First Gen Everything

I am the first in my family to graduate high school and go to college and I’m pre-med.
I have no idea where to start.
I’m already a certified EMT, the University of Vermont offers a student run EMS service but I’ve read that these aren’t looked at very kindly. Should I try and get a job working as an EMT? They also offer a pre-medical enhancement program that I am going to apply to as well.
I know I need a high GPA and MCAT and I’m majoring in biology and philosophy.
But when it comes to extracurriculars I don’t know where to begin. I did a lot of competitive ECs in high school and won awards is this something I should try and find for medical school? I’m already looking into summer internship/research opportunities. How did I begin shadowing and clinical volunteering? I am going to have work during college. Will medical school admissions officers understand this? What about everything else? And by everything else I mean anything anyone can think of because I have no idea. I’d like to be a pediatric pulmonologist.

  1. Go ahead an join the student-run EMS. It will give you some patient contact–the amount of which will depend on how quickly the local EMS responds to on-campus incidents.

  2. Plan on doing some other clinical volunteering/employment. Your clinical experience does not have to be in a hospital. (Though in-hospital, post-EMS exposure might you give a more balanced look at patient care.)

If money is an issue, then by all mean leverage your EMT into a paying position. Medical scribe, CNA, MA (medical assistant), patient advocate are other paid positions that will give you plenty of clinical exposure. Clinical exposure does not need to volunteer work. Clinical employment is just as good.

  1. ECs are important for medical school. The ones you are expected from pre-meds are:
a) clinical experience (paid or volunteer)
b) community service with the disadvantaged
c) leadership roles in your activities
d) physician shadowing**, esp in primary care fields
e) lab or clinical research 

**Osteopathic med schools require a letter of recommendation from a DO whom you have shadowed

Unless you are aiming at top research intensive medical schools, the first 4 items are of the most importance to have. If you have several hundreds of clinical exposure hours, then having physician shadowing become less important.

  1. your health professions advisor at UVT may have some suggestions on local physicians who are willing to allow students to shadow. If they don’t, you need to network, network, network. Start by asking your own primary care provider. If they say no, ask if they suggest anyone else who might be willing. Also, once you have established yourself at a clinical site as a reliable and mature volunteer/employee, ask the staff if they will allow you to shadow.

For clinical volunteering–you start by contacting the volunteer coordinator at the nearest hospital, nursing home, public/county clinic and asking if you can volunteer there. Some sites will require a minimum commitment on your part. Most will require that you take some training and produce your immunization records before they will allow you to volunteer. You can also volunteer at suicide or other crisis hot lines, at group homes for the mentally or physically disabled, at stand-alone surgical centers.

The key point of clinical volunteering is that your have direct interaction with patients. (“Close enough to smell the patient.”)

  1. yes, med school adcomms understand that you need to work during college. There will be a place on your application where you can explain this. But needing to work will get you any grace when it comes to your grades and MCAT score. Nor will it be allowed as an excuse for not having clinical exposure and community service.

The everything else:

it’s very important not to overload yourself, especially when you are just getting started in college. Grades come first; everything else is secondary. A poor academic start in college puts you at disadvantage right off the bat. It can be very hard to improve a weak GPA.

Start out slowly. Minimize your work hours and pass on doing routine volunteer gigs until you are confident you can succeed academically in college. Then start slowly adding additional more work hours and other activities.

And, I’m sure you don’t want to hear this–but you also need to think about what your Plan B career is going to be. You don’t need to have one in mind now, but keep an open mind on the topic. Most freshmen pre-med never even apply to med school and 60% of those people who do apply to medical school don’t get any acceptances at all.

As you get involved with your classes, take the time to get to know your professors. Attend office hours and talk with your instructors. You will need letters of recommendation from professor–include at least one from a non-science professor.

As a FYI--

Pediatric pulmonology is an extremely competitive specialty.  There are only 54 pediatric pulmonology fellowships program in the US. (see: [this</a> list](<a href=""> ). It takes 10 years after college before you will be ready to work in that field--- 4 years medical school, 3 years pediatric residency followed by another 3 years of pediatric pulmonary disease fellowship. 
hours--80 hours/week isn't uncommon. 

I will caution you that you may not qualify for your desired specialty and you should only go into medicine if you'd be OK if you ended up as primary care/general  physician. 

Good luck on your journey! 

Please come back and ask if you have any additional questions

@WayOutWestMom thank you so so much! This information is so helpful! Pediatric pulmonologist is the dream but I know how many years it takes so I’m also thinking just peds as well :slight_smile: