Laura Florez, MD
Medical School: MD, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University, 2017
Undergrad: BS, Florida International University, 2010
- Moved from Colombia to United States at age 10.
- Spent time at geriatric center as part of high school curriculum where she developed a love of science.
- Extended geriatric elective for a consecutive year to further clinical experience and decides to pursue career in medicine.
- Founded FIU’s UNICEF Campus Initiative chapter. Elected to be President of Council of Student Organizations in Student Government Association (SGA).
- Selected as an at Florida International University to do scientific research and continued to participate in extensive research focused on cystic fibrosis even after graduating from college.
- Graduated cum laude from FIU with a BS degree in Biological Sciences
- Held leadership positions while in medical school and was inducted into
- Matched to Obstetrics and Gynecology at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida in March 2017. .
Academically, she improved from freshman to senior year. She took classes over the summer to help strengthen her academics, which also gave her an opportunity to balance her course load and schedule harder classes during the longer spring terms. “I tried to take my science classes in the spring,” she explained. “Sometimes students struggle when things get so condensed, so I tried to avoid it if I could.”
Her biggest worry was the MCAT exam, which she took twice, and this was also an area of Laura’s application where the medical school had some concerns.
“Her application was pretty unbalanced when it came to MCAT,” shared Andria Williams, the Director of Admissions and Recruitment at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.
Laura took the (pre-2015) MCAT exam twice. Although her total score improved by 5 points, the weakest section for her was Verbal Reasoning.
Her scores demonstrated that she had competence in science, however, the low Verbal Reasoning scores were a concern. Laura was repeatedly told by peers that with her scores, her application might not even be read.
However, her, John Landrum, PhD, counseled her to not "…run away just because of a score—you need to make sure you've giving it your all so that later on you don't regret not applying."
In college, Laura made time to volunteer with UNICEF and to educate the local community about this organization and its goals worldwide.
During the summer between sophomore and junior year, she was selected to participate in the, where she conducted research on a chemotherapy drug delivery model. Upon returning to her undergraduate institution, she applied and was selected to participate in the as she began to consider an MD/PhD route. Through her time in the lab researching a bacteria that kills cystic fibrosis patients, Laura further appreciated how research is conducted, “how you go from ideas and basic science questions, to hypotheses and then, how to follow it to a conclusion...and how to avoid bad outcomes in a patient one day.”
Her research and her community service work both centered around the same main themes: children and education. Laura didn’t purposely set out to focus in these areas. In fact, she didn't really notice it until putting together her medical school application although it helped her to see that “if you do things innately, not just to check off boxes, it all comes together and presents a picture of who you are.” Ms. Williams agrees, saying that Laura’s experiences were what advanced her application to the next stage. “On the secondary application and during the interview process, the main highlight was Laura’s experiences and how they reflected who she was and the type of physician she wanted to be.” These experiences, Ms. Williams explained, “were pivotal to presenting a well-rounded picture of Laura, her passion and motivation for medicine, and that she understood how she could positively impact those around her."
Although Laura had her Research PI (principal investigator) and pre-health advisor review her personal statement for grammar and clarity, her main goal was to have her own voice come through. “I chose to include a very personal story of how I even got to this country. It was important for me to show that, because it made me who I am. Part of me was scared it’d be too personal to be sharing or that people would pity me,” she says, “but at the end of the day, I got over it. That is who I am… and my journey and I’m proud of it.”
Using her personal statement, Laura was able to convey her strengths and competencies, “these are the components of your application people use to put together who you are as a person. I may not have had numbers that were excellent.”
Letters of Evaluation
Laura included two science letters (one from her research PI), two non-science faculty letters, and two letters from physicians she shadowed. Some letter writers asked her about her MCAT scores or why she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, while others asked to read her personal statement.
offer many services to applicants. "The support system was there because I asked for it," said Laura. The interview with the pre-health committee was probably the toughest one Laura had. It was lengthy and the only one that was a panel interview. But she felt more prepared when she actually interviewed with the medical school. “It helped me feel less intimidated, like I deserved to be there and reassured that I was worth it. Once I felt that, I was ready to go.”
Laura met with her pre-health advisor to help her reflect on and prepare for key questions, particularly focusing on weaker parts of her application she knew she'd have to address. “My first practice run came when I had a mock interview with the pre-health advising office. My advisors had experience working with thousands of pre-meds. They really helped me to think about how to talk about myself, and how to anticipate, prepare for and answer interview questions.”
For example, she was asked about her research at each medical school interview. She felt that the interviewers tried to probe about whether her research was just something done to check off a box. “I had to talk about it a lot during my interviews--problem solving, troubleshooting, inquiry, balancing multiple priorities both in and outside of my research. Being able to organize/prioritize is critical and I had to show that in interviews.”
Ms. Williams observed, “What also came through during these interviews was her ability to improve herself. The competencies came through.” Ms. Williams said that she specifically looks for “how you explain your leadership, your research, how these elements helped you to become a better person. We look to see how they're skills that you'll take with you. Do you see how these experiences you've gone through will translate into you being a doctor, a better doctor? If you can't, you're not really doing anything other than checking off a box. As an undergrad, it’s going to be important to be able to reflect on what you're doing and how it will translate into you being a better doctor. It's important for you to be able to connect the dots for yourself and for others.”
Why Laura Chose FIU
“All of these competencies travel with you forever, not just as a student but also in the professional world. You can't teach these skills, you don’t just get them in the classroom. They're things you have to experience through volunteering, through leadership, through community service. You have to be a part of it. All of the other things will come along.”
Why FIU Chose Laura
“When I think about it, everything Laura took part in or was involved in fit together as a well- designed puzzle, even though she didn't plan it that way. Everything merged so nicely together based on her core mission of being there for the community. All components of her application connected to that core value--being a member of that community, whether through research, community service, etc. It wasn't just filling boxes for a medical school application. In all the interviews she went to, that was what everyone mentioned and spoke to her about --that it all came together so nicely. Her experiences and her personal journey before getting into medicine showed how resilient she'd been throughout her whole life.”
Note: This section helps to illustrate how multiple competencies can be demonstrated across many experiences, activities, and parts of your application.