What happens when you don’t get in the first time? You DON’T give up. Instead, you reflect, change your approach, and attack it again. And that’s precisely what Micky did. Micky is a first year medical student at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. After an unsuccessful medical school application cycle, he did not let that deter him. He applied a second cycle and discovered the rejections the previous year, turned out to be the best redirection! I’m very excited to share my friend and fellow Penn Alum’s story. Check out Micky’s story and his words of advice.
What led you to pursue medicine?
I was drawn to medicine because of the experiences I had with the Physician Scientist Training Program, which began in the 7th grade and continued until the summer after senior year of high school. This program is designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in science and medicine. In this continuous summer program, I found my passion in combining scientific knowledge with helping others.
What was your major in college and how did that prepare you for medical school?
I decided to major in health and societies, which is one of Penn’s interdisciplinary majors. This allowed me to study topics in health in a social, cultural, historical, and global context. I chose this major because of the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies relating to health in different populations. Instead of being restricted to one area of study, I was able to approach the issues in health through a holistic lens. I believe this approach is necessary in order to conquer the problems of access and health disparities that affect our communities.
While my major did not prepare me very well for medical school in terms of boning up my basic science knowledge (which I supplanted by taking advanced biology/chemistry courses), health & societies was essential in helping me begin to understand how many non-hard science based factors influence health, wellness, and medicine. I believe having an understanding of these factors is key to being a quality physician (as well as an initiator of positive change in general) and my major played a vital role in initiating these thought processes for me.
Did you ever consider giving up on your dream? What obstacles or hurdles did you have to overcome in your medical school journey?
My most challenging hurdle on my path to medical school was not getting into medical school on my first try! I applied to MD/PhD programs because of my love of research. By the end of the cycle, I had received interviews from four great schools, however, this resulted in only two waitlist placements, and eventually zero acceptances. My quest was undertaken with the right intentions but too much naivety. I did not properly cast my net wide enough, did not have a proper back-up plan, and did not seek out the proper support system that could cater to the needs of an MD/PhD candidate. Although I knew that this was a possibility from the beginning, I felt inadequate, due to my lack to success. “Did I not have what it takes to be a quality physician scientist or even a quality physician?” The doubts began to creep in.
To manage, I made a list of areas that I felt I had overlooked as weakness in my application and sought support from my close confidants as to the next steps to take. Primarily, I sought advice from my close friends, many of whom had already been accepted into medical school or were already in medical school, as well as some of the scientists I worked with that pursued MD/PhDs in their past.
After consolidating all off their advice and spending time in reflection, I came to realize that this episode was potentially a great learning experience. Clearly, some schools had seen my potential and that earned me an interview for their programs. It was now up to me to work to reach that potential. So I put their advice into practice and got to work on improving my portfolio and myself.
How was the application process for you the second time around?
The second time around, I ended up applying MD only and submitting my application on some of the first days of the application cycle (since I had become an AMCAS pro from the year before haha ). After doing the secondary and interview dance again, I was blessed and privileged enough to get into my top choice of medical school, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai during the winter of 2013. Once I received this acceptance, I withdrew my candidacy from other schools in order to open more spots for others.
How is your first year of medical school going?
My first year of med school at Sinai has been going well! As one can imagine, I spend a lot of my time studying but it is really a different kind of studying. For the first time in my life, I truly enjoy everything that I am learning (well, the majority haha) and feel like I am studying for myself in an effort to be the best physician I can be, instead of studying in order to beat the beat the curve. It is an extremely rewarding feeling. Mount Sinai also employs a pass-fail system, group anatomy practical exams, and online take-anywhere-you-want exams within a certain time window (all on the honor code, of course), which all contribute to a significantly decreased amount of stress.
Also, my classmates are incredible. We come from all walks of life and with tons of different experiences and it really adds to the quality of my individual and our collective experiences. Of course everyone has their closest friends but the class as a whole truly feels like one big family. It is truly incredible to be with a group of people that have the same desires and aspirations as you.
And of course living in NYC has been awesome!! There is ALWAYS something to do in New York, no matter the time, weather, temperature, or occasion. I’ve got groceries, laundry, cheap and healthy food options, CVS, a gym, basketball courts, and the subway, all within a 2-3-block radius of me! What more could I ask for?!
As would could imagine the transition to living in a big city has the potential to be hectic. Luckily, I was able to get a head start on the NYC adjustment through a summer research opportunity that I was afforded after expressing interest in doing research the summer before beginning medical school. Sinai is awesome because if you have a strong interest in something they do everything in their power to make sure it comes to fruition.
Please describe any activities you plan to get involved in or that you are already involved in at your school
Although I just started school about one month ago, I am already involved/will be soon involved in a variety of activities! I am part of First Generation Scholars, where I will be paired with a high school student who is the first person from their family to pursue college and is just about entering the process of applying to college. As a mentor, I will help them craft their personal statements. I also plan on getting involved in the Emergency Medicine Interest Group, among other things. Lastly, I am in the process of starting my own community service group that plays sports with children as a way to decrease the prevalence of obesity in East Harlem.
How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
To be completely forthright, balancing my personal time with medical school is not something I can say I am an expert at yet. I think I will get better at this with time and experience. The key for me has been to make time for the things that are important to me (i.e. Church, Family, Girlfriend, working out) and block out the distractions when I am studying. In my opinion, achieving the perfect balance happens by being the most efficient when you are buckling down and doing work, so that you have more time when you are not. I am not there yet, but that is what I am striving towards.
In addition, the good thing about Sinai is that we have flex time every single Tuesday, meaning that classes end at noon every Tuesday! It is a great time to shadow, workout, run some errands, or just sleep!
Do you have any advice for students considering a career in medicine?
My advice to all students considering a career in medicine would be three fold:
- Truly do some extensive introspection to make sure you are pursuing a career in medicine for the right reasons. Medical school is not the ideal path for someone who just wants the prestige or money. There are much easier (and cheaper) ways of making money and gaining prestige than medicine.
- If you determine that a career in medicine is for you, attack your dreams with a passion unknown to man! If you want it bad enough, you will put the work in to make it happen, and hence it will happen! Speak it into existence!
- Seek advice from people who have done it! They know the route and are the models to follow!
Thank you for sharing your story Micky. Very inspiring!
Any questions for Micky? Leave a comment below and he’ll get back to you.
Do also check out the other Med Student Spotlights!