Sunday, June 6, 2010

How Did This All Start?

Successfully navigating your way into medical school, and then successfully completing medical school takes a lot of grit, resolve, and determination, and also a little bit of good luck. One of my best friends used to tell me, "Good luck favors the well prepared." That statement really sums up the plan and approach to applying to -- and succeeding in medical school.

One of the key things I quickly realized throughout the entire process for me was that other people had a tendency to be very insincere and disingenuous. This appeared to be true at every phase of the process. When applying to medical school, I would engage many of my fellow applicants in conversation. They would say that their MCAT scores were higher than what they actually were, or that they were just applying to only a few schools, when they had in fact widely applied to many schools. Once I was in medical school, my fellow students would downplay how much they studied. They would see me studying and then say, "Oh, what are you doing that for? The exam's still three weeks away." Meanwhile, while they were convincing you to let down your guard, lulling you into a false sense of comfort, they were studying diligently the entire time. When the exam would roll around, they would get their high score, and then shrug their shoulders as if to say, "Aah shucks. I must've just gotten lucky."

I soon realized that good luck does indeed favor the well prepared. For those of you with aspirations of medical school, you must prepare diligently, and there are in fact things that you can do to drastically increase your chances of getting into medical school.

My path to becoming a physician was not a direct pathway. My parents taught me at home until the completion of high school. I then attended Oklahoma City University, a small liberal arts university, where I majored in Biology and Piano Performance. I eventually obtained my B.S. in Biology, and then found my way to Saint Louis University School Of Medicine.

Things at Saint Louis University were very interesting, to say the least. I strongly believe that the best thing about the medical school was the quality of the students that they selected to attend. Many of them remain friends to this day. Nonetheless, medical school was demanding and it was quite an adjustment from my undergraduate days.

I still remember participating in my first surgery on the neurosurgical service. Seeing that alive brain, pulsating in the operative field, made an indelible impact upon me, so much so that I resolved even more that neurosurgery was the field for me.

Today, I'm a 6th year neurosurgery resident at the University Of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. And what's more, I have no regrets about the choice I made.

With this blog, I want to use the benefit of my experience to help you achieve your dreams of attending medical school. I will be posting surveys with possible blog topics, and you can then vote on which topic you would like for me to blog.

Pick up a hardcover copy of my book. It has a lot of valuable information, including a lot of funny stories. It is a very entertaining read. Then you can interface with me through this site and ask questions to which you have always desired real and honest answers. To how many schools should you apply? Is your list of schools appropriate to your MCAT score? Which residency should you choose? Are you competitive enough for a particular residency? What should you do if you don't think that you are competitive enough? These are all questions to which obtaining true and honest answers is difficult. I'll give you the honest answers.

This site is a forum for readers to discuss my book, as well as share your own experiences in applying and traveling through medical school.

Stephen E. Griffith, M.D.

Medical School Applications

Applying to medical school can be tough. I reminisce back to those days with a grimmace. What difficult times those days were!

Back in freshman biology class, my professor asked, "How many of you want to become a physician?" All of us raised our hands.

Shaking her head sadly, she said, "Only one in four of you poor souls will make it."

This was very troubling, because I realized that the competition would be very stiff indeed. What could I do to assure myself the best chance at succeeding through the application process?

As my fellow undergraduate colleagues and I progressed through the college experience, many people starting dropping like flies. A few people scored poorly in freshman biology and then dropped out of the pre-med program. Others bit-the-dust during inorganic and organic chemistry. Still others dropped out during physics. In the end, there were not that many people left in my class who had completed their MCATs and going through the application process.

As I talked with my fellow classmate applicants, I discovered that many of them with marginal scores had only decided to apply to in-state schools. Their rational was, "Well if I can't get in to in-state medical schools, then there's no way that I'm competitive enough to get in at other medical schools."

Many people think that this is true, and this advise is widely disseminated to applying students from their college advisors. I always questioned the validity of this game-plan, and my experience would certainly suggest that this advice should be disgarded.

When you apply to medical school, you must apply widely to many medical school programs. You have to throw as much money at it as you can. When I was going through all of this, I did not have the greatest scores, but applied to 20 medical schools. Out of those 20 schools, I was invited to send out secondary applications to 12 of those 20 schools. 8 schools then invited me to interview with them, and out of those 8 schools, I was accepted to 4 schools.

And interestingly, my first acceptance was to Saint Louis University Medical School -- I eventually attended this school for medical school. As one of the oldest medical schools in the nation, it has a rich history and a sound legacy of turning out leading physicians in every specialty. Noteably, I did not receive an acceptance to my in-state school until much later in the interview season, and it was ONLY after they realized that I was already accepted to an out-of-state school!

So when you're applying to medical school, you'd better do it right! Work hard in undergrad. Do the best you can on the MCATs. Then throw as much money into the application process as you can, applying to as many schools as possible. You'll likely achieve a good outcome.

Read more about this and other topics in my book, Just Trying To Be A Doctor. You can leave feedback to this page.