If you’re a sophomore who attended the recent pre-health meeting then you heard a version of this little speech of mine before. Still, it bears repeating. As a pre-health student, you are no different than anyone else in that you think long and hard (most of you, at any rate) about your choice of a major and the possible consequences of that decision. The most commonly heard questions among pre-health students are “should I major in a science?” and “can I major in something other than science?” You also grapple with what criteria to use when choosing between two or three of your favorite subjects . . .
“It’s never too late” . . . “Think when, not if” . . . and “Hey, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” . . . These are things I hear myself saying on a fairly regular basis. To be candid, I sometimes wonder if I’m building up false hope. Is the end goal of admission to health professional school really possible for all F&M graduates as long as they’re fully committed? Is “it’s never too late” a helpful reminder or a mere platitude? It could only be a meaningless cliché if everyone already knew it, I suppose, and given the number of pre-health students I see who are ready to throw in the towel, “it’s never too late” is far from a universal belief. So is there a way of getting from college to health professional school for nearly everyone, really? Yes. How do I know? Because post-bac programs make it so.
This week has been rough. Last week, too . . . This whole time around the middle of the semester is always this way. Pre-health students become frequent, harried visitors at my drop-in hours, each with a unique situation, each with a cause for frustration, anxiety, and disappointment, sometimes to the point of tears. . . Today I think it’s important to remember a few basic tenets of pre-health existence. Hopefully these will cheer up those of you who are stressing out. They may be helpful points to return to in the coming months and years as the pre-health workload piles high. They’re especially crucial to recall during rough patches.
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.