Andrew Zureick

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As a first year medical student, Andrew co-authored a guidebook for high school and college students in STEM majors and careers. Now he's taking a gap year during medical school to pursue full-time research.

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Undergraduate: Dartmouth College, 2013
Major: Chemistry
Medical school: University of Michigan Medical School, 2018


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

I was always interested in the sciences. With several family members in the health professions, I was exposed to medicine early, and I considered this among other careers.

What led to your interest in medicine?

After my freshman year of college, I had a very formative experience spending the summer at the National Institutes of Health doing biomedical research.  The concept of academia was always appealing, and working at the NIH opened my eyes to all of the different elements of academic medicine and how they fit together.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

As a Michigan native, it was nice to come back closer to home after spending four years in New Hampshire.  The University of Michigan has many strong departments and clinical programs, so I knew that regardless of which specialty I ended up selecting, I’d be well prepared for my residency training. Furthermore, Ann Arbor is extremely cultured (annual art fairs, frequent concerts, etc.), very safe, and has many great restaurants, among other things.

How did you prepare for medical school before your first day?

We were encouraged to review a list of core topics in genetics, biochemistry, and cell biology prior to matriculation, so, as time allowed, I reviewed some of my relevant undergraduate course study guides.

What memory stands out the most from your first day of medical school?

Our first day of school at UMMS was our White Coat Ceremony. While our clinical experience didn’t really begin until about two years later when we officially entered the wards, the symbolic nature of it still sticks with me today.  Matriculating at this ceremony was effectively the first day of the profession I worked so hard to have the privilege to enter.

Did you have any fears going into medical school?

The concept of “learning in public” – i.e., on the wards in front of your peers and your superiors – and being evaluated on-the-spot during clinical rotations was certainly daunting.  Now that I’ve finished my third year, I can say that this is a real challenge that medical students face, but I think most people can overcome it with practice and experience.

What makes your story unique?

During my senior year at Dartmouth and first year of medical school, I worked with a few close friends on writing a book entitled What Every Science Student Should Know, which was published by the University of Chicago Press this past May. This is a first-of-its-kind guidebook for undergraduate students studying the sciences.  My coauthors and I are all involved in outreach to our respective local communities, in order to encourage retention of high school and college students in STEM majors and careers.

Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school.

During medical school, I’ve been involved in a diverse array of very enjoyable and rewarding activities.  I have pursued research in pediatric oncology and medical education with several different mentors, presented case studies about patients I have seen on the wards, and explored my interests in health policy through involvement with the American Medical Association. 

The AMA’s Medical Student Section helped introduce me to the breadth of things medical students can achieve in organized medicine.  I’ve had a chance to try my hand at writing resolutions and presenting them at the AMA House of Delegates meetings.  Most importantly, the AMA has allowed me to develop connections with likeminded medical students around the country.

At the University of Michigan, I’ve been actively involved in our curriculum transformation, both on the planning and committee side as well as by participating in pilot M4 courses/clerkships; it has been extremely rewarding to see how strongly our faculty value medical student education and how invested everyone is in making the best final product possible.

Lastly, over the past couple of years, I have been a part of the First Aid Team.  Initially, I served as a contributing author for First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 Exam - 2016 Edition, and I am currently serving as a student editor for First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 Exam - 2017 Edition.  Having a stake in improving a review book for such an important exam and trying to make sure that my fellow medical students have a solid knowledge base by the time they get on to the wards has been very exciting.

What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?

The confidence that all of the time I’m investing in my education will ultimately equip me with the skills and knowledge to take care of patients is really my fundamental driver.  Medical knowledge is not a means to an end, but rather the foundation for clinical practice, so I think most of the stressors we encounter in medical school are intended to make us better healthcare practitioners.  Knowing I have a goal keeps me motivated, but when I have finished my work for the day, I relax by playing piano, listening to music, and cooking.

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

Many students applying to medical school take one or more years off after college to pursue a variety of enriching activities and experiences.  However, my path was a bit different – I went straight through from college to medical school, but I decided to take a year off at the beginning of my 4th year of medical school to pursue a full-time research experience.  Having a strong background of medical knowledge allows me to ask more clinically-oriented questions and contribute much more to my projects than I would have been able to had I spent a year doing research between college and medical school.  So, if you are interested in exploring whether an academic career in medicine may be right for you and you’d like to spend a year doing full-time research, slotting a gap year during medical school (instead of after college) is something to strongly consider.  You will be able to focus your research interests and specialties you are considering based on your clinical experiences in medical school, and you can potentially publish your work in peer-reviewed journals within your desired specialty.  It’s becoming increasingly common for students to pursue research, other advanced degrees, and/or experiences outside the traditional medical school curriculum.  I’ve found that my academic advisors are generally very supportive of this, as these are rewarding ventures that also aid in combating medical student burnout.

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