This section will spotlight a student who has come through the Health Professions Advising office at CSUF on their journey to professional school, and wishes to share his or her experiences and advice with current and future students.
Joseph Guerrero- Future Physician
I remember as a young child visiting my dad at an urgent care during his late night shifts. My siblings and I would pile into the car, Mom at the helm, and head to the clinic for wheelchair rides, practice on the crutches, and so many laughs. My favorite part of these visits, however, was looking at old X-rays with my dad. He would explain the location of the bones, show me where the fracture was, tell the story about how it happened, and it was all fascinating to me. It was around this time that I began to realize how much medicine and the human body in general appealed to me. As I approached college, however, I faced the reality that school was not enough of a priority for me, and at the time I was certain that I could not ever become a doctor. I began to pursue other interests.
For over 10 years I was involved in the hospitality industry. I am crazy about food, and there was a lot of it. My favorite aspect of being in restaurants and hotels, however, was the people—my coworkers and the guests. Although I enjoyed the work that I was doing, I felt that with my love of working with people and my long-standing interest in medicine, I could do something more personally rewarding than serving meals. I wanted to stop merely thinking about becoming a medical doctor and finally do it. With the support and encouragement of my loved ones, I made the decision to diverge from my culinary career path and begin an entirely new one. For this transition, I was so thankful to come into contact with the Health Professions Advising Office (HPAO), and Dr. Goode, at CSUF. A few months later, I was admitted to the CSUF pre-health post-bacc program.
The HPAO and Dr. Goode gave me all of the resources and guidance necessary to have the mindset of a competitive candidate—all that was needed from me was the effort. Initially it was a surprising amount of effort. The pace and workload of the post-bacc program was like nothing I had ever experienced. Meanwhile, I was volunteering at a community outreach organization (SOS) and an emergency room (CCE program at Hoag, Newport), while still holding down a job. As the semester progressed, I left my job and decided not to join student premedical associations; this way I could focus on my fantastic volunteer opportunities and my grades (As I had mentioned, school had not been a priority for me in the past, so now I had to really prove that I was a capable student. Regarding volunteering versus joining associations: I began to realize as I interviewed that what an applicant is committed to in his or her free time may not be as important as the impact it has and what he or she can talk about gaining from the experience). I learned how to properly study, manage my time, and academically excel.
When it came time to study for MCATs, I took prep courses and as many practice tests as I could find. I cannot stress the practice tests enough. Not only does the exam require nearly as much strategy as it does information recall, it is a long and tiring exam. For me, each test was an opportunity for me to experiment with a different breakfast, different snacks, different caffeine sources/intake, different break routines... these things matter, and will be reflected in the score. I even called the testing center to ask what temperature the room is kept at, so I could have the most comfortable outfit on testing day. The test came and went, and so did application season. The day I received the ‘congratulations’ letter was the happiest day of my adult life. It was finally real—my dream was real.
As I write this, I am excited to think about what medical school will be like. I start orientation at Chicago Medical School, RFUMS, tomorrow, and it seems like only yesterday that I was cooking, waiting tables, and longing for something more substantial. I have no regrets about the path I took. The long, scenic route. I now have the dedication and maturity necessary to devote my life to learning and practicing medicine. I was also fortunate to have this time to work, spend time with friends and family, travel, and enjoy life—all things that there will be a lot less of for a while… starting tomorrow. Bon voyage.
Joseph M. Guerrero