Hi everyone! I am so excited to share that I will do a Q&A series with medical students in the next few blog posts. Some of the interviews will be geared to the pre-med group, while others will be for medical students!
Our first interviewee is Jordan! Jordan is a first-year medical student in Northern California. She grew up in Southern California and went to UC Berkeley where she majored in Molecular and Cell Biology with an emphasis in Neurobiology. She loves working with kids and hopes to go into pediatric neurology. Jordan documents her journey through medical school and shares pre-med tips on her on Instagram @jordan__eisner and blog!
1. What drew you to pursuing a career as a physician? Did you consider other career choices?
As cheesy as it sounds, I don’t remember wanting to be anything other than a physician. I’ve always been extremely curious about diseases and the science behind them. I think this curiosity, combined with the desire to find a career in which I could interact with people often, is what makes medicine perfect for me. It’s a simple explanation but it really just fell into place for me. I never considered anything else and I am lucky that my dream ended up working out.
2. What specialty are you most interested in and why?
As of right now, I am interested in child neurology. In high school and college, I worked as a preschool teacher and absolutely adored it. Through that time I learned just how interesting child development is and how comfortable I am around kids. Though my interests started with development, I found myself loving every aspect of neuroscience in undergrad. I think there is something so exciting about the brain because there is still so much to be learned. Child neurology feels like my perfect fit but I am trying to keep an open mind. Either way, I see myself working in a pediatric field that focuses on the brain in some capacity.
3. What made you decide to take a gap year? What did you do during that time and what did you learn?
Originally I was dead set against taking a gap year. I took the MCAT in January of my junior year and was on track to apply to medical school that summer. However, I had recently started in a new lab and realized I would get a much stronger letter of recommendation if I waited. Ultimately, I am thankful I took the year off because it gave me the opportunity to be a scribe, take some time off of school, and have a stronger application. I ended up doing a senior thesis and developing a strong relationship with my PI, which strengthened my application. During my gap year, I learned so much as a scribe which has made the transition to medical school much easier. This extra time also gave me the chance to go on a Birthright trip.
4. How many medical schools did you apply to? What helped you decided on what schools to apply to?
I applied to 26 schools. I am from Southern California and I absolutely hate the cold. This made a lot of schools off limits for me personally. I applied to mostly schools on the coasts because I thought I would feel comfortable there. Location mattered a lot to me and I am so lucky that I got the chance to stay in California. I think people tend to downplay the importance of location but I think it is important to remember that you will be living there for four years and you have to be okay with that! Another huge factor in deciding where to apply was how my scores compared to MSAR data. I tried to apply to 25% “reach” schools, 50% “within range” schools and 25% “above range” schools. I actually have a blog post about this topic that has the list of schools I applied to and more detail about the factors I considered!
“As a premed, I worked so hard to make sure my application was perfect, and when it came time to apply I continued to stress daily. Once applications are in, I think it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that it is out of your hands.”-Jordan
5. How did you get involved in research as an undergrad and what tips do you have for those who want to get research experience?
I started research during my freshman year. My school had a program for undergraduate research and I got my position through that program. My first lab was a psychology lab and while it was a good experience it helped me realize that I did not want to major in psychology. My next two lab positions I got through cold emailing professors. My biggest piece of advice to those trying to get into research is to send a ton of emails because you probably won’t get that many answers back. It is also important to find a lab you are happy in. My first wet lab was not a good fit and I am so grateful that I decided to leave and find a new position. I ended up loving my new position and had more room to grow than I would have had in my first lab.
6. How was your experience of starting medical school during the Coronavirus pandemic?!
Honestly, it was rough at the beginning. I found it pretty difficult to acclimate to my new city and I was constantly wishing I was back home. It was hard to know who I would get along with and I felt like I didn’t fit into my class at first. However, after time I found my people and am much happier now. Unfortunately, we have only had 2 in-person clinical skills sessions. I definitely feel like our clinical skills experience was inferior to what it could have been but I am hoping that it gets better next block. Overall, starting medical school during the pandemic was not ideal but it turned out okay I think.
7. How do you maintain work-life balance in medical school?
I honestly think this has been easier because of the pandemic. In the first few months of school there wasn’t much to do besides study so that’s what I did most of the time. I am able to go home pretty often and find that even if I take a few days off here and there it doesn’t affect my exam scores. As long as I stay on top of the material, it is pretty easy to have a life outside of school. This may change as the material gets more difficult and as extracurriculars pick up, but for now it’s going well!
8. Have your study habits change from undergrad to medical school?
Yes, a ton! In undergrad I wrote notes by hand and would re-write all of my notes before an exam. Now I use an iPad for everything and definitely do not rewrite notes. I also use Anki now which I had never done before. Medical school classes have so much more information and so it really doesn’t make sense to write notes out again. Instead, I review powerpoint notes, watch extra videos if I need to and do flashcards. So far this has been working for me but I think my study habits are going to change a bit moving into Block 2 to be more Anki-focused.
9. What is something you wish you knew before applying to medical school?
It will all be okay. I was a nervous wreck when it came to applying to medical school and I just wish I had been able to calm down a bit. I’m not denying that it is inherently stressful, but I wish I would have trusted myself a bit more. As a premed, I worked so hard to make sure my application was perfect, and when it came time to apply I continued to stress daily. Once applications are in, I think it’s important to take a step back and acknowledge that it is out of your hands.
10. Any last tips for pre-medical students going through the medical school journey?
Take care of yourself and find good friends. I don’t think I could’ve gone through pre-med life without my two best friends (who were also pre-med). Some pre-meds will want to compare themselves to you constantly and I highly recommend avoiding that! You don’t need people around you that make you feel inadequate. It doesn’t matter what someone else gets on an exam or how many volunteer hours your peer has. All that matters is that you are doing your best. Pick activities you are passionate about and stick with them. My volunteering experience was the highlight of my weeks and that made it so much more valuable on my application. Even though there are some “application boxes” you feel like you need to check, do so in a way that makes you happy.
I hope you enjoyed the interview! Let us know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below! You can find Jordan on Instagram at @jordan__eisner & on her blog (to-be-md.blogspot.com) where she shares her medical school journey and premedical tips!