As a new Doctor, what advice would you give to Northeastern PreHealth students? Medicine is a fascinating interplay between clinical knowledge/clinical reasoning and interpersonal relationships that together dictate how good or bad we perform as providers. My biology background certainly prepared for the former (clinical knowledge/reasoning) more so than for the latter. But my other experiences at NU – the social entrepreneurship, study abroad – complemented the strong scientific background with the opportunity to understand other cultures, understand the barriers that people face in all aspects in their lives, and how to interact with people that had a very different story than my own. All of these play a major role in being able to translate clinical knowledge and reasoning into patient centered treatment plans. As such, I would encourage students to try to step out of their comfort zone and take advantage of the endless opportunities at NU to experience something different and new, and to reflect on how those experiences differ from theirs and how they pose different challenges.
What led to your interest in a career in medicine? Who or what inspired you?
Growing up I had always been fascinated by science and by the potential it had in transforming the way we understand the world we live in today. My passion for the biological sciences propelled during high school, particularly due to the passion and motivation that my AP Bio teacher had when teaching it. At that point, I participated in a youth forum on medicine and was introduced to the world of clinical medicine. From that point on, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, I just wasn’t sure in what context that would be.
Coming to Northeastern, I then became involved in basic science research and was captivated by it. I began struggling with whether I wanted to get involved in medicine from the biotechnology side or the clinical side, and slowly things came together. As much as I loved basic science research, I felt that pursuing a career in clinical medicine was better suited for my personality and my overall goals in addressing the health needs of individuals from a population based perspective.
How did you prepare yourself for medical school? The application process?
During my time at Northeastern, I made sure that I only participated and engaged myself in activities and programs that I was truly passionate about. I think this significantly helped from a few different perspectives. First, I developed strong relationships with the individuals that I worked with, including various professors, who were willing to write letters of recommendations on my behalf. When completing the application process, the prompts and statements that I was asked to write about really came as second nature to me because all of my extra-curricular activities were things I had become emotionally invested in.
In terms of preparing myself for medical school, I took the summer before starting as a way to just relax and prepare myself for the challenges that were to come. I felt it was important to begin school relaxed and mentally prepared – especially given the pace of classes and the transformation that you go through during medical training.
What undergraduate experiences were most instrumental to your success? What obstacles or hurdles did you overcome in your medical school journey?
There were two major programs that truly allowed me take advantage of the opportunities available to me at NU. First was the financial and social support that the Latino Student Cultural Center (LSCC) provided me. After my freshman year, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to continue to pursue my degree at Northeastern because my family didn’t have the resources to support me financially. Through the center, I was fortunate enough to be chosen for a scholarship that gave me the chance to stay at NU. Additionally the center provided me with a home away from home – a second family that I could turn to for support or advice – without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today.
In addition to the LSCC, my experiences with the Social Enterprise Institute (SEI) at NU really broadened the way that I viewed the world and the determinants of health. At its core, the SEI really focuses on the utilization of business and business principles as drivers for social change with programs such as microfinance. Participating in their programs made me recognize that the ultimate metric of health status was well-being, and that well-being was a function of more than just health care. It made me realize that to truly impact an individual’s well-being, systems had to be in place that effectively addressed various social determinants of health as opposed to those that just focus on healthcare delivery. These experiences encouraged me to apply to the MD/MPH program at Tufts.
Having entered medical school directly from NU – are you happy with the decision you made? Why or why not?
Because of the educational model that NU utilizes, I was able to participate in co-op and get involved in activities that most traditional students can’t without taking time off after. So for me, NU’s unique educational model really contributed to me being happy with my decision.
Is medical school what you thought it would be? Would you share your thoughts?
Med school is and isn’t what I thought it would be. If I were to try to compare it to anything – it would be taking college level classes that have a little more depth to them, on a high school schedule. Because of this, it’s really a matter of learning how to handle the volume overload of material, and then adjusting accordingly to make sure you still make time for family and friends (Although I’m sure that will change with 3rd year!).
What are your career goals right now? Have they changed since you begin your medical school studies?
I’m still in the air about what type of medicine I’d like to practice, but my goals have changed in that I now know that I want to also be involved in public health. I think it’s a fascinating perspective being able to translate the physician-patient relationship to the broader implications that this has on the health of populations.
What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?
The best advice I received during college was to make sure I maintained a balanced life. It’s important to put your best foot forward in the classroom and do your part academically, but it’s equally important to let yourself get involved in activities that you are truly passionate about. I often find that students are so caught up in doing what is “traditional” to get in, that they forget that the goal of medicine is to allow people to truly enjoy the activities that make them happy.