Life as a pre-med student is said to be challenging, stressful, and sometimes uncertain, and pre-med undergrads never know exactly what to expect in the future from medical school.
Meg Mathis, a 2013 Ole Miss honor graduate, is a first-year student at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss. She offers a rare glimpse into her life as a med student and gives valuable advice for prospective, current, and graduating pre-med students.
Hard work really is the best way to prepare for medical school. The School of Medicine looks at volunteerism, leadership skills, participation in campus activities and work experience in addition to your classes and GPA. Meg recommends keeping an updated record of all these activities so they will be handy when you’re applying for medical school.
A good way to prepare for the first year of medical school is to take harder science classes (biochemistry, histology, etc.), but be wary of their impact.
“Try to take these classes, but consider that because they are more difficult, they may negatively GPA,” Meg says.
Applying for Medical School
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) provides a central medical school application processing service known as the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). The AMCAS application opens the previous summer before you plan to enter medical school (for example, students entering medical school in 2015 may complete the application this summer).
Regardless of how many medical schools you plan to apply to, only one AMCAS application needs to be filled out.
Meg sent her AMCAS application only to UMMC for several reasons.
“I chose to send mine to UMMC because that’s the only place I ever wanted to go. Their tuition is comparably low, they have a great educational program for medicine, and it was close by.”
Meg is a scholar in the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. The program provides considerable state-funded scholarship money to qualifying medical school students in exchange for the promise that these scholars will practice medicine for a certain number of years in rural Mississippi.
Executive director Wahnee Sherman strongly believes in the potential and purpose of the program.
“The MS Rural Physicians Scholarship Program is working hard to increase the number of primary care physicians in rural areas of Mississippi where they are needed the most,” Sherman said. “We are recruiting students from rural areas who want to return to their hometowns to give back to those communities and help make them stronger and healthier.”
Meg herself recommends the program for the financial stability it offers her. Getting through medical school without a lot of debt also allows her to specialize in primary care that is needed so badly in the under-served regions of Mississippi.
Life in Medical School
As a first-year student, Meg is classified as an M1, the equivalent of a freshman. She’ll take regular science classes her first two years, then go through hospital rotations and various specialties her last two years.
To get an idea of the workload of an M1, Meg has taken the following classes in her first year alone: gross anatomy, biochemistry, developmental anatomy, histology, physiology, psychiatry, epidemiology, population health, and neurobiology.
Meg has come to appreciate the great flexibility in her classes. Some are mandatory while others are not. Students may go to class, watch video podcasts of class at home, or even just study the textbook depending on the class structure. Classes start and end randomly through the semester, which offers Meg some much-needed time to relax.
Most classes end with a national board, which is a national subject exam that all medical school students take. Their scores on these exams are often factored into final grades for those classes.
For Meg, the adjustment period in the first semester was “unquestionably stressful and awful.” However, her second semester has given her free time that she never expected, enough to play sports and even foster a dog.
Above all else, Meg has been impressed by how much the faculty truly cares for their students and takes time to provide them with the resources they need to succeed.
“Contrary to popular pre-med belief, no one is trying to flunk us out of medical school,” she says. “Quite the opposite – every M1 or M2 that leaves the medical school is one less irreplaceable physician that Mississippi could eventually have and that it critically needs.”
Ultimately, Meg feels that choosing to attend medical school has been a worthwhile experience for her.
“I’ve heard many of my classmates say it and I feel the same way: we chose medicine because we want to help people and because there is nothing else out there for us except for medicine,” says Meg.
And what makes it worth it?
“The road to becoming a great physician is long and arduous, but the thought of seeing patients, treating their illnesses and working with them to help prevent new ones, is so beautiful to me.”
-Cherry Mathis is writer for HottyToddy.com and the proud sister of one great doctor-to-be. She can be contacted for further information at email@example.com.
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