Meet Stephen – a 3rd year Med student at Tulane and Naval Officer

20140611_045634Stephen is a 3rd year medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine. We initially met in 2010 through the Summer Medical and Dental Education program (SMDEP) at Howard University College of Medicine. As a good friend of mine, I’m very excited to have him share his story about his journey to med school and the lessons learned along the way. 

So what led you to pursue medicine?

I participated in a 3-year health sciences academy program at my high school from 2005-08. I got a lot of shadowing experience in several hospitals, saw some cool procedures and learned how to question patients.

 What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?

My major in college was Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology. I had always liked the brain and the nervous system since my teen days, so this major attracted me. I felt that the difficulty of my junior and senior neuro classes were similar to some of the neuroanatomy classes I took during my 1st year of med school.

Did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
I wouldn’t say that I ever considered giving up my dream, but I had thought about what life would be like had I pursued some of my other passions like geography, history, or the electronic industry. Hurdles that I had? My freshman year in college was quite a crazy time, and my grades weren’t hot after my 1st year. I worked hard at improving myself both in and out of the classroom and brought my grades up by the end of sophomore year.

How was the application process for you?
The application process was expensive (I applied to 30+ schools), full of paperwork (submitting and resubmitting forms from october to december 2011) and a little tiring. I applied LATE – I didn’t start submitting my mcat scores and amcas materials until early October. (Don’t do what I did! Submit your stuff during the summer!) I didn’t take the mcat until August and by the time I applied, I already missed out on the deadlines to some schools in competitive areas like California and Texas.

What was your first year of medical school like?
My first year of medical school was actually pretty enjoyable. It started with 8:30 AM anatomy classes that lasted for about 2 months. I had so much fun in anatomy, it was an interesting time. Biochemistry and genetics came next and I had never taken them up to that point but they were pretty manageable and great to learn. Soon came 3 months of physiology and then came neuro and then the first year ended with immunology (which people said was tough but really wasn’t).

What do you enjoy most about medical school?
I enjoy how helpful the instructors are and how relaxed and friendly most of my medical school class is. There is no competitive/backstabbing atmosphere at Tulane Med. Everyone works hard and enjoys their time outside of class/clinic. It’s a good balance.

Activities you’ve been involved in during med school:

  • I was an after school tutor for elementary aged kids (during 1st year)
  • I worked on a nutrition paper for a group in a public health school (during summer after 1st year)
  • Volunteered at local men’s clinic (several times during 2nd year)
  • I was mental health co-ambassador of the Tulane Med School chapter of AMSA (from Jan 2013-Feb 2014)
  • I was the secretary for the Tulane Med School chapter of SNMA (from Feb 2013- Feb 2014)
  • I participate in Volunteers of America, New Orleans chapter as a “big brother” to a kid from New Orleans (since Oct 2013)

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
I make sure to enjoy my weekends. I understand that there’s a time and place for studying (during the week) and everything else (certain weeknights, Saturdays, part of Sundays). I’ve learned to settle into a routine. Life in med school is very manageable when you take a breath and realize that you’re expected to be a well-balanced individual. (It helps to have a group of people who you can go to dinner with or go see a movie with or go to a bar with, etc.)

Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
Start talking your professors in college early. Don’t be afraid to get to know them and make a good impression on them. You will need letters of recommendation from them. Also, understand that being a well balanced individual is important. Don’t just live in the classroom or lab. Get out and join a sports team, or volunteer. Play music. Jog. Dance. Do what it is that you like to help you through stressful time and always strive to do the best you can. Also- use advice you get from websites like very cautiously!

Tell us about being in the Navy
Well, I’m in the US Navy and I’m on scholarship. That means that the US Navy is paying for my entire med school tuition (no debt!) but I will owe them 4-6 years after I graduate and finish my training. Understand that this is a program for people who are generally interested in serving our country. DON’T DO IT FOR MONEY. Unless you plan to do family med, going through the military will generally pay less than just being a civilian doctor. I have always been interested in the military way of doing things and that’s why I joined the Navy.

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

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