4 Factors Prospective Medical School Students Overlook
Choose a medical school that has a diverse student body and serves patients from various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE THE luxury of being accepted to multiple medical schools, there is often the daunting responsibility of having to choose which school to attend. Prospective students frequently pay attention to myriad factors to inform their decision including the medical school’s ranking, the location, how well the students at that school perform on the medical boards and the school’s track record of placing students into good residencies.
These factors are important to take into account, but are not the end all to your future success as a medical student. Prospective students should also take into account some of the less obvious and often overlooked characteristics of an institution when making a decision about which school to attend.
Prospective medical students often overlook some of the following traits.
The medical profession requires working with a diverse population – and this diversity is increasing every day. Patients and providers alike are becoming more heterogeneous from a cultural, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic standpoint. If you learn to work with diverse colleagues and patients from the early stages of your training, you will be better prepared for the future practice of medicine.
When selecting which school to attend, look for an institution with students, faculty and staff from varied backgrounds. Also, look at the patient population you will be serving as a medical student.
Prospective medical students frequently look at a school’s location because they want to be in a city with good weather and lots to do. Also look at the city’s demographics and consider whether the patients you serve will be diverse.
2. Varied clinical experiences:
Another factor to look at is whether the school offers sufficient variety in terms of clinical settings where medical students rotate.
Attending a school with diverse clinical settings will offer a chance to witness a broader range of illnesses and learn more about how different health care systems function. Rotating at a large academic medical center will expose you to many complex diseases and teach you how to manage challenging patient cases in multidisciplinary teams.
At community hospitals you will have a chance to witness more common medical problems. At county hospitals, you will learn how government-funded facilities function, work with patients from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, learn more about how socioeconomic factors affect health and experience more autonomy when caring for patients.
3. Proximity to a university campus:
Medical students often report feeling like they are in a bubble, interacting with the same handful of peers every day, all having very similar experiences. One way to broaden your experience is by attending a medical school that is part of a larger university with different colleges and departments nearby.
Doing so allows you to take advantage of various activities on the college campus in the arts, athletics, music and other areas. This is a great way to leave the medical school bubble every once in a while, build a more expansive social network and learn from interesting people in other disciplines.
4. A good work-life balance:
Medical school can be exciting. You will have a lot of fun, learn a great deal and establish lifelong friends. But with all the excitement also comes lots of stress and anxiety. Some students find themselves coping with depression because of the overwhelming demands that medical school places.
As such, it is important to obtain your medical training at an institution where you can be academically challenged while also maintaining good psychological health. Look for a medical school where the administration welcomes students to voice their concerns, is accommodating of challenging circumstances and offers resources such as counseling services.
A student we recently worked with reported regularly taking advantage of psychological services. He found these services not only helped him unwind from the daily stresses but also made him more sensitive and understanding of his patients’ psychological needs when he was rotating on the wards.
By talking to students and faculty and paying close attention during the interview, you can glean what a school offers.
There are many factors to take into account when choosing a medical school. While a school’s rank or its track record of helping medical students succeed are important, attending an institution that give students the opportunity to interact with diverse populations, offers varied clinical experiences and promotes the psychological well-being of students are also paramount to enhanced learning, happiness and success as a medical student.