“I’m premed. What’s the number one thing I need to do to prepare?”
As a pre-health advisor and coach, that’s a question I really wish my students would ask me, but they don’t. Not often. Not usually. Beyond the basics, like “Which pre-req courses do I need to take?” and “What do I need to major in?” and “How many hours do I need to volunteer?” they ask questions like “Can I still get into medical school, even though I’m not good at science?” and “How do I get into medical school with bad grades?” and “How do I get into medical school with low MCAT scores?”
I take every single one of these questions seriously, and I guide each student with insight that is personalized and necessary to help each of them understand and achieve their personal and individualized goals.
But just for a second, let’s say you asked. Because…it’s important.
So, “Hey, Mary Kate. I’m premed. What’s the number one thing I need to do to prepare?”
Truthfully? Learn to care. Learn to care about others. About health. About illness and the road to recovery. About your future patients’ needs. And about what it truly means to be a healthcare provider. And learn that if this isn’t what you care about, then it’s entirely okay – you have greatness in you, and you will move the mountains you want to and care about moving – but if health–care isn’t what you care about, then getting into medical school isn’t the right path for you.
I’m not trying to sound preachy. I’m just being realistic, both for you and for your future patients. To truly care about them and for them, you need to think about what they need from you.
So let’s take a moment in a role that you are likely familiar with – the role of the patient.
As a patient, would you be okay with having a doctor diagnose you who wasn’t able to demonstrate proficiency in their health-based coursework? Would you be okay following guidance from a doctor who really doesn’t care about your health or your healing? Would you be okay being “cared for” by a person who doesn’t really care about you?
Probably not. But let’s also take a moment to look at where questions like, “How do I get into med school with bad grades?” come from. As a student, you have a challenging task in front of you: figuring out what in the hell you want to do with the rest of your life. You’re gonna need a job. And a job that pays well would be lovely. Maybe you were pretty good at science in high school. Maybe you love helping people. And maybe you put these two things together and thought, Healthcare!
These maybes are very likely true for you as they are true for so many of my students. But then they get to college, and the courses get harder, academic responsibilities become exciting (or maybe they don’t), other options open up, all kinds of things can happen. But what needs to happen – if you truly want to be a doctor (or any kind of healthcare provider) – is you need to figure out if you truly care about helping people through the use of the science-based-health-based methodologies and practices of doctors (or whichever kind of healthcare provider you want to be). The first thing you need to do is determine if you care!
And you do this by taking science coursework and determining if you like it and are good at it. You do this by volunteering in clinical settings and getting patient care skills, so you can learn all about the practice of healthcare. What it is. How it gets done. What the complications are. The good. The bad. The ugly. And the reasons why at the end of the day, you still see yourself helping your future patients.
When you care … or stated a little differently … when you truly want something, then you will make it happen. You will dig in and tackle any troubles you encounter in your academics, because your patients need you to be competent. They need to be able to rely on you and the care you provide. They need you to be compassionate. And have empathy. They need you to be a problem solver. They need you to be all of these things, so you can be confident, competent, and compassionate in caring for them. You will happily volunteer for as long as it takes to build the personal attributes, skills, values, and lessons learned desired by medical schools in their chosen applicants (because they are thinking of what your future patients need from you). You will find patient care opportunities, and you will learn all that you can about what you love about helping people; what your strengths are; and what you have to offer that is unique and wonderful for your future patients. When you care, you will make the right choices for both you and for your future patients.
So. Honestly. If you care about your future patients, then becoming a healthcare provider is the next logical step for you, and you will be asking all the right questions, and you will be doing everything you can to tackle the requirements in front of you. You will get help when you need it. You will seek out the mentoring relationships you need. You will do it all, and it will invigorate you. And even exhaust you at times. But you’ll expect that, because you’ll know that being a healthcare provider is hard, but amazing, and rewarding work! And you will be happy! And you will achieve success and make your dream of becoming a doctor come true!!!
Big hugs and my best wishes to you always for your happiness, healthiness, and success!