Alternative PathsApplying to Medical SchoolGap YearPre-Med Academics

How Perseverance as a Nontraditional Applicant Pays Off

I remember sitting in my ‘pre-med’ advisors office to discuss applying to medical school for the very first time. “Hmm, I really think you should probably think of other career choices”, were the words that he uttered as he quickly glanced at my transcript. After an injury during my second year of college required me to give up on my athletic goals, I had decided that I wanted to become a doctor. At this point in time, I had zero experience with the entire process. I had SO many questions I needed answered. How do I become a doctor? What classes do I need to take? When and how do I apply when the time comes? However, before I could even ask the most basic of questions, this person who didn’t know a thing about me had already jumped to the conclusion that I was inadequate to partake in this journey… and based on two years of college courses? Needless to say, I left this meeting very discouraged.

|| Read:Best Gap Year Options Before Medical School

As I reflect on this encounter, I have mixed emotions. For me, all it did was light a fire and motivate me to succeed, but many other students actually leave these types of meetings and never move forward. All because a so called ‘pre-med’ advisor, with no real experience in applying to medical school or becoming a physician, tells them they’re inadequate based on mediocre performance in a few basic college courses. Not only are we hurting these students, but we could be potentially losing great future doctors.

Long story short, I am now a Dermatology resident. I attended my top choice medical school, performed at the top of my class and matched into one of the more competitive specialties. I won’t go through all the details of my journey here but let my story be a lesson to those who have been discouraged by something or someone telling you that you won’t make it. If you truly want to become a physician, don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving your dreams. Do your best every day. Work hard. Be passionate. Don’t give up. These are the traits that admissions committees want to see in an application. These are the traits that will make you an excellent physician.  

|| Read: Inspiring Vs. Impressing the Admissions Committee

About the author
Dr. Ryan Gillihan is a second year Dermatology resident at the University of Florida. He conducted his internship in Internal Medicine at the University of Florida Shands Hospital and received his MD from the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Dr. Gillihan began his college career as a baseball player but then had to rethink his career path after suffering an injury. He has helped many premeds in their journey to medicine by sharing his nontraditional experiences and how he overcame the hurdles he faced along the way. He also serves as an advisor @medschoolcoach.

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