Could we enter the health professions at a more exciting time? The greatest expansion of healthcare in U.S. history is less than 10 days away: the next phase of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” rolls out October 1 when new insurance marketplaces will open in every state, allowing citizens to shop for health insurance and choose a plan that fits their needs...
The more graduates I see over the years headed off to medical school, the more I do believe that there are some common traits you all share . . . If you have a strong desire to serve others and to alleviate suffering, then you may indeed be “pre-med” . . . If you have an interest and proficiency in science, then you may be “pre-med.” If you tend to remain composed when taking on high levels of responsibility, if you’re willing to be a leader and you’re not afraid of making decisions, then you may be a “pre-med.” If you’re curious about the world and don’t stop analyzing problems until you find clarity, then you may be “pre-med" . . .
When I ask pre-health students what they read during the summer for fun, they usually say Jane Austen. At least about half of them do. The other half used to say Harry Potter, but I don’t hear that as much anymore, which is just as well since they always seemed a little too old for Hogwarts if you ask me. Game of Thrones is a pretty popular response these days, or science fiction (but never a specific title), or “oh, you know, I love the classics” (which makes me smile), or sometimes, quite honestly, they say that they don’t read at all outside of class. What, you don’t read Anna Karenina at the pool? Shameful! No, seriously, not the news? Nothing? Not even blog posts?
Coming soon to a computer terminal near you, in 2015 actually, the New MCAT will rise up to its full height and might, a formidable dragon of a standardized test, including new sections and a longer time allotment (from the current 4.5 hours to about 6.5 hours). “Slaying” it will require the patience and focus of a saint, fearlessness in the face of the unknown, peak physical stamina, and a sharpened intellect applied in broader swipes and strokes . . .
A good number of F&M students don’t just pass through the countryside on their way from the city of Lancaster to another city or suburb. Some come from a rural setting, and plan on returning there after college. For pre-health students specifically, the goal of going home to practice medicine in a rural setting is generally met with a welcoming “hurrah!” by people in the medical field, primarily because rural communities need doctors. The impending physician shortage predicted by the AAMC and others will affect our country’s less populated areas most of all, if it hasn't already.
Off-campus study is an excellent means of developing some of the personal qualities inherent to healthcare—cultural sensitivity, powers of observation and listening skills, self-reliance, adaptability and resilience, to name a few. In your travels you might find the opportunity to observe healthcare systems different from our own (and make interesting comparisons) and see firsthand how varied cultural attitudes toward health, healing, and doctors can be.
The Health Care Handbook stares up at me from its place next to my computer bag, my ever-present phone, and a miniature regiment of TV remote controls. A fairly slim volume of two hundred pages or so, the Handbook calls itself 'a clear and concise guide to the United States health care system' . . .
As encouragement to all, I have two main things to say: Yes, there are people out there who read these letters of recommendation (in fact, it's part of their job). Thus, your work is significant and worthwhile. And remember, an individual letter writer is but one voice among several singing in support of an applicant. Therefore, each letter need not describe its subject completely; rather, it need only give an informed perspective from within the context that the author and applicant know each other.
Last Friday, I attended a one-day conference hosted by Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, the new allopathic medical school in Camden. We Philly-area pre-health advisers like to get together every January at a different health professional school, engaging in dialogue about timely professional topics, hearing updates from Admissions deans, and generally comparing notes . . .