Today we have one of my friends and classmates at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine at Georgia Campus (GA-PCOM) Danielle who blogs at http://www.aspiringminoritydoctor.com/. Check out her great advice and her blog!
1. Who are you to the world?
My name is Danielle Ward and I am a third year medical student attending Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine – Georgia Campus. I graduated from Louisiana State University in 2009 with my Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and I received my Master of Science degree from the University of Saint Joseph in 2013. I am also a single mother to my amazing little ten-year- old daughter who definitely keeps life interesting.
- What has been your journey to medical school? Were you a traditional or non-traditional student? Did you always want to be a doctor? Were you a low-stats applicant?
I was definitely a non-traditional student and an extreme underdog when it came to getting into medical school. I always wanted to be a physician, but as the saying goes, nothing good ever comes easy! I had to overcome an extremely low undergraduate GPA as well as multiple low MCAT scores (I took the exam four times!), and I applied to medical school three different times over a span of five years before I was accepted. After graduating from college, I worked as a full-time research associate in parasitology and immunology, fought my way into graduate school (yep, my stats were that low, lol), kept pushing, and the rest is history 🙂
3. Why did you decide to apply to and attend an Osteopathic Medical School?
I wanted to become a physician, so I really didn’t care what initials were after my name as long as the goal was met. I honestly did not even know osteopathic medicine existed until I attended a Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Annual Medical Education Conference (AMEC) one year and was introduced to osteopathic medical schools and students. It was also at an AMEC where I was inspired by a well-known osteopathic physician and once I started looking into it, I knew osteopathic medicine was something that would fit me perfectly. When applying, it was really nice to have osteopathic schools look at my entire application and view me as a person and not just by my numbers, so the decision to apply and attend an osteopathic medical school was an easy one.
4. To you, what has been the hardest part of medical school? What is the easiest part?
The hardest part has been dealing with myself. I have a tendency to set extremely large expectations, and when I sometimes fall short, I beat myself up about it. The months leading up to my board exams were extremely hard for this reason, because I had to fight off the thoughts that I wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t be able to make it through. It was also extremely hard dealing with the massive amount of information that was thrown at me during the first term of my first year of medical school, but that definitely got easier over time.
The easiest part of medical school has been the patient encounters. I really love interacting with people and it tends to come natural for me. Now that I am out the classroom and out on my clinical clerkships, it really feels like I am in my element, and I am loving every minute of it!
5. As a single mother, I imagine you have a busy schedule. Walk us through a typical day for you:
During my first two years, my schedule actually wasn’t that bad. My daughter is ten and was pretty much in school when I was in school. A typical day would involve getting her ready for school, on the bus, and then getting myself ready and off to class. After class, I would spend the evening helping her with her homework, bonding, and getting her ready for bed and then I would study for the rest of the night. Now that I am in my third year, things will be changing a bit and I will have to have outside help come in, so it will be interesting to see how things work out for us this school year.
6. Why did you start blogging at http://www.aspiringminoritydoctor.com/ and how did you choose the name “Aspiring Minority Doctor”?
When I first got accepted into medical school, I wanted to find women with similar circumstances as myself who had made it through. I was told that as a single mother, medical school would be impossible, and I was determined to find other osteopathic underrepresented minority students who were able to make medical school work while raising a family. After an extensive search, I really couldn’t find much, so I decided to be the inspiration for others who were considering the same path and needed some guidance. I originally came up with a few names different for my blog, but all those domain names were already taken, so I eventually settled on “Aspiring Minority Doctor” which describes me and so many others perfectly.
7. If you could have any future position in medicine, what would it be and why?
My dream is to become a surgeon. I love the human body, being able to cure a patient, and I seriously get the happiest feeling whenever I am in an operating room. I also like using my hands, being able to offer immediate results and the transformations that sometimes occur with surgery. I am keeping my options open as to what type of surgeon I will become, but right now I can’t see myself becoming anything else.
8. You have traveled a lot! What is your favorite place to-date and what is your future dream vacation?
I absolutely love Jamaica! The weather is nice and hot, the food delicious, and the people are amazing. I was born in Germany, but don’t remember any of it, and I’ve always wanted to go to Spain, so my dream vacation would probably involve a month throughout Europe.
9. Before medical school, you had many research experiences. How did you secure your research position and work on so many publications?
During college, I worked as an undergraduate student research assistant in genetics. Through this I was able to be exposed to research, present posters, and develop my skills. After graduating from college, I could no longer work my research job since it was for students only, but I needed money and actually wanted to do something that would help with my medical school applications. I saw a job for a research associate position in parasitology and immunology that required a masters degree, but I loved parasitology and applied anyway. I was floored when I was offered an interview and the PI was impressed with my background knowledge, so I was offered the job. The research funded by a five year grant through the NIH, so it gave ample time to contribute to meaningful publications.
10. You have held a lot of influential positions throughout your medical journey. What are your top three networking tips?
1 – Don’t be afraid to approach people, and make sure you have a solid 30 second speech about who you are, what you want to accomplish, and how the person can help you.
2 – Just because one person says no, doesn’t mean everyone will. Keep putting yourself out there!
3 – Don’t limit yourself to just people in the positions you want. Many times networking with individuals in completely unrelated fields has led to some great insight. You might want to become a physician, but that business owner, engineer, banker, etc., can probably provide you with little life nuggets that can help with your long-term goals. Everyone has something to offer that can be used to benefit your goals, so don’t be afraid to branch out.
11. Earlier this year you finished COMLEX and USMLE Step 1. Congratulations! What was your strategy and schedule like? Any Recommended Resources?
Thank you! I recently wrote a post that describes my study schedule, strategies, and the resources used which can be found here: http://www.aspiringminoritydoctor.com/2016/07/how-i-studied-for-comlex-level-1-and.html
13. Favorite article/feature you have done thus far?
This one, of course! The Daily Medicine Blog gives me life! (I am blushing & honored!)
14. Where do you see your blog headed in the next year?
I am looking forward to entering the clinical side of medicine over the next year and taking my readers through the journey with me. I am also currently working on a book based off my blog that will help pre-medical students with the medical school application process, so stay tuned!
15. Biggest advice for pre-meds and incoming medical school students?
If medicine is truly what you want, then go for it! Don’t let the opinions of others keep you from going after your dreams. If something is truly meant for you, then it will be. It might not be today, next year, or even a few years from now, but with persistence, dedication, and hard work, you will eventually get to where you want and need to be.
Thank you so much Danielle Ward for being an awesome mother, friend, student, and example for so many!