Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Author: HPA (page 3 of 16)

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.  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

From Shaker Alumni to Tufts Postbacs: Eden

Shaker Heights, my hometown, is a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. It is also one of very few naturally integrated suburbs in America.  This means that the school district was integrated, not by mandated busing, but through a grassroots organizing initiative started by the residents. The town continues to be committed to racial and class integration and high quality schools.

Shaker is also the home to many of the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and MetroHealth healthcare providers. As a result, inequality and healthcare were subjects of lunch table conversations throughout high school.

I left Shaker for Wesleyan University in 2008. During my time at Wesleyan I became interested in research on healthcare issues in under-served communities. Most of my research at Wesleyan and since graduating has focused on veterans but I also worked to examine the role of race in healthcare disparities in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Race and inequality were common threads that ran through my work experiences after leaving home. My time in Shaker inspired both my decision to go back to school to attend the Tufts Postbac and my desire to provide healthcare to under-served urban communities—maybe even back home in Cleveland.

Eli, a fellow Shaker alum, also attended the Tufts Postbac a year before I did. In a small program it was so great to find another Shaker alum, eight years after leaving home! For Eli, Shaker was also important in his decision to go back to medical school and in his commitment to serving under-served populations. Here is what Eli had to say to me about Shaker:

Shaker Heights (or “Shaker” as it’s affectionately referred to) is a community of multitudes. From its early racial integration initiatives, to its renowned public school education with classes and extracurriculars that gave voices to marginalized groups, to its proximity to the city of Cleveland which has for a while walked the line between prosperity and poverty. The Shaker I grew up in embraced the need for responsible citizenship in a world of heterogeneity.  How could I not use my medical career for treating the under-served growing up in a community like that?

Although I don’t want to call the suburbs my home (Shaker is a textbook suburb after all), I’ve found my calling to become a doctor in rural communities which are disproportionately plagued by poor health education and limited access to health care providers.  Growing up in Shaker Heights planted that seed of serving others that guide me in my pursuit of medicine, and I’m sure guide countless others no matter what their calling is.



Dental Resources

Summer is a slow time in many industries but not in the world of health professions advising. Medical school tends to get most of the attention, but we wanted to highlight some of the many resources that the American Dental Education Association is putting out.

  • Whether you’re a future or current applicant, consider subscribing to the ADEA GoDental Newsletter. Topics can range from the importance of internships and shadowing to how to make yourself a competitive applicant.
  • Also check out the Dental Blogs. The six blogs have different categories of authors, from admissions officers to practitioners, to cover every facet of preparing for a dental career.
  • Current applicants can benefit from this video on Making Your Application Stand Out

We wish you the best of luck on your applications and a great summer!

Stuffed monkey with a toothbrush

Year-End Celebrations

It’s a busy time of year for a university. Classes ended, finals came and went, and the seniors are having one last hurrah before commencement. We found a little bit of time to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating Health Careers Fellows and the students completing our Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program. Check out some photos from the events.

HCF Dessert Party

Students hug at HCF party

Underclassman introduces graduating senior

Postbac Premed Breakfast

Postbacs at breakfast

The director hugs the tutor

Congratulations to everyone!

Visit from a USUHS Admissions Dean

On April 7, about 40 Tufts premed students had triage duty at a medical base in Afghanistan. They received their assignment – to determine which of five badly injured and recently arrived soldiers needed medical attention first. Dr. Aaron Saguil was the chief of medical services, a family practice physician by education but a trauma doc by virtue of his military  role.

Dr. Saguil also happens to be the Associate Dean of Admissions at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (America’s Medical School). He was on campus to share his own experiences as a military physician as well as the good news about the challenges, rewards and financial benefits of being a military doc.

Accompanying Dr. Saguil were a number of military personnel from the Army, Navy and Air Force, and students learned of the Health Professions Scholarship Program. But not before they had used their tourniquets to stem the flow of blood from their wounded arms.

Students practicing tourniquets on each other

Students practicing tourniquets on each other

Altogether this was a very informative and exciting event for both students and our military visitors. Students interested in one of the scholarships should contact the appropriate service’s recruiter, or contact Dr. Saguil at Aaron.saguil@usuhs.edu if interested in applying to USUHS.


Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program

Air Force

Michael Labrie, Staff Sergeant, USAF Health Professions Recruiter

318 Air Force Recruiting Squadron

25 Burlington Mall Rd. Suite 412

Burlington, MA 01803




Sotith Sim, Sergeant

US Army Medical Recruiting Center

495 Summer St

Boston, MA 02210




Jamie Robinson, HM1 (SW/AW). U.S. Medical Officer Recruiter

NORS Boston

495 Summer Street, Suite 109

Boston, MA 02210



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