A Taste of Medical School
By Lisa LaPoint
Each January, some two dozen University of Massachusetts Boston undergraduates spend three weeks at Tufts School of Medicine, shadowing medical students, scientists, and physicians to gain firsthand clinical and research experiences. They are taking part in a program that provides students, many from communities underrepresented in medicine, with on-the-ground insights into medical or research careers.
Now in its sixth year, the enrichment program introduces UMass Boston pre-health students to identifying health challenges and exploring possible solutions from a multidisciplinary, team-based approach. The program offers two tracks depending on students’ interests: Pathway to Clinical and Health Careers, for those interested in working in a clinical setting, and Pathway to Ph.D., for those interested in a career in basic science research.
Students also participate in career workshops, where they learn how to write a persuasive résumé, apply for summer research internships and graduate school, and finance their graduate education. Through the workshops, hands-on experiences in clinical and lab settings, and the relationships they develop with graduate students and faculty, students learn about a range of potential careers in medicine, public health, basic sciences and other areas.
Qausarat Ogunneye, a UMass Boston junior majoring in biology who is interested in global health issues, just finished the three-week program, following the clinical and health careers pathway, and talked to Tufts Now about her experiences.
Tufts Now: Had you been thinking about attending medical school before attending the program?
Qausarat Ogunneye: Yes, and going through this program really opened my eyes. I talked to medical students about what to look for in a school, financial aid, how to pay for school, the application process, and interviews.
Initially I didn’t want to take a year off after graduating from college, so I was pushing myself to take the MCAT this summer and have my application done and go straight in. But going through the program has made me rethink this, because you don’t want to go to medical school if you’re not completely prepared.
Did you have a sense beforehand of what specialty you might want to go into?
When my aunt gave birth, I was there the whole time, and it made me think, “OK, I think it’s OB/GYN.” Coming into the program, though, I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to shadow in OB/GYN, but also learned about all the other fields in the program. But in the end, I came out and said, “OB/GYN. Definitely. That’s it.”
I think it was the first week, I remember calling my dad and I said, “I’ve always said I wanted to be a doctor, but now I have a good, solid reason.” Before that I was wondering about the huge time commitment—it’s so many years. But after going through this program, I’m not even thinking about the years anymore. I want to do this, so I’m just going to go for it.
When the program started, what were you looking forward to the most?
A few people from my school had told me how the program worked. They all talked about Sharewood, where medical students help patients, most of them immigrants, and about shadowing physicians. I was mostly looking forward to patient interaction.
I thought physical diagnosis class was amazing. Obviously you’ve gone to the doctor before, but you never know how they go about these exams. The med students were really fantastic, breaking everything down and telling us, “This is how you do this exam, this is what you look for this. If something is wrong, you’ll see this, and you do this test on them.” It was really amazing.
Now that you’ve shadowed physicians, what sort of doctor would you want to be to your patients?
I want to be a caring doctor. Not just someone they come to see, but have real conversations with them. I know this is hard, because doctors have so many patients and can’t know all of them, but the patients who’d come to me regularly, I would want to know them.
When I was shadowing Dr. [Joyce] Sackey, she had a patient who even moved so she could see her. She really has relationships with her patients. And Dr. [Laura] Grubb knew her patients, every single one of them. That was really amazing, and I would want to have that relationship with patients, too.
Lisa LaPoint can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.