Overview of the Series
In this series of articles, I will be sharing excerpts of case studies on several of my former students (with their permission, of course). Names and other identifying information have been changed, but the material facts — MCAT score, GPA, etc. — are unchanged. The full case studies are published in my book, Pre-Med Success Stories.
I’ll present each case study in three parts — an introduction of the student, followed by an in-depth assessment of the student’s profile and chances for admission to medical school, and then finally I’ll explain what happened to the student once s/he applied.
In this article, I will introduce a student of mine named Louise.
Part One — Getting to Know Louise
The first time Louise came to me, she was at a new point in her life. She had spent three years at a community college and was now finally transferring to a four-year university. Louise also came off as as a blank slate to me — she wanted to become a doctor, but wasn’t set on a particular path to get there. She didn’t have a lot of patient contact nor did she know much about the application process. All she was sure of was that she wanted to become an OB/GYN. Louise also seemed a bit uneasy; she often shrugged and gave me a thin smile, which made me wonder if she was taking medical school as seriously as she should.
She was also academically tough. Her grades were not excellent, but she had been working two part-time jobs to pay for her community college. Now that she was at a university, she told me she wouldn’t work as much. Above all else, she was happy. This was the first time she had a chance to focus solely on her studies — and Louise was not going to mess this up, she said so to me outright. After having so many jobs, this had only strengthened her will to become a doctor. She had realized it was the only profession that would fulfill her desire to help people.
I didn’t find this sufficient though. If she wanted to help people, she could pursue an innumerable number of other career choices. I told Louise to look at some non-clinical work, knowing full well that she wouldn’t change her mind — I just wanted her to redefine her reasoning for becoming a doctor. She came to me a week later, having researched a future career as a doula, but she was uninterested. It didn’t have enough science. She also began a research job to help conduct prenatal screening for chromosomal anomalies which only strengthened her desire to pursue the OB/GYN specialty. Her ultimate goal, she told me, was to diversify the healthcare field and change minds about who should go into science. Given that there are significantly fewer women than men in medicine, Louise wanted to be a doctor that further equalizes the profession — plus, she was passionate about it.
Louise is a 22-year old white female who attended the Moreno Valley College and, when I first spoke to her, the University of California at Riverside. She had a 3.4 GPA and was studying biology; she also received a 24 on her MCAT exam.
Because she had been working during her college education, she had little experience in much else. Instead, now that she was at a university, she promised me that she would:
- Do research with Dr. Vicki Knight on amniocentesis at Loma Linda University Medical Center
- Volunteer in the fall at Riverside County Hospital
- Do biology outreach to middle schools in Corona this fall with a student organization, Science Outreach to Next Generation (SONG)
So far, her file looked very weak — however, much of it could be explained through the large number of hours she devoted to making ends meet. Working two part-time jobs, this was understandable.
Until recently, most of Louise’s hurdles have been economic. She had to explain an “F” she had on her transcript which she received for a biology lab. However, Louise’s grades have improved dramatically since she transferred, and although these previous grades were lackluster, I trusted that this trend would continue. I was more concerned, though, with her campus and community work. Her experiences in this area were mostly blank, but she was enthusiastic to fill it in. I decided to give her time to fulfill her promises — she would check back with me periodically, but until her file was filled with patient contact and community service, she would have a hard time getting into medical school.
One final concern I had was her timidity. She was very passive and I wondered if she would have the mental toughness to pursue medicine. Regardless, this would likely only change with time. I hope that as we worked together, Louise would come out of her shell and assert herself a bit more.
Want to continue reading Louise’s story? You can find more in part two of this six-part series.