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Sound advice sought from other pre-med folks...

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by tropdoc, Jan 9, 2001.

  1. tropdoc

    tropdoc New Member

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    At the risk of repeating what so many have done before, I would like to get some feedback on my personal profile as a potential medical student at a US school. At present, I have the opportunity to attend a medical school in Central America, although I'm unsure as to whether or not I should take advantage of it.
    Here is bascially who I am and where I'm at:
    It took me 10 years to get my BA because I kept putting off finishing school in order to do archaeological research in Central America with a National Geographic project. My degree is in anthropology, although all my time in Central America really sparked an interest in me to study medicine (particularly tropical medicine type stuff). Throughout my college, then, I have volunteered at a pathology lab, worked as a medical interpreter, worked as a nursing assistant. I spent 6 months as a research Asst at Harvard Med school. I did a 6 month internship at the National Institutes of Health, and I've continued working in Central America the whole time. Currently, I teach spanish at the high school level.

    Herein live the problem. My GPA is horrible. I have a 2.95cum, and I have taken some science classes. I got A's in a couple, but I dropped out one semester to go down south and ended up with F's in Anatomy AND CHEM 1. So those are BIG marks against me (obviously, I will retake them). At this point, I have to do ALL of my prereqs, as well as the MCAT. I'm very concerned about pursuing a postbac program because I don't want to end up 2 years down the road with a degree and a few prereq classes and not get into med school here. I would almost rather just begin the program in Central America (in spanish) instead of the risk of not getting in in 2 years after doing a postbac program.

    Sorry to be so long winded, but I'm really trying to make an informed decision here, and would apreciate any feedback you may provide. Thank you very much...
    future tropdoc
     
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  3. Your experiences sound wonderful and I'm sure they'll make for a rich and rewarding foundation for whatever you do. Medical schools do like candidates who are "outside of the box" - not *all* schools mind you, but many. The key issues in medical school admissions IMHO are:

    1) they must be convinced that you can handle the academic work of medical school. They usually base this on your gpa and MCAT scores.

    2) they must be convinced that you are responsible. This is often based on your pattern of academic results and letters of recommendation. I imagine someone might question the wisdom of leaving school mid-semester resulting in poor grades (when leaving isn't due to unforseeable circumstances like illness).

    3) they must be convinced that you are dedicated to medicine. This would normally be based on your letters, personal statement and interview results. It is not uncommon for non-traditional students to leave careers for medicine, but you must be able to show that medicine is where you are headed now. Medicine does not like dilettantes.

    Hidden somewhere in your lengthy posting is the question whether or not you will be successful in gaining admission to a US medical school. Without MCAT scores and your gpa after completing the pre-reqs I'm afraid you'd have better luck calling the Psychic Hotline. While your activities to date are impressive, it remains a fact that many, many schools use "numbers" to screen with, and without those, no one is going to be able to give you odds on your chances of admission.

    Perhaps you are looking for permission to study medicine in Central America. I have no information on the quality of such schools but do know that studying anywhere outside of the US makes things more difficult for you if you wish to obtain a US residency. In addition, if you wish to work in the US after a residency completed abroad you may find several large mountains to climb - which may include repeating your residency in the US (not an attractive option to most). You must answer for yourself whether you wish to tackle the extra work it takes to get an ECFMG certificate, deal with questions about your education and ability to practice medicine (for "surely" it will be substandard if not obtained in the US [​IMG] ) and why you didn't train here. In the end I suspect it all comes out in the wash, but it is the case that most of the high powered programs in the US have very few IMGs (and most of those are foreign nationals). If you are dead set on getting a Harvard residency, you will be making it very difficult for yourself if you train in Central America.

    However, we shouldn't assume that you want to practice in the US - as you've mentioned your interest in tropical medicine. If this is the case, and you would receive a fine education in Central America, you may find it easier to study and eventually work there. Lots of students forget that working in the US isn't necessarily everyone's dream. I'm not sure of the education system in Central America but in the US and the commonwealth countries medical school is designed as a broad foundation of medical knowledge - you can do some tropical medicine electives during your final year, but it really wouldn't be until after you'd completed an IM residency that you would be working solely in this area (presuming a trop med or ID fellowship). Thus, going to Central America might expose you to more tropical diseases during the course of your undergraduate medical education, but is this at the expense of more Western ailments? And is that important to you? Will you be exposed to enough "Western" diseases to do well on the USMLE?

    Finally, if its the issue of "2 years" of classes and a possibly useless degree that bothers you - well, IMHO its a small price to pay if you really want to study in the US. There are post-bac programs which do offer a serviceable degree; in addition, you aren't required to take the classes amid the confines of a Post-bac - you can do it on your own.


    I'm not sure if this has been of any help to you. In summary I would say that there is currently insufficient data to assess your potential for US medical school admission; that you do need to bring your gpa up substantially; that 2 years is not *really* a lengthy period of time in the grand scheme of things and that staying in Central America for school *may* be wise or it *may not* be, depending on your future goals.

    Best of luck to you...

     
  4. wooo

    wooo Senior Member
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    yet another great post by kimberlicox!
     
  5. rdennisjr

    rdennisjr SDN Super Moderator
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    I want to grow up someday to be like kimberlicox 8) I haven't seen such a streak of well thought-out posts in a long time!

    Ditto what she said 8)
     
  6. Stephen Ewen

    10+ Year Member

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    Bottom line, tropdoc:

    You do best by traiing in a context as similar as possible to the one(s) wherein you will practice. For this, you will want to be appropriately prepared, not concurrently underprepared and overprepared.

    Best wishes.
     


  7. Awww shucks...Thanks guys! [​IMG]

     
  8. BunBun

    BunBun Junior Member

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    Why do so many people talk about retaking classes to bring their GPA up, I was under the impression that medical schools will see every single class you have taken at a previous university, regardless whether someone has retaken a class and gotten a better grade the second time around. I guess what I'm trying to say is let's say I took anatomy the first time and got a C and then I retook it and got an A, medical schools will take the A and the C and compile them together to come up with a new GPA, so while the A will bring up your GPA a tad the C is still there for others to see when it comes time to be looked at for admission to a medical school.
     
  9. tropdoc

    tropdoc New Member

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    Thank you for all of the thoughful and helpful responses. I will take them to heart, and hopefully make a good decision soon. I'll keep in touch. Thanks.
    future tropdoc
     
  10. IMHO, the reason (beyond bringing up the gpa) is to show that you can handle the material, that you "learned" from your prior mistake. Retaking the course also allows you to build a stronger foundation for any future classes which require the original as a pre-req. Some prefer simply to take more advanced courses as a way of "proving" their abilities - and that is fine, IMHO, as long as you are prepared for the more complex topics.

     

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