Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Category: Pre-Med (page 2 of 9)

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 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?”

Join a “You” Club

I believe that one of the most worthwhile decisions I have made was to join the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) club here at Tufts. When I was a sophomore, my BIO13 professor presented a quick slide about ASBMB, saying that some students were hosting an organizational meeting in order to form the club. At the time, I was looking for a group of people that I could “celebrate my nerdy side” with and talk about breakthroughs in science. After going to a few meetings, I found a friendly group of students that loved research, were always excited about science, and were eager to mentor other students. Whether it was giving tips about how to study for a certain class, how to shape a path in a certain major, or what internship opportunities there were available, the upperclassmen always had invaluable experiences. I found an endless wealth of resources just by going to the meetings and talking to them. There were also fun events such as lecture series, where I was exposed to the groundbreaking research done here at Tufts. Because I could identify with everyone there, I felt comfortable opening up and reaffirming my joy of science, which ultimately helped me choose a career path that involved research.

When I joined the club, there was no ulterior motive. I did not join ASBMB because I was pre-med and by joining this club it was going to help me get into medical school. In fact, there were virtually no pre-med students in the club. I joined the club because I knew I enjoyed talking about science and research, and I wanted to seek out other people who were the same. I encourage students to have the same goal in mind. Everything you do should not be medical school oriented, but “you” oriented. You may find that clubs you join or activities you do may help with medical school, but that should simply be a byproduct. You will find that joining a club that aligns with your passions will serve as an outlet for any pre-med stress.

Jasper Du, Biochemistry ’17

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Little Steps

Today, as a Junior at Tufts, I am a pre-medical sociology major with a cluster in social inequalities and social change. I am the Acquisitions Editor for TuftScope, Tufts’ double-blind, peer-reviewed journal of health, ethics and policy. Last semester, I spoke to an audience of a few hundred people about my experiences growing up as an American with Iranian heritage with Tufts’ Monologues.

——

My most prominent memory from the beginning of my sophomore year at Tufts was one in which I was obstinately nestled under my unwashed sheets, and assessing my ability to leave my bed at all. A few days prior, my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Leaving my dorm room in Carmichael, being seen by my peers, and being held responsible for a full course load seemed completely unfeasible. In that moment, hiding under my sheets, I thought about what I thought a pre-health student looked like. I thought about Biochemistry majors who worked on TEMS and I thought about Community Health majors who worked as Biology tutors. A trembling infant with an undeclared major who refused to get out of their own bed didn’t really fit the template I’d created in my head.

The contrast between my current state and the images I was conjuring of the “ideal” pre-health student was pretty stark. I hadn’t worked in a lab, I did not think I worked well with other people, and I was considering dropping out of Chem 2 to take care of my mental health. There were plenty of days where I had to email my professors because I couldn’t get out of bed, and many of those days were spent with the shades drawn and under a blanket.

A few weeks into the semester, I sought to fill my time with an extracurricular activity to incentivize leaving my room. One day early in the semester, a friend texted me that the TuftScope GIM was in 5 minutes and that I should get dressed and run from my dorm to Eaton to see if I wanted to get involved. I went to the GIM, met the e-board, and agreed to write one article with them. It started with a book review for a book that I would have to read for Medical Sociology— The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It was about a page and didn’t take me very long to write. Later that se26SeptBlogPic1mester, I applied for a role on the e-board posting for their Facebook page as a New Media editor. It wasn’t a very rigorous job at first, but I was doing something that I liked, and it was a start for me. It was a great way to meet more people at Tufts, and it appealed to my personal interests and strengths as a pre-medical student and as a prospective sociology major. In that sense, finding a group on campus as flexible as TuftScope was perfect for me— from writing short news briefs every few weeks, to submitting a longer article, to applying for an e-board position, I could fit TuftScope into any semester. I joined an organization of editors and writers with similar interests which didn’t demand my constant availability unless I wanted it to.

But from there, it wasn’t all uphill. I remember getting my first Chem grade of the semester back and crying in between stacks of books in Tisch. I called my mom and asked if she would be mad if I needed to go home for the semester. She said she wouldn’t be. To this day, I regard my ultimate decision to stay at Tufts and take a W in Chemistry as just as reasonable as dropping out of the semester altogether would have been.

Having decided to stay at Tufts, I took it very, very slow. I submitted a piece I wrote to the Monologues, a year-long production prioritizing female identifying, gender-nonconforming, gender-queer, and trans* individuals, to potentially talk about my upbringing in America as it pertained to my heritage. I spent most of my time in those two sophomore semesters focusing on understanding and forgiving myself, and reading and writing about things I loved, independent of the academic work I did for Tufts. This felt humanizing to me. The summer following that academic year, I continued seeing my counselor with Tufts’ Counseling and Mental Health Services, and spent a few hours a week volunteering at a local hospital. Much of my time was working with high school students and taking walks with elderly folk. Admittedly, the majority of my summer was spent cooking and watching Netflix, because I wasn’t done taking it slow.

Now, I am done26SeptBlogPic2.png taking it slow. Cultivating the stability I have now as a Junior took time for me, and it was very hard. I don’t think that at any point over the past year, I ever looked like what I’d imagined a pre-health student to look like. I realized that the only thing pre-health students have in common is a potential desire to go into a health profession. This commonality won’t yield a homogeneous population of student— not remotely so. If you are pre-health and you are hiding under a blanket for the moment because you need to rest, you are still a pre-health student, same as any other student who is thinking of entering the health profession. And if you’re dedicating your young adult years to learning how to care of other people’s health, it makes a lot of sense to start with your own.

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