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Weekly Weigh-in: Following Current Events

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 current events do you think premed students should be aware of? What resources do you recommend for staying up to date? 


Evan Shih, DGSOM MS2

With how quickly information travels today via social media, it should be expected that every applicant have some elementary knowledge about the world around them. Even signing onto Facebook provides some headlines about the most current events, although at times they seem to be little “tabloid” in their nature (it’s hard for me to get interested in what Kim Kardashian’s latest shenanigans are these days). When it comes to science, health, and current events, below are the topics that I think all applicants should at least be able to maintain a conversation in:

  • ·      The anti-immunization controversy
  • ·      The Affordable Care Act and U.S. health care policy reform
  • ·      The Ebola epidemic
  • ·      The antibiotic resistance concerns (this is a personal favorite of mine)
  • ·      Any current events surrounding race and LGBT topics
  • ·      UCLA football’s current recruiting success

I’m only kidding about the last one! To be honest, I don’t think that the list above is asking too much, and it is far from all-encompassing. The average applicant could probably spend 30 minutes looking up each topic and end up knowing more than 90% of the United States population about each one. However, more important than being up-to-date on specific medical topics, is being well aware of other worldly happenings. I do my best to watch one TED talk (www.ted.com) before bed each night because of the incredible insight and perspective that some of the speakers possess. Some of my favorite talks include “I got 99 problems…palsy is just one” (insight from a cerebral palsy patient with a twist of humor) and “Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear” (from the creator of StoryCorps). Taking a mere 20 minutes out of your day to watch a TED talk will provide you with plenty of knowledge about the world around you, from fields as diverse as education, history, statistics and business.


Evan Laveman, DGSOM MS2

I think that it’s important for applicants to first and foremost be aware of current events that relate to their own application “package.” If you speak at length about how much time you spent in Africa devoted to public health efforts, it would probably be good to have a current understanding of what is happening in that part of the world. Likewise if you pride yourself as an NFL enthusiast, you should probably be up to date on the relevant rosters, schedules and news. Interviewers can really latch on to any part of your application that they might find interesting or that they can relate to, and it’s to your benefit to know enough about those topics to carry an informed and engaging conversation. Beyond your own application, it’s good to know about some of the major trends/news that are happening in healthcare- it is in fact the field you are applying to. Rarely you may get an interviewer who is looking for an applicant that “knows what they’re getting in to,” and if you can’t muster up any informed perspectives on the healthcare field, even if they’re not your own, then you may come across as naive or young.

A lot of my current events information came from the websites of a few media sources such as nytimes. If I had time I would read through opinion pieces or read up on interesting stories throughout the world. If you need to stay entertained, the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight are great. I prefer Last Week Tonight at this point, they have great circulating clips if you don’t want to watch the whole episodes, but they’re entertaining, so I would. Also, I would identify relevant topics that you’ve always wanted to learn about, and then use interviews as an excuse to put some work into researching them. I wanted to learn more about the affordable care act, and so I got a concise and easy to follow book that plotted the advancements of that act in the context of our developing healthcare system. Don’t look into subjects just for the sake of it, start with your own interests, and find some areas that you may want to learn more about, and use interviews as a good motivator to learn more about people, events, and the world, currently.

Emily Singer, DGSOM MS2
I think that it is critical for applicants to be aware of world events besides simply goings on within medicine or healthcare. When you’re in the middle of studying for finals, preparing for the MCAT, and filling out applications, it is easy to forget that there is a world outside of college or your future career. In fact, knowing what is happening with immigration policy in the US and the crisis in Europe, understanding the economic ramifications of low oil prices, staying apprised of relations between Russia and the US, and being aware of the HIV outbreak among drug users in a small town in Indiana will help you contextualize your place as a doctor in the world and better relate to situations that your patients are facing. More immediately, current events or what you read might come up during your interviews. Being informed about the world around you is a responsibility, particularly for those charged with caring for the people in it.
To stay informed, I peruse the New York Times website (nytimes.com). I read both for information and articles that seem interesting, like the effect of dog’s eyes on human oxytocin levels. I also listen to the NPR news shows Morning Edition and All Things Considered when I’m at the gym. Sources of news that you might find more relaxing but nonetheless informative are The Daily Show or This Week Tonight with John Oliver. Bottom line: stay interested, stay informed.

Brandon Brown, UCSF MS1

Although I was never asked about healthcare policy in any of my interviews, I think premed students should keep up-to-date on healthcare-related topics. Healthcare policy has changed and is changing as a result of the Affordable Care Act and emerging new healthcare technology. Being a physician is more than diagnosing and treating patients; physicians must work within the bounds of their institution locally and the healthcare system as a whole and I think interviewers may want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. You don’t have to become an expert on anything, but generally being aware of current events and being able to discuss ethical dilemmas involved in current healthcare debates is a good idea (e.g. recent anti-vaccination controversy). I like to read wired.com for technology related news, and almost any major news outlet is good for keeping up with current events broadly (e.g. http://www.npr.org/sections/health-care/). Since the faculty at medical schools is also composed of many researchers, it may be useful to be aware of the latest scientific breakthroughs (I follow http://www.sciencedaily.com/).


Edward Chang, DGSOM MS2
I think that keeping up with current events depends on your preferences. People are passionate about different things. To be honest, most of my energy is spent keeping up with the most recent sports news, especially the NBA and UCLA football. I learn about other current events through Google News and social media every once in a while. It’s hard to be engaged with everything that’s going on in the world so I think it’s better to keep up with what you are passionate about. There are certain events that really catch my attention but I don’t put pressure on myself to keep up with current events that I don’t necessarily have much interest in.

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.
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