From MCPHS to Georgetown University School of Medicine
Discover one student’s journey – and how the Premed program helped him get there.
What comes to mind when you picture yourself as a Premedical and Health Studies student at MCPHS University? Perhaps you think about a busy schedule of classes, labs, and extracurricular activities; a backpack crammed with books, journal articles, and laptop; late-night study groups; or a crazy contingent of overachieving friends. If so, you’re probably not unlike most other premed undergraduates before they come here.
What’s interesting, though, is to talk to MCPHS premeds after they’ve been here for a while to learn all the things they did not expect about life at MCPHS, and how those differences have contributed to their success. We did just that by catching up with Ethan Do, MCPHS Premedical and Health Studies, who will be attending Georgetown University School of Medicine in the fall.
A Broad Approach…
Ethan said that the first difference he discovered at MCPHS was the breadth of the undergraduate education and the diversity of experiences he was able to explore.
“The premed curriculum here allows you to complete all the prerequisites that are required for medical school,” he said, “...it [also] exposes you to different areas of medicine that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I had gone to another school and pursued a degree in, say, biology as my bachelor’s degree.”
“The professors do a very good job of teaching you biology, biochemistry, and all the hard sciences, but in addition to that, we have professors who have introduced me to the humanities, psychology, and public health.” said Ethan. “Public health, in particular, ended up being a very important exposure for me because that’s how I centered my entire profile for medical school. The faculty also bring to light the community service and psychosocial aspects of healthcare that are increasingly important to medical schools.”
This broader approach was designed by MCPHS faculty to help students put their science and medical studies in the context of the broader healthcare universe, and to prepare them to become active and engaged professionals both inside and outside the clinic. The MCPHS mission promotes the benefits of general education and development of the whole person, as well as the cultivation of knowledge, reasoning skills, and values that prepare students for lifelong learning.
It also is important because most premed undergraduates are already on a focused academic track before coming to MCPHS. A recent Medscape study showed that about one third of all students admitted to medical school decide to become a physician or veterinarian by the age of 12, which means that many have tailored their high school studies accordingly. As a result, most freshmen entering MCPHS premed have strong proven proficiency across a range of mathematics and scientific subjects, and a little less focus on the humanities and social sciences.
Your Personal Support Team…
Another important difference that Ethan found at MCPHS is the Center for Academic Success and Enrichment (CASE), which works with students to maximize their potential by introducing them to strategies that will help them become more efficient, effective, and independent learners, both at MCPHS and in medical school.
At the heart of the CASE program is each student’s individual “MAC” team, consisting of a faculty Mentor, an academic Advisor, and a student success Coach.
The MAC team works closely with a student throughout your four years to help make sure that their premed curriculum is specifically tailored for their chosen discipline, whether that be medical, dental, veterinarian, or another specialty. As a result, students don’t have to juggle courses and schedules to get the correct classes; every course is built in from the very beginning.
Ethan believes this close support gave him a definite advantage. “I have friends who go to California institutions,” he said. “I talk to them about office hours and they have to be on a waiting list in order to meet with their professors, and the waiting list is like seven days long. I can find a professor at any business hour of the day. And they’ll sit down and talk to me.”
MCPHS is a teaching university. The faculty’s sole responsibility is teaching. There are no teaching assistants or graduate students leading courses – only full-time faculty members. Student-to-faculty ratios are small, which allows students direct access to faculty that is not available at many schools.
Proximity to World-Renowned Hospitals and Teaching Centers…
In addition to the close day-to-day working relationship within MCPHS, access to the faculty provides more opportunities to benefit from their connections to the Boston healthcare community, including the world-renowned hospitals and teaching centers of the Longwood Medical Area, just steps from the MCPHS front door.
“One of the other factors in choosing MCPHS is that it’s located right across from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, down the street from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and in an area with countless other healthcare institutions and opportunities,” Ethan said. “Every professor here is a member of the teaching faculty at Harvard Medical School, a practicing healthcare professional, or something like that.”
Ethan said that this combination of access and support directly led to his most valuable mentoring relationship with a physician at a nearby hospital. “I don’t think I would have found that opportunity to work with such an individual elsewhere – an individual so willing to teach me, give me opportunities, and mentor me,” he said.
That relationship led to one of Ethan’s seminal experiences during his MCPHS years, a summer position he landed through the International Volunteer Headquarters working in Peru. “My mentor talked to me about getting international experience, and it was on his advice that I went to Peru,” Ethan said. “His letter on my behalf to the foundation sponsoring the program was an influencing factor in my going there.”
Another thing that MCPHS premed students come to appreciate beyond the fact that the curriculum ensures that all specific prerequisites are complete is the preparation for the MCAT and guidance on completing medical school applications. The faculty and advisors work to ensure that premed students understand the entire medical school application process, from MCAT study strategies to bundling all the volunteer, research, internship, or other experiences students have had into a distinctive profile. These profiles allow students to stand out during the medical school application process.
A Close Community
Students say they benefit from the support that comes from being part of a close community of premed students, all with a shared focus and goals.
“You literally know everyone,” Ethan said. “When you get into your third and fourth years and your classes are exclusive to the people in your program, you get to know them all. Ethan believes it is this sense of community that has helped him thrive. “It’s a premed program so it’s going to be competitive, but kids encourage each other to do well. We’re all here to help each other become physicians one day,” said Ethan.
Ethan appreciated the opportunity to explore different areas of interest and develop his leadership credentials through the 90-plus student-led organizations at MCPHS. “For me, preparing to apply for medical schools started my very first year,” he said. “It was very important for me to focus on work and leadership opportunities. Since we have a lot of clubs, that means a lot of leadership opportunities. For instance, I joined the Premed Society early on and over time became part of their executive board, and this year I’m president of the society.”
Preparing You for the Next Step…
At the end of the day, though, your time as a premed at MCPHS will be about preparing for and gaining admission to medical school, and that goes beyond the academic curriculum to include a broad array of support services designed to help you develop the most compelling resume. This is especially important as medical schools increasingly look beyond GPAs and MCAT scores for more diverse leadership experiences outside the classroom.
Ethan points to the importance of advice he received from his mentor: “He told me to do whatever I can to stand out, and if that’s going international and volunteering in another country, then do that. And then I found my desire in medicine to serve the underserved and to approach healthcare through public health and addressing social challenges. That’s how I geared up my medical school application.”
Other support includes prep services for MCATs and mock interviews for students preparing to meet with prospective medical schools. Where appropriate, the premed faculty committee provides an letter of evaluation that includes letters of reference; academic credentials; and a summary of community service, extracurricular activities, research accomplishments, and other relevant personal data.
Ethan said that the close relationship between students and professors becomes especially meaningful at application time. “Because you’re with them throughout your entire time at MCPHS, the professors become your mentors,” he explained. “They’re there to see how much you’ve grown, and if they see that you’ve grown a lot, they can reflect that in their letters of reference. They can write really good things specific to your experience that you can present to medical schools.”
MCPHS is uniquely suited to provide students with the education, experience, and resources to prepare for and thrive in medical school and beyond. Ethan Do’s story provides a particularly good example of how to take advantage of all that the Premedical and Health Studies program has to offer.
*Three in 10 Physicians Knew Calling by Age 12, Survey Says Medscape Mar 30, 2017