Medical school: Georgetown University, 2014
Residency Training: University of Texas at San Antonio Health Science Center
Specialty: Orthopedic Surgery
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a number of things, just like most kids. If I can recall, I first wanted to be a firefighter and then a police officer.
What led to your interest in medicine?
I became interested in medicine after attending an after school program in Louisiana geared towards introducing high school students to medicine called The Fair Park Medical Careers Magnet program. I immediately fell in love with medicine and credit that program for me becoming a doctor today.
Who or what inspired you?
I would have to say that my father inspired me. He raised my three siblings and me as a single father and watching him struggle day in and day out inspired me to work hard and achieve my goals in life.
Did anyone encourage or discourage you from applying to medical school?
There were several instances where individual advisors tried to discourage me from applying to medical school. I was told that my grades and scores were not competitive enough and that I would have a hard time matriculating. However, I stayed persistent and continued to work hard until it finally paid off.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
To prepare, I purchased books, spoke with former applicants and searched online for tips.
Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?
My main concern about the MCAT was that, traditionally, I was not the best standardized test taker. This resulted in me taking the MCAT three times. Each time I struggled. To overcome this, I took preparatory courses, hired a tutor, and focused on my weak areas to improve my score.
What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?
Do LOTS of practice questions, study uninterrupted, eliminate distractions and remember that the exam is only one aspect of your application that admission committees use to evaluate you.
Did you have any fears going into medical school?
My greatest fear was not performing at the same level as others coming from Ivy League schools. What I didn’t know was that majority of my classmates felt the same way. Believe it or not, majority of students coming into medical school start off at a comparable level. What separates one from another is your study habits and how disciplined you are in your studies.
How did you prepare for medical school before your first day?
There is not one particular thing that you can do to prepare for the first day of medical school, nor for medical school in general. Everything you have done up until that point prepares you for what lies ahead. However, some schools will send you a study package to read over or have a pre-matriculation program for their new students during the summer before you start.
What kind of financial aid did you need to pay for medical school?
Medical school can be very expensive! I always encourage others to think of it as an investment—you are investing in your future. The majority of my classmates took out student loans to pay for tuition and living expenses and others received scholarships or enrolled in military loan repayment programs. For my tuition, I applied for scholarships and utilized educational benefits from my prior military service.
What memory stands out the most from your first day of medical school?
I remember thinking that everyone was so smart. Imagine taking 200 of the brightest people in your college and allowing them to study and learn for 4 years straight together—this is exactly what medical school is like. Intimidating at first but you will soon realize that you can do well in medical school as long as you stay focused and work hard day in and day out.
What was your first year of medical school like?
My first year of medical school was challenging in terms of becoming familiar with the testing format, developing study habits, and adjusting to the faster pace. I took classes such as Biochemistry, Histology, Genetics, Physiology, and Anatomy. I also spent time in the hospital and visited the coroner’s office to assist in an autopsy.
Did you have to change any of your study habits?
Absolutely. Full time in college is usually considered about 12-15 credit hours (or 4-5 classes) a semester. In medical school, you will likely average between 30-40 credit hours a semester so the information comes fast and you have to learn how to read and pick up and absorb information quickly. This is challenging at first but as the years pass, you will learn to swiftly read through pages of notes and discern what is important.
Please describe your participation in extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, research, or study-abroad opportunities during medical school or residency.
My medical school at Georgetown required each student to have 20 hours of community service prior to graduation. In addition to this, I volunteered at a hospital shelter for the homeless, raised money for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, mentored pre-medical students, and participated in several other extracurricular activities such as flag football and basketball. During my last year of medical school, I completed an international rotation in Liberia, West Africa where I worked in surgery and Emergency Medicine right before the Ebola outbreak.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
During medical school, I used the gym as an outlet for stress. Even though school kept me very busy, I always tried to make time for the gym. In addition, staying in touch with friends and family kept me motivated.
What makes your story unique?
I consider myself a non-traditional student. I came from a rough background in Shreveport, Louisiana around drugs, gangs and violence. Several of my family members and friends went to prison while I was growing up including my younger brother for armed robbery, my sister on felony charges and my mother who has been in and out of jail my entire life, on and off drugs. I ended up applying to medical school three times before getting accepted, but one thing that I never did was give up on my dream to become a physician. Each application cycle, I spoke with advisors and medical schools to figure out what I could do to improve my application. Each time, I was told it was my MCAT score that was holding me back from acceptance. To improve, I hired tutors, took a preparatory course, and met with others who were studying for the MCAT.
What did you enjoy most about medical school?
I enjoyed the lifelong friendships and mentors that I acquired. If someone ever asked me what the best years of my life were, I would absolutely say the four years of medical school. Even though it was challenging, I loved every minute of it, from the social events to the medical school prom, to doing surgery in Africa with classmates I will never forget those years.
What surprised you the most about medical school?
The immense amount of information that is presented for you to learn at once surprised me the most. One of my professors described trying to learn all the information in medical school as trying to throw mud on the wall. If you keep studying the information and reading it over and over, eventually the mud will stick.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
Make sure medicine is something that you want to do. You can do this by visiting a local hospital and shadowing a physician or spending time around medical students. If you decide that you don’t like medicine and want to do something else when you start medical school, this not only wastes time and money, but takes away a spot for another deserving student.
If you had the opportunity to talk to a potential medical student, what would you tell him/her, off the top of your head?
It’s a long and arduous road, but definitely pays off in the end. If becoming a doctor is something that you really want to do, then NEVER give up! If I can do it, you can as well.