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.
Lee Thompson - Future Physician
Beginning a career in the medical field is no simple task, and becoming professionally responsible for the health and well-being of another person is not something that should be taken lightly. Along the way you’ll have to master a seemingly endless amount of difficult material, submit to a lengthy and rigorous application process, and conduct yourself in an impeccably professional manner…all while somehow remaining human. It may seem like a Herculean challenge, but it’s far from impossible if only you have the drive and desire to make it happen.
Without exception, all of the classmates and colleagues I meet in medical school possess this personal drive, myself included. We all claim different backgrounds, aptitudes and skill-sets, but what unites us is our shared motivation to join the ranks of healthcare professionals and put on the white coat. My path to med school, for instance, was very nontraditional with a few moments along the way where I wondered whether taking the Hippocratic Oath was in my future at all. And yet my drive—the specific calling I feel towards medicine—kept me going against every obstacle or challenge I encountered. I persevered, I sacrificed and I managed to keep the dream alive.
That drive is what any aspiring pre-med needs to tap into. The demanding course of entry into the health professions will test both your mettle and determination, but things worth doing are rarely easy, and if you are truly driven towards medicine no amount of obstacles will deter you. There are several ways to flesh out whether you have such a drive, but I personally recommend being proactive and finding out first hand. For example, at the outset of my journey I was a Political Science and Psychology double-major uncertain of my career ambitions. So, I performed research with the Department of Psychology, I picked up an English minor and edited a publication for the Writing Department, I became involved with several student organizations and let these experiences guide me as I grew along the way. However, It wasn’t until after I graduated and moved on from college that I tapped into the drive that would sustain my entry into the world of medicine. What finally set everything in motion was the time I spent volunteering at a local free clinic, an experience that left me profoundly inspired. I’m not saying everyone has to be able to point back to one experience or moment that ignited their life’s passion, but that was it for me.
To emphasize, if you are considering a career in medicine it behooves you to have significant experience in that environment. This is why health-professions schools stress shadowing and related experiences—they want to know you’ve done the homework to determine for yourself whether you really want to devote your life to this. I did this by finding a job at a hospital working full-time assisting the nursing staff. I figured if I really intended to be a doctor, I had better see what the world of healthcare was about from any angle I could. So, I continued to volunteer, I shadowed doctors, all the while wide-eyed and learning from real-life experiences. You can accomplish this in an almost limitless number of ways, but all that really matters is that you take the time to discover what you’re passionate about—what drives you—and that you exude it. Maybe this course of discovery will take you in a completely different direction—that’s fine. Maybe it’ll send you back to the drawing board—again, everyone has to take their own path. But I guarantee if you hit on what you’re passionate about, be it medicine or something else entirely, those around you will take notice and good things will happen.
Just remember along the way that nobody does this alone. My path basically took me back to the drawing board, which made for a lot of additional obstacles in starting over as a post-bacc, but I had so much help in making it to where I am, especially after I came to CSUF. And apart from tackling the pre-medical curriculum, there are many other demanding steps in preparing yourself for professional school. Take your application seriously; complete it early, edit it carefully, and show it to as many people as you can to get suggestions on how to improve it. For me, the greatest challenge outside of the basic admissions and application requirements was determining how to afford the cost of a medical education, which is another of the many things you should fully consider while embarking on this journey. Again, I wouldn’t have been able to make it here without a determined drive and an invaluable support system, so be sure to carefully consider the important decisions you have to make and take advice and assistance from those around you, be they family and friends or mentors and advisors. They’ve been there and can offer you perspective, which can be a priceless gift if you’re smart enough to utilize it. And if you’re fortunate, maybe one day you’ll even be in the same position to offer advice for those just beginning their own journey along this extraordinary path. I wish you all the best.