Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Preparing for Med School: Amy Du '11 Shares Her Insights

Amy Du is an Elmhurst College (EC) alumnus who is in her second year of medical school at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to enrolling at Penn State, she completed a master’s degree at Northwestern University in epidemiology and biostatistics. Since graduating from EC, Amy has pursued her interest in global health initiatives by taking service trips to Panama, Peru and Nicaragua. Below she answered a few questions for us about her experiences and shared some useful advice for other students.

1.) What experiences did you have at Elmhurst that helped prepare you the most for professional school?

My research experience with Dr. Stacey Raimondi on metastatic breast cancer was a great introduction to evidence-based science. Our team had the opportunity to present our research at conferences and publish our work. These experiences were foundational in guiding me through my master’s thesis. Additionally, the Advanced Human Anatomy course taught by Dr. James Berry was right on target in preparing me for my anatomy class in medical school.  

2. What did you appreciate most about your Elmhurst experience?

I definitely appreciated the personal relationships I formed with my professors and with the staff in various departments at EC. By the end of my four years at EC, I felt so at home. Whether it was scholarships or professional development, I received a lot of support from EC staff and faculty to help me thrive after graduation. Of course, this included the PCHP, especially Erica Ashauer, who assisted me throughout the medical school application process. I am truly grateful and proud to tell others about my alma mater.

3. What are some of the best aspects of attending Penn State for medical school in your opinion?

Penn State's emphasis on the humanities is a highlight for me. The curriculum is not only training me to become a knowledgeable and component physician, but also a socially responsible and compassionate care provider. Many of the physicians are personable and willing to take time to meet with students and encourage students to shadow them. The administration is also very responsive to student feedback. There is a tremendous sense of camaraderie within the student body. Upper-class students are always willing to provide advice and we share helpful resources with each other through social networks.  

4. What are your plans after graduating from medical school?

I have some idea of what I enjoy within the medical profession. However, I cannot say for certain which specialty I will choose until my clinical rotations during third and fourth year. Global health will definitely continue to play a large role throughout my training and career. I hope to match to a residency that will support my passion for global health. One thing is for certain, I am ready to move to somewhere with warmer climates.

5. Are there recommendations you have for current undergraduates as they are preparing to become physicians or other health care professionals?

In retrospect, I would have taken microbiology and Dr. Raimondi's cell biology classes. These topics appear throughout the medical curriculum and are clinically relevant, so setting that foundation in college would have been helpful. I would advise medical school applicants to become knowledgeable about the application process earlier rather than later. Getting the insights from reliable sources informs you of what your options are and how you can avoid common pitfalls. It is important to be sincere in your application and your interviews. If medicine is truly the profession for you, your passion will shine through. Getting accepted to a US medical school is more challenging for international students. I encourage international students to speak to international medical students who have been through the process about their experiences. Finally, it is okay to take time off between college and medical school if it is the right fit for you. I deferred my enrollment to Penn State to pursue a master’s degree at Northwestern University. Getting a degree in epidemiology and biostatistics has enriched my medical school experience and enhanced my understanding of evidence-based medicine. I also studied Medical Spanish during that year, which helped tremendously with my international service trips over the past 2 years. I wish you a good journey as you continue to pursue your passion in medicine. It is not an easy path to take, but certainly a rewarding one.

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