Spotlights

Our student spotlight continues to shine on our students. May you be inspired by their experiences! 

2021 Cohort

 Share your academic and career background
I graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2013 with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and a M.S. in Applied Mathematics. With my academic background, I pursued career in data science at Aetna, a healthcare insurance company, for eight years.

What led you to pursue medical school now?
With biomedical engineering background, I have thought of pursuing medicine like any other biomedical engineers at school. Soon I realized I love numbers and data analytics more than engineering, product designing, and lab work. I decided to pursue a career that can incorporate analytical skills and landed at Aetna, a healthcare insurance company. Here I was exposed to various side of healthcare insurance business, from provider to members to products, and used data science skills to solve business problems. My last few years of work was around creating and optimizing the network of providers for commercial and Medicare/Medicaid programs. The main focus was to improve the healthcare access and quality. More and more work gets done, it seemed like I was just doing same work with data, and not making a big progress to improve the access or product quality. It was discouraging that some of the healthcare issues are hard to be resolved with sophisticated analytics because of the regulations, the policies, the cost, and myriad factors. This was when I started to look outside. Thinking of a career that could have more direct impact on people’s everyday healthcare. The thought led to a career change towards medicine, to bring direct impact in people’s lives rather than running programs behind the computer monitor. One person may not be able to change the whole system, but I believe that one physician can change many lives and it would be a more meaningful and fulfilling life for me. 

Share some challenges you have encountered and/or adjustments you’ve made as a non-traditional student?
Being out of school for eight years, the transition going from a full-time employee to a full-time student was definitely challenging for me. Work had fixed hours, with clear goals for the day, the week, the quarter and the year. Somewhat repetitive. School is definitely different. Once your classes are done, you are done, but not really. There are a lot of information to intake from different classes and they get entangled because all of them are connected one way or another. I had to find time here and there dedicated for studying. It took some time for me, but as I got hang of it, it became more manageable and doable.

This seems a bit stupid, but because I was out of school for long, I forgot how to ask science questions. Google is a great friend. When I have a question while studying, I turn to google first. But with science questions, often it was hard to phrase the questions and the results were more confusing to understand or provided more details than what I need to know. So, I started to reach out to the professors and the TAs, the experts. Going to the office hours and emailing them with the questions made me more productive because I was able to get the answers that registered to me right away, rather than browsing multiple pages online trying to make sense by myself. And long run, this ended up being a tremendous help to build relationships with professors at UofL. 

How do you stay motivated on your pre-med journey?  Share a motivational quote, motto or song that keeps you going!
This journey definitely has ups and downs. For me, monthly enrichment sessions have been very motivational. I never got to speak to physicians or medical school students personally before. Hearing about the doctors’ and current medical school students’ ups and downs in their journey through the medical schools, the residencies, and the professional experiences during these sessions have been intriguing and encouraging.

Also volunteering at UofL hospital and Family Community Clinic helps me stay motivated. Observing healthcare professionals working all together to provide the care to patients and being a part of assisting patients have been a great reminder of why I wanted to take this journey. 

How have you benefitted from the program so far?
First of all, without Tonia and Shonna, I am not sure where I would be at this point. My plan B if I didn’t make it into this program was doing DIY Post-Bacc. With my plan B, I would’ve been all alone, not knowing what to do with no connection. Thinking about it, I am very thankful to have Tonia and Shonna in this journey. They have been providing continuous support, guidance, and advice. If you are interested in something (like volunteering, shadowing, specialties, simulation lab, team building), they will find people, events, or organizations to help you to expand your experience in medicine. Also, this program comes with a great community of people, who are striving for the common goal. Being able to have the peers and the mentors who understand what you are going through is really important, and it always reminds me that I am not alone in this and have people to talk to.

Share some advice for a prospective applicant or an incoming student.
Everyone has different style of studying, so find what works for you the best. Some people can do 15 minutes here and there, but that never works for me. I must set an hour to two to really focus and work. Sometimes the studying can be overwhelming, but remember more things are coming, and this is to train you for your future.

Look for help if you are having a hard time with classes. All the professors I’ve had at UofL are very friendly and willing to help. They know their job is to teach you and to help you academically. So, go to their office hours and email them with questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question. I was worried how I was going to ask for the committee letters for my application to professors. And this became a great way to build relationships with professors. Also, if you think the professors are intimidating, there are plenty of other resources to get help academically. PALs, REACH, SLAs. Utilize them.

Lastly, Tonia, Shonna, and your cohort are here for you to be successful together! You are never alone in this journey.

2021 Cohort

 Share your academic and career background
I graduated from the University of Louisville in 2014 with a B.A. in Psychology. I gained experience as a supported employment agent assisting people who may have had various types of disabilities to seek and maintain meaningful employment. Though I enjoyed my position, I felt that I had more to contribute to my clientele so I enrolled at Morehead State University and graduated with a M.S. in Clinical Psychology in 2018.  After graduation, I have worked a wide array of positions in community mental health and therapeutic services through Ky Probation and Parole.  Before applying to this program, I provided mental health and addiction therapeutic services. In this role as a therapist, I not only gained invaluable skills, but became very connected to my clients. 

What led you to pursue medical school now?
With the awareness of the barriers many of my client’s faced in receiving therapeutic and medical services, I made the decision to return to medical school. The role of a therapist allows you to have a truly unique relationship with a client. A major role is the ability to build a therapeutic relationship with a strong foundation of trust and respect. With this, I’ve gently listened to the concerns and the perceived barriers to receiving adequate medical and therapeutic services. I am extremely appreciative to have had client’s openly discuss these problems because it reignited a desire to pursue medicine.  I felt I had a purpose and a responsibility to find a way to alleviate these barriers and for me that beginning a career in medicine.  

Share some challenges you have encountered and/or adjustments you’ve made as a non-traditional student?
One challenge for me was being confident in my decision to return to university to pursue a career in medicine. Being labeled a “non-traditional” student and watching my friend’s continue to grow their families and careers was a challenge for me. Though my path was different than other pre-medical students, I have gained experience and skills that are invaluable in medicine. Luckily, U of L’s pre-med post-bacc program has a wonderful and supportive staff. Thank you Tonia and Shonna! 

At the beginning of the first Fall semester it may seem daunting to have a schedule filled with Chemistry, Biology, and Physics, but the UofL’s faculty provides so many helpful resources. I would recommend becoming familiar with the REACH department and utilize your PAL.

How do you stay motivated on your pre-med journey?  Share a motivational quote, motto or song that keeps you going!
A quote that passes through my head is “it takes a village.” In the program if you are feeling overwhelmed or doubtful, it is important to communicate and reach out to your family, friends, cohort, Tonia, Shonna, or anyone. Having a great support group and people to gently remind you that this is a temporary stepping stone has been my greatest blessing on my pre-med journey.

How have you benefitted from the program so far?
Firstly, this post-bacc pre-med program is wonderful! Tonia and Shonna are the best pre-med resources!  They are both extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about each and every student’s journey. It can feel like you are starting a step behind traditional pre-med students, but with the post-bacc program I was able to have course/professor recommendations, access to volunteer and shadowing experiences, MCAT resources, and hands-on simulation labs. The program provides enough structure for you to successfully navigate your way to medical school.

Share some advice for a prospective applicant or an incoming student.
Some advice I would give incoming students is to try. Switching careers can be frightening, but if you have a passion for medicine then it is never too late. I loved and was comfortable in my career but I was lacking fulfillment. I am very thankful that this program exist and it has provided so many opportunities to successfully pursue my goals.

2021 Cohort

 Share your academic and career background:
I graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2012 with a BS in Accounting. While in college, I thought seriously about changing gears and pursuing medicine, but at the time I had a strong desire to go into the military after graduating, so I stuck it out in Accounting thinking that it would be a good degree to fall back on. I spent over five years in the Army as an Infantry Officer, deployed once to Iraq, and developed an even stronger desire to pursue medicine due to some of my experiences in the Army. When I started transitioning from the military, I felt confused and a little lost when it came to what direction to take. I also had serious doubts about trying to go back to school to become a physician later in life, especially since I was newly married and trying to get established. I felt like that ship had sailed, and that I should try to focus on finding a career in business or finance. After weaving my way through countless job applications, networking events, and even studying for and taking the GMAT in case I wanted to pursue an MBA, I landed a fantastic job at Goldman Sachs as a trader. My wife, Haley, and I made the move to New York City and I worked there for two years. It was a wonderful experience that developed me professionally and provided challenging work, but it didn’t fulfill me. I knew that I couldn’t avoid it any longer and I had to take the leap to pursue my dream. 

What led you to pursue medical school now:
My dream of becoming a physician and having a meaningful, direct impact in people’s lives couldn’t be ignored any longer. After talking to one of my Army buddies who was about halfway through medical school (shoutout to Paulson), I got the sense that it was going to be difficult, but possible. At the time, I didn’t even know what prerequisites I still needed for medical school, much less what was even tested on the MCAT. I started researching which classes I still needed, how I should go about getting them, where to go, etc. That’s when I stumbled upon post-bacc pre-med programs, which I had never heard of before. I thought that doing one of these programs would be the quickest and most efficient way for me to get to medical school and ultimately achieve my dream. Since we were living in NYC at the time, I applied to Columbia’s program, and I also applied to Louisville’s program since it was closer to our families. I got into both, but I was quickly floored by the support and hospitality I immediately felt from Tonia, Shonna, and even some of the physicians that interviewed me. It quickly became a no-brainer, so we made the move to Louisville, and my wife Haley supported me 100% of the way. 

Share some of the challenges you have encountered and/or adjustments you’ve made as a non-traditional student:
My wife and I just had our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Emberly, so life has changed for the better during my time in the program! We also have a Belgian Malinois, which is a very high drive dog that requires a ton of activity, and a cat that is borderline feral. All that to say, we have our hands full, so time management is one of the biggest keys to success. We knew that my wife was pregnant in December, after my first semester in the program, so I knew that I needed to knock the MCAT out ASAP before she was born. Instead of using the summer between the first and second year to study and take the MCAT, I started vigorously studying during the Spring semester of my first year so that I could take it at the beginning of June and hopefully knock it out. It was very tough, but I’m glad I did it, and I thank God everyday that He was able to sustain me during that time. Additionally, there are many others in the program that have several kids and work part time or even full time, so no matter your situation, I know you can do it! Focus and time management are key, and something that I continually try to improve. 

How do you stay motivated on your pre-med journey? Share a motivational quote, motto, or song:
I try to think about the end goal while still enjoying the journey. It is really easy to go through life always trying to reach the next milestone without actually enjoying the journey that got you there, and I think that’s one of the things I’m trying to focus on. I’ve enjoyed every day of my life as a post-bacc pre-med student so far, even the stressful ones, and I thank God that I am blessed with the opportunity to pursue this dream.

My favorite quote is actually good advice for anyone taking pre-med classes, the MCAT, or learning any new skill. Richard P. Feynman once said “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” When you think you know something, drill it over and over until it becomes second nature. And when you think you know something forwards and backwards, you’re probably only halfway there. Take this approach to learning your amino acids and your MCAT score will instantly increase by three points.

How have you benefited from the program so far?
Before I was even accepted into the program, Tonia was connecting me with graduates that had similar backgrounds as mine, which was extremely helpful. These ambassadors of the program, current medical school students themselves, were able to offer invaluable insight and guidance. As a matter of fact, I still reach out to some of them for advice. Since then, the program just kept getting better and better. From going through your transcripts to analyze the exact classes you need for medical school, outlining a plan to accomplish your goal, setting up volunteer and shadowing opportunities, and putting together awesome enrichment and team building sessions, Tonia and Shonna are literally the best. The program has made the transition so much easier than I could’ve ever imagined.

Share some advice for a prospective applicant or incoming student:
For prospective applicants, reach out today, don’t wait. Sign up for an information session or feel free to email any questions you have. Everyone you speak with will be super friendly and helpful. I still remember where I was when I sent my first email to Tonia, and it’s crazy to think that I’ve almost completed the program and am ready to move on to medical school!

For incoming students, lean on your cohort and the cohort ahead of you for help. We’re all in this together and we all want to see each other succeed. Stay focused and keep grinding, it will pay off!

2021 Cohort

 Share your academic and career background
I graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN with a BA in Economics and Public Policy. I gained valuable professional experience by working at Morgan Stanley in NYC for three years after college. I joined the Regulatory Relations team which manages the Firm's global relationship with our prudential regulators: the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. The fast paced environment running regulatory exams and responding to inquiries gave me the opportunity to become comfortable balancing competing priorities and working under pressure. These are skills that I continue to use. I am thankful for the gap between college and PostBac, which gave me time to mature and ensure that medicine was the right choice for me.

What led you to pursue medical school now?
I had started to consider being a physician while I was walking on El Camino de Santiago. This reflective experience gave me the chance to reevaluate what was important to me and what I wanted my legacy to be. I realized I wanted to dedicate my career to helping others. I started volunteering outside of work and found those experiences more fulfilling than my day job. That's when I knew I needed to make a change. During the Pandemic, I saw the strain on healthcare providers and was frustrated that my lack of qualifications prevented me from helping in a more meaningful way. This solidified my desire to pursue my calling to medicine.

Share some challenges you have encountered and/or adjustments you’ve made as a non-traditional student?
It was certainly a challenge to readjust to the academic rhythm initially. Work has clear cut boundaries but it can be hard to find the right work life balance when you can always do additional work to ensure you understand the material better or study more for an upcoming test. Once I got into the swing of things, being a non-traditional student felt like a huge advantage at UofL. I had learned from the mistakes I made during undergrad and was committed to completing the journey to become a physician. A common experience among my cohort was that professors were excited to learn they had PostBac students in their classes as they appreciated our dedication and excitement for the material.

How do you stay motivated on your pre-med journey?  Share a motivational quote, motto or song that keeps you going!
I stayed motivated by volunteering/shadowing at the UofL ER every chance I got. Being around providers delivering care to patients kept me grounded and focused on the end goal of this journey. The variety and constant stream of cases kept the 8-hour shifts interesting and the EM residents are always happy to teach you new things about every case. They have a very straightforward application/scheduling system that you can find here

How have you benefited from the program so far?
After one conversation with Tonia on the phone I was infected by her optimism and enthusiasm and knew I had to continue my journey to become a physician by moving to Louisville from New York. I am so glad I did; I have benefitted from the program immeasurably. The community support that Tonia, Shonna, and members of your cohort provide makes this difficult process significantly more pleasant and achievable. From course recommendations, to study groups, to mentors, to volunteering opportunities, and team building events this program has everything you need to make the successful transition to medical school at your own pace.

Share some advice for a prospective applicant or an incoming student.
The thing that helped me to succeed in classes was to completely move away from memorizing material and to approach new information by simplifying and contextualizing concepts into basic principles that I applied to new problems. While it took more mental effort on the front end, it was well worth it when the test and MCAT rolled around. 

My two biggest pieces of advice when it comes to the MCAT are: (1) I would strongly recommend taking Biochemistry before taking the MCAT; and (2) it is never too early to start preparing. Get in the habit of watching and taking notes on 1 Khan Academy MCAT Foundations video every morning and making and studying Anki cards every day. Consistency is key because habits make actions automatic. It does not have to be a lot; dedicate 15-20 mins EVERY day. If you start as soon as you are accepted to the program you will thank me later when it comes time for the MCAT.

Finally, It is possible to complete the program in 1 year and take the MCAT in the summer. I came to the program without significant research or clinical experience and wanted to gain some full-time exposure before matriculating to medical school. The only way this was possible for me was to take Gen Chem 1 & 2 with labs over the summer before I started the program in the fall. This allowed me to take the full Physics, Bio, and Orgo sequences over the following year with the MCAT this summer. I am thankful that I now have the next 10 months to work in a research lab and clinical setting knowing that these experiences will aid me in medical school and beyond.