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Weekly Weigh-in: Extracurriculars in Medical School

Welcome to PDr’s Weekly Weigh-in! Each week, we ask medical students and physicians to weigh in on some of our most frequently asked pre-med questions.

This week’s question: What extracurriculars did you join in medical school and why? 

Edward Chang, DGSOM MS2
Since I knew my time would be limited in medical school, I told myself that I would only engage in extracurricular activities that met the following criteria:

1. Am I extremely passionate about it?
2. Does it bring me peace and enjoyment?

3. Is it flexible?

Given those criteria, the only two extracurriculars I was involved in was ProspectiveDoctor and research. I was working on ProspectiveDoctor for close to a year before entering medical school. I wanted to take the website to the next level and I was so fortunate to meet other people in my class (Emily Singer, Evan Laveman, and Evan Shih) who were just as passionate as me about helping undergraduates on their journey to becoming doctors. As for research, I wanted to be extremely selective in the type of research I get involved in. I was interested in clinical research in gastroenterology (specifically hepatology). I was planning to start looking for a mentor starting January 2014 but someone posted the perfect opportunity via our class email sometime before that. I emailed back, interviewed for the position and the rest was history. I’m glad I stuck with only those two activities because it allowed me to not only focus in school but also be involved in activities that I was genuinely passionate about. I never felt pressured to get involved in any specific activity and because of that, I allowed myself to be selective and find the right fit, rather than just getting involved in anything. I refused to do something just because it would look good on my CV and I’m glad I did.
Brandon Brown, UCSF MS1
I didn’t get involved in any “longitudinal” extra-curricular activities (besides PDr) during my first year of medical school but rather spent my copious amounts of free time (yes, sarcasm) working on personal projects and hobbies. I’m currently trying to learn Chinese and I’m working on some tech projects. Near the beginning of the year, I almost joined a research lab but decided it just wasn’t the right time for me. However, I’ll be doing research this summer and trying to relax as much as possible before starting my 2nd year. I don’t plan to go into a super competitive residency so I don’t feel compelled to do things just to pad my CV, I’m trying to do things I enjoy and just keep a balanced life.
Emily Singer, DGSOM MS2

After feeling like I had learned so much in the process of applying and reapplying to medical school, I wanted to make sure that I shared some of what I had learned with applicants. ProspectiveDoctor was a perfect fit, and I joined the small team shortly after school started. During my second year I also had the opportunity to join the admissions committee, which for me represented a chance to advocate for applicants. Those were my primary activities and the ones in which I will stay involved throughout my career as a medical student and beyond.

For balance, I also did the occasional shift at UCLA’s Mobile Clinic and sang in the medical school a cappella group, and made sure to cook and exercise daily. During most of first year, I was in a long-distance relationship, and spent many weekends flying to see my boyfriend or playing host in LA. That took an incredible amount of time and effort, and ultimately took away from other things that I would’ve liked to have done – mostly by way of having a social life with my classmates. I am proud, however, that my main extracurricular focus has been advocating on behalf of current applicants as a member of ProspectiveDoctor and medical admissions.
Evan Shih, DGSOM MS2

In addition to joining the ProspectiveDoctor team, which has been a delightful and rewarding endeavor, I directed my passion and dedication to the Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA. Every Wednesday for the past year, regardless of weather conditions, summer breaks, and holidays and birthdays included, I piled into carpools with my classmates and drove out to West Hollywood to volunteer at the student-run Mobile Clinic Project. From 5-9pm every Wednesday evening, we teamed up with students and physicians from all over Los Angeles to provide health care, social services, donations to the vulnerable and underserved populations of West Hollywood.I found my passion for underserved medicine early on in my undergraduate career when I saw that students could make a tangible difference in a patient’s life. Mobile Clinic gave me the opportunity to get to know a patient’s story in a very meaningful way. While the commitment as a coordinator meant that every week I sacrificed an evening of studying and schoolwork, what I gained in cultivating my clinical skills and compassion kept me looking forward to every Wednesday evening.

About Emily Chiu

Emily Chiu
Emily Chiu is the Director of Logistics at ProspectiveDoctor.com. She is currently a third-year undergraduate student at UCLA. If you have any questions about her work, or are interested in contributing to ProspectiveDoctor.com, please contact her at emilychiu@prospectivedoctor.com. Follow ProspectiveDoctor on Twitter, @ProspectiveDr.