Major: Biological Sciences
Medical school: Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, 2020
What led to your interest in (military) medicine?
Growing up in an immigrant family that fled Soviet Ukraine and overcame many challenges to seek a better life in the United States, I appreciated my freedom from a young age. I was so grateful for the wide array of fruitful opportunities available in the U.S., such as pursuing a career in medicine without the threat of an oppressive regime. As a child, I listened to my grandfather’s stories about his career as a physician for the Ukrainian military, and his time in a POW camp during WWII. I marveled at the idea of one day following in my grandfather’s footsteps—saving the lives of heroes and bringing care to underserved areas of the world.
However, my gratitude and American pride developed into a feeling of obligation to serve the U.S. military medical corps after my experiences abroad in Ukraine. I had received the Fulbright Fellowship (2014-2015) to research improvements in HIV prevention and treatment. With the growing conflict in eastern Ukraine, in my spare time I volunteered at the Central Kyiv Military Hospital where young, brave men suffered from severe injuries, such as severed limbs and traumatic spine injuries. Assisting and talking with the soldiers, I realized how fearlessly they fought for a democratic Ukraine and how selflessly they sacrificed their lives, despite being outnumbered and under-equipped. I could relate to their struggle for freedom through my grandfather’s stories, and I felt more fulfilled spending my time in the military hospital with soldiers who were sacrificing everything for the opportunity of freedom.
Having recognized the immeasurable value of freedom outside of the U.S., I felt beholden and honored to be able to serve the country that continues to fight for people like my grandparents in countries that yearn for freedom, and for U.S. citizens who are so fortunate to have freedoms back home. I am so inspired by the sacrifices that are made by the US military each and every day, and it is my greatest honor to serve my country as an officer and physician.
Who or what inspired you?
My grandfather was my primary inspiration when I was applying to medical school. Now, I am inspired by the hardworking men and women who sacrifice their lives for us everyday. When I have a stressful exam coming up, I just think of the 18 year old infantry soldier in Iraq who has suffered from an IED blast yet still continues to fight, and my stress vanishes.
How did you prepare for the medical school application process?
I took two years off before medical school to pursue interests in global health and health technology, and to also ensure that I had the best possible application I could prepare.
Did you have any concerns about taking the MCAT exam?
I did. It had been about 4 years since I had taken a standardized exam so I wanted to not only learn the material, but also practice in the testing format.
What is your top MCAT tip for applicants preparing to take the exam?
Practice questions, practice questions, practice questions!
What made your medical school the right fit for you?
At USUHS, we are both medical students and military officers, so we spend our time outside of class training for operational experiences that simulate potential future deployments. For example, we spend ten days in southern Pennsylvania simulating a medical mass casualty in a fictional foreign country. In the simulation, first year students act as patients while fourth year students act as the clinicians. Working with limited resources, tired brains, and cold weather, the fourth years have to make life-or-death decisions against the clock as their makeshift treatment facilities are overloaded with sick patients.
I knew this kind of training appealed to me from summers spent at Ukrainian camp, where we learned the merits of resourcefulness and teamwork outdoors. We created makeshift stoves while on backpacking trips, and learned how to react and respond to traumatic situations, such as a medical emergency or a forest fire. At USUHS, I’m able to build upon my interests as I practice operational simulations within their unique curriculum, and later when I deploy with the military.
What helps you manage your stress and stay motivated?
I make time for my hobbies/interests and friends, and I work hard to remind myself of the patient population that I will be treating by either visiting the hospital or shadowing a physician. I find that making time for what I love and reminding myself of what’s to come is important for motivation and stress relief.
What advice do you have for applicants considering a career in medicine?
Make sure you know medicine is for you. It’s a long, difficult road, but one that is worthwhile if it is your true calling.