Uncommon Student MD: medical school students and residents learning how to control our medical career and expand our opportunities. Join Our Mailing List

Uncommon Student MD RSS    Uncommon Student MD Twitter     Uncommon Student MD Facebook       Uncommon Student MD Group on LinkedIn      Email

Do something uncommon
Join our mailing list
Spam is for jerks, and jerks we are not.
Our Facebook Posse
Our Fantastic Sponsors
Recent Blog Posts
Freelance MD
The cure for the common medical student.Uncommon Student MD is a community of medschool students and residents who want to learn from physician leaders and others about how to control our medical career and expand our opportunities. We're affiliated with Freelance MD. Which specialty? > RSS LinkedIn Facebook Twitter Join Uncommon Here


"I wouldn't do it twice, but I would not 'not' do it once."

- ZDoggMD

Entries in Medical School (29)


Have The Power To Practice Medicine How You Want

Turning Healthcare Ideas To Action

Jessica is a fourth-year med student in the Tufts MD/MBA program and will be heading to Portland, OR, for residency in Family Practice. While in school, she has been involved in various consulting projects for hospitals, health clinics, and small health and wellness businesses. She is also the co-founder of the Ideas To Action series at Tuffs University. It is a speaker/workshop enrichment series for health sciences students interested in entrepreneurship and idea development. With a profound interest in entrepreneurship, her goal is to have the freedom to explore innovative ways to impact health and wellness. I was able to chat with her about her journey, and I thought it was definitely worth sharing.

How did you decide to go to medical school? 

My path was not at all conventional. When I was young becoming a doctor was something I said I would never do. Both of my parents are doctors and they actually told me not to go into medicine. The change happened while I was at Harvard studying psychology. I heard about the combined MD/MBA program Harvard had just started, and I loved the idea. I always had an interest in the world of business and innovation, but I also liked that medicine gave you the opportunity to directly change people's lives. However, these two worlds existed apart in my mind until that point.  Now I did not have to choose.  I could take both of my interests and turn them into my passion, so I became a premed student. Once I decided medicine was what I wanted to do, my parents were supportive; and my mom gave some great advice. She told me that if I was going to choose this career path, I had to make sure I had the power to practice medicine how I wanted.

When/how did you get interested entrepreneurship?

I guess it’s something that has always been with me. My family is very entrepreneurial, and so maybe it's just in my blood.

Tell me about Ideas To Action Series?

While in school, I found myself constantly coming up with ideas, but I really didn’t know what to do with them. I approached my MD/MBA course director about this, and he put me in touch with Don Lombardi, the founder of Institute for Pediatric Innovation. As I began to explore my frustrations about the life science entrepreneurial process, I realized a lot of other students might feel this same way; and Ideas To Action Series was born.

The format is simple. We have someone who is creative and/or innovative in healthcare talk about the process they used to go from a dream to reality. This gets the creative juices flowing. Then we start the workshop portion where everyone gets into groups to come up with a product or service that could be a solution for a current problem in healthcare. It is always fun to see the great ideas people come up with, and I am always impressed by the creativity displayed during these sessions. After brainstorming, the moderator takes some of the best ideas and goes through some practical ways to implement them in the real world. It’s fun to have ideas, but it’s even more fun to actually do something. Giving students tools that lead to action is our main goal with Ideas To Action.

Any Advice To Medical Students Who Want To Follow An Unconventional Career Path?

Being a student is actually the perfect opportunity to approach an individual or company and ask to learn what they do. At this point you are not seen as competition, and people will likely go out of there way to help you. During one of your breaks, seek out a doctor who is doing something you find interesting or starting up a company in health care and tell them you are very interested in what they do and would love to learn more. Ask to work with them for a week, or even for the summer, and see where it goes.

Any Non medical Book Recommendations?

The title is How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes.  I know it has the ring of a cheesy self-help book.  But for people like me (many of whom I imagine are in fact medical students) who get a little uncomfortable in networking situations, this is an awesome book for building a little social confidence.  It offers great tips for entering a gathering with self-assurance, making a positive first-impression, and connecting meaningfully with people. This is especially important for students who want to do innovative or alternative things and therefore need to talk to lots of different people, outside of the med school bubble, at conferences, workshops, and startup events.



They Tell Me That Medical School Will Change Me

By Tamara Moores, a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University specializing in Emergency Medicine.

They tell me that I’ll change.

They always do.

In our first two weeks of medical school, freshmen students are assigned to shadow senior students working in the hospital. When I was a freshman, my senior student’s final comment to me was “Wow. You’re really enthusiastic… That will change.”

Now as a fourth year medical student, today’s version of the story was – “intern year will change you. You may look the same on the outside, you may portray that same bubbly, sunshine personality, but inside you’ll be different – harder, less tolerant, mean.”

They say it with confidence, they say it with authority, brooking no disagreement, allowing no doubt. Attendings, residents, nurses – they all deign to tell me my future – “there’s no way you can stay that energetic, it’s incompatible with a medical career.” Over and over I have heard this. As a medical student, I am supposed to listen and learn - to be guided by these wise elders. This morning when I heard the prediction for the 100th time, like always I politely listened with a half-smile. Yet silently my spirit roared “How DARE you smugly tell me the fate of my soul?! How DARE you justify your own insecurities about your passionless heart by attempting to degrade mine?”

Medicine is a unique environment. In my short foray into this time-honored, traditioned society, I have been buffered and shocked by the rampant negativity that oozes through the hospital walls. People seem to even take pride in their ability to bemoan their situation.

“Oh God, another consult from the ED, think they managed to even do a physical exam before calling?”

“That professor has no idea what’s on boards.”

“I can’t believe we have to be here.”

“This computer system is a joke.”

By far the most common conversation in a hospital is complaining. Tomorrow, try something different - stop and listen to the myriad people talking at work. The ratio of negative to positive conversations will overwhelm you.

Why is hospital culture like this? Shouldn’t a place of healing be full of warm emotions, positive thoughts, and uplifted people? Why is a ‘negative nancy’ the most common type of medical professional we meet? What are we doing wrong? These questions often come to mind during my workday. There is no easy answer. At the very least I know my top goal is to NEVER become that stereotypical cynical physician, and instead be the uncommon doctor with true passion for medicine.

So how do I accomplish this in such a caustic environment? Have no doubt, even at my current bubbly baseline, it is a daily war to maintain my heart for this career. So many physicians before me have fought this battle and lost. How can I succeed where they have failed?

A resident who I highly respect recently told me ‘be careful what you say, because talk patterns become thought patterns.’ This, more than anything, is my first defense against cynicism. It is SO easy to fall into conversation filled with complaints. These tiny conversations seem harmless, but over the course of a lifetime they shape your soul. Now at the end of my medical schooling, and at the cusp of residency, I am awed by the power of the spoken word. It’s undeniable - what we say both molds and reflects what we think.

Overall I believe the best weapon against developing permanent pessimism is to be deliberate in how we react to daily adversity. How do we respond to a floridly difficult, unpleasant patient? Do we moan about how annoying they are? Do we ruminate about how unfairly they treated us? Permit me to suggest a different response. Instead of focusing on how unjustly that patient has treated me, I instead try to feel gratitude. Whether or not it’s right, these difficult patients make me grateful that my life has not put me in their position. They must be really unhappy inside, to so poorly treat the people who are trying to care for them. When I am mistreated by an attending, I remind myself that they are but a momentary discomfort, and soon will be gone from my life. Over and over I find myself fighting to see the positives in my life. It is a deliberate, intentional strategy, which allows me to shine out with joy even in the little moments of the day.

I firmly believe that working as a medical professional can be a path to a life filled with meaning and passion….if we let it. Not all days are perfect, but most days I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be in my chosen career. The patients are interesting, my skills are stretched, and I feel fulfilled. Beyond these personal reasons, more than any other career, medicine reminds us how short and precious life is. We deal in broken bodies, lives cut short by car collisions, by strokes, by chronic disease. How lucky we are to be able to move our bodies without wheelchairs, to be relatively self-sufficient. Working in the medical field reminds me daily that everything can change in a moment. It is this acute awareness of the frailty of life, which makes me embrace life with so much abandon. It is this knowledge that gives me joy in the workplace, even during the rough days. To put it bluntly, life is too darn short to be grumpy.

So why am I reflecting via this forum? Perhaps because I hope that I am not alone in this fight. Perhaps I hope that by starting a discussion, we might nudge forth a change in the standard hospital culture. Maybe with forums like this, we can shift the caustic paradigm. Here’s to hope.

About:: Tamara Moores is a fourth year medical student at Loma Linda University. She is specializing in Emergency Medicine. https://www.facebook.com/reflectingthelights

Submit a guest post and be heard.


5 Great Gift Ideas For Medschool Students

You’ve gotta accept it - as medical school grads, there are very few gift ideas or choices for us. What does one gift to a medical grad? A stethoscope?

But, thanks to Google, I’m glad to present a list of cool, yet unconvential gifts for medical grads.


GIFT IDEA #1 - The Ever Popular Tee Who said the ‘Trust Me, I’m Almost a Doctor’ shirt is old school? You’d be surprised at how many people think it makes an awesome gift for someone who’s ( almost ) a doctor. If you’re in for trying something new, there are a couple of other nice t-shirt options at Zazzle.




GIFT IDEA #2 - Geek Toys ThinkGeek is now a staple of computer geeks trying to give each other gifts that really matter. But, I really think there’s a bunch of gems there for medical grads too. Who’d not like to own the Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver ( maybe, a couple ) or The Caffeine Mug.





GIFT IDEA #3 - Who doesn’t love Buckyballs? This idea is pretty mainstream, but I think it still makes for a great gift. You could gift the traditional buckyball or go swanky and gift them a new and improved magnetic buckycubes set.






GIFT IDEA #4 - The Funny Prescription Pad Well, med students are not doctors still, but the funny prescription pad can come in handy for the future. Plus, you could have kicks by handing prescriptions that ask others to ‘take a chill pill’ :)




GIFT IDEA #5 - The Doctor Bag Feeling rich? For $150, you can gift someone The Doctor Bag Limoge. From the website: “Destined to become a family heirloom, this marvelous doctor's bag limoges is rich with history and detail. Hand crafted of Limoges porcelain in Limoges, France, this tiny treasure makes a tremendous gift. 2"W x 1 1/4"H x 1"D.” Who wouldn’t be happy if they got a hand-crafted porcelain doctor’s bag? Have more interesting gift ideas? Go ahead and comment!

Contributed by Todd Bently who works closely with the Nipissing University’s courses in the School of Nursing and their School Of English Studies


The Top 10 Reasons You Should Go To Medical School... And The Single Best Reason Not To

Whether you're a first year medical student or a practicing physican, there's a good chance you've asked yourself the quesion, "WHY the @#$% DID I GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL?" Here are a few EXCELLENT reasons... and one bad one.

Just as the blisses of Christmas break was ending for most of us tortured souls who fly the banner of "medical student," and sail these uncertain scholarly seas, Uncommon Student MD got some serious traction with medical students around the world. I believe timing had a large part to do with the explosion in its popularity. Simply put, after christmas break a lot of medical people were thinking, “what am I doing here?!” - A case of mass buyers remorse.

It is an understandable and laudable question to be sure. If we spent half the time wrestling with the question of what to do with our lives that we spend OMGing and LOLing on Facebook, we would probably all be Nobel laureates (at the very least we wouldn’t use retarded abbreviations as much). There are a lot of bad reasons to go into medicine and there are a lot of good reasons not too… Conversely there are also many great reasons TO pursue medicine as well as a lot of bad reasons not too. Confused? Me too, but I do know that there are two sides to every pancake (perhaps three if you screwed the recipe up).

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” So, even though I happened to agree with a few salient points made in the aforementioned article, I am trying to follow the advice of good old F. Scott and entertain the flip side of the coin. Maybe incite some wrath while I’m at it… one can only hope.

I am not sure, but I am of the opinion that there are as many good reasons TO go to med school as there are NOT to go (we should do a prospective cohort study to find out). At the very least I know there ARE more reasons than the sole example our friend Dr. Ali Binazir espoused. And so without further hemming and hawing… The top 10 reasons you SHOULD go to medical and 1 reason you should RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN… in no particular order.

1. You will have a HUGE range of options at the end of your medical education.

To me flexibility and possibility in a career are of FAR greater importance than money, girls, fame, cars, illicit drugs, horses, blue suede shoes, kittens, my high score on angry birds, tickle-me-Elmos, or just any other temptation under the sun. Medicine opens up a WORLD of possibility and opportunity. It gives you access to a community of highly successful, highly educated, and highly motivated individuals and just for that reason alone it’s worth considering at least getting the Ol’ MD.

And I’m sure some old folksy physician has undoubtedly shared with you one of the most cliché medical career quotes. “There’s something for everyone in medicine (said in a tone of mock sincerity)” We roll our eyes at such clichés, but the truth behind them remains. There really is. It is a ridiculously broad field that is only getting broader and every personality type can find a suitable niche.

2. You will be headed in a definite direction toward a STABLE career choice.

“WOAH WOAH WOAH!” You say. “You just talked about how you’d sell your second appendix for the freedom to choose your destiny (also said in mock sincerity). Now normally, you’d be right. I wouldn’t include this in the pros section of a list about a career. The one augmenting factor that gives credence to this argument in my mind is the fact that it is one of the few careers that gives you a measure of stability WHILE giving you options… AT THE SAME TIME. It’s like having your lasagna and eating it too, or something like that.

It’s remarkable really. It’s kinda like waiting in this huge long line with a bunch of checkpoints. The line isn’t excruciating for the most part, but it’s also not what you’d hoped it would be (med school). At each checkpoint you are expected to perform a certain task that you’re not sure will have much bearing on what you’ll eventually be doing after the line ends, but the challenge is somewhat fun in and of itself. All in all it’s not a bad line, except for the fact that’s it’s so darn expensive. While in the line you might even think about robbing banks to pay for the opportunity to stand in this line.

At the end of the line (med school graduation), and provided you have performed satisfactorily at the checkpoints, there are about 100 new lines to choose from (residencies). The checkpoints in these lines seem much more fun and lines are much shorter. So you choose one. As you proceed in this line you start feeling better about all this line standing (or, if you haven’t started robbing banks, you have rationalized that you have no other option but to finish this line standing so you can pay for the line standing).

Then the line ends (Docta time!) and you realize that all these checkpoints have given you a highly marketable skill set that people who opted out of the line don’t have… and since you’ve most likely been robbing banks on nights and weekends while line standing, you’ve paid off all your line standing time already. (I jest… sorta)

3. You have the opportunity to help people and that WILL make you happy, unless you’re heartless.

This one needs little explanation. As a Christian who attempts to practice my faith, it is near the top of my list of “pro” reasons. Most Doctors agree, with little exception, that they enjoy the helping people aspect of their career. I have seen several lists that rank pediatricians at the top in terms of career satisfaction and this list actually puts them at 4th among all career choices. This has got to be directly correlated with the human service aspect of being a physician. Since it’s pediatricians, we should be able to infer conclusively that it’s definitely not the money aspect. (I don’t jest)

4. You will be part of a noble profession

Always will be. No matter what physicians say about how “patients these days don’t treat me with the respect my spiffy white coat and expensive stethoscope deserve,” it is and always will be among the most respected professions. People aren’t bigger boneheads to their physicians these days… people are just bigger boneheads in general.

5. You will never starve as a physician.

Granted, starving isn’t a huge problem for most of us here in the good ol’ USA, but you get my point. Even though the remuneration may indeed be more dubious (as was pointed out by Dr. Ali Binazir) than it has been in the past for physicians, we are still in the top .0002437 whatever percent of earners in the world and the job security that a medical career affords makes the remuneration seem a little less dubious in times like these.

6. Your market base is everyone… eventually.

Everyone (especially people in the good ol’ USA) eventually gets sick and needs a doctor. It’s a fact of life that is not likely to change soon, unless we all start putting a lot more wheatgrass on our big macs. A good entrepreneur friend of mine said that a business venture is only worth undertaking if your market base is large enough AND the need you’re fulfilling for your market is an “arterial bleed.” I don’t think I need to explain the joke here… or the truth.

7. You will have a globally relevant skill set.

If you’re like me, and traveling is one of the overriding passions of your life, I can think of few other careers that have as much demand as many places in the world as being a physician. There’s also a remarkable amount of geographical technical overlap. An appendectomy is an appendectomy, whether it’s in Athens Greece or Athens Georgia. If you do something like locum tenens here in the USA, you can set yourself up for a truly nomadic lifestyle AND support yourself while you’re at it. You would then also be able to take off months at a time to travel internationally or start your own business on the side.

8. You will have myriad business opportunities in medicine.

Victor Perlroth M.D., M.B.A. is a good example of what I’m talking about. He said that the one of the pivotal lessons he learned from his mentor Paul Cook was that, “there is money to be made at the intersection of disciplines.” - That’s brilliant. Think about it for a second…. Okay now continue reading. - Medical entrepreneurship and technology is a huge industry with a lot of money behind it and the opportunities are truly endless for enterprising souls. Just the fact that HAVING your MD gives you access to a huge network of people who have residual income for investing is a huge business asset.

My Dad is an oral surgeon that started his own practice and he recently pointed out to me (and I suppose it’s a given) that the process of starting his own practice was a HUGE business venture and has been very fulfilling for him from a business perspective. There are many physicians who have made careers out of helping other physicians start their own successful practices in a specific niche (consults). The opportunities are legion.

It’s also a sadly funny, but universally true fact that having that MD behind your name makes people THINK you know what you're talking about, even in completely unmedical situations. This can be very useful in just about ANY undertaking.

9. You get to wear pajamas to work.

Everyone holds up the “wearing pajamas to work” thing as the gold standard for having arrived at job nirvana, and let’s be honest… scrubs ARE pajamas.

10. Medicine gives you perhaps the most unique set of professional privileges of any profession… ever.

This hit me full force while I was busily cutting a cadaver’s heart out one day during anatomy lab. I thought, “This kind of stuff is normally reserved for serial killers and Germanic barbarians and under any other circumstance I would go to prison for doing what I am doing.” While I have no ambitions to be a Germanic barbarian, serial killer, OR to go to prison, it is truly amazing that physicians and medical students have the privilege of doing stuff like that.

People invite physicians into the most forbidden places humanly conceivable (elbow deep in their small bowels for one), and no other line of work I can think of throws one into such truly interesting (borderline mental) circumstances. The depth of sincerity and vulnerability that people show their doc is remarkable. This is another aspect of being a doctor that I have heard many long-time docs hold up as one of the most treasured aspects of their careers. Human beings are amazing.


Ready for it?


Here goes.

You want to make barrels of money with a modest amount of work.

If this is your goal, you are barking up the wrong tree my friend. You might very well make a ton of money… but the margins are becoming slimmer and the people who are doing it are becoming the exception rather than the rule. If you ARE making a ton of money in medicine (derm, radiology, optho, some surgical subspecialties) you more than likely will have worked VERY hard during medical school to position yourself for that specialty and many of these “rich” docs work 60+ hours a week to be “rich.” If you are a clinical primary care physician that works sane hours you will not be seeing the “big bucks” that many people associate with physician-hood.

Also the compensation relative to the amount of hours worked, opportunity cost loss, etc. is deceptively “low”, especially in a primary care setting. Ben Brown MD has a very interesting, well-researched and enlightening article on the subject. Er physician, author, and blogger Kevin Pezzi MD also has a great example of what I'm talking about on his blog. He compares the actual lifetime income of a UPS driver to the typical earnings of a primary care doctor. It's an interesting read to be sure.

If you are in it for the love of it, or for a mixture of the reasons above, all this will be fine with you. As I stated above, you’re not gonna be hurting for coin. You just need to have your eyes wide open about the fiscal realities before you go into it. Money is a terrible reason to get into any venture if it is the soul motivator, but this advice doubles or triples in pertinence when you’re talking about something that involves as much startup investment in terms of both time AND money as the infamous MD degree does.

So there it is. Get your guns out and fire back. I’d love to here your thoughts… on my thoughts. Also, check out the lively discussion that is going on in the comments section of The Top 10 Reasons You Should Not Go To Medical School... And The Single Reason You Should.


Ultra Gunner Interview Tips: Medical School and Residency

This guy has the right idea, but the glasses just pushed it over the edge.I feel sorry for anyone who crosses paths with me on the interview trail

However, because Matt gave some nice thoughts on residency interviews, I thought I would add a few; some of his where just not my style. So to complete his post, here are a few from my personal repertoire. No need to thank me with gifts, just leave me a comment with your adoration and let me know how well they worked for you.

It’s important to Take Control of the interview

As soon as possible, you must establish your new place in the pecking order as a resident physician or college student turned med student. Showing them that you don’t put up with crap is a great attribute for a doctor. If you don’t like a question they ask just shoot back with,

“Not important, next question.”

It’s simple and direct, and they will respect you for it. I think.

Remember Medical Schools and Residency Programs Want What They Can’t Have

Be sure they understand you are doing them a favor by taking your time to interview with them. I even say, “Look, you guys are basically retarded if you don’t rank me #1.” I’ve executed this technique flawlessly at my last interview, and it worked like a charm. All they could do was shake their heads in amazement. What can I say, I’m a winner. I win.

Another free tip: cutting the interview short or coming a little late is a perfect way to set the tone and impart your importance.

Bring Every Conversation Back To Focus On You, Always

Though I cannot think of a time when this advice would not apply, it is especially true during interviews. Remember to implement this tip at all times during your interview visit. Eating out with the residents, during hospital tours, or even when conversing with other applicants. Remember, when they ask,

"Do you have any questions for us?"

The only reply is, “Yeah, what part of my resume do you like the best?”

Stand Out From The Crowd

Guys: Do not be afraid to rock the white suite! Trust me on this one! The white coat is a symbol of physicanhood and strutting into a residency or medical school interview with a sharp white suite just plants the seeds in everyone’s mind.

Girls: Don’t be scared to strut your stuff. Clothes with slits anywhere and everywhere are a must. This rule applies double if you are applying for Orthopedic surgery residency.


ZDoggMD: Medical Standup Comedy

Get your ER comedy fix.

This is ZDoggMD's standup medical comedy from the Mel Herbert’s Essentials of Emergency Medicine 2011. Lame and offensive…well, you really haven’t seen nothin’ yet.

You'll want to notice how ZDoggMD riffs on his students... Now that's just not nice.

Part 1

Part 2


Starting A Company As A Medical Student: An Interview With Stephanie Bravo

Having A Good Mentor Can Make A Big Difference

It has been said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time around. If that is true, the formula is simple; find people that are doing what you want to do and tag along. Unfortunatly, it's not always this simple; however, StudentMentor.org is changing that. This company is dedicated to helping college students find mentors to help them along their journey. They are working with students from over 700 colleges in the the United States. They are currently partnering with the White House on several national education initiatives. It's an impressive operation!

So how did this whole thing get started? I caught up with Stephanie Bravo who is Co-founder of studentmentor.org. At the time, she was a medical student at University of California Irvine School Of Medicine. She is currently President of the company and works full time with the organization and has alot of good advice for medical students.

How did you decide to start StudentMentor.org?

I decided to start StudentMentor.org after having a life-changing experience with a mentor during my years as an undergraduate. I was a first-generation college student who felt completely lost at a large public university and was unsure about my future. But then I found my mentor through the Stanford University Minority Medical Alliance Medical Mentorship Program, and this experience changed my life. My mentor, Dr. Matthew Goldstein (http://www.studentmentor.org/about-us/advisory-board/#goldstein), was a medical student at Stanford University School of Medicine, and he provided so much guidance throughout my studies, especially during those challenging times when completing college and attaining a career as a physician seemed out of reach. Even more than that, we got to talking about life, family, and a variety of other things where he provided tremendous support for me at times when I had no one else to help me. Because of my life-changing experience, I wanted to help other students connect with mentors who could help them at crucial stages in their academic and career pursuits. Thus, StudentMentor.org was born to help students complete college and enhance their career readiness by connecting them with seasoned professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries.

What where some of the challenges/perks of starting a company while in medical school?

There were not enough hours in the day for me to be a well-balanced person, succeed in medical school, and lead an organization. It was very difficult to maintain my course load and go through the process of creating something from scratch. I had to rely on my StudentMentor.org co-founder and friends in medical school to help me juggle. Shifting between these roles was tough, but both required a great deal of tenacity and a strong work ethic. With those in tow, I pursued both medicine and my startup nonprofit for a while. I managed to survive by being very diligent, disciplined, and organized. But, because I was incredibly passionate about StudentMentor.org and the broader issue of higher education, I decided to fully commit to leading my organization and put becoming a physician on the backburner. I know I made the right decision when we received a call from the White House inviting us to meet the President and speak with officials about StudentMentor.org in December 2011. Additionally, after one year, 5000+ mentors and students from all around the nation are connecting and beginning meaningful mentorships. It’s very exciting to be at the helm of an organization that is soaring to great heights at a record pace.

How can medical students and residents get involved as a mentor and what is the time commitment that a mentor makes?

The time commitment for mentors varies depending on their availability. You can communicate with mentees at any time convenient for you. We recommend that mentors set aside about 30 minutes a week to mentor one student. Since professionals come from a variety of industries and backgrounds, it’s very flexible to their schedules. Medical students all the way up to attending physicians can serve as mentors. We even have resident physicians in the program who somehow find time to help their mentees. I hope that those UncommonStudentMDs will consider joining StudentMentor.org too.

You have become an expert at helping people find mentors. Can you give some advice on how to find and approach a mentor?

The best way to reach out to potential mentors is to ask them if they have time to grab coffee. If you speak candidly about looking forward to hearing their experiences and learning from them, then a potential mentor will be receptive. It’s not a good idea to lead with what you want to get out of the relationship, e.g. a letter of reference, the contact information for their colleague, etc. Like with any relationship, you have to put in the time to build trust, and that starts with putting yourself out there by telling your story, sharing your goals, and realizing that a mentor’s insight is extremely important in helping you achieve your goals.

Do you have any advice for medical students who would like to start a business?

Taking time off from school might be the best move since building a business is a huge time commitment—kind of like medical school, but without a 4-year plan or any other roadmap. That being said, I’ve had amazing classmates at UC Irvine School of Medicine who have written and published novels, created student organizations, and ran underserved clinics while still maintaining a full course load—so it is possible!

Another, big tip is to reach out for help and persuade people to your cause. If you can build a movement that your classmates are passionate about as well, then you’ll have 100+ medical students in your corner to help get your business off the ground. It’s very important to build and utilize your networks in any business, including medicine.

Why did you want studentmentor.org to be a non-profit instead of a for profit company?

There are pros and cons to both entities. In a for-profit entity, the bottom line would always rule and not necessarily doing the most good for the cause. We decided to become a nonprofit to keep the monies accrued by the organization focused toward achieving its goals. Additionally, it was a lot easier to recruit mentors who are all volunteers.

If you could pick one book for every medical student to read what would it be?

I would recommend “The Empowered Patient” by Elizabeth Cohen, CNN Senior Medical Correspondent. It’s great to read books on the “white coat” reading list, but a holistic understanding of the medical profession comes from reading books written for patients as well. This book by Cohen offers patients insight into how patients should go about getting the best medical care possible. She argues for being a “bad patient” by asking questions and not blindingly doing what you are told until you understand what and why you need to do it. As future physicians, it’s absolutely critical to be able to communicate with patients. So, learning more about the patient's perspective and trying to meet them where they stand is a good start to becoming a great physician.

 Video: Why I Started StudentMentor.org

 Video: How StudentMentor.org Works



Uncommon Student MD is an active community of medschool students and residents.

All rights reserved.