A brief guide for those interested in medicine
I’m interested in medicine but I don’t know where to start...
First of all, you should ask yourself why you want to pursue this career. Everyone has slightly different reasons. You may love science and love helping people, but there are many jobs that combine those two things. Why does medicine stand out to you? Why couldn’t you work as a nurse practitioner or a physical therapist? These are some important questions that you will need to think through. In fact, questions like these may come up during medical school interviews.
Secondly, you’ll have to study for many years if you’re interested in becoming a doctor. It could take close to a decade to complete all the necessary requirements i.e. 4 years of medical school followed by 5-6 years for residency for certain specialties. And it is of course, a lifelong of learning e.g. staying updated with how to treat certain problems etc.
How can I prepare for the application process?
If you’re in high school or university, the best thing you can do right now is start looking into courses you need to take. Certain medical schools will require certain prerequisite courses. After enrolling in those courses, it’s important to also do very well. In Ontario, most of the medical school admission cutoffs are around a 3.6-3.7 GPA (approximately an 80 average) and in some places like the University of Western Ontario, the cutoff GPA is closer to 3.85 (approximately an 83 average). Marks are usually one of the main things that medical schools look at when they consider applicants.
Another important thing that many schools like at is your MCAT result. The MCAT is a 5 hour long standardized test which tests your critical thinking and logical reasoning ability. There are 4 main areas on this test: Physical Sciences (PS), Verbal Reasoning (VR), Writing Sample (WS), and Biological Sciences (BS). The PS, VR, and BS sections include multiple choice questions and are scored out of 15. This number represents the number of questions you got right in comparison to other people, so the score could be more accurately described as a percentile score. The WS consists of 2 essays which are each graded out of 6. Your WS score is determined by adding up the numerical score for each essay, then converting it into a letter from J to T (J = 1, K = 2... T = 12). Generally, medical schools like a balanced score (i.e. 10s in the 3 sections). Also, some schools only look at 1 section (i.e. VR) so this is some information you might want to look up as you prepare for the MCAT if you’re interested in going to a particular school.
Medical schools also interview their candidates through usually one of 2 common methods: multiple mini interview (MMI) or traditional. MMIs involve interviewees walking around different stations and being involved with different activities. For example, you could be asked to act out a scenario at a particular station. The general idea behind MMIs is that interviewees have multiple opportunities to display their character to the interviewing panel. This helps to reduce interview bias and tests out the interviewee’s ability in a more practical way. Traditional interviews generally involve an interview panel of 2-3 members: usually a physician and a senior medical student. These interviews will be somewhat similar to the sit-down, job interviews.
Obtaining some volunteering or work experience can also be very helpful for your application as it shows that you are involved with your community and are using your leadership as well as many other skills. The general consensus is that meaningful experiences will give you opportunities to develop as a person and can be easily mentioned in your interview to show that you will be a good physician.
This is only a brief guide and in the coming weeks, I’ll be looking forward to writing more detailed articles about each of the main points that I have mentioned above. Hope this helped!