Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight

This summer the spotlight is shining on three of our students from the fall 2014 cohort. May you be inspired by their experiences!

AMY THERIAULT

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
I have a Master’s degree in social work and have worked as a social worker and program manager in hospitals and public health. Right before entering the program, I worked to improve electronic personal health records for a federal agency.

What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
A combination of the right opportunities at the right time. Although my work was interesting and fast paced, I felt I should pursue a career that allowed me to combine my desire to care for people with my desire to improve the healthcare system in a way that I had not been able to do. I had felt this way for quite a while. My supportive husband encouraged me to pursue my dreams for years and we spent a great deal of time comparing the various opportunities that exist for career changers to make their way into medicine. The U of L post-bacc pre-med program was an excellent fit with our priorities and the opportunity to take advantage of assured admission to the U of L medical school was the final deciding factor for me.

Please share what challenges youve had to face while in the program.
Coming from a social science background, and honestly having avoided math courses whenever possible in undergrad, made the transition to a full science course load very challenging  for me. I had to understand how to study science while learning at the same time. I don’t have the perfect system and it is under constant revision, but after two semesters I feel much more capable of effectively handling the courses. In addition to learning a lot of new material very quickly, another challenge for me was living apart from my husband for the first year. We had to learn how to have a long distance relationship.

How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
Definitely a work in progress and under constant revision. I try to exercise and eat healthily, but it is a skill that needs practice to maintain. I think scheduling helps, but then when big exams or finals roll around my best intentions falter and I end up not meeting my goals. The most important thing I have found is just to get back into the habit. Keep moving and making healthy choices. I also try to read a little every day of something non-school related and keep up with what is going on in the world. I think this helps maintain perspective when it is so easy to become completely engulfed by grades and MCAT scores.

How have you remained motivated and not given up on your dream?
There are a couple of ways - first by surrounding myself with supportive people who believe in me when I sometimes have doubts. It is very important to create your own support network with your fellow students and take advantage of the peer-mentor relationship the program facilitates. My mentor was invaluable in helping me adjust to the first year and to understand how everything worked. Finding other members of the cohort who are supportive during the journey to medical school and with whom you can study has also made a tremendous difference. Tonia and Shonna provide amazing support by guiding us through the program requirements, facilitating the activities, tutoring, etc., and supporting us personally. It helped me to hear about former student’s paths to medical school that have taken many forms, often with obstacles to overcome that are not visible to the outside observer. Finally, what also helps internally motivate me is reflecting on the experiences I have had with patients and healthcare prior to joining the program. When thinking back on these, I remember why I want to continue moving forward.

Share some advice youd give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
First, I really wish I would have taken introductory level chemistry, biology, or physics classes before coming to the program. Not only would I have gained familiarity with the content, I would have learned how I learn before the program course work started. I found out I am a visual learner and really like “picturing things” in order to understand them. I learned this by trial and error the first semester and wish I would have known it sooner. Coming from a completely non-science background, I also think having exposure to science content before taking courses where your GPA matters so significantly would have decreased my anxiety a bit. Second, really use the resources available to you. In general, the professors I have had have been very supportive and helpful. Tutoring and supplemental instruction are available for some classes. Third, don’t let the fear you might have about changing your current work or life circumstances or fear of science and math prevent you from pursuing your dreams. It is so inspiring to see successful students from previous cohorts who are currently in or have graduated from medical school.

VIJAY GUNTUPALLI, Ph.D.

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
After completing undergraduate and graduate education in the field of speech and hearing in India, I came to the United States to pursue doctoral education at East Carolina University. Since 2006, I have been working as a faculty member in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at East Tennessee State University.

What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
I always had this vision to pursue medicine, but I would suppress that vision because of the fear of losing my current status/ job/style of living. But, the desire to pursue medicine was strong that I decided it was time to listen to my heart and follow my vision.

Please share what challenges you’ve had to face while in the program.
There were a few challenges that I faced while in the program. The biggest challenge was to be away from family and the commute every other weekend to be with them. The program offers courses to be completed within 4 semesters. However, in my case, I wanted to try and complete the courses within 3 semesters to avoid the commute. I took upon myself to add additional courses during each semester, which made it challenging to keep up with the assignments and exams in each course.  The resources offered through the program, REACH, and the support of fellow students helped me get through this past year.

How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
This is a tough one to answer. This past year, the distance and commute was hard, but I made every attempt to dedicate time to family when I was home. This is something one has to consciously think about.  It is important to set aside family time in our schedule and stick to it. This is definitely an area of work in progress.

How have you remained motivated and not given up on your dream?
I have had this vision to be a physician and I finally had my chance to work for it. I have been lucky to be part of a very supportive program. The program offered enrichment sessions from physicians and medical students that have been through a similar path. Hearing the stories gave me the motivation to go even further! My family has been supportive of this decision. I want to be a role model to my son, to teach him to strive for his dreams and never give up!

Share some advice you’d give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
There are a few things that I would like to share: a) The team at the Pre-med program are extremely supportive, b) they provide resources with the vision for your success, c) you have a cohort that is chasing the same dream- work with them as a team, d) you have peer mentors that have been part of the program to guide you through this process. Don’t hesitate to ask for help and make best use of the opportunity that is provided. Good luck and let your vision unfold!

CHRIS HANSON

What was your academic and career background prior to this program?
My bachelor’s degree is in Finance from the University of Louisville and I also have an MBA from the University of Kentucky. My career was in personal finance and retirement planning before deciding to pursue medicine.

What led you to pursue medical school at this time in your life?
I always wanted to be a doctor even as a child. My senior year of high school, the fear of having to continue school for at least eight more years and follow that with a potentially long residency kept me from becoming a traditional pre-medicine student. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the years no longer seem to move as slowly as when I was 17. I always felt I should have done whatever it took to become a doctor back then. I got to a point in my life where I kept consistently getting the urge to act on that desire. When making the decision to go back to school, I believed I was at a point in my life where I could commit to working and studying harder than I would have as a 20 year old. Pursuing my delayed dream was the best decision I could have made. I could not be happier!

Please share what challenges you’ve had to face while in the program.
Making such a significant career change and taking difficult classes is a challenge in of itself. My days have become busier. The medical school prerequisite courses are generally more difficult than the classes I was accustomed to taking. I had to adapt my approach to studying to fit the science curriculum. Before school started, I also had to prepare my friends, my family and myself to the fact that I will have less time to spend with them. I have stayed dependable when I committed to doing something, but I have had to get used to sometimes say no to people needing my help or wanting to spend time with me. Having always been a yes person, it has occasionally been uncomfortable telling people I’m too busy to help them or enjoy their company right now. Thankfully, they generally understand.

How have you been able to strike a balance between your personal and academic life or is it a work in progress?
Balancing my time is definitely a work in progress. There simply is not enough time in the day to accomplish everything I want. I no longer have enough time to keep up with current events or watch television. I spend most of my time working, in class or studying. Even though it often seems like with additional time I could be better prepared for exams, I have surprised myself at how productive my days have become and how much I have accomplished by staying busy and focused on my goals. I also continue to make time for family and friends. They help me feel positive and motivated!

How have you remained motivated and not given up on your dream?
I find it much easier to stay motivated when my efforts are focused on achieving something I feel passionate about like becoming a doctor. Many of the other post-baccalaureate students have also been there for me when I needed support and compassion. We have succeeded in working together and helping each other overcome challenges, since we have the same primary goal. This program has expanded my personal goal into being part of a shared team goal.

Share some advice you’d give to a prospective applicant or newly accepted student to the program.
Try to stay positive, confident and focused! Surround yourself with people who are supportive and not pessimistic. Trust that the work you put into studying will pay off handsomely. The first semester was the toughest for me; getting used to taking multiple science classes without taking any of the less demanding general education classes. With practice and more experience, I developed my science learning skills to best suit my learning style. I feel very prepared and aware of the upcoming challenges awaiting me in medical school.