Let me take a wild guess: you dream about a career in medicine and you agree that being a medical doctor is a privilege – you feel like you’re really helping people every day and the job satisfaction is guaranteed.
Without a doubt, this profession entails a lot of hard work and a lifelong commitment but the payoff is totally worth it.
Ok, I know what you’re thinking – being a doctor is awesome but first – you need to get that medical degree. Do you get goosebumps when you think about all the entry requirements for Medical School?
Trust me, I know the feeling.
You’ve heard the advice a million times – study hard, ace your exams, engage in extracurricular activities. There’s plenty of information available online that will guide you through the process, but we can all agree that it’s an extremely competitive task.
It’s no secret that getting into medical school is a formidable challenge – the national acceptance rate is 43 % – and that’s when you freeze in your tracks. Why am I telling you this? Because there is a solution. Here’s the interesting thing – I am about to tell you what you can do to give yourself a boost in the candidate ranking.
Gelato, sun and invaluable clinical experience
Pre-medical students often excel in science subjects during their undergraduate studies and it’s become crucial to have some research and clinical experience on top of a remarkable academic performance. Doctors in Italy offers an extraordinary opportunity to American students – a shadowing program led by experienced, English-speaking physicians.
What makes it so special? Picture this: you come to a beautiful city for a summer program. Terrific weather, lovable people and delightful Italian cuisine are not even the main advantages, although I’m sure you’ll appreciate those in your free time.
Here is the best part: this program allows you to get professional, clinical experience and now, the cherry on top – you might get lucky and co-author a paper in a scientific journal. Yes, you read that right! Let’s take a closer look.
How an undergraduate student co-authored a scientific paper
One of our fellows was a study-abroad student at John Cabot University. Driven and motivated, she was looking for an opportunity that would help her skyrocket her medical school application.
She came across our program and after a successful interview, she was able to shadow doctors in different fields and gain experience in research. It really is that simple! But stay with me, the best part is yet to come. One of the research projects that she participated in led to the publication of a scientific paper in the Journal of Cardiology Cases. Our fellow’s name appeared next to other authors’ names, leaving a lasting proof of her involvement in research.
Here’s another way to think about it – a pre-medical student can add a scientific publication in an international journal to her medical school application. Impressive, isn’t it?
Scary case with a happy ending
This particular research case involved a young woman who, during her stay in Italy, developed flu-like symptoms, and sought help from Doctors in Italy. She was visited by a physician and recovered quickly after the applied treatment. However, two weeks later, while on her weekend trip abroad, she re-contacted the doctor as she experienced mild symptoms in her chest with persistent weakness. She got an appointment with a cardiologist as soon as she got back to Italy.
Her condition seemed good when she showed up in the doctor’s office, however, after a thorough examination, her heart was discovered to be pumping a reduced proportion of blood with each heartbeat (known as low ejection fraction). It became clear that she required hospitalization and got admitted within 30 minutes, where she was looked after by a wonderful, English-speaking cardiology team.
Just in time – a few hours later her condition deteriorated. The patient experienced severe arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) which led to the loss of consciousness and the need to defibrillate. The girl was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr myocarditis, a rare condition in a healthy, young person. After a 20-day long stay in the cardiology intensive care unit she was cleared for travel and able to go home accompanied by her family. The patient’s condition is currently monitored by her cardiologist.
The reason behind the requirements
Those who plan to apply to medical school have surely been preparing for a while -they have been studying hard, probably have an awe-inspiring academic record and superb MCAT test results. Unfortunately, that’s not all that it takes – medical schools expect the applicants to show some clinical and research experience – ever wondered why?
It’s pretty straightforward once you think about it – they want to make sure that you understand what it’s like to be a doctor, and that caring for the sick and injured is something that you’re comfortable with and really want to do.
Now here is the next thing. Medicine is an extremely dynamic field that keeps evolving at a stunning speed, this is why it’s paramount to be familiar with research.
Prove your involvement
Buckle your seatbelt because your research experience will surely lead to questions during the interview. You will be expected to elaborate on the projects and show your involvement. It goes without saying that being able to talk intelligently about your experience is crucial.
Now, I’m not suggesting that having publication is indispensable in the application process however, it’s a no-brainer – it will give you a head start before other applicants. Isn’t that what you want?
Having your name on a scientific paper is a quantifiable proof of your achievements and certificate of success as an undergraduate student. I can’t stress enough how big an advantage it is.
The bottom line is that the best applicants are those that jump off the page. Not many undergraduate students get to co-author a paper; this is why this experience will surely make you a unique candidate with tangible proof of success.
Trust me. It will be worth it.
Anita Walencik is a medical student studying at “Sapienza” University of Rome. Before coming to Italy she studied in the UK until she realized that a country with sun and gelato is more appealing.
In her free time, she loves traveling, reading books and windsurfing on the Mediterranean Sea.
She has experience in different healthcare environments and hopes to bring closer the ins and outs of the medical world to her fellow adventure seekers.