Applying to med school

Meet Jessica – A 1st Year Med Student at The Ohio State University

A first-generation high school graduate, college graduate, and now medical student, Jessica certainly has an inspiring story! Born to Mexican immigrants, she serves as a role model not only to her family members but to people in her community. She’s a good friend and classmate of mine who recently started Inspire Hope, a YouTube channel targeting high school and college students interested in the premed track. I’m very excited to share her story on my blog and hope you will be as inspired as I am!

A few key points from the interview:

  • It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that she decided to pursue medicine
  • She went through the medical school application cycle twice
  • The MCAT was a challenge for her, but after a couple of retakes, she beat it
  • She created her YouTube channel to inspire high school students

Free MCAT prep courses mentioned in the video:

Check out our video interview to learn more about her story!

One Year Later: Memunatu and Promoting Literacy

School is in full swing and it’s certainly been quite busy. Three exams done so far and I’m proud to say it’s all going well (updates on school to come later). About a year ago, around this time, I mentioned I was working with Memunatu magazine as a campaign manager for their Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. During that period, I had the opportunity of working with a startup whose mission I believed in – promoting literacy, leadership, and empowerment for West African girls through a classroom magazine. It was a cool experience working with the Memunatu team; I even had my first radio appearance through this role. Well fast forward to last week, I finally received a copy of the inaugural issue! I’ll be honest, I almost squealed with excitement when I opened the package and saw it was really here.

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I had the opportunity to contribute to the magazine as well. Yep, right there on page 7.

mem1 A lot of work was put into making this publication happen and I am so immensely proud of Mariama and Fatmata (the co-founders of Memunatu) and the rest of the Memunatu team. Do check out their website to learn more about Memunatu.

covermemSpeaking of literacy and education as a whole, have you seen Michelle Obama’s 62 million girls campaign? It’s a part of the Let Girls Learn Initiative. I love it! Every girl deserve an education. Check out 62milliongirls.com and post a picture on Instagram or Twitter with a caption on what school taught you.

Staying Encouraged in the Storm

It can be incredibly hard to stay encouraged in the middle of a storm. In my application cycle, I had many moments where I felt discouraged, helpless, angry…I mean literally crying and asking God (okay I’ll admit, a few occasions yelling to God about how angry I was) why things weren’t going as planned.

Yea.

This application cycle was a roller coaster of emotions.

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I’m someone who applied to 19 schools as early as June of last year (see relevant post here) and filled out 15 secondaries. Out of the 15 schools my application was complete at, I received only 2 interviews. One interview was held the 1st week of October and the 2nd interview exactly 6 months later (to the exact date). I mean the application cycle was ROUGH.

Add in the fact that the first school I interviewed at deferred me in November up until the last week in March, when I received the final decision. Rejected. 6 months of waiting. Hoping. Refreshing my emails. Checking my mailbox.

Every.

Single.

Day.

It was freaking hard.
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During this period there was one particular song that really encouraged me when I had those dark days. It’s a Nigerian gospel song.

In the video, the protagonist’s (artist) significant other is sentenced to be killed. She’s devastated, sobbing, feeling helpless, but then she begins praising God: “Jesus you are worthy, Savior thou at worthy…Kene nu Jesu o (Give Jesus thanks)…” In the midst of her praising God, her situation turned around. The man’s life was spared.

Every time I watched the video, listened to the song, I was reminded to praise God regardless of what I’m going through. To find God in this situation. Yes the wait is frustrating, but guess what, my patience is way higher now. I know all about waiting. Yea, I only had one interview for a very loooooooooong time, but hey, at least I got one. That was a miracle on its own considering my stats and how competitive this application cycle was.

I listened to this song and was reminded to be joyful. To counteract my negative thoughts with positive ones.

It worked.

In the midst of this incredibly challenging application cycle, I was blessed in so many ways. I got into a relationship with an awesome guy (who supported me immensely during this process), I got a promotion at my job, and several other things happened that I’m thankful for.

I’m saying this to encourage someone out there. You might be in the middle of your “storm,” you might be frustrated, angry, perhaps feeling helpless…

Stay encouraged.

Lift your head up.

Find God in your situation.

Find reasons to be thankful.

A heart of praise does wonders for the soul.

The Moment I Found Out I was Accepted To Medical School…

I was getting antsy. It had been over 2 weeks since my interview. 18 days to be exact. On my interview day, I and other interviewees had been told to expect an answer within 2 weeks. A guaranteed fast turn around. So then what was taking so long?

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I casually glanced at my phone. No missed calls. It was 9:30 AM on a Friday, if I didn’t hear back today, it meant another long weekend. Now believe me, I was no stranger to waiting. I had waited almost 6 months to get a decision from a previous interview. This school, however, was different. A defined waiting period.

10:20 AM 

I glance down again. A missed call. One new voicemail. Both from a (614) area code.

OH MY GOSHHH!!!” I screamed in excitement! My coworker had been startled and looked at me now, worried.

Are you okay?

Oh my gosh, oh my gosh…” I continue to mutter incomprehensibly. My hands shaking as I called my voicemail.

“…I just wanted to let you know you’ve been accepted…” The voice on the other line said.

I immediately screamed.

I’ve been accepted!!! Oh my gosh!!” I jumped up and down ignoring the rest of the message. Two other coworkers rushed in, seeing me jumping up and down, they immediately knew.

Derin, congrats!!!

The squealing, hugging, and jumping up and down continued.

I had been accepted.

ACCEPTED!

It felt surreal.

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I wanted to cry, I wanted to laugh. I didn’t know what to do, but my coworkers were there and they understood how long of a process this had been for me. They understood. So they squealed and jumped up and down with me.

After they left, I played the voicemail over again. And again. And again. Then the flurry of texts to my parents, boyfriend, and close friends.

I had been accepted to medical school. Not just any medical school, but The Ohio State University College of Medicine. Wow!

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It’s a conditional acceptance, and I’ld have to complete a one year program before beginning my first official year of medical school. Nevertheless, it’s still an acceptance. I’m going to be a DOCTOR! I’m going to be an Ohio State BUCKEYE!

I’m excited for the next 5 years, the lessons I’ll learn and the growth I’ll attain. It’s been a few weeks since I found out I was accepted, but that feeling of excitement is still the same. The journey continues!

Go Bucks!

That Time I Cried in My Med School Interview…

This is a true story. All of it. 

It was interview day. Myself and the other interviewees had been given a tour of the school and a presentation on how AMAZING the university and school of medicine is. Up next were the faculty and student interviews. I had the student interviewer first. He was a first year student and instead of the usual “Why medicine?” He asked questions relating to my weaknesses and the growth I’ve had since graduating from college two years ago. The interview was very relaxing; laughs were shared and he told me about his background as well. He also gave me tips for my faculty interview and in the end asked, “Is there anything you would like me to know that will help me be a strong advocate for you?” It was the golden question, and of course I delved into a specific interest and strength of mine.

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Next was the faculty interview.

I came in confident.

I’ve got this. 

Or so I thought.

So tell me about yourself?” The first question of the day. I had prepped for this and began selling myself.

I am a very driven individual. My perseverance and drive for success has enabled me to…

He interrupted me.

Yea, yea, I get all that. You’re a hard worker, driven, and all that. But tell me about yourself. When did you move to the U.S.? How was that for you adjusting to a new country? Did you speak English?

Whoa. I was taken aback. Not exactly the direction I had planned on going with it, but sure I’ld take his lead.

And then he went on.

More personal questions.

And more.

It felt like a thug of war in which I was losing…badly. I wanted to talk about how amazing I was, and he wanted to talk about my struggles.

  • Personal struggles
  • Family struggles
  • Immigrant struggles
  • Academic struggles

The tears started to swell up. He had me talking about things I rarely talk about, and which I didn’t know had such an emotional impact on me. The tears could no longer be contained. A drop fell, than another.

I’m so so sorry,” I said as I wiped my tears and began fanning my eyes, hoping to dry away the waterfall. I was embarrassed. This was my med school interview and here I was crying like a baby. I was mortified.

It’s okay. It’s a lot of things to deal with. Physicians have emotions too.” He tried to reassure me.

I eagerly nodded.

And then he threw in a joke, and we laughed.

And laughed some more.

And the interview was over.

I walked out feeling like I had been stripped of every guard and mask I had put on. I had been vulnerable and my faculty interviewer saw me for who I really was. Not just the strong, extremely driven, intelligent woman I try to portray, but other parts of me few rarely see.

My faculty interviewer made the effort to REALLY get to know me.

That was POWERFUL. 

Despite the tears and all.

Meet Ric – A 2nd Year Med Student at Drexel University

IMG_0579There are different paths to medical school, as seen through my blog. One path is through a program that offers conditional acceptance, such as Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School Program (DPMS). Note: Their application deadline this year is April 24, 2015. Although having a strong science background, Ric, a 2nd year at Drexel Med, still encountered his share of obstacles on his med school journey. Check out Ric’s story as he shares his experience in Drexel’s one year program, how that prepared him for his first two years of medical school, and his words of advice on choosing post-bacs.

What led you to pursue medicine?
When I was growing up, one of my aunts worked as a nurse at a small community health center. Whenever, I went to visit her at work, I just hung around the clinic and I admired how my aunt and the other healthcare workers cared for their patients. So from an early age, I knew I wanted to go into to medicine.

What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I have a B.A. in Honors Liberal Arts and Science with a concentration in Biochemistry from the Wilkes Honors College in Florida. My undergrad experience gave me a strong science background. The curriculum was also rigorous and robust so it gave me stamina and focus to tackle the courses during my post-baccalaureate year. However, I would say that only actual medical school courses, whether it is during a post-bac year or during the first few months of first year can truly prepare you for medical school. It’s a different beast from undergrad in terms of structure and what you are expected to learn and should master for the exams.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
I never did…. I moved to the United States from Jamaica for high school. So in essence, this was my best opportunity to make my dream a reality. My biggest  hurdle back in undergrad was my MCAT score. My MCAT struggle is like that of other applicants; that first score report was not what I wanted or “needed” to get into medical school. I was certainly disappointed in my first score report, and I decided at the end of my junior year to take some time off after undergrad to retake the MCAT. Around that time, I started looking into Master’s and post-baccalaureate programs.

You did Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School program, can you tell us more about that? What was the experience like for you? Any advice for students considering this option?
Yes, Drexel’s Pathway to Medical School (DPMS) is one of the post-baccalaureate programs offered by Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. I applied to this program because it is a linkage/bridge program geared towards under-represented minority (URM) medical school applicants. DPMS offers a conditional medical school acceptance to a certain amount of applicants who must complete a faculty interview before being accepted. I interviewed in May and was accepted in early June. I soon moved to Philly shortly after being accepted to start their summer prep course.

We are required to take several med school and grad school courses during DPMS. At first, getting accustomed to the course schedule and frequent study sessions at the library was an adjustment. I also had to retake the MCAT to retain my acceptance. So making the time to study for the MCAT was part of the post-bac struggle. One of the unspoken stressors of my post-bac year was the grading system: getting at least a B in certain courses required matching or doing better than the MS1 class average.

Overall, I enjoyed my post-bac year as it prepared me for the med school coursework. Nevertheless, my post-bac year was also a stressful and costly venture, and I dare to call it a gamble. Even though I did well in the courses, there was still the uncertainty of my MCAT score. I had my struggles with the MCAT for sure, but at the end of the day, I made it. Thank God!

Advice for prospective applicants: not all post-bacs are the same, so please do your research! Talk to program directors and most importantly, talk to current students in the programs and those who matriculated. Also if the program is a “bridge” program, research the host medical school and be able to see yourself as a good fit for that school and area because that is hopefully where you will spend the next four years after the post-bac. Rank the things that matter to you; for example, location/environment, cost of attendance (for the post-bac and the medical school), among others. Pursue the post-bac route with the end goal of matriculating (into the host medical school or otherwise) at the end of the program.

So after DPMS, how did the med school application process go for you?
As a DPMS applicant, I did not do a traditional application cycle. The general guideline is to apply to Drexel as an early assurance candidate. However, not all post-bac programs are like that, so like I said before, please do your research.

What was your first year of medical school like?
The best metaphor I can use to describe MS1 is that it was like a train traveling across the U.S.; there were scenic times and then there were other not-so-scenic times but the train kept moving. So in terms of the course load, we had several multi-disciplinary courses throughout the year. The most important factor seem to be keeping track of where I needed to be and what was due at a particular time. My post-bac year gave me a foundation for a few of the classes but others were unfamiliar. Thankfully, I did well by seeking out the resources that the school provides such as tutoring, talking to upperclassmen, and talking to course faculty.

What do you enjoy most about medical school?
At the end of a module/block, I’m really amazed by all the knowledge I amassed about that particular topic. Sure, the process of learning it all can be truly overwhelming at times, but when it all comes together and makes sense, it’s a great feeling. Additionally, being in medical school opens up more opportunities to shadow/intern in particular fields, conduct research and/or get published.

Please describe any activities you’re involved in during medical school
At school, I’m a Co-President for the Drexel chapter of Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and I help to facilitate an early childhood reading program at a local women’s shelter. I also work in the children’s ministry at my local church as a small group facilitator.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
Finding balance is definitely hard. It all comes down to making time for the stuff that truly matter. As a second year, I feel like I have less time to understand and master all the information about each organ system for school exams as well as studying for the Step 1 exam. So, I recently started scheduling “everything” into my web calendar. My personal goal is to keep in touch with family and friends as much as I can and whenever possible. I’m also in a relationship with an amazing woman, so I make time for that as well.

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
If medicine is truly your passion and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, keep working towards that dream. Your path to medical school doesn’t have to be the traditional way directly from college so do what works best for you. Please do your own research in choosing the best-fit post-bac program, if you are considering that route. Lastly, find one or more mentors to help you along the journey.

 Thank you for sharing your story Ric. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Ric? Leave a comment below and he’ll get back to you.

Do also check out the other Med Student Spotlights!

Who Moved My Cheese?! – Reminiscing on Unexpected Changes

A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on my med school journey (as I often do), but this time getting frustrated. Why was my journey so different than I imagined it would be 6 years ago? In a matter of seconds, two words came to mind – curve balls. Yes, Derin, life is always going to throw some curve balls your way and you’ve got to roll with the punches. Hence why I created this blog in the first place.

Who Moved My Cheese Quotes (4)

Image Source

I’ve certainly had my share of unexpected changes in the past, and reflecting on them, I’m amazed at how God works – those changes have always been for the BEST. Let me share a few examples with you:

Case 1:

Moving in the middle of my sophomore year of High school. I moved to another state in the middle of my 2nd semester. Besides the challenge of making new friends, the curriculum was different (semester classes vs my previous year-round classes), which was disruptive to my education. This change however turned out to be one of the GREATEST blessings. Prior to moving, I googled my new school and found a short article on a former student who was a recipient of the Questbridge National College Match Scholarship. I was amazed and promptly bookmarked it for future reference. A year and a half later, I applied to that same scholarship and not only became a finalist but a recipient! This was huge for me. As a rising high school senior, paying for college was something I was highly concerned about. I immigrated to the U.S. with my family just 7 years earlier, had no college savings/ any saving really, and was strongly considering the Army Reserve to finance my education (my parents and I even met with a recruiter!). The move and unexpected change, turned out to be a wonderful blessing.

questbridge

Throwback to my acceptance: Source here

Case 2:

Fast forward to my college graduation. I was super excited as one can imagine, but also looking forward to a paid summer internship in Ghana. I would be working with high school kids at an innovation academy. Having tried for the past 2 years to attain an internship in Ghana, I was thrilled my dream was finally coming true. Even better, my flight was being paid for! Since I had this post-college plan, I stopped looking for jobs and decided to post-pone the search till my return to the U.S. Well, 2 weeks before I was set to leave the country, the internship was cancelled due to funding. My heart sunk. WHO MOVED MY CHEESE?! It was certainly an unexpected change and before I could let the disappointment fully sink in, I began applying for full-time jobs – literally less than 12 hours after receiving the news. Reality sunk in, I was a college graduate with no immediate plans. I was in panic mode. One of the jobs I applied to during that frenzy is the job I currently have. Funny enough, the position had been recently posted. When I saw the description, I was like what? Could it be? Research “capturing contextual and socio-cultural factors that contribute to health disparities” within a clinical setting and at one of the country’s top health systems. Whoa! This is exactly why I majored in Sociology of Health and Medicine! Well, I got the job and the rest as you all know is history. I love what I do!

All this to say, unexpected changes can TRULY be a good thing. Thinking about my med school journey, I’ve certainly had my share of unexpected changes. Sometimes it can be difficult to deal with, but one just has to keep chugging along. Just roll on out with the punches. As I wrote in an interview, a re-direction can be a good thing! See interview here.

For anyone that has difficulty dealing with change, do check out this book: “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. I first read it when I was 14 years old and loved it. As someone who has dealt with quite a bit of change, I highly recommend it!

WHO MOVED

How do you deal with change? Drop a comment below!

Updates: “Where You Been Girl?!”

It’s been exactly 6 weeks since my last post, YIKES! It’s not that I have nothing to write about or update on, it’s just…well, a combination of different things:

  • Been really busy – a promotion means more work. And boy, have I been working!
  • The healthcare management course – Absolutely love it! I have so much to write about on this but alas, see above obstacle.
  • My mood – I’ve had my share of ups and downs, writing means coming face to face with my feelings. Sometimes I’ld rather just squash them and pretend they don’t exist than face them head on.

So yes, these are the three main reasons for the hiatus. On that note, time for updates!

This med school journey has had me feeling like:

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Image source: Unknown

Hilarious, but in all honesty, I’m STILL waiting on an acceptance (yes, even till now!). I also have one interview coming up. This has been a loooong journey, and I am just TIRED. This process has been so draining, particularly emotionally. Mayne! I don’t know how others can go through this process without a support system. I’m thankful for the encouragement from friends and family, Definitely. It’s nice to have someone knock some sense into me when I start sinking into a hole of self-pity.

I do have some *exciting* posts coming up:

  • Writing update letters
  • Post-bac programs and SMPs: What to consider
  • Another med student spotlight
  • Where I’ll be going in the Fall – To be determined!!

On a different note, I’ve been learning a lot about the money side of healthcare. For those who aren’t aware, it IS a business. A huge moneymaking business. Quite fascinating.

Financial health

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I personally believe it’s important for providers to understand how the health system works – some knowledge on the business side of things. From what I’ve learned, it really does affect your ability to care for the patient, and it can be frustrating if you have little to no knowledge in this area (Also note: Majority, maybe 90% of the students in my class have parents who are physicians and were highly encouraged to study this area of healthcare. Could also be a selection bias though – Wharton students). I have a few things I’ld like to write about based on what I’ve been learning (someone hold me accountable please!)

  • Payment models for physicians – fee for service is terribly outdated. Should we be moving towards a capitation model? And then there’s this thug of war with health insurance companies…will write my thoughts on this later!
  • Patients having more “skin in the game” – the move towards cost-sharing and promoting health literacy in the U.S (this is on health insurance)…I have some mixed feelings about this.

And of course, whatever else comes to mind 🙂

The journey continues!

Reflecting on 2014: A Year of Greater

It’s that time of the year when I sit and reflect on the year – the highlights, the lessons learned, the challenges, and the celebratory moments. To do this, I use my journal and scan through the many months of writing, laughing, “oOoo’ing” and “Awww’ing” all through the exercise. It is in this moment I realize how much I accomplished this year, the lessons learned along the way, and how much of an impact certain events had on my life. In the beginning of 2014, I sought to embody my church’s theme for the year: “2014: Year of Greater.” Below is an excerpt from my January 2nd, 2014 journal entry:

Words can’t begin to describe how excited I am for this year. Like forreal. This is my year of greater favor, greater blessings, greater miracles. I mean God is seriously about to work in my life.

And God did work. In a mighty way

Here are a just few highlights from the year:

January
I launched my fitness instagram: @fitandfine_withdee which promotes fitness, health, and nutrition.

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February
I created my Afrobeat cardio video which now has 6000+ views on YouTube. Never would have thought!

March
I felt extremely overwhelmed and exhausted working full-time and taking classes in the evening. Taking Immunobiology may not have been the smartest idea.

I also joined my church choir 😀

April
I felt exhausted for most of the month. A lot of late nights, not much sleep. I was working 40 hour weeks and taking two classes in the evenings (I also took Biochemistry during my gap year by the way). My plan was to take advantage of the tuition benefit at my job – taking up to 2 classes for free. Lesson learned for those thinking of working full-time and taking classes to boost your med school application: I should have stuck with one.

May
Traveled to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. Awesome time!

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June
Started blogging again! Turned in my med school application (AMCAS) early – oh yeaaa!!

Led a month long boot camp as an instructor for SweatU

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Also published my first med student spotlight. It was on Naya, a second year med student. The post received a lot of positive feedback and has become the second highest viewed post on my blog at 548 views (as of today).

My cousin visited me from South Africa – awesome time!

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July
Wrote a lot of secondaries for med schools

Got my braces installed – I am now team metal mouth 😛

Competed in my second Spartan Obstacle race

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August
Took my MCAT again – no more!

Taught my first college seminar (preceptorial): “Say NO to the Freshman 15!

September
Invited to be a campaign manager for Memunatu Magazine’s Indiegogo campaign

Accepted high school cross country coaching position!

Got my first med school interview invite!!!

Presented at a conference on research I’ve been working on at my job (I was a co-presenter)

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October
My birthday! Had a blast ALL week

Med school interview!

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November
Got into a relationship with the most awesome guy 🙂

I attended the RWJF Scholars Forum and SMDEP Alumni Summit – great time!

My first radio appearance!

December
I published my post: “#WhiteCoats4BlackLives: Acknowledging The Political Determinants of Health” which became the most viewed post on my site. In just less than a month, it has 1,122 views!

My post on the national white coat die-in gets published on “The health Care Blog.” This was a major accomplishment for me!! You can check it out here.

I get a promotion at my job!


All this to say, this year has certainly been a year of greater. I challenged myself more than I had done in the past and definitely pushed through several obstacles. I am thankful for an AMAZING year and very thankful to you, my readers, for reading each post, sharing them, and accompanying me on this journey. I am extremely excited for what 2015 has in store.

Cheers and Happy New Year Folks!

Webinar for Med School Applicants

Hey Everyone!

I received an email from the folks at Accepted on an upcoming webinar. The FREE one-hour webinar will talk about the importance of starting the process early, tips to distinguish yourself, and more. Check out the message below for more details:


Follow the yellow brick road…

…to acceptance at your top choice medical school by applying the tips that you’ll learn in Accepted.com’s upcoming webinar, Get Accepted to Medical School in 2016, to your application. You think it’s easy to navigate the road to med school admissions success? Think again! Without a map and some handy tools, it’s easy to get lost!

Webinar details:

  • DATE: Wednesday, December 10, 2014
  • TIME: 5:00 PM PT / 8:00 PM ET

Get the tools you need to start the application process early and get accepted! Register for Get Accepted to Medical School in 2016 now!


 Ciao!