Ahmad Hider

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After his younger brother was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Ahmad was inspired to go to medical school to be a voice for those living with chronic illness.

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Undergraduate: University of Michigan, 2017, BS in Biomolecular Science
Graduate: University of Cambridge, 2019, MPhil in Translational Biomedical Research
Medical school and expected year of graduation: University of Michigan Medical School, Expected graduation 2023

Who or what inspired you?

My youngest brother lives with cystic fibrosis (CF) and has been the inspiration for my work both in research and advocacy, serving as my “why” for entering medicine. I decided to enter medicine around my sophomore year of college. Fortunately, I have been able to intertwine my loves for science and people. My work for the CF community involves writing legislation (House Bill 5946 - Cystic Fibrosis Advisory Committee in the state of Michigan). The goal of the legislation is to provide funding for novel research, specifically gene therapy, access to health care, and medical therapies for CF patients, as well as overall support for the well-being of CF patients and their families during their challenges with the disease. My research at the University of Cambridge focuses on pulmonary fibrosis disease and furthering our understanding of the pathogenesis currently provided in the literature.

What made you decide to apply to medical school?

I decided to enter medical school truly to be a voice for those living with chronic illnesses. I am lucky to be entering medical school at a time where breakthroughs in biomedical research are at the forefront. Our generation is a stone’s throw away from curing some of the world’s deadliest diseases – and that excites me.

What are your top MCAT tips for applicants preparing to take the exam?

  1. Be kind and patient with yourself. 
  2. Stick to your schedule. Include ample time for studying and self-care. 
  3. Actively learn rather than passively learn the material needed for the MCAT. 
  4. Practice. Practice. Practice. Start with a diagnostic exam and throughout your studies take several practice exams. AAMC, and Khan Academy were some resources I used for my success. 
  5. Review your practice exams in detail, paying close attention to topics that you seem to find challenging.
  6. Review your old course notes (I found this particularly useful for biochemistry and physics).
  7. Ask for help when you need it. If you are not scoring in your range, reach out to someone who can offer advice/guidance. If you simply do not know the subject, ask for clarification. Seeking advice is not a weakness.
  8. Schedule your exam when you are ready and if necessary, reschedule. 
  9. Have fun with the entire process.

What made your medical school the right fit for you?

The University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) fit every criterion I set out for myself when deciding on where to attend. Its unique one-year pre-clinical curriculum and flex time quizzing were major factors that I considered essential for my success. Additional factors were M-Home, which is a unique 4 year learning environment that was created to 1) build a community within the medical school 2) Have personal and professional coaching through amazing faculty and counselors, and 3) Give back to the community and foster a sense of well-being (go Hamilton House!). Other factors included closeness to my support system and opportunities in health policy and translational biomedical research through the school’s Pathways Program. I am surrounded by a community (deans, faculty, the kindest admissions team, and the most brilliant of students) who are truly invested in my success and are constantly there to support me. We are not considered strictly medical students at UMMS, we are considered colleagues; that is the “Michigan Difference.” From my interview day and second look visit, I knew this was the institution where I wanted to pursue my medical education training. In just my first week at UMMS I saw tremendous growth in my personal and professional life.

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

At Michigan, our first week is called “Launch.” It’s a week dedicated to easing the transition into medical school through workshops, social events, and community service projects. What stood out to me was a unique tradition of the sorting of the new M1s into their respective M-Home communities. Similar to that in Harry Potter, minus the sorting hat, my classmates and I were selected into either Fitzbutler, Hamilton (best house, because it’s mine), Salk, or Sanford houses. Each community is named after UMMS alumni who have made significant impacts to medicine. Each student received their house information and announced it in front of the class, in addition to providing a fun fact about themselves. I absolutely loved that day. Annually in September, all four houses compete in the M-Home Olympics, which is a day full of food and “friendly” competition among the four houses. Hamilton house is seeking its third consecutive win.

Did you have to change any of your study habits?

I can honestly say that the analogy of “drinking from the firehose” is absolutely true, but so far, thankfully it seems to be manageable.

How do you balance your personal time with medical school?

Time management is very important for medical students. I endeavor to try to always find the time for my own self-care outside of studying. My weekends are dedicated to planning out my upcoming weeks by keeping a running list of ongoing events/meetings. I have also learned not to overcommit to extracurriculars if I know that I cannot put forth 100% of my effort in their success. UMMS does a great job of making sure their students are both academically and personally well.

What makes your story unique?

I am the first in my family to graduate from high school and college, and now the first to attend medical school. I consider myself very blessed to be in the situation I am in today. Obviously, in addition to the work I have dedicated to achieving this milestone, this would not have been possible without the support and love from my family, friends, and the Dearborn community. I am also a nontraditional applicant. I spent my first gap year working with City Year Detroit (AmeriCorps) as a fifth-grade teaching aide where I taught Math and English language Arts, and also working at the Michigan State House of Representatives. My second gap year was spent studying abroad for my MPhil in translational biomedical research at the University of Cambridge where I focused on understanding idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is also the focus of my research in medical school. If you are able and willing to take a gap year, I highly recommend it.

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

Of most importance, applicants should gain experience working in health care, in whatever capacity they are able. I would consider three questions when applying to medical school. 1) What/who inspires you to pursue medicine? 2) What contribution do you want to make to this world? 3) Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? Be honest in your responses and do not be discouraged by the views/opinions of others.

As it pertains to AMCAS, common advice is as follows:

  1. Prepare the application early, which includes requesting and sending in your transcripts. Work with your prehealth advisor to come up with a plan to tackle the application in pieces rather than quickly completing an application you’re not confident in. 
  2. Craft an application that shows who you are and clearly illustrates your passions. Do not create an application that you think will check the boxes of admission members.
  3. If applying for the AMCAS Fee Assistance Program, apply early. Benefits are not applied retroactively, meaning you can’t get a credit or refund if you’ve already paid for something covered by the Fee Assistance Program benefit.
  4. Reach out to your recommendation writers early. Specifically, reach out to those who know you best, not the course where you received an A but never attended office hours or had meaningful conversations with the professors. 
  5. Be honest with your metrics and your school choice. Everyone would love to attend their top choice but reflect on where your GPA and MCAT falls in comparison to their class profiles. There is no such thing as having a safety accredited medical school on your list. Each school’s mission is unique and attracts diverse students. 
  6. Only ask for letters from people who truly know you and can speak about your competencies or accomplishments.
  7. Prepare for your interviews with friends/advisors. I found my mock interviews with my career center to be of great value. 
  8. If your school requires the CASPer or similar exam, take it early. 
  9. Submit your AMCAS application when you are satisfied with it. The earlier the submission the better, but do not sacrifice quality of writing for speed. 
  10. Most importantly, be patient and have fun with the process. You will learn so many new things about yourself as you take the next step to becoming a leading medical physician. 

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career track similar to yours?

I am still trying to figure out what my future holds or what my “track” is. My best piece of advice is to simply continue being curious and do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. When you seek out that experience/passion that keeps you up at night – pursue it with all your effort.

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