Balancing Act: Lihlenz Saint-Louis’ Medical Odyssey of Dedication, Determination, and Healing

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“Scores and grades can only get you so far without a story to sell yourself and the experiences to back it up. Everyone from here on out is very intelligent, but that increase in raw intelligence has diminishing returns. At this point in your career, it matters more who you are as a person and the soft qualities you bring to the table that will help you become a better physician and colleague.” 

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Lihlenz Saint-Louis Headshot
A headshot of Lihlenz Saint-Louis in his white coat.

Med School: University of Central Florida College of Medicine
Expected Graduation Year: 2027
College & Major: Eastern Florida State College (Pre-Med, 2019) and University of Central Florida (Biomedical Sciences, 2021)

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  • Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, but having spent his upbringing between Haiti and Florida, Lihlenz observed the challenges his family faced in caring for his Haitian grandparents’ illness. 
  • Lihlenz worked part-time throughout his high school and undergraduate years to help support his family. 
  • In 2022, while pursuing his undergraduate degree, Lihlenz dedicated a year to volunteering at the Veterans Affairs Clinic in the Physical Therapy, Audiology, and Warehouse departments. Following this experience, he shadowed a primary care physician at the same clinic. 
  • While an undergraduate, Lihlenz was a teaching assistant in Medical Biology and then Microbial Metabolism at the University of Central Florida. 


Lihlenz was raised by grandparents in Haiti while his parents pursued degrees in the United States. They were his original inspiration to pursue medicine. At the age of seven, he moved to the United States to join his parents.

During his sophomore year of high school, his grandfather was diagnosed with late-stage leukemia and moved from Haiti to the United States to live with his family. Unfortunately, his grandfather passed away soon after the move. Then, his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease worsened, leading to her passing away as well. “It was hard watching loved ones suffer without having the ability to directly help their condition,” he shared. “That experience from high school and well into college is what solidified my desire for medicine. I may not be able to cure everything, but I at least wanted to be able to help where I could,” Lihlenz said. “My journey to medical school felt like a long one as I am sure many people in my shoes might feel. Once I made the decision to pursue medicine, things took a hard turn. I formed a study group in college after graduating in 2017 with some of my closest friends. We would gather on the weekends at my house to study in the mornings and then spend the afternoons learning to cook. It was my escape; a way out of my seclusion.”

While completing an associate’s degree at Eastern Florida State College, he began working as a biology peer tutor and developed a study group to prepare for the medical school application process. From May 2020 to August 2023, during the Covid-19 pandemic and his senior year, he persevered with his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Central Florida. Throughout this period, he concurrently served as a teaching assistant for medical biochemistry.

According to Lihlenz’s mentor, Dr. Kersten Schroeder, assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Central Florida, Lihlenz was a standout student who asked questions during class and went to office hours weekly to discuss course material. “We talked about the need for shadowing doctors and having a job in the medical field. In December 2020, he stayed in touch, and I asked him to be a teaching assistant for Medical Biochemistry in the spring. He was so good that I asked him to be a teaching assistant for a class that he had never taken, but knew all the material in the fall of 2021,” said Dr. Schroeder.

Dr. Shroeder also shared that Lihlenz developed teaching materials to help students learn concepts in Biochemistry and Microbiology. He explained, “[A memory] that sticks out [to me] is the development of several playing card games for Biochemistry and Microbiology. His understanding of the basic sciences allowed us to develop three different card games that different types of students could use to learn the material. He easily explained the rules, but then we had to write down the rules to explain it to others. His written communication skills were just as effective as his oral communication skills, and we developed clear rules. We worked as a team to create the games and submit the idea to be patented/copyrighted.”

When the medical school application cycle arrived, Lihlenz submitted his application but was ultimately rejected during the 2022 cycle.  After reflecting on his application, he recognized that applying late in the cycle, coupled with a delayed MCAT date, had compromised his application. Given his two-hour commute to school and the need to work to help support his family, Lihlenz also faced challenges with pursuing volunteer and shadow opportunities.

He shared, “I took time to really think deeply about what it was I wanted and how to achieve it.” Lihlenz realized the importance of accumulating quality experiences that showed a prolonged and in-depth exposure to the medical field. “Medical schools want to make sure that this is a career path the applicant has chosen knowing what the day-to-day life of a physician, medical practitioner, is like.”

"There is no shame in failing. There is no shame in re-evaluation. Find the path for you that leads to the least regrets," said Lihlenz.

Despite the impact of pandemic restrictions, Lihlenz saw the opportunity to focus on gaining valuable volunteering experiences to better prepare himself and strengthen his candidacy for medical school. “I worked on a lot of my soft skills, especially those revolving around interpersonal relations. Being a good physician requires you to be able to speak to people and the ability to empathize and relate is crucial.”

When he was ready to apply again during the next application cycle, Lihlnez said “I wanted to be able to highlight my most meaningful and impactful experiences and show dedication to the field.” At the time of his second application, he had completed his second teaching assistant job, volunteered for a year at the Veterans Affairs Clinic with the physical therapy, audiology, and warehouse department facilities, and shadowed a primary care physician at the clinic.

How Lihlenz Addressed Deficits or Concerns in His Application

“The most heart-wrenching point in my career was failing my first application cycle,” Lihlenz reflected. "Crushed would be an understatement to describe how I felt at the time.” He struggled to find quality experiences during the pandemic, as the opportunities to volunteer and shadow a physician were much harder to come by and facilities were less open to accepting students so they could to prioritize the safety of their patients and employees. “I commended them in their pursuit to uphold the well-being of those under their care. There was no magic bullet to remedy the situation other than persistence and time. The Veterans Affairs Clinic near my home was kind enough to give me a chance, though I would have to wait until after the winter holidays until the subsequent year. I was then able to volunteer at their facility for over a year, which coincided with my second application,” Lihlenz said.

After volunteering at the clinic, Lihlenz went a step further and asked his supervisor at the clinic if he could shadow a primary care physician, Dr. Diaz-Alonso, whom he really admired. “He became a mentor to me, showing me aspects of medicine not often portrayed in the media. He showed the personability and joy that could be found in the routine and in the stressful.” While shadowing Dr. Diaz-Alonso, Lihlenz learned more about the specifics involved in caring for underprivileged patients. He further advises, “The best tip I have for aspiring students on the lookout for mentors and opportunities in general, is to put yourself out there. You have to become comfortable with awkward positions, to be okay with rejection, and be willing to ask others for help.”

When Lihlenz finished at the clinic, he spoke with his advisor, Dr. Schroeder, about once a month. “We would talk about his progress in preparing for medical school. He had the grades, the shadowing experience, the medically related job, but needed research,” he shared. “I wanted to ensure I had more research experience because many institutions are focusing more and more on integrating research projects into curriculums. Being able to show medical schools prior to admission that you have experience successfully tackling research is a huge bonus,” said Lihlenz.

Dr. Schroeder explains further, that “he was always willing [to explore] how he could improve. I believe if I had to pick one word to describe Lihlenz, it would be ‘resilience.’ He was able to take any situation and turn it into a positive learning experience for himself. Lihlenz understood the difference between being a student wanting to go to medical school and preparing for his future as a physician. I believe understanding that difference is what set him apart from the first day I met him.” Dr. Schroeder said.

University of Central Florida College of Medicine on Why They Chose Lihlenz

“Submitting his first application just before the deadline, Lihlenz may have missed the early bird”, said Ms. Laurel Poole, Director of MD Admissions. She suggested that applicants who wait till the last minute might not be seen as prioritizing their program. However, Ms. Poole said, “He acknowledged this when we spoke; it was a major downfall of his application. Academically he was a very strong applicant, with ties geographically to Orlando as well as to UCF through his undergraduate degree.”

The premed competencies that stood out in Lihlenz’s application were the science competencies and thinking and reasoning competencies. “He is an academically talented student which was reflected in his GPA, course loads as well as his MCAT score. He also wrote a compelling AMCAS Personal Statement as well as thought-out essays on his UCF secondary application.”

Ms. Poole was impressed by Lihlenz’s dedication to his pursuit of medicine, saying, “Lihlenz worked part-time through his high school years and undergraduate degree to help support his family. His two-hour commute to school as well as necessary employment impacted his ability to participate in extracurriculars that typically we see from more traditional applicants.” She explained the importance of the committee “to fully understand the day-to-day life of an applicant in order to better assess how much time was available for traditional activities, like volunteering, shadowing, etc.”

Additionally, each of Lihlenz’s letter writers effusively endorsed him as a medical school candidate as well as a future physician. “They spoke to his likeability, his strong work ethic, and strong communication skills with patients and students. Each concluded their letters stating what a standout he was among the many pre-meds they had encountered in their careers.”

Ms. Poole stated that the UCF College of Medicine strives to matriculate students who have demonstrated excellence not only in academics, but also in their extracurricular experiences. “In each of Lihlenz’s roles, be it paid work or volunteering, he demonstrated leadership. Most importantly, he acknowledged during his interviews that there are many times when collaboration with others is preferable over taking charge.” Going further, she explained, “we could see through his essays and interviews that Lihlenz was genuinely himself, with a legitimate interest in helping others and improving healthcare for all.” For Ms. Poole and the committee, in addition to the letters of recommendation, “his personality was also exposed through his secondary application essay responses and by the types of activities he chose to engage in and the places he volunteered.”


Lihlenz's Strongest Competencies

Learn more about the Premed Competencies for Entering Medical Students.

Professional Competencies

  • Empathy and Compassion
    • Finding ways to help others when possible.
  • Commitment to Learning and Growth
    • Forming study groups. Attending office hours regularly.
  • Reliability and Dependability
    • Balancing school and working to contribute support to his family. Being at TA while completing undergraduate degree.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
    • Working with a professor to create games used for teaching Biochemistry and Microbiology. 
  • Resilience and Adaptability
    • Overcoming setback with first application by seeking out additional volunteer, shadowing, and research experiences.

Science Competencies

  • Human Behavior
    • Being asked to TA for two classes due to his mastery of the material and concepts. Creating games to teach Biochemistry and Microbiology concepts.
  • Living Systems
    • Being asked to TA for two classes due to his mastery of the material and concepts. Creating games to teach Biochemistry and Microbiology concepts.

Thinking & Reasoning Competencies

  • Written Communication
    • Creating study guides and resources for fellow students. Strong personal statement and secondary application essays.

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