Undergraduate university and year of graduation: Northern Arizona University, 2016
Major: Biomedical Sciences
Medical school and expected year of graduation: University of Michigan Medical School, 2022
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I enjoyed sports of all kinds but loved motocross. My brother and I raced competitively throughout the Western United States for a number of years and I wanted to be a professional racer when I grew up.
What experiences did you have that confirmed medicine was the right career for you?
Throughout high school, I thought I would become an athletic trainer. At the start of undergrad, I was all set to pursue this but received news that the program was converting to a graduate-level degree. Left to find something new to pursue, I was fortunate enough to meet some physicians and surgeons through the athletics department. They invited me to spend some time with them in their clinics. They showed me the impact of their occupation through their interactions with patients and the ways they influenced the rural hospital system. From there, it was clear to me that becoming a physician would allow me to have the ability to do the most for the greatest number of people.
Who or what inspired you?
As a first-generation college graduate, I am constantly inspired by my parents because of the work ethic they show every day and instilled in me. Further, the sacrifices they made to give me the opportunity to pursue an education cannot be understated. Moreover, I am inspired by my home state of Montana. I love my home more than I can ever express and I hope to have the opportunity to return once my training is complete.
What made you decide to apply to medical school?
Originally, I did not want to go to graduate school of any kind. I wanted to do my four-year degree in athletic training and return home to Montana as quickly as possible. The turning point for me was realizing how restricted I would be in my scope of care in this setting and found that becoming a physician would allow me to do the most for the greatest number of Montanans.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
In terms of the application itself, I decided to seek advice from a staff member. So, I sent cold emails to several contacts I found online, and my junior year I got a response from an employee in the diversity and inclusion program at one of the medical schools in Arizona. I spent the next year working with her to better prepare myself for the application process. On a few occasions, I drove 5 hours one-way to meet with her in Tucson, and our relationship grew from there.
She was so kind to me and helped me understand the unwritten rules of the application process. For example, I had no idea how to write a personal statement or how to articulately write about my life experiences. Further, she helped me draft, edit and perfect my essays to best reflect my values, which was very special. I owe a ton of gratitude to her and all of her hard work! In terms of the finances behind the application, I had to work extra hours at all 3 of my jobs in order to save the money for the application process.
Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?
The MCAT was honestly one of the worst parts of the process for me. Being a student-athlete made it extremely difficult to find time and energy to study for my regular undergraduate coursework, let alone studying for the MCAT on top of that. Thankfully, I was able to take summer courses at my local community college while going through the summer strength and conditioning protocols. Further, I invested in a commercial prep course because I knew I needed the coaching and accountability. It was the best thing I could have done for myself given everything else I had going on at that time.
What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?
Don’t be afraid to take the time you need to prepare so that you will do well. It took me over a year and that’s ok. There isn’t a requirement on how long you take to study!
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
I definitely had a severe case of imposter syndrome mixed with self-doubt. It was my first time going to school at an elite institution and I was really worried I would not be able to keep up with the other students. I also had a ton of concern about how I was going to adjust to life after athletics. It was a difficult transition that I had a lot of trial and error with, but as time went on, I was able to settle into a routine. One of the biggest parts of that transition was not having structured time for exercise and self-care. Further, it was difficult to access a wide variety of resources for activity that were compatible with the demands of school.
How did you prepare for medical school before your first day?
I spent the summer prior to medical school tutoring for the MCAT and spending time with my (now) fiancé. It was a great combination of getting some quality time with her and keeping up on my knowledge since graduation from undergrad.
What made your medical school the right fit for you?
Michigan was the right fit for me because it only has one didactic year followed by the core clinical year and two years for elective time. I knew I did not like being in lecture so getting that part of medical school done quickly was very important to me. Further, I wanted to pursue an MBA and Michigan has a highly ranked business school in addition to the medical school. Lastly, I felt the people were especially driven and the culture was very aligned with my personal values. All of this information is usually discussed during the interview day at each school and is available on the medical school’s website.
What memory stands out the most from your first day of medical school?
During the week prior to medical school, I crashed my mountain bike so badly that I injured my shoulder and broke the outer shell of my helmet on impact. When I showed up to the first day of school, I couldn’t take off my own backpack and had such a bad concussion that I didn’t remember any of the lectures that day. Thankfully, Michigan has recorded lectures, so I got to go back and review that material when I got better. It was definitely not a hot start to medical school!
What was your first year of medical school like?
The first year of medical school was really difficult. I became really frustrated with listening to lecture after lecture and felt like I was a robot sitting at the computer all day. Further, I lost a few family members over the course of the year and wasn’t able to spend time with other members of my family because I was away at school. It felt like I was being selfish and was not able to there when my family needed me.
Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.
I’m heavily involved in activities outside of the medical school curriculum. Currently, I serve in multiple roles within our Office of Admissions and love working with them. I am also involved in clinical research as well as resident financial wellness and debt management research. Further, I am currently serving as President of our First-Generation, Low-Income medical student group (Frist in Family at Michigan Medicine) and have been working with leaders at Michigan and other institutions to improve the FGLI medical student experience.
How do you balance your personal time with medical school?
One of the greatest assets of being a former student-athlete is having excellent time-management skills. I really feel like I have the ability to take on new things while maintaining other commitments and demands. That said, I treat personal time as something that I need to block off from those other commitments. Doing this has really allowed me to shut things down when I need to because I know I have planned ahead and given the other demands their dedicated time.
What obstacles did you overcome in your medical school journey?
Since the start of medical school, I feel like I have had to overcome a lot. In addition to those aforementioned challenges, I struggled to adjust to the standardized exams and had to spend a great deal of time with tutors and faculty to address those difficulties. This was especially true during the core clerkship year when Shelf exams are such a large component of the grading and evaluation process. Some medical schools like Michigan offer students academic support resources that cover the costs of tutoring and certain online learning platforms. Further, I didn’t adjust well to being in a large, academic medical center very well. I grew up in a rural and underserved setting so the plethora of resources available at a place like Michigan was very overwhelming. It took the better part of 4 months to really learn how to work well within our system and get familiarized with the core resources available. To this day, I am still learning about resources and programs available to our patients that assist in all aspects of their care.
What makes your story unique?
For me, it’s my upbringing and my desire to return home to Montana after my training. I am currently the only medical student at my school from the state of Montana and I have yet to meet another student who has a desire to practice in a setting such as that.
What did you enjoy most about medical school?
My research and my friends.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?
To apply broadly and not be afraid of the numbers. I never thought I would get into a school like Michigan but there is so much more that goes into the admissions decision than just numbers.