Ryan Gamlin

After having a career on the business side of medicine, Ryan decided he wanted to become a doctor to make a real impact on people and communities.

Ryan Gamlin

Miami University (OH), 2002
Major: Economics
Medical school: University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 2018

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A spy. (Yes, seriously...)

What led to your interest in medicine?

After graduating from college in 2002 I had a career on the business side of medicine. From strategic planning for managed care companies, a brief stint in pharma, working as a consultant to physician groups, doing business development work for medical startups, to owning an outpatient medical facility with a group of doctors, I’d seen and worked in nearly every facet of our healthcare economy — except what it was like to actually do the work of doctoring.

Over time I realized that I envied much of what I saw the doctors whom I worked with doing: growing intellectually every day, engaging in work that makes a real impact in the lives of individuals and in communities, and being the leader of a team working towards a humane and noble goal (and truth be told, I also relished the sheer magnitude of the challenge!).

Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?

I worked directly with a number of doctors in my prior career and I’d estimate that more than 80% of them, when asked, counseled me against pursuing a career in medicine.

While some of this negativity no doubt had to do with my very non-traditional background (with a family and an established career), it wasn’t entirely surprising given that in a 2012 national survey of 24,000 physicians across all specialties only about half said that they would choose medicine as a career again!

Ultimately I chose to pursue my personal convictions, but as I begin medical school one of my professional goals is to understand the drivers of physician job satisfaction and to work to create a fundamentally happier, healthier, and more durable physician workforce.

How did you prepare for the medical school application process?

My preparation started about 10 years “late,” in my early 30s. I was thinking that I wanted to become a doctor, but as is the case with many non-traditional students I had a lot on the line, including family and a career. This led me to take an incremental approach.

I first trained as an EMT to see if I enjoyed the nuts and bolts of patient care, found out that I did, then began researching the traditional academic prerequisites for admission. I took my first "pre-med” course at 31, getting back in to the classroom for the first time in nearly 10 years and taking my first hard science... ever! While I did a formal university-affiliated post-bacc, I believe that it wasn’t strictly necessary, though I did find the structure helpful.

I come from the world of data and analysis, so when it came time to apply I approached the process in the same way: with lots of organization. I used many of the quantitative resources available to applicants like the MSAR and USNWR Medical School Compass, along with schools’ websites, to research requirements and elements of fit, both personal and academic.

Once that was done, I started on the soft elements of my application package: the personal statement and secondary essays. If I had one piece of advice for applicants it would be to start your essays early and edit/revise them mercilessly and repeatedly. There are few things worse than going on a school’s application portal and seeing a typo in your essay for a school you’re really excited about!

Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?

If someone tells you they weren’t worried about taking the MCAT they are either lying, crazy, or unprepared… or perhaps all three! It’s a big test, and it’s difficult to see so much of your hard work come down to one day and one number.

In the end, though, the MCAT is just the first in a series of high-stakes exams in one’s medical career. While many people debate the merits of different companies’ materials, there are many high quality resources that will prepare you adequately for the content found on the test— the real key is simply to put in the time and hard work that studying for the exam requires.

What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine?

Apply broadly (and this goes doubly for applicants from my home state of California). While some superstar applicants may be able to complete a handful of applications and be successful in gaining admission, most applicants are better served by casting a wide net in the application process, even with the increased cost, stress, and work that comes from additional applications (and hopefully the interviews that come from them!). Remember that having to reapply will cost you more than any amount of additional schools you add to your application the first time around.

In my opinion, deciding where to apply should ultimately come down to two questions: (1) If this school were my only acceptance, would I attend? and (2) Does this school accept students from my state?

If both answers are yes, I suggest that people apply, even though it may mean a very long list of schools, secondary applications, and fees. You never know which school is going to see something special in you, nor which school is going to make you feel that “click” while you’re there for an interview. I had many surprises during my interview season. If I was asked a year ago, I would have never guessed that I’d be at the school I’m attending, but it ended up being my first choice!

If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?

Do things because you genuinely want to and great things will happen.

So many applicants view the process of building their application as a means to an end, placing each extra-curricular activity, letter of recommendation, or experience in a rubric, trying to check off all of the expectations of the medical  school hopeful (both written and unwritten!). Yet almost inevitably the people I know who have had the greatest success — and the most fun along the way — are those that pursued their passions, then found ways to leverage the lessons learned in their path to medicine.

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