York called Ramapo For Children where he had worked the previous summer.  Andy’s tip is to be open-minded as you look for opportunities since you might be surprised at how valuable an experience can be.

Madeleine Gene (Biopsych, ’17) worked in staff support in a paid position at Memorial Sloan Kettering  in NYC.  She knew that they hired from a neighbor who worked there.  Her tip is to start looking early during Winter Break so you have time to research and apply.

Sean Boyden (Biology and Community Health, ’17) did research in the Starks lab last summer.  He had experience in the lab earlier and applied with Professor Starks for a Summer Scholars position which he received. Sean’s tip is to not to be afraid to reach out to faculty for research/internship experiences, and to foster a good relationship with your mentors/supervisors as they will be the people you’ll rely on to write your letters of recommendation.

Melanie Ramirez (Biology and Community Health, ’19) did a six week internship known as SMDEP now SHPEP link at UCLA medical school. When she returned home she also worked at a pediatric oncology summer camp http://okizu.org .  Her tip is start early and apply to a wide variety of internships so that  you can have more options.

Nellie Agosta (Biology, ’17) developed an opportunity for herself and applied for the Career Center grant  to get paid for it.  She again called a contact that could not help her the previous summer.  This time the contact could help her and referred her to a researcher at Mass General Hospital. Her tip is to be persistent and don’t give up just because you get a no the first time.

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

Ah, the quintessential question of childhood: what do you want to be when you grow up? What do you aspire to be. Well, according to my family, I counted as a grown up when I entered college. But the thing is, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be.kids

When I started college, I wanted to be a marine biologist. Then at the end of my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to combine my interest in health with my love for animals, declared that I was going to be a veterinarian, and joined the Pre-Veterinarian Society. Yet, here I am, in the fall of my senior year, hoping to go to medical school.

At first this uncertainty was very stressful, especially as I watched my peers commit to veterinary or medical school through the early assurance programs. But as I started to explore other non-health related interests, I realized why I wanted to switch to being pre-med. Over the summer, I interned as an instructor at Axiom Learning, where I help students work through various learning challenges. I found that I loved the human problem solving aspect of the job the most: I loved working with the students, with their parents, and with their schools to develop a plan to treat and manage symptoms of a learning challenge. It is that desire to work with people to develop a plan to solve a problem that prompted me to switch to pre-med.

So if you’re unsure of what you want to be when you grow up, don’t worry. Go to a pre-med society meeting or a pre-vet meeting or a pre-dent meeting, or all three! Take your time to figure out where your interests lie, and don’t be afraid to look for those interests outside of health related activities. They will help you feel ready to answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Reflections from the Tufts MAPS Graduate Programs Event

On Friday, November 4th, the Tufts Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) organized a Graduate Program visit to the health sciences campus in Downtown Boston. This event was hosted by the Tufts’ health professions schools, and provided undergraduate students with the opportunity to learn about the different degrees and health professions available to them after college. About twenty students from the Medford/ Somerville campus were able to attend this session and speak with representatives from the Tufts University medical school, dental school, Friedman school of nutrition, and Sackler school of biomedical sciences, allowing for a smaller and more intimate group discussion with the presenters. Initial introductions revealed that most attendees were first-and-second-year undergraduate students with a variety of professional interests, including clinical research, dentistry, and public health policy. However, students were also excited to learn that the Boston campus offers many dual degree programs across these schools, and that students enrolled in each school have many opportunities to interact and collaborate with one another. After this introductory session, professionals and current students at the school offered tours in the medical and dental school campus (the two campuses are connected with skyways!), and students had an opportunity to meet admissions members and ask about the programs available.

4/12/10 - Boston, Mass. -  The newly renovated facade of the M&V building on the Health Sciences Campus on Monday, April 12, 2010. (Alonso Nichols/Tufts University Photo)

Jonah Tanguay-Colucci, a Junior at Tufts University and an attendee at the event, reflects on his experiences:

“I think the most important thing I learned as a freshman was that medicine is much more than doctors, and that watching Scrubs, Grey’s Anatomy or the like doesn’t at all tell you whether medicine is right for you. When I went on the MAPS trip to Tufts Medical Center I was reminded of these early lessons in my Tufts education. The tours were standard and the facilities were of course amazing. But what struck me most was the emphasis that medicine is a career centered around people, service, and civic leadership. It was wonderful to see that all the respective departments at the health sciences campus were there and were given equal time to talk about the opportunities available, and the importance of diversity across all the many health related professions. As a junior the speeches were many of the things I’ve heard before, but nonetheless I was impressed at the depth and the point that an interest in medicine does not necessitate a linear path to an MD. There are other ways to get there (master’s in biomedical sciences, doing work in public health, master’s in nutrition sciences) and there are other professions in the healthcare field that are rewarding and may be better suited depending on what you want out of your career in medicine.

When I was a freshman I knew I wantIMG_2991ed to work in medicine, and that first and foremost I wanted a role where I really got to interact with the patient. Thanks to the amazing programs that Tufts sponsors, my world was expanded and I saw that there were many other opportunities to be explored. In the end the right choice for me was to change my track to Physician Assistant, because my primary interest was working with people, and seeing patients. As the various health science schools spoke to the group and took questions I was excited to see so many freshmen leaping at the chance to learn more about what healthcare really is and what is available. The various representatives talked a lot about getting your hands dirty in the field, and doing some heavy soul searching to make sure that medicine is right for you. Working in healthcare can be a rewarding career, but it is not necessarily an easy path to take. The time to ask the questions and explore what it is you truly want is now. You don’t want to be asking yourself whether you really like working with people when you see your first patients in the 3rd year of medical school, after investing 7 years of your life. That’s why groups like MAPS, and events like the Tufts Health Science Campus visit are so important. Even if you think you know what you want to do there is no harm in going to an event and approaching a nurse practitioner direct entry table, an occupational therapy table, a doctor of osteopathic medicine table. Exploring the many opportunities in the health field will help strengthen your convictions in the path you wish to take, and better prepare you for your future career in medicine.”IMG_2994

We would like to thank all the students who attended, as well as the wonderful staff and students from the Boston campus who were gracious enough to host this special event for the Tufts undergrads. We hope that opportunities like this continue opening new doors for students early on in their college careers, especially for minority students on campus who are interested in health-related careers. Please stay tuned for other MAPS events we have planned for this year!

Saki Kitadai and Jonah Tanguay-Colucci

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