Tufts Pre-Health

Anecdotes and advice about preparing for a career in health

Page 4 of 18

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

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


My Crusade – Changing Gap Year to Growth Year

Did you know that about 70% of Tufts students who go on to medical school take time after college prior to beginning their medical education? If that idea scares you – what would I do, how can I get a job without experience, won’t med schools wonder if I am really motivated? – join the club. Many undergraduates are anxious about taking “time off.”

But there are many different opportunities out there for personal growth as well as the enrichment of your medical school candidacy. That is why I like to refer to the time as a Growth Year rather than Gap Year which implies hollow, empty waste. couchPotatoI have rarely seen a student waste their time after college and most have amazing experiences that teach them more about the world, often the healthcare system, and certainly themselves. They bring this experience, awareness and new competencies to their appliPuzzlePiececation process. It shows up in their essays and in their interviews. We have enjoyed talking with alums about the things they have done during their growth years and sometimes can refer current students to those same opportunities.

Would you like to hear some of them? Join us Wednesday, October 12th in the Milmore Room (740) in Dowling Hall at 6:30PM.  Five Tufts alums who are currently applying to medical school will be with us to share their experiences and answer your questions. Hope to see you there.

Growth Year Alumni Panel – 2016

Rachel Weinstock
B.A. in Anthropology and Community Health
Spring 2015 Graduate

Princeton in Latin America Fellow 2015-16

Carolina Villalba
B.S. in Biology
Spring 2016 Graduate

Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Scholar

Shaunt Fereshetian
B.S. in Biopsychology
Spring 2014 Graduate

Broad Institute of MIT & Harvard Research Associate

Ashley Siegel
B.S. in Biopsychology
Spring 2015 Graduate

Tufts Medical Center, Mother Infant Research Institute, Research Assistant

Geetha Mahendran
B.A. in Biochemistry
May 2016 Graduate
Medical Assistant at Harvard Vanguard


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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