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Refusing to Give Up: Courtney's Path

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"I was nervous that admissions officers would tell me I'd never be a doctor, but that's not what happened at all. I was really happy I pursued the path I did."

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Courtney Morgan

Medical School: Louisiana State University School of Medicine of Medicine in Shreveport, 2018
Graduate: Masters of Medical Science at Mississippi College, 2014
Undergrad: B.S. in biology, University of Louisiana at Monroe, 2012
Excelsior College, ASN-RN, 2010
Northeast Louisiana Technical College, LPN, 2003

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Background

  • Grew up in a rural, southern environment
  • Mother of four children
  • Worked as a nurse for years before applying to medical school
  • Started a health care business as an entrepreneur with her husband prior to medical school
  • Helped by a family medical crisis to realize she wanted to attend medical school

Academics

Coursework was a challenge initially for Courtney because of so many other demands on her time. “My overall undergrad GPA was 3.3, but I worked hard to achieve a 4.0 when I returned for my final year. I had multiple withdraws on my transcript due to having to hold a full-time job, be a mother, and a student. When I decided to go to medical school I knew that this would not be looked at highly, but I did not let that stop me from trying.” Courtney knew she needed to compensate for her lower undergrad GPA so she did a Master's program that helped show improvement.

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Courtney with classmates at her White Coat ceremony

Courtney’s MCAT results also worried her, though she was able to raise her score 3 points between her first and second attempts. She believes LSU saw more in her application than coursework/grades. “My average score was lower than other applicants at the school, but my experience in health care, my maturity, and my desire to become a doctor helped balance my academic record.”

Dean of Admissions at LSU Shreveport, Scott Kennedy, MD, said that there were concerns when Courtney first applied. “We reviewed her transcripts from nursing school, and noted some inconsistencies. We recommended that she pursue Masters of Medical Science at Mississippi College. We felt like if she could make A’s at a recognized, difficult program, it would demonstrate she could do the work.”

Experiences

Courtney may not have been a “traditional” medical student as many people think of them, however, her experiences gave her a broader scope of healthcare. Courtney shared, “I see things from multiple perspectives. I was the first to graduate college in my family. Had my daughter right out of high school. I worked my way up from LPN to RN to eventually obtaining my BS then my MS prior to entering medical school. Along my journey to medical school I had 3 more children, a divorce, and then a spouse who was diagnosed with cancer.” She goes on to say, “Now that I am in medical school I am able to see first-hand how our experiences in life shape what type of doctor we become. They allow us to reach our patients right where they are in life. You are able to empathize. You are able to understand struggle when you have experienced it.  On multiple occasions I have had the opportunity to reach out and comfort a patient because of already overcoming a situation they were going through at that time.”

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Medical mission trip in Madagascar after Courtney's first year of medical school

Personal Statement

When it came to her personal statement, Courtney looked to her previous health care experience. “I highlighted an experience from when I was a nurse, and added things I thought I could bring to the school and as a future physician.

As Dr. Kennedy explains when it comes to the personal statement, “Overall, I'm interested in two things: the evolution, and the maturation of you wanting to be a doctor. At some point, you made an adult decision to become a doctor. I'm interested in what the circumstances, events, was or were at that time. And I'm interested in what you did differently as a result of that decision. How did it evolve? How did you act on it?” Dr. Kennedy goes on to say, “Also, we need to know it’s you who wrote the statement. It will be clear if the statement truly doesn’t reflect the applicant’s voice and experience, and will fall apart in the interview.”

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Courtney and her friend Blair shaved their heads to raise money for pediatric cancer research during their second year of medical school

Letters of Evaluation

Courtney’s school provided a committee letter. “They interviewed me, and I had a professor who was able to speak to my success in that class, write a separate letter.”

LSU Shreveport’s admission committee was able to use the letters for important academic information. “We knew she went to her classes, goes to lab – spends life there. Her instructors saw that she's on her game all the time and determined to make straight As. She’s demonstrated that she can double down in the face of adversity.” Dr. Kennedy went on to say, “Her letters gave us the important background, we've got history; she’s not a typical person from the big State U.”

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Courtney and her friend Hanna during their 3rd year surgery clerkship

Interview

Courtney viewed the interview as a time to be herself. "I was able to show maturity in how I answered the questions. There were times I wanted to rephrase an answer because I could tell that the way I was answering the question may not have come out quite the right way.” It was also important to her to showcase her communication skills. “Being able to communicate effectively is a big component of being a doctor.”

Why Courtney Chose LSU Shreveport

When she interviewed, Courtney was taken with how happy all of the medical students seemed. “I loved how Shreveport was a smaller community but still offered things to do in your free time. At LSU it feels like a family, everyone knows everybody.” Ultimately she felt overall it was the best place for her and her family.

Why LSU Shreveport Chose Courtney

Dr. Kennedy shared that the process at LSU Shreveport relies “heavily on nonacademic variables in students that don’t have big numbers— especially important in evaluating non-traditional students.”

Anatomy of an Applicant, Courtney M, Core Competencies
Courtney and her husband on a trip to Paris

Dr. Kennedy went on to say, “In Courtney’s case, we saw five lines of mediocre undergraduate grades and one line of in progress graduate work. That can be visually daunting for an admissions committee. We've been doing holistic review for 20 years at LSU Shreveport. Courtney was right in the main stream of our applicants. We look for many components of the application and for various competencies.”

Dr. Kennedy further explained that Courtney jumped out “because if I could have one thing and nothing else in a student, it is a student who really wants it. And her drive, determination, and maturity, dedication, sacrifice and long-range planning demonstrated that.”

 

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Competencies Demonstrated

Note: This section helps to illustrate how multiple competencies can be demonstrated across many experiences, activities, and parts of your application.

Resilience and Adaptability Resilience and Adaptability Resilience and Adaptability

Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.

Distance traveled: first in family to graduate from college; had her first child right out of high school; family medical crisis, non-traditional path to medical school

Capacity for Improvement Capacity for Improvement Capacity for Improvement

Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

Strong performance in a post-bacc program after uneven performance in undergraduate; improved MCAT score on retake; extensive experience at all levels of nursing

Critical Thinking Critical Thinking Critical Thinking

Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Started and ran a successful healthcare business for several years; nursing experience

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Strongest Competencies

The student self-identified the following competencies as the strongest:

  • Capacity for Improvement
  • Critical Thinking
  • Resilience and Adaptability
Courtney's Tips
  • "Go talk to a medical school and come up with a plan. Every applicant is different and every person is different so go talk to the people who matter."
  • "Never give up! There will be set backs in life but look at them as periods of growth that will only make you stronger!"
  • "Follow your heart, it will never steer you the wrong way. Many people will have many opinions about your life; the only one that matters is yours!"
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