Prairie Doc Perspective Week of March 26th, 2023
“Medical School Journey”
By Samantha Darnall-Werlinger, MD
It has been 9 years since my medical school acceptance. I can describe my personal process in 2 words: arduous and lengthy. Now, this may not be the case for all people that apply to medical school. A few individuals may be able to apply directly out of undergrad and be accepted. I’ll speak from my experience which had a few more detours involved.
I am the first person in my family to become a physician. This added unique challenges while applying to medical school - I essentially had to blaze my own trail. The journey starts during undergraduate education. Many students major in the sciences and take the courses to build a strong foundation for the coming years. Regardless of major, your GPA plays a role in medical school acceptance. Surround yourself with like minded individuals that will help you succeed in your goal.
The application and acceptance process is a dynamic one. The initial hurdle is the MCAT (Medical College Acceptance Test). After my first MCAT, I realized I needed a structured approach and direction to succeed. I highly recommend an in-person class or an online study group that offers insight into test taking strategies and practice exams. These resources will be worth the investment. My score drastically improved and made my application much more competitive.
Unfortunately, the number of medical school applicants is staggering in comparison to the limited number of seats available. This is where building and personalizing your application comes into play. Inquire admission committees on how to bolster yourself on paper. Many highly recommend experiences in patient care. These can come in the form of volunteerism or employment at local hospitals or nursing homes. Some individuals do research, shadow physicians, become scribes or work other skill-building jobs in the field. I decided to work at a local hospital providing direct patient care. Through this, I gained the experience I needed to stand out. The patients you meet along the way will teach you more than you realize.
I also furthered my education with a Master’s degree, focusing on human anatomy and physiology. This gave me the opportunity to teach undergrad students and gain even more foundational knowledge.
The perseverance and experiences paid off. I was accepted to Ross University School of Medicine in 2014, spent 2 years in Chicago, graduated with Highest Honors and matched into my first choice residency program for Family Medicine. I graduated in June 2021.
There is no wrong way to go about getting into medical school but there are more efficient routes. Have a mentor. Utilize appropriate resources. Stay focused and on track.