Select Page

Advocating for Asylum-Seekers through Connections between the University of Michigan and Physicians for Human Rights

Dr. Hannah Janeway, ED physician and founder of Refugee Health Alliance (https://www.refugeehealthalliance.org/), provides medical care to a patient in the El Chaparral asylum-seeker camp in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Lisbeth Chavez (https://www.lisbethchavez.com/).

Thousands of tents lined the crowded streets. The sun was rising slowly on the horizon. At the end of the street stood a large white tent, hovering above the others. A physician and nurse sat in the shade that the tent provided. Quickly, hundreds of people began to line up in front of the tent, waiting to be seen by the health care providers. The doctor handed the coughing children honey, a rare treat that trickled down their lips and stuck to their hands. The children ran around the tent that we had set up, clinging onto my stethoscope and Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) badge. As I worked closely with Dr. Janeway to provide care to those seeking asylum at the border, I felt truly grateful to be a medical student at the University of Michigan.

Tents line the streets at the El Chaparral asylum-seeker camp in Tijuana, Mexico.

As a medical school applicant, I was drawn to the University of Michigan Medical School due to the wide array of opportunities for students to participate in volunteer activities and advocacy efforts. At Michigan, students are given many opportunities to explore advocacy both within the confines of Michigan Medicine and beyond. The school truly understands the importance of training the future generation of physician advocates.

Given my interest in advocating for immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers, I dove into advocacy opportunities my first year as a medical student by joining the Physicians for Human Rights student chapter, also known as the University of Michigan Asylum Collaborative. Specifically, I served as the Co-Executive Director of the Asylum Collaborative during my first year of medical school. During my first and second year of medical school, I also collaborated with attendings and other students in providing forensic evaluations for asylum-seekers; such evaluations document the physical and mental health effects of trauma endured by asylum-seekers and are subsequently used as an informative document in their asylum claims. During my first year, I also served a student leader in other student organizations, such as the Co-Community Engagement Director for the Health Equity Scholar’s Program (HESP).

Members of the 2018-2019 University of Michigan Asylum Collaborative (UMAC) Executive Board hosts a forensic evaluation training session for faculty and students at the University of Michigan

During my third year of medical school, I wanted to further explore the role of advocacy at the intersection of clinical care and research. I applied for an internship position with Physicians for Human Rights. As a Medical Student Intern, I helped develop and implement a research project to evaluate the mental health impact of family separation and expulsion among asylum-seekers in Mexico. The experience, particularly interviewing asylum-seekers in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, granted a holistic picture of how the asylum process intersects with mental health. Our team then used these findings to generate a report for Physicians for Human Rights, titled “Neither Safety Nor Health: How Title 42 Expulsions Harm Health and Violate Rights.” This report was used to guide key advocacy efforts, such as in the creation of a letter to the CDC – signed by 1,383 medical professionals – requesting that the CDC reverse the Title 42 expulsions order at the US-Mexico Border. Our research was also referenced in recent media coverage by organizations such as Amnesty International, Mother Jones, and more. This opportunity was made possible through Michigan Medicine’s unwavering support, ranging from the support of amazing faculty, such as Dr. Michelle Heisler, to funding for the project via the Capstone For Impact Project grant.

PHR representative Cynthia Pompa (right) and I interview a 22-year-old mother from Guatemala who was seeking asylum for herself and her children. Photograph by Lisbeth Chavez (https://www.lisbethchavez.com/).

Now, I am a fourth-year medical student applying to psychiatry residency. In the future, I hope to serve as a psychiatrist who advocates on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers. Pursuing training at Michigan Medicine fostered my interest in pursuing justice in the field of mental health. The opportunity to pursue such a diverse array of electives during my M3 and M4 year was critical in allowing me to get “on the ground” experience. Furthermore, having incredible mentors who supported my vision for advocacy – such as Dr. Michele Heisler — was critical in my success. I truly believe that pursuing my medical education at the University of Michigan granted me the skills and vision to serve as an effective advocate.

Closing the Premed Experience Gap through Early Clinical Opportunities

When I first considered medical school, I knew nothing about what I was getting myself into. I was a senior in high school ready to go halfway across the country to attend college. I really loved to travel, play volleyball, and play the cello. I also loved biology and somehow, I really don’t remember exactly what did it, I settled on medicine as a future career. I had no idea what was in store. My parents were both teachers, and they encouraged education in its highest form, but I didn’t have any role models in medicine growing up. My uncle is a physician, as are a few of my cousins, but they lived far away and I didn’t know much about what they did on a day-to-day basis. Some of my friends’ parents were doctors, but I didn’t understand or know enough to ask questions about what their lives looked like. All I knew was medicine could be a way to help make people’s lives better. I went off to college assuming I would figure it out at some point.

My roommates and I (center) on our first day of clinical year, trying on our new scrubs.

In college, premedical students were many and opportunities were few. Due to my interest in global health, I joined the International Studies major and was set off on a premedical track for non-STEM majors. I loved my classes, but I was mostly disconnected from other students considering medicine. I read online about how to get into medical school and realized I was woefully behind on experiences, so I tried to shadow or find research opportunities. When I tried to apply for an opportunity to shadow, I was rejected due to my lack of prior experience. When I looked into mentoring, I was greeted with wonderful premedical advisors but a paucity of current medical students and residents to talk to about their experiences. I left college with many more questions, hoping I would find some answers in medical school.

It is no secret that prospective medical students who don’t come from physician families are at a disadvantage. In 2015, the American Medical Association estimated that 1 in 5 medical students has a parent that is a physician. Besides financial advantage, having physicians in the family gives prospective students more opportunity to shadow, find research, and engage with the profession earlier than others. There is a resource to ask questions and create connections, as well as someone to bounce ideas off of when considering medical school. When I thought of medicine, all I had to go on was TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and House, hyper-realistic portrayals of a profession filled with danger, drama, and intrigue. I knew little of the reality I would find in medical school.

At the University of Michigan Medical School, we are given so many opportunities to find ourselves in the clinical setting, interacting with real patients and providers. The school understands this differential that exists between those with and without doctors in their families, and they strive to close that gap with early programming and clinical experiences. A lot of my early exposure came from individuals that weren’t physicians. For example, as part of the Interprofessional Clinical Experience (now Interprofessional Collaborative Skills – ICS), I shadowed a social worker for a day of family meetings, getting to interact with patients and their loved ones during the hardest moments of their lives. I got to follow a patient advocate as they visited teenagers during chemotherapy, providing companionship, checking in on them, and answering questions about care. As I followed these professionals through the winding, confusing maze of the hospital I could finally see myself in these halls. I could see myself providing care to these patients one day, because now I knew what it might look like.

I also participated in the Clinical Reasoning Elective (CRE) as an M1. This experience allows first-year students to practice their clinical interviewing skills in pairs with support from a faculty mentor. Due to COVID-19, I only ended up completing one shift of the elective, but it was a memorable one. It was my first time in an emergency department, and it was a very busy day, full of trauma patients and beds lined up in the hallways. I was caught in the middle of a storm, overwhelmed by all the activity around me and unsure how to find my place in it all. In a valiant attempt to make me feel useful, my preceptor convinced me it was crucial to go into a patient’s room to listen to a heart murmur and ask about their medical history. I stood outside the door in the hallway for 15 minutes working up the courage to go inside, and once I made it in I spent 20 minutes stumbling over my words and embarrassing myself. Later, debriefing with my preceptor, I realized I had done a patient interview for the first time on a real patient. I was finally learning what life might be like as a physician.

My track on the last day of clinical year (Track G!)

Now, I am an M3 and have just finished my M2 clinical year, a whirlwind of patient care in hospitals and clinics around Ann Arbor. I have assisted with 8-hour long surgeries, delivered babies, diagnosed illness, counseled patients on lifestyle or dietary changes, and participated in so many lifechanging moments. This morning I walked into my first clinical day as an M3 and felt confident – I knew how to use our electronic medical record, I knew how to navigate the halls of the hospital, and I walked right in a patient’s room, after knocking of course. I am well on my way to becoming a physician that the high school version of myself would have not thought possible.

As a prospective student, it is okay to be overwhelmed and have a million unanswered questions. Here at Michigan, you will find the answers through early patient interaction, experience in the hospital, and clinical role models everywhere you turn. You will be part of a supportive, diverse community looking to lift each other up and full of career-changers, non-STEM majors, and those who had never known a single person in the health care field. You will find success through programs like the ICS and CRE, and you will one day find yourself as a mentor to premedical students that were in your shoes not too long ago.

 

The Artists of Medicine: Building Community through Painting with Classmates

I have been painting, drawing, creating art for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and needed an activity to do, my mom would provide me with art supplies. Now, as an adult, painting is how I unwind, relax, and reflect.

I just finished my M2 year, the clerkship year with patient care experience in the hospital. My days ranged from helping drive a camera for laparoscopic gall bladder removal to holding the hand of a neurology patient as he received care in the neuro ICU to attempting to examine a squirming toddler who was making it very clear that the last place she wanted to be was the pediatrician’s office. I saw patients on labor and delivery experience immense joy when their children were born, and I met patients and families on some of the hardest days of their lives in the emergency department.

I celebrated the end of clinical year painting by the Argo Cascades, a short walk from my apartment. People floating down the river in inner tubes passed by me as well as several ducks.

I loved the busyness of the hospital and connecting with my patients and families, but I also had some long hours and emotionally hard days. I needed some time to turn off my clinical brain and just paint. Painting gave me the space to process the variety of experiences I had during my second year of medical school. One of the reasons I felt that the University of Michigan was the best fit for me for medical school was how supportive they were of my other interests outside of medicine such as painting.

M1 year, I joined a student organization called the M-Home Peer Support Advocacy. It was founded by my friend Claire Collins (M4) when she saw a need for a student-run organization focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of medical students. In one of our meetings at the end of M2 year, I realized that I wanted to give my peers a chance to have the peaceful, relaxing experience of creating art amidst the flurry of fall activity around the medical school. With the help of my Peer Support colleagues, I planned a painting workshop and partnered with M-Home, a medical school organization for student support.

I planned a landscape that I thought would be accessible to students of any or no painting experience. My roommate was kind enough to let me pilot the instructions with her before I opened signups for the fall painting class. Thirty-five students attended my painting session held in the Taubman Health Sciences Library. I was grateful for the chance to meet some of the students in the M1 and M2 classes. Due to the Covid pandemic, I hadn’t had much of a chance to meet many of my colleagues in other classes.

My favorite part of the painting class was that, in the beginning, almost everyone was following my instruction and by the end most people didn’t need to. From the outset, I wanted everyone to take ownership of their paintings and stated that no one had to follow my instructions. Most of my classmates ended up painting landscapes, and they all looked different because everyone began making different creative decisions. Students from all classes bonded over making art in just an hour-long session. More importantly, on a chilly, rainy October evening, a classroom in THSL was filled with conversation, creativity, and community.

Medical students hard at work creating art! This was towards the end of the session when everyone was putting the finishing touches on their works.

 

Reaping the Benefits of a Summer at the Food Gatherers Farm Project

A few months ago, my friend Lisa Chionis (M2) messaged Morgan Bradford (M2) and me with a link to an Instagram post by @foodgatherers asking for volunteers at their annual Farm Project. The three of us had been working together on a culinary medicine elective for the past year, but because of the pandemic, we had never actually met each other in person. Volunteering at a farm sounded like a perfect way to finally spend an afternoon “in real life” together!

With Lisa Chionis, M2 (right), in our freshly weeded rows of corn on a beautiful day!

Food Gatherers is a local food bank and food rescue program in Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is located. The Farm Project is a collaboration between Food Gatherers, the Mindful Eating Coalition, and Bill Schmid (“Farmer Bill”), who volunteers his property as a space to grow fresh produce. Most of the produce is donated directly to Food Gatherers, and some produce is sold at his roadside stand to raise money for an additional cash donation. The project is run entirely by volunteers who plant seeds, weed, mulch, water, and harvest the crops!

On our first day, Lisa, Morgan and I showed up and got right to work on weeding the patch of corn together. As we made our way up and down the rows, we soon realized that we were the youngest volunteers there (probably by at least 20 to 30 years)! Despite the age gap, we felt right at home and had an incredible afternoon together.

Over the summer, I kept coming back to volunteer about once a week at the farm. My brother, an undergraduate at Michigan, also started joining me regularly, and this became our usual Monday evening ritual. I loved that we had this time to hang out with each other in the middle of our busy schedules. I also had a lot of fun getting to know the other “regulars” volunteering. We’d all swap stories about our lives, and I particularly loved hearing the ones about their grandkids’ latest shenanigans!

The last few months of my M4 year have been quite busy. I recently completed rotations in Hematology/Oncology and the ICU, and I’m now studying for my emergency medicine shelf exam and writing my residency applications. At the end of a long day, it has been so rejuvenating to take a break and spend a few hours volunteering outside in the sunshine and fresh air. There’s something so therapeutic about getting down in the dirt and plucking out those pesky weeds. Plus, you wouldn’t believe what a great full-body workout gardening can be with all the lifting and squatting! Week by week, the little seedlings that we planted in May took root and sprouted into magnificent stalks of corn, huge heads of cabbage, and all kinds of juicy tomatoes. I felt amazed by how much growth had taken place every week!

I’ve really loved my time at the Farm this summer. I encourage you to continue your hobbies and the things that “nourish” you while in medical school. I found it quite special to be able to combine my interests in gardening and nutrition, especially in the form of an important service project that is serving our community. As of September 1, we have already donated $3,000 and over 850 pounds of fresh produce to Food Gatherers. There is plenty more work to do as this is now peak tomato season. They just keep coming, so it’s going to be all hands on deck!

How to Succeed at Virtual Med School Interviews

The University of Michigan Medical School’s first 24 Hours in Blue Interview Day is just around the corner on September 10th. For those of you with medical school interviews scheduled — and those who hope to have interviews scheduled soon — members of our M1 class are here to give you their tips and tricks for making this day a success for you, too.

Topics range from how to set yourself apart and deciding where to interview to the do’s and don’ts of virtual interviews, getting the inside scoop from current students, and even some bonus tips. Take it from them – they were in your shoes one year ago. You’ve got this!

 

On how best to convey what sets you apart on the spot (or on camera):

  • “Oftentimes the things that set you apart don’t have to do with your academic qualifications, but rather your real life and work experiences, and even your hobbies!” -Matthew
  • “Have a list of anecdotal examples that highlight who you are and incorporate them into the conversation because they will only learn what you tell them about yourself, so share a lot!” -Gabriela
  • “Be yourself, be humble, and be confident. Those three things will give the admissions committee good insight on what makes you unique.” -Miles
  • “Just tell your story and be honest. When I messed up on interviews, it was usually because I was trying too hard to tell the interviewer what I thought they wanted to hear.” -Matt
  • “Know your story inside out, knowing your unique journey and being able to explain why that story has led you to medicine will automatically set you apart because no one else has your story!” -Navjit
  • “Be yourself, stay calm, and don’t worry or feel intimidated by the virtual nature of the interview. The committee is interviewing you not to grill you, but rather because they are super excited to learn more about you!” -Husain
  • “You are much more interesting and unique than you may think you are, and if you speak about your true passions, it will come across as genuine.” -Chloe
  • “Remember you’re talking to a PERSON not a screen. It can be easy to get stiff on camera but it’s important to relax and be organic.” -Lindsey
  • “Invest your time to really understand why you chose medicine and what makes you want to pursue it so much, where your passion for medicine came from and what maintained that interest all this time to continue pursuing it. This will also help you keep your perseverance through medical school.” -Aasma
  • “It is hard to convey emotion over a camera but I tried to keep eye contact and just convey that I was truly happy to be part of the interview process. Try your best to just have a normal conversation! You are already halfway there by making it to the interview.” -Hiba
  • “Leaning into your passions in an interview and throughout your written application ought to be enough to showcase your awesome-ness to the school that is right for you.” -Lindsay

The Incoming Class of 2021 at their recent White Coat Ceremony

On deciding where to interview, especially when travel costs aren’t a consideration:

  • “Don’t undersell yourself when applying, if you think you have a chance, take it!” -Niki
  • “Interview everywhere possible when travel costs aren’t a consideration. You don’t know how much you may like a school if you don’t choose to even interview and take the chance to explore its culture and environment.” -Aasma
  • “I really enjoyed the interview process. It was the first time I felt like people were seeing Sarah the person versus Sarah the numbers on a page. I got to be myself and that is even more available when there are remote interviews.” -Sarah
  • “Make sure the school you are interviewing at has resources in what you want to do (very important).” -Bruce
  • “Talk to other students or other applicants, if available. Culture is #1. The people who the school recruits say the most about their culture.” -Matt
  • “Do your research! You owe it to yourself and the schools interviewing you to make sure that you have spoken with students and faculty about the institution and the experience at their medical school.” -Ashwin
  • “Make sure you’re interviewing at schools that FIT you.” -Patrick
    “Interview at schools with significant financial aid and/or scholarships. Cost of attendance will be an important consideration when you decide which school to attend.” -Tosin
  • “You want to attend an institution that will nurture your passion and develop it into a craft.” -Hebah
  • “Notify a school early on if you aren’t considering their school anymore to save interviewers, schools, and other applicants time. Be sure to take advantage of your opportunities while still respecting others in the process.” -Sydney
  • “When researching for the interview, I always asked myself if I was excited to learn more about the school or if there was something in particular I was excited about. If not, then I would decide not to interview at the school.” -Hiab
  • “You should see every offer as if it is your potential home for the next four years.” -Mohammed
  • “If you truly cannot see yourself thriving in the city or your goals for medical school do not align with the mission of the school, do not interview!” -Emily
  • “Interview at the places you feel excited about attending! It makes preparing for the interviews enjoyable and your excitement day-of will be genuine.” -Cara
  • “Go into the interview open-minded. You never know how much you could see yourself at a specific program if you do not give yourself the opportunity to immerse yourself within the school’s culture.” -Amy

Do’s and don’ts for preparing for and thriving during virtual interviews:

DO’S

Find a Great Place to Set Up
  • “Preparing my background and the space where I did virtual interviews really helped me feel prepared.” -Rachel
  • “Stay in the same environment for each medical school interview if possible, which will help you remember your anecdotes and release nerves.” -Ashwin
  • “Choose a comfortable spot. For me, interviewing from a familiar desk at home improved my performance rather than interviewing from a new location.” -Navjit
  • “Investing in a mini ring light if you can afford it can be helpful if you are in a setting with bad or variable lighting, it just looks professional.” -Juliana
  • “Use a study/conference room somewhere if you can (work, school, etc.). This helped me move from my home to a more professional setting and got my nerves up a little so I could have an edge while interviewing.” -Sarah
  • “Set up your camera to be in good front lighting and put it on a RAISED platform! Having a camera angle pointed straight at your face or even pointed down toward your face makes you look more engaged and is a better angle for aesthetics as well.” -Jayna
  • “Give your living-mates ample notice and reminders about your interview days so they can plan ahead about supporting you by keeping the home relatively quiet.” -Lindsay
Dress the Part
  • “Wear both a dressy top and bottoms to avoid awkwardness if you need to stand up.” -Josh
  • “Wear cozy socks/slippers! A silly tip, but a perk of virtual interviewing that helped me feel much more comfortable during an otherwise stressful situation.” -Anjali
Make Eye Contact
  • “Put a picture you like to look at right next to your camera. It made it really easy to look directly at it, even when I was nervous.” -Sarah
  • “Looking at the camera isn’t needed if the camera is right above your screen – instead just sit a bit farther away.” -Pratik
  • “Virtual eye contact is achieved much more effectively if you look into the computer camera rather than the eyes of the person on screen. It is a little weird to get used to, but you do get used to it!” -Olivia
  • “You have to really engage with your interviewer. They don’t have any physical cues and body language is harder to read, so acting interested and really being an active listener is important.” -Mary
Prepare for Potential Tech Issues
  • “Prepare for the worst with respect to technology, and be adaptable if something goes wrong.” -Bruce
  • “Establish a stable internet connection beforehand and make sure it is steady.” -Sagar
  • “Have an ethernet cable nearby in case you need it, and a phone that can be a mobile hotspot if the wifi is bad that day. I ended up using both at some point.” -Lindsey
Practice, Practice, Practice
  • “The flow of conversation is simply different. Due to the lag, you may cut someone off or vice versa, this takes some practice and compassion.” -Jasdeep
  • “Thoroughly read your application beforehand and learn the format of the interview (1:1 with faculty, MMI, group activity, etc).” -Tosin
  • “Google potential questions and do mock interviews with them over and over.” -Noah
  • “Use your computer to record yourself answering interview questions and use that to gauge your eye contact, facial expressions, and fluidity of speech (speed, use of “um,” etc.).” -Chloe
  • “Always pause and take a breath before answering the question, you don’t want to start talking as soon as the interviewer finishes asking the question.” -Mohammed
  • “Take a video of yourself in the setting and outfit you plan to wear for the interview, ask a friend or family member to conduct a practice Zoom with you! This will help you ensure internet connection and Zoom background are updated.” -Emily
Take Breaks
  • “Try to take advantage of all breaks possible, Zoom fatigue is very real.” -Hiab
  • “HAVE A DANCE PARTY BETWEEN INTERVIEWS! During my interview day I turned on music and my group danced! It was fun and shocked the nerves right out.” -Sarah
  • “I would walk around whenever there were breaks because sitting down for that long can be very difficult.” -Hiba
Bring Refreshments
  • “Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day to help you reset between interviews.” -Jasdeep
  • “I kept small snacks, water, and tea handy, so that I would be able to sneak in a few bites here and there during long Zoom interviews.” -Erin

DON’TS

Don’t Sweat the Tech Issues
  • “Don’t panic. The issue will be resolved, and you don’t want to be flustered in your interview.” -Matthew
  • “Don’t worry if a technical issue occurs that causes a lag or signs you out of the call. The admissions team are incredibly helpful and they’ll make sure your interview process is as smooth as possible (one of the defining features of my UMMS interview, an incredibly smooth and enjoyable process)!” -Hebah
  • “Most importantly: relax and be you. Even if you feel like one part didn’t go well or you are having tech issues, take a deep breath and start fresh. Contact the person you are told to contact when you are having issues and know everything will work out just fine.” -Aasma
  • “If you experience a connectivity problem, treat it as a chance to show your interviewer that you can competently handle a difficult or awkward situation.” -Ahab
More Don’ts
  • “Don’t hesitate to ask your interviewer to restate a question.” -Jorge
  • “Don’t be the person who’s grossly underdressed on interview day or constantly interrupting others (leave room for others to speak).” -Mikaelah
  • “Don’t swivel in a spinning office chair. To remove the temptation, I replaced my desk chair with a chair from my kitchen table.” -Jess
  • “Don’t spend too much time looking at your own video – it’s distracting! Focus on the videos of the people interviewing you – this simulates a more normal conversation :)” -Cara
  • “Don’t forget to smile and breathe! (it is virtual, but I know I still felt very anxious and had to keep reminding myself)
  • “Don’t forget to pause at times! With potential delays in the feed, it may take a few moments for one person to stop talking and another to start speaking. This is especially true in group interviews as gaps are needed as a queue for another to start speaking.” -Tyler
  • “Don’t look down at notes or at another screen during the interview. While it may be helpful to have notes on hand to remember things you want to mention during the interview, make sure to put them out of sight prior to the interview. The conversation should be natural.” -Amy

On getting the inside scoop from current students at the schools you’re interested in before/during/after you interview:

  • “In the virtual format, every perspective matters. Pay special attention to what and how current students talk about their school. If the same complaint keeps showing up, that is probably a red flag.” -Matt
  • “I can’t stress enough the importance of sending a few emails ahead of sending your secondaries and during the interview process.” -Ashwin
  • “Follow schools’ Twitter and Facebook pages to find opportunities to talk to current students!” -Navjit
  • “Almost everyone is very willing to offer advice, they were in the same situation a few short years earlier.” -Mary
  • “Seeing whether the students seem relaxed and enthusiastic in answering our questions or hosting the info sessions can also show what type of learning environment and culture the school has. Med school is tough anywhere, but if the students seem happy and relaxed despite the pressure, that’s fantastic.” -Aasma
  • “Don’t be afraid to be candid with the students, such as making them know what you are specifically looking for in a school.” -Josh
  • “Always ask questions. If in a student-led pre-interview session, have the courage to unmute your microphone and talk to them; that’s what they’re taking time out of their busy schedules to help you with!!” -Mohammed
  • “If the school offers an opportunity for you to talk to current students anytime in the interview season, tune in! You don’t have to participate at every one or any, but I found listening in at the very least to be helpful. Seeing how current students interact (their fondness for each other / inside jokes) with each other was reassuring.” -Lindsay
  • “Go in with a list of questions around topics/aspects you care deeply about and ask at every school to multiple people if possible. This will give you good points of consensus (or not) within a school and comparison between them.” -Andrea

Bonus tips on the overall application process:

  • “It can be very easy to be self-deprecating and compare yourself to others during this process, but surrounding yourself with your supporters can truly make the stress of the application process bearable.” -Amy
  • “Enjoy the process, it’s a big step but it’s full of learning experiences and great memories!” -Niki
  • “Remember, you are interviewing schools just as much as they are interviewing you!” -Tyler
  • “The interview process is the only time an applicant can come alive from a statistic or a piece of paper. Don’t be afraid to vocalize your passion, value, and drive that will distinguish you as a unique asset to the specific medical school and, largely, the field of medicine.” -Erin
  • “If you know your interviewer’s name ahead of time, do a bit of research. It was helpful to me to look at a picture of the individual beforehand, so their face was more familiar to me when we were introduced on zoom. It eased my nerves to see a familiar face!” -Cara
  • “Be patient!” -Emily
  • “When completing an application, answering an essay, or getting interviewed, always be honest and be yourself, that is the one way to get yourself accepted to medical school.” -Mohammed
  • “Always stay true to who you are. Trust the process. Remember that everything isn’t always in your control and make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to you.” -Sydney
  • “Don’t compromise your happiness. Make sure where you attend you can see yourself being happy, and your interests being valued.” -Aasma
  • “See each application and interview as a learning process through which you grow and become even more confident in your capabilities. By the end of it, you’re one step closer to becoming the physician of your dreams. Simply enjoy it.” -Hebah
  • “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice! Your support system of advisors, family, and/or friends can relieve some of the worries associated with applying to medical school and provide useful feedback.” -Chloe
  • “The application process can be daunting, but I think it is really important that you take a step back and look at all that you have done to get to this point. It is truly amazing! No matter how the cycle goes, you can be proud of yourself.” -Olivia
  • “Overall, be patient and kind to yourself during the application process. It will feel overwhelming at times, but know that there are people you will encounter along the way who can help you.” -Tosin
  • “Don’t ever give up throughout this process. It can be difficult and grueling. I ended up reapplying to medical school after not being accepted my first cycle. I used this additional year to grow, better reflect on my application and have conversations with medical schools across the country. Believe in yourself and keep pushing!” -Ashwin
  • “Be genuine! The best thing you can do is present your authentic self. If you’re accepted, you’ll know that the school wanted the authentic you. If you don’t, you shouldn’t have regrets.” -Jasdeep

Good Luck and Go Blue!

LEADing the Future of Medicine at Michigan

About a year ago, over fifty thousand pre-med students began the application process for medical school. In a time of immense uncertainty, social isolation, civil unrest, and fear of losing loved ones, applicants like myself experienced an added level of unpredictability. What already seemed like an insurmountable process was further complicated by postponed MCAT dates and impending virtual interviews. Though much has changed with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, we remain in the midst of a global pandemic with new health inequities and political divides. The rapidly changing landscape has highlighted the need to equip future physician leaders with the tools to tackle the diverse and unpredictable challenges of our lifetime.

The University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS) Leadership and Enrichment for Academic Diversity (LEAD) program addresses this need. Along with 19 other M0s (pre-matriculating medical students), I attended a virtual two-week program centered around diversity, leadership, and social justice through early exposure to UMMS culture and resources available to ensure our success through medical school. The mission of LEAD is to build upon our professional and leadership skills, empower us to advocate for ourselves and our peers, and provide us with tools to address health disparities and inequities today and in the future.

A few of us met for the first time in person at Dominick’s. After months of social distancing, we initially struggled to remember how to interact, but we managed to figure it out pretty quickly.

Through engaging presentations by faculty, staff, and guest speakers, we discussed topics such as finding mentorship, qualities of a great leader, and improving communication skills. Additionally, we engaged in difficult, but pertinent discussions on racism, microaggressions, and social determinants of health. We addressed student well-being, and the various mental health resources available to us, including M-Home counseling and peer support groups. Through LEAD, it quickly became clear to me that UMMS harnesses a unique culture of openness, promotes wellness, and actively implements new programs to support its diverse class of students.

“The LEAD program acted as a bridge to medical school. Michigan medical students come from all walks of life with gap years ranging from 0 to 2+ years. However, we all arrived here with a common identifier, as University of Michigan medical students. This sentiment was reinforced on the very first day of LEAD.”
–Oluwatomi ‘Tomi’ Lawal, M1

The LEAD program, which is usually held in person, was beautifully adapted for Zoom and vastly surpassed my expectations. My colleagues and I developed an instantaneous mutual respect and understanding with one another through sharing our stories and vulnerabilities. My personal lesson from LEAD is to have the courage to express my opinions on the off chance that there are others who feel the same way. Whether others are in agreement or not, it often leads to interesting discussions which fosters a deeper understanding for one another.

Now into my third week of medical school, I realize that the inclusivity I experienced is not unique to LEAD, rather it is a function of UMMS culture as a whole. As I think back to my virtual interview day, I distinctly remember a moment where Director Teener encouraged us to just be ourselves and to believe that our unique communication styles were exactly what UMMS is looking for. At this moment, fears melted into tears of joy, and set the tone for my entire experience so far. I am grateful to be a part of an institution, a family, that attracts culturally competent students from all walks of life, that celebrates our differences and our unique paths that have led us to this point.

On the first day of M1 Launch, Dean Gay welcomed us by exactly pinpointing our feelings of excitement, anxiousness, and fear (I managed to hold back my tears this time). He told us not to see one another as competition, but rather as inspiration. Inspiration to do better, to be better. As I look around at the amazing and resilient peers with whom I will experience my medical journey, whom I will learn from and grow with, it has become immensely clear to me that our diversity is our strength. It is what sets us apart. It is the very thing that will make us great future physician LEADers.