Billy is a 3rd year medical student at Temple University School of Medicine. I met him last year at the SNMA Region VIII Conference at Temple. Side note: SNMA conferences are great avenues to meet minorities in medicine. I met Billy and other down-to-earth medical students who showed me that hey, med students are normal folks too! Read on as Billy explains his journey to med school, his NIH post-baccalaureate experience, and more.
So what led you to pursue medicine?
I’ve always been more interested (and more competent) in math, sciences, and problem solving which initially led me towards the engineering pathway. Both my parents are doctors so medicine was always something in the back of my mind. However, I didn’t end up deciding to go to medical school until my 3rd year of college. After completing an engineering internship, I did some soul searching and realized I wanted a career with more patient contact while having a more immediate and direct impact in peoples’ lives.
What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I was a biomedical engineering major for 2 years but ended up switching to psychology. I think it helped me understand the human side of medicine which a lot of science majors simply aren’t exposed to until they get to medical school.
You did a post-baccalaureate program right after college, please tell us about that
After college I spent 2 years at the NIH postbac IRTA program – a research program for students planning to eventually enter medical or graduate school. I didn’t decide on med school until my 3rd year of college, so doing this program would allow me time to study for and take my MCAT, improve my resume with research, and give me time to enjoy a few years of relative freedom before medical school and the “real world.” I had a great experience that also reaffirmed my desire to go to medical school. I worked with schizophrenic patients and found that I enjoyed interacting with the patients more than I did the actual computer analyses and genetic components of the research (although also very interesting). I’d definitely recommend the program to anyone interested in research.
During this journey did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
I started my dream somewhat late in the game, but once I chose it, I stuck to it. There were definitely times in medical school I was afraid I couldn’t keep up or couldn’t pass a certain test (cough, cough, Step 1), but being around a good group of friends helps you push through when you realize other people feel the same way.
So how was the application process for you?
I actually found the application process to be fun. I’ll say that with the disclaimer that I was lucky enough that it went pretty smoothly and fairly successfully, otherwise it could have been very stressful. I worked with about 10 other students at the NIH during my 2 year gap that were also applying at the same time. We would go to coffee shops, work on our secondaries and talk about our different interviews during lunch; it was pleasant.
What was your first year of medical school like?
First year was definitely a change I could not have been prepared for. I went from working 9-5 and doing whatever I felt like doing after work, to essentially studying as hard as I could to keep pace with 200 other really bright students. I really don’t think there is any way I could have mentally prepared myself for the medical school load, but as with anything in life, you get used to it and learn to better manage your time.
What do you enjoy most about medical school?
I enjoy most being able to apply something I’ve learned. This really isn’t done until 3rd year since the first 2 years are mostly books. But finally seeing what you’ve learned in books come alive right in front of you is an awesome feeling.
What activities have you been involved in during med school?
I was webmaster/social chair for Temple SNMA. I taught neuroscience at the Penn Neuroscience Pipeline Program. I also like to keep active and played on an intramural basketball team and regularly play pickup soccer.
How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
Depending on the subject or rotation I’m on, I sort of learn how much free time I can get away with without sacrificing grades. I’m not particularly good at focusing my studies into one time period and my personal activities into another time period, but you have to learn what works for you.
Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
Learn as much as you can about medicine to see if it’s right for you. That’s easier said than done – I’m still learning what a career in medicine is all about. However, the more you learn, the easier it’ll be something you’ll enjoy doing for the rest of your life.
Thank you for sharing your story Billy. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Billy? Leave a comment below and he’ll get back to you.