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Making yourself stand out.

Happy Post-Holidays! Now that we're getting back into the swing of things, I hope to update this blog more often, so keep tuned.

I've gotten some inquiries from medical school applicants seeking assistance on the application process and how to stand out from the crowd. Here are some suggestions that I can give based upon my experience as both a successful applicant and applicant interviewer. I'm going to start out with the experiences that I personally feel will help you stand out.

A lot of applicants shadow physicians to gain clinical exposure. At one level, this is great; you need to have an idea of what medicine is like before you commit to 4 years of medical school and years of residency. But like I said, almost every applicant has done this, so it just seemed sort of run of the mill and nothing new. So while shadowing is improtant

Consider the experiences section of your application as the chance to show your passion and compassion. Experiences that would stand out for me were those that actually involved interacting with patients, and one problem with shadowing is that much of the time the applicant can't say that they've actually spoken with their patients.

With that in mind, try to plan for experiences that involve actually patient care. I personally volunteered in a very busy ER in a major city that serviced many homeless individuals; although my role was pretty minor I interacted with the patients. I can attest that it's one thing to talk about being homeless and ill, but that seeing it in your face really opens your eyes to the challenges of caring for them.

In a similar vein, I recall an applicant that used to walk dogs from his local shelter. He was able to speak with such passion about how he cared for these animals as though they were his own and the satisfaction he felt giving them the chance to get the love and attention they deserved. It wasn't much of a stretch to see that he would be great at taking care of his human patients.

Other standouts: reading to pediatric patients, visiting shut-ins either through a social program (Meals-on-Wheels, etc) or a visiting nurse, hospice volunteering (pretty hard to get, honestly, but worth it), volunteering with the Special Olympics, and being an EMT. If you can think of anything else, let me know and I'll add it to the list.

And don't forget to put down those awesome drives that keep you motivated. Dancer? Don't forget to put that down. Love research? That too. Play in a band? Let me know if you need a drummer.

To reiterate, view the experience section as the chance to let your compassion come through in all of it's glory. Have it be the answer to the person who picks up your application and wonders "So can they walk the walk?"

Until next time, good luck and keep it up.
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Michael H.

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