Pre-meds: Do what it takes to get into medical school

I sit at my home in New Jersey as I anxiously await my 6am flight two days from now that will take me to the Caribbean island of Dominica where I will begin to take my first steps in the journey of becoming a doctor at Ross University School of Medicine.

Many people attempted to discourage me from continuing on the path I started on. Doctors I shadowed would warn me of the daunting hours, how much medicine has changed over the years, and how you can make more money in other fields for the amount of time you put in. Even my undergraduate pre-med guidance counselor at Binghamton University told me, on several separate occasions, that I simply did not have the grades to get into medical school. And these people were right … sort of.

It is true that medicine is changing. And you can more than likely make more money in business or in banking. And at the time, I did not in fact have the grades to be accepted into medical school. I am here to tell you that can get into medical school, even a stateside school, if you want it badly enough. This isn’t to say that your past mistakes will vanish into thin air — that ‘C’ in organic chemistry isn’t going anywhere. What you can do is affect your future. Show that you remember your mistakes and learn from them.

Likewise, I try to forget the people who attempted to dissuade me from medicine, but remember the people who accepted my decisions and encouraged me along my path. The one doctor I spoke with at a high school graduation party of a mutual family friend who highlighted that, “It doesn’t matter how many rejections you get, because in the end you only need one acceptance.” Or my parents who pushed me to apply to that reach school after explaining, “I’m not doing myself any favors by rejecting myself before even applying.”

I am here to give you a pat on the back and a kick in the ass. I had to take the MCAT twice and had to apply to twenty-eight medical schools, but all it took was one acceptance to make it all worthwhile. If you have explored medicine and have decided that it is the path for you, don’t let anyone discourage you from it. Own it and do whatever it takes to succeed. It is what I intend to do starting on my first day of class down in Dominica.

Marc Katz is a medical student.

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  • doc_md

    all i can say is: “yikes!”.

    don’t say someone never warned you…

  • Anon

    Cool story bro

  • mata_o_diabo

    “to make it all worthwhile”
    you have no idea yet if it is worthwhile. let us know 10 years from now if the people who tried to talk you out of it were right after all. my guess is your answer will be a resounding “yes!”

    • Marc Katz

      Why so cynical?

      • http://www.facebook.com/tisha.askari Tisha Askari

        It isn’t cynicism. You’re giving people advice on something you haven’t experienced whereas other are passing along their knowledge based upon their experience. This is called arrogance.

        • Marc Katz

          I apologize for the confusion, but I am not attempting to give advise to people about during or after medical school. Simply giving them a “pat on the back and a kick in the ass” to encourage them to keep at it. The application process, studying for the mcat, etc. can be quite stressful and hectic for applicants who are going straight into medical school from undergrad (of course, not to say med school won’t completely overcast the stress of undergrad..but at the time it can seem daunting).

          • http://twitter.com/MCraddock2013 Marquell Craddock

            Marc, word of advice, there is no need for you to reply to such deconstructive attacks. Another word of advice to those who has read Marc’s piece, ask yourself, is he writing to you? If the answer is yes, then absorb every bit of inspiration it conjures in your soul and MOVE FORWARD with your decision. For taking responsibility and ownership of your journey into medicine is powerful and a test of faith. If the answer is no, then step back and understand that your ‘words of wisdom’ can be taken out of context for the worst… do you really what to ‘be that person’ who convinced ‘that guy’ not to pursue a dream? Probably not (if your sane). To Marc, congrats and remember, you do not owe anyone an explanation on this comment-feed (unless you see fit). Continue to inspire.

      • mata_o_diabo

        because you remind me of myself. lots of people tried to talk me out of becoming a doctor. at the time, i did not see this as constructive advice, but rather as more obstacles to overcome on my mission to achieve my true calling. it turns out that in my early 20′s, i was very immature to believe i knew my “calling” was without having experienced it firsthand.

        • Marc Katz

          I see what you were trying to say now. I’m sure that the little bit of shadowing I have experienced in the US is only a drop in the pool of what the career actually entails. But I’m excited to experience more..especially in a foreign medical school where I can interact with the native people and help those who have so little. In the end, isn’t that what medicine is supposed to be? Helping those in need? And where better to start than a third-world country.

          I’ll work on keeping my positive attitude so in 10 years I’ll be able to let you know that it was all worth it.

          • mata_o_diabo

            you may turn out to do just fine. i would describe myself as successful but not happy- at least i was- now that i am down to 85% non clinical, things are looking pretty good.

            anyway, i mean no hostility. good luck.

  • megan

    there are a select few out there who became doctors for ALL the right reasons (not just a few), and who don’t grow bitter and jaded by the time they’re 40. a VERY select few. and some of them are even well-respected surgeons, and not, like, in pmnr or primary care part-time at some clinic because they want a ‘family life.’ (note: exclude those who are in pmnr/primary care part-time at some clinic for real reasons).

    if you are one of those select few then ignore these other comments. congrats for not giving up. i went to sgu. i am maybe slightly worried about what the changing face of healthcare is going to do to my job in 20 years, but only slightly because the things that made me become a doctor are not the things that made most become doctors. read: the ones that are bitter and jaded and telling a 22 year old not to do something he wants to do. (sorry if you are older than 22, i am just generalizing.)

    so people warned you. they did their job as older, wiser mentors.

    you should probably get new mentors.

    • Marc Katz

      Wow megan, you could not be more spot on. Of course the people who discouraged me from medicine were not people who I would seek advise from on a regular basis. They were the doctors, family members, etc. who were..as you said..jaded by their careers and were trying to look out for me.

      A great doctor I shadowed went to Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara. He was one of the people who, although slightly jaded, non-threateningly informed me of the current challenges associated with being a doctor today- long hours, ungrateful patients, dealing with insurance companies, unfair pay, etc. He gave me the perspective I needed without discouraging me. He stayed positive.

      Even now as I begin medical school, there are second, third, and fourth semester students who are all saying the same thing. They warn me about my future challenges. However, some attitudes of older students invoke fear and dread while others instill the humble dedication required to succeed in my challenging new endeavor.

      Ignorance may be bliss and misery may love company, but doctors and other individuals entering the healthcare field need to learn to learn to balance their reality-checks with a dose of positivity.

  • James deMaine

    Good for you. I was given poor advice by my college’s counselor and I’m glad I ignored him and applied (and got in) to the medical school I always wanted to attend. Medicine is such a vast field. You don’t necessarily have to go into primary care with the high burnout rate – though that’s where the biggest need will continue to be. Maybe in your lifetime you’ll see a revolution in our dysfunctional system, particularly if you’re willing to help with the challenge. Let’s hope!

  • http://www.facebook.com/tisha.askari Tisha Askari

    I love you can’t even handle the criticism of a post on an open forum and have to delete it. How are you going to handle real life or the death that come with becoming a doctor, let alone the daily BS that is Ross? Grow up fast, because you have a ton to learn.

    • Marc Katz

      Sorry Tisha, but I truly didn’t delete anything. Might have been a moderator??

      I see you went to Ross University. What type of daily BS do you mean (maybe I could try and avoid it)?

  • http://www.facebook.com/dumbassmedstudent Mike Cutting

    Not everyone is cut out for this, desire may not be enough. It sounds like people are trying to prepare you for how hard it really is instead of holding you back. To not listen to them would be folly. To listen to them, accept it and realize how it can influence you is wise.

    • Marc Katz

      Well said sir

  • LBENT

    Go for it kid. I have loved being a surgeon for kids for 30 years, even with the malpractice crap, physician targeting, unreasonable patient demands and expectations and insurance companies who are in the business if insuring patients don’t get care.
    But it takes just one life saved, one grateful family, one former patient who now brings her/his kids to you because they remembered 20 years ago how you made them feel better, to let that other stuff not get in the way.

    • Marc Katz

      thank you for the sentiment

  • JD

    I’m also an fledgling medical student and it has been helpful to make sense of the current state of medicine and “its ever darkening future” by looking at the profession from a historical perspective. Read H Cushings The Medical Career, W. Osler’s A Way of Life and Aequaniminitas. Many of the same tales and complaints physicians had in the past are the same tales and complaints physicians flaunt today in a new dress. They’re isomorphic. We could just sit back and complain. We could just allow ourselves to be overcome by a system. Or we can pick ourselves up and those around us to ripen our time to shape our ever morphing profession. If you’re a jaded physician, physician un-jade thyself. Yes, I may be a fledgling medical student, but I recognize that the giants on whose shoulders I stand on didn’t just complain they reflected on the fact that they were nothing more than a transient air in the history of medicine, in the history of healing and caring for others, and tried to reshape it through their words and actions. So lets choose our words more carefully and model productive behavior for the physicians of tomorrow because if we don’t, we’ve failed before we started. And Marc, Congratulations on Medical School, you’re on your way to do some amazing things.

    • Marc Katz

      Thanks for the warm wishes JD. I look forward to the challenges ahead of me. Good luck in completing your schooling as well

  • carolynthomas

    Good luck on your medical training adventure, Marc. I’d rather have a doctor who was keen enough to apply to 28 medical schools in order to achieve his/her goals than a brainiac who sailed easily through ivy league med school applications. I am curious (if you don’t mind such a personal question), about what employment/specialty training prospects are like for foreign-trained doctors in the U.S once you are finished school in Dominica? How much weight do you think employers or future training programs place on where you graduated med school?

    • Marc Katz

      Though I’m not certain, I’m almost positive foreign medical students have the same chances of getting medical residencies in the states. I’ve heard from a doctor who went to Mexico for medical school that there is a certain bias against foreign medical students in the medical community, but I’ve also heard several cousins of mine in who are completing their rotations with Ross students as well as doctors who have seen Ross students who both agree that they know their stuff. I thiiiink it really comes down to your step scores. (Someone might be able to correct me if I’m missing something!)

  • Anon23

    Good luck matching. You’ll need it. Getting a degree from a foreign diploma mill won’t mean much without the residency.

  • Robert Bowman

    If you want to become a physician in the full sense of the word, clinical training from the very start of training is essential – not just basic sciences. Week 1 and throughout training, osteopathic training is a shaping clinical force. In our school at SOMA in Arizona, clinical skills is also taught weekly and the skills courses, small groups, and anatomy are taught by clinicians and complement the didactic materials also taught by clinicians and basic scientists focused on clinical training. A solid clinician foundation does challenge first and second years packed with material, but patients deserve nothing less. After a biomedical dominant first two years….

  • Barbie

    Wow!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/spanishmedman Spanish MedMan

    Marc, I applaud your persistence! Those the medical profession for the wrong reason are likely to discourage med students who enter it sincerely. You can find haters in every field who despise their career and do their best to steer the rest of the world a different direction. Disregard them! You’ll make a fine doctor. As for the training at Ross, I am of the opinion that a doctor forged in a third-world country has a cultural advantage over their US trained counterparts. Congrats on your acceptance!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lostandfound123 Alfonso Gomez

    Im in a similar situation now, My GPA is not adequate for medical school admittance, ive spoken to several doctors and professors and my pre-med adviser about getting a masters in cell physiology or biochemistry( im a bio major senior year graduate this dec) but i’ve had mix answers. Most say just to do very well on the MCAT or to apply at a medical school that has a masters program, a university that has a masters program, the student will be working in a research lab and or TA’ing at the same time and will be receiving a pay check as well as some accommodation at the school room,tuition ect, medical school will not do this ( well the ones i have looked at anyway).does any one have some advise on what path i should take? i really want to be doctor and i wont stop even if im 40 :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.d.l.100 Michael D Suh

    Marc, I guess I took a different path from you and only time will tell if I regret my decision because I have delayed my dream by at least 3-4 years.
    I was offered a spot at Ross in its first year of opening, but I was way too scared to make the leap, since I was not sure if I was even going to make it back to the states or canada. If tuition wasnt so bad, I may have taken a shot, but with a 200-250k investment, I needed a 100% guarantee, which I didnt envision. So I rejected the offer and I am currently in Pharmacy school. My intention was that I get a sense of how medications really worked and to develop upon the health care practitioner – patient relationship.
    3 years in pharmacy school, now 25 years old and I have just taken my 2nd MCAT. With some clinical experience that I had in pharmacy, I felt that it was time for me to apply. I guess the benefit was that in pharmacy school (more like application based and real life learning) vs. my undergrad degree in physiology is the vast patient encounters that I have had within community and hospital pharmacies. I worked full-time as an intern (no pay) at pharmacies and surprisingly, the fact that you are helping another person feel better is worthwhile, and I enjoyed my job even when there was no pay.
    I am applying to a Canadian med school now that my grades have substantially gotten better. I guess there are pros and cons to my decision, with the biggest con being time, but like you said, if the passion is there, it doesn’t matter how old you are :)
    Best of luck in Ross and thanks for sharing your story!

    • blopenhorn6

      ross opened in 1978….

  • RocDoc

    Marc – I am an attending at a teaching hospital that tends to receive many residents from the Caribbean institutions. Their education seems to be truly what “they made of it” – the same institution can produce incredible self-motivated life-long learners and lackadaisical coasters that frighten with their nonchalance. I am sure that is the case for US-based schools, as well. For the motivated ones, there is so much room within medicine – doors are open and the need for thoughtful physicians is great. Your performance in residency will count a great deal. Good luck. Think carefully about your residency program when you are ready to apply. It’s still an amazing profession, no matter what the burn-out claim.