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.
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. https://www.npr.org/