The deadline to apply for the summer start date of the Postbac Premed Program is coming up on March 1. If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should switch careers and pursue medicine, check out how postbac Amy Zoller came to her decision:

My decision to pursue medicine has certainly been a long process of self-reflection, intuition, and intellectual discovery.

I have been asked many times by my friends and family prior to starting the Tufts Postbac program, “Do you REALLY want to go to medical school? That is a REALLY big time commitment and career goal. You haven’t taken any core science courses since HIGH SCHOOL.”

My immediate response to these questions was to doubt myself and wonder if in fact I was thinking clearly. Yes, the road to becoming a physician is long, but isn’t it only long if you aren’t enjoying what you’re studying nor excited about the end goal?

If I think about the first time I was captivated by science, it was definitely in my high school chemistry class taught by a very quirky, yet strict, teacher. I thought her explanations about topics such as molecular bonding and geometries were conceptually challenging, but once grasped, clarified how everyday processes work on a molecular level.

During one class, she assigned me a project on Marie Curie. I loved learning about her life, the fact that she was the first to conduct research on radioactivity, and most importantly, that she was the first female chemist to win a Nobel Prize. Go women! I look back on my high school chemistry days and remember how excited I was to come to class and how the door to my future in science had just slightly opened.

As an undergraduate at Brandeis University, I turned to psychology and neuroscience as my areas of focus. I, for some reason, never considered a pre-med path and was quite frankly super intimidated by the pre-med science course requirements. One neuroscience course in particular, my Behavioral Neuroscience course, was a pivotal event in igniting my interest in medicine though. I was fascinated by the interplay of neuro-anatomy, physiology, and behavior.

After completing this course I sought out a Research Assistant position in the Memory and Cognition Laboratory at Brandeis and was later invited to conduct a Senior Honors Thesis with the Principal Investigator. I loved working with our mostly elderly participants one-on-one during experiments, and my overall experience in the lab taught me the value of careful investigative techniques. After graduating, I wanted to see how that knowledge could directly impact the care of individual patients within a healthcare environment.

I began working as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). My position was unique in that I operated in a collaborative research unit within a strong healthcare community; I worked directly with neurologists, psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, speech therapists, and radiologists, and had the opportunity to appreciate the role that each contributed to patient care.

During one notable multidisciplinary conference at MGH, a patient with frontotemporal dementia that I had worked closely with was being discussed. Gathered around a boardroom table sat a team of highly trained specialists. In turn, each contributed their evaluation of the patient based on their specific field of knowledge. Looking around the room, I asked myself: “Who do I want to be?”

When the neurologist spoke, she first summarized the clinical course and how it correlated with the MRI and PET imaging, cognitive and neurological assessments, and eventual pathological findings. I realized I also wanted the scientific training and knowledge to synthesize the underlying anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, the pathological disease process, resultant clinical manifestations, and ultimately the prognosis and treatment plan. I wanted to be the neurologist – the physician – in the room.

My MGH experience provided me with the insight into the daily work of physician clinicians and researchers, and I enthusiastically wanted the opportunity to join their ranks. Looking back on my path that led me to pursue a career in medicine – from my role model, Marie Curie, in high school chemistry class, to my fascination with neuroscience and clinical research, to my collaborative and interactive work within a healthcare community, I was finally confident that my path pointed to a career in medicine.

It is easy to let others’ opinions get caught up in my own, but when I stop and think about what I want to be and what I’m passionate about, there is no doubt that medicine is right for me. Ultimately, I want to wake up every morning with the passion to continue learning and the drive to reach my goals, and I believe I’m on the right road to achieve just that.

Postbac student Amy Zoller

Postbac Amy Zoller