In my time at Rollins, I have met a lot of cool people. It’s a place filled with like-minded individuals, who will happily debate what the coolest infectious disease is, over tacos and margaritas. It’s also a place where everyone is devoted to some aspect of improving human health, so naturally, there are also those who want to become clinicians. If you are one of those people, it may be really overwhelming for you to figure out how to juggle doing grad school and preparing yourself to be a good applicant. Whether you have already taken the MCAT or are mentally preparing yourself for that long and all-encompassing test, being pre-med can be a stressful ordeal. Here are some things I have learned in my time at Rollins, not only in my own experience as a pre-med, but also from those around me.
8-hour test aside, as you start your MPH, you have about a year before you start applying (given that the application cycle starts in June). This year is pretty important, because medical schools like to see that you have made good use of your time. And even though getting a graduate degree is certainly building up your resume, it would definitely benefit you to ensure that the things you are doing while in the program are somewhat relevant to your desire to become a physician. While you don’t necessarily have to be doing hands-on work in a free clinic, it’s important for you to be able to tie your activities back to medicine somehow. That doesn’t mean you can’t do things for fun, because doing extracurriculars that don’t necessarily fit in the “pre-med” category actually makes you beneficially stand out in a crowd of applicants.
Luckily, finding clinical/medicine-relevant activities at Rollins is not a difficult task in the slightest. Given Emory’s connections with Emory Healthcare, Grady Hospital, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, there are numerous opportunities to be involved directly in medicine, whether it’s through volunteering, or through research. You can also get to know Rollins’ faculty members. Many of them have either practiced medicine in the past or are currently staffed physicians within Emory’s healthcare network. Rollins’ professors are incredibly valuable resources, and the best part is—they are very willing to help students out! Don’t be afraid to approach them for career advice. The CDC is also a great place to find some great work experience, and just like at Rollins, many of the CDC employees are physicians. In general, people at the CDC have unique and neat experiences, and it’s always a treat to learn from them and hear about their roles in public health.
Throughout your Rollins career, it’s pretty helpful to just make notes of the different experiences you get to be a part of. When you apply to medical school and write those personal statements, it’s helpful to have these things to refer back to, so you can weave together an all-encompassing story that includes your undergraduate and graduate degree chapters, and everything in between.
Being pre-med is not easy and doing it while you are in a graduate program certainly adds a level of difficulty… but Rollins is an excellent program, with phenomenal advisors, and a world of opportunities. Just remember to make use of the resources around you, and to take the time to take it all in. It’s also okay if you decide to take some gap years before going into medical school. It gives you the chance to apply your public health knowledge, and you never know—you might find yourself happy in a role you never imagined before! To sum it all up, don’t stress out too much. If this is the route you really want, you are in a great place to get there, and you will be well on your way to adding “MD, MPH” behind your last name!