The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Applying to Med School During COVID-19 with Dr. Renee Volny Darko

Dr. Renee Volny Darko shares tips for med school applications during COVID-19, financial advice for med students, and the importance of having a growth mindset.

  • [01:48] Why OB-GYN
  • [05:23] Tips for Applying to Medical School during COVID-19
  • [10:42] Virtual Interview Tips
  • [12:35] Medical School Application Date Changes Due to COVID-19
  • [14:20] Financial Tips for New Medical Students
  • [18:44] The Importance of a Growth Mindset

Erkeda DeRouen chats with Dr. Renee Volny Darko, an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN). Dr. Volny Darko graduated from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, did her residency at Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and then did a health policy leadership fellowship at the Morehouse School of Medicine under Dr. David Satcher. She is a practicing physician, has spent some time in academia, and has had several entrepreneurial pursuits. She has a passion for helping pre-meds from underrepresented backgrounds to get into medical school.


OB-GYN was initially at the bottom of Dr. Volny Darko ’s list of specialty choices. However, after her OB-GYN clinical rotation — which was her last clinical rotation at medical school — she realized that she loved it. She reminds medical students to keep an open mind as you do your clinical rotations, knowing that you might be surprised by the rotations that you enjoy. It is okay to be uncertain about which specialty to choose.

Applying to Medical School During COVID-19

Dr. Volny Darko shares three key tips for applying to medical school during COVID-19:

  1. Be flexible. You need to know that the process, deadlines, and requirements of your medical school application might shift. Pre-med students tend to be Type A, but neither medicine nor life is highly predictable, so you must be willing to adjust.
  2. Flexibility does not mean being lax. Despite the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, you must still submit your best possible medical school application. You need to continue to study for your MCATs, and to remember that the application criteria will not be so relaxed.
  3. Participate in their regular activities. For example, if you were going to attend a conference, perhaps attend a virtual conference. Take the initiative to better yourself and to engage with the medical community.

Because of the pandemic, some medical school interviews might be switched to virtual interviews. Dr. Volny Darko encourages students to learn how to appear on screen, and how to appear professional. For example, remember to show your shoulders and pretend as if this were an in-person interview — avoid having your cat in the background, for example.

Application dates for various medical schools may also be shifted around, depending on the number of COVID-19 cases in different states, or in the nation as a whole. Students should keep themselves informed of the updates.

Financial Tips for New Medical Students

Medical students should practice living below your means, as this habit will carry into your residency and attending years. To live below your means is to spend much less than the amount that you earn. It is not about accumulating lots of money, but rather, it is about freeing your future self to pursue anything that you want to pursue. For example, Dr. Volny Darko and her husband — host of the podcast Docs Outside the Box — paid off their students loans very quickly, by working both permanent and locum positions, leaving them with the freedom to travel and/or to stay home with their children without worrying about money.

The Importance of a Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset means believing that your intelligence is not fixed, and can be increased. Dr. Volny Darko cites a study by psychologist Carol Dweck, which showed that pre-med hopefuls with a fixed mindset did not improve their grade in a chemistry class, whilst students with a growth mindset did. Stop saying that someone else is just “smart” because this gives you a pass to not work as hard. Be comfortable saying, “I do not know that YET” instead of “I do not know that.”

Check out Dr. Renee Volny Darko’s LinkedIn and Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Sign up for a Free Coaching session with Chase DiMarco, sponsored by Prospective Doctor! You can also join the Med Mnemonist Mastermind FB Group today and learn more about study methods, memory techniques, and MORE! Do check out Read This Before Medical School.

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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