Growth Year Chronicles – Lemuel Hackshaw Pt2

February 16, 2017

So what does a growth year look like?  Well for Lemuel, during his growth year, he played a Steinway, drove a Tesla, helped out in food banks, spoke at schools and juvenile detention centers, visited Crater Lake and host of other experiences he wouldn’t have had, had is “failure” to get into medical school on his first attempt hadn’t happened.   Like I told the students last night, sometimes “failure” is just a disguised opportunity for something amazing!   Enjoy these pictures from his experiences.

Growth Year Chronicles – Lemuel Hackshaw

February 16, 2017


Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with a few students about the growth year. No, I don’t mean the gap year. I mean the growth year.  To me, “gap year” has a negative tone, and like I told the students last night. time between undergrad and professional school is ANYTHING but negative.  It’s a ripe opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, grow and prepare a stellar application.   I can tell students this as much as I want to, but nothing beats showing them students just like them who are flourishing in the transition period.   Hopefully Lemuel’s experience will help show, that there’s nothing negative about a growth year at all 🙂  Enjoy

HealthOU: When did you graduate from Oakwood?

May 7, 2016

HealthOU: Describe your activities post Oakwood?

From graduation until August 19th, I studied for the MCAT (which consisted of 6 weeks of independent study followed by a 6 week MCAT prep course at UConn Health). Submitted all of my med school secondary applications by September 23rd. 3 days after my MCAT score was released. (I used SDN to pre fill out secondary applications questions before I actually received the secondaries). After that, I joined up with a humanitarian organization called NAPS. The National Association for the Prevention of Starvation. In which we travel the nation full time doing service. With the team, I’ve traveled to Seattle WA, Portland and Medford OR Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles CA, and Phoenix AZ. We then plan to go to Ethiopia and Haiti this summer as well.

HealthOU: When did you take the MCAT? How did you study?

I took the MCAT twice. The first time I took it, (May 2015) I studied during spring semester junior year, in order to take the MCAT early and complete a summer of research at Duke. Which was a mistake. I took the MCAT a second time after my senior year on August 19th. I studied for approximately four months. Two months of content review, reading and studying through all of the Exam Kracker books, then I did two months of practice tests. In which I took the 2AAMC test and 9 Kaplan practice tests. I studied each test after I took it for two, 12 hour days. I re-read through all of the passages, questions and explanations until I understood everything. I practically retool each test in depth. Which is why it took 24 hours over two days to review each practice test.

HealthOU: Why do you feel it was a mistake to study for the MCAT during the spring semester of your junior year?
I studied during the busiest semester of my life. I was doing research, heavily involved in NAPS (National Association for the Prevention of Starvation), Planning an outreach event in the community for NOBBChE, teaching three different lab sections. Doing research on campus, taking 18 credits, traveling with Honda Allstars Intercollegiate Quiz Team, plus more. All while trying to study for the MCAT


HealthOU: After your first MCAT scores came back did you still go ahead and apply to med school, or did you then opt to plan for a gap year?
I did both. I submitted my application based on schools I had connections with or was recommended to apply to. After I submitted my med school application, I then began to make plans for a gap year. I applied to UConn’s MCAT program, and I applied to various postbacc programs. Which I opted not to complete in exchange for YOD (Year of Dedication)*
HealthOU: How many schools did you apply to?
First cycle I applied to 8 schools. 0 interviews. 0 acceptances.
Second cycle I applied to 12 schools.
So far. 7 interview invites. 2 rejections. I have completed 4 interviews thus far and have been accepted to 3 of the 4 schools. One with a full scholarship.  I still have three interviews pending and am still in the review process for the other three schools I applied to.

HealthOU: What things do you think played a role in you not getting the score you wanted on your first attempt at the MCAT?   

Everyone that I talked to that scored well on the MCAT from various places all told me the same thing. And it was that they had to dedicate an entire section of time without doing anything else to study for the MCAT. So the mistake came from trying to study in the midst of a heavy load. Another thing that lowered my score was that I only took one practice test. I studied a lot but didn’t practice. The same people that I talked to told me that score increase came from practice. I also took an early MCAT. I took an early MCAT because I wanted to do research. I thought having Duke on my resume was more important than investing more time to study. Professors tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen and a lot of students don’t listen.  So a lack of devoted time, and ineffective studying due to a busy schedule, and a lack of practice tests all contributed to my low score.

HealthOU: How did your scores change between your first and second attempt of the MCAT. 
My score went up by 13 points and 45 percentile points.Having four focused months definitely helped.  Because I was able to do things in preparation for my MCAT that I couldn’t do if I was in school. I couldn’t study 12 hours a day while taking 18 credits. And I couldn’t fit in two entire 8 hour practice tests a week while in school. The four focused months allowed me to study without having to worry about anything else but studying. In the summer I was able to take 11 practice tests. Which really helped improve my score.
HealthOU: You took the MCAT in August 2016, when did you submit your AMCAS application?
I submitted my AMCAS about 4 weeks prior to my MCAT release date. I knew that medical schools couldn’t review my application without my MCAT, and that most schools don’t send secondaries without the MCAT. So I submitted it so that my MCAT release date and my AMCAS verification date could be close together. My MCAT was released September 20th. I submitted my AMCAS August 23rd. I also only submitted my AMCAS to just one school initially. So that way it can be verified without being sent to a lot of schools. That way when I got my MCAT score back, I could then decide which schools I’d want to add to my application


HealthOU: Did you plan on taking a gap year prior to graduating?

No I did not.

HealthOU: Students often have a timeline in their heads and it can be discouraging to find yourself taking a gap year if you didn’t initially plan do.  Did you experience any of these feelings?

Sure did. I wanted to go straight through. It was even tougher knowing that all of my friends made it into medical school the first time and I didn’t. But I also realized that God has a specific plan for everyone and we cannot lean on our own understanding. Proverbs 14:12-There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

HealthOU: What did you learn from your growth year experiences?

I learned that a gap year is a BEAUTIFUL thing full of opportunities. I’ve literally been in school for the past 17 years. And having an entire year to find myself, do things I enjoy, travel, minister, and meet new people, is a great thing. Especially since all I ever knew was school. I think everyone should take a gap year. Even if their application is already medical school ready.

HealthOU: What were some of the benefits to taking some time off between undergrad and professional school?                                                                            

Getting that time to do whatever I wanted to do. I wanted to build a strong foundation in every aspect of life before starting medical school. I could do that. I can grow spiritually without the usual compromise of school. I can work out consistently. I can work and save up. I can travel the nation. I can learn a new language. I can learn the capital of every country in the world. I can spend a lot of time with friends and family. I was able to do everything that I couldn’t do because of school. And lay a strong foundation within myself and develop the characteristics that I wanted going into medical school.



Lemuel Hackshaw was born and raised in the Southside Jamaica Queens in New York City. His favorite scripture is 2 Cor 5:17 because choosing to follow God took him from Central Bookings in Kew Gardens, to Medical School on a full scholarship. He believes in God’s power to make all things new and is thankful  that God  is using him to fulfill the great commission. 

*YOD ( Year of Dedication) is a year long mission commitment organized by the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation.

Did you know there are two types of medical schools?

March 23, 2016

Not many students are aware of the two different types of medical degrees that exist.  Traditionally, people are most familiar with the M.D degree.  Graduates with an M.D degree attend allopathic medical schools.  There is also a second less known medical degree, the doctor of osteopathic medicine or D.O. which is the degree offered by osteopathic medical schools.

So what is a D.O?  DO is  doctor of osteopathic medicine, not to be confused with MD – the degree conferred on those who graduate from an allopathic medical school. Both are doctors who can enter residency programs and practice medicine.  Graduates from D.O schools can practice medicine just like those who graduate from M.D schools and go into whatever speciality they like.  The major difference in the training is that DO schools incorporate a holistic approach to healing and incorporate Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) into their model / method for diagnosing and treating disease.

There are often misconceptions about osteopathic medicine.  It’s easier, its quack medicine, graduates can’t find residency positions, its a back up plan for people who can’t get into allopathic medical schools. These are all things I’ve heard about D.O schools and the field of osteopathic medicine.  In my experience I’ve found that my D.O colleagues were definitely on par if not better than my D.O colleagues.  We did residency together and now are  One of the premier pediatricians in the city of Huntsville, who I respect and look up to is a D.O.  Do I personally think having a D.O. degree places one at a disadvantage?  Absolutely not.

Check out the osteopathic school matriculant data to see the typical applicant profile, broken down by gender, race, MCAT score, GPA, etc.

To learn more about the field of osteopathic medicine and if it’s right for you, visit

To read more about the differences between MD vs DO, check out this blog.

What Now? – what to do if you’re not accepted.

February 22, 2016

By now, senior prehealth students across the country and the campus are excited as they tote around acceptance /s to professional school. It’s hard to contain their excitement as they see that they are one step closer to the dream of becoming a healthcare professional. This is not the case for the majority of students however. Every year more hopeful students get rejected than get accepted to professional school. Yes, you read that right. Every year the applicant pool gets more competitive and fewer students are accepted. Don’t believe me! Check out the data right here . Looking at this data and doing a little math, you’ll see that in 2006 – 2007, 47% of total applicants were accepted, compared to 41% in 2015-2016 application cycle. So do not be discouraged, it is very very difficult to get into professional school. You’ll also notice that for each year about 25% of the applicants were repeat applicants. So I say all that to say, your goal to become a physician is not out of your reach. However in order to increase your chances of a successful application cycle in the future you have to do a few things.


You’ve taken the time to mourn and wallow in disappointment, while celebrating with your friends, now its time to get to work. First thing you have to do is truly look at your application and identify the deficits. The only thing worse than not being accepted, is to turn around the submit the same application the next time your apply. You can’t improve your application unless your first identify the areas that need improvement. So, where were your deficits: a poorly written personal statement, poor undergraduate grades, less than stellar MCAT score? Inadequate shadowing experience? Poor interviewing skills? Whatever it was, luckily, it can be remedied, but only if you identify it. It’s ok if you find that there are multiple areas where your application could be improved.



Oftentimes people talk about a gap year, but what it really turns out to be is a few years. Remember that the application for professional school is usually submitted 1 year prior to starting classes, so if you planning to reapply for the 2017 entering class you would need to submit your application this summer, which means you don’t have much time to make a lot of improvements. If you have every had a one on one meeting with me, you know I’m all about the timelines. I love timelines because they give a guide as to where you need to be, what you should be doing when. The challenge with the prehealth path is that there is a lot of pre-planning. For eg: summer plans are not made in the summer, they are researched in Nov/December, applied for in January, accepted to in March/April. If you wait till the spring to start thinking of what you’re going to do for the summer, you will find that lots of deadlines for research and enrichment programs are closed. Same for application season. Planning to take the MCAT in August, means your set a light spring semester schedule in Nov/Dec, so you can have time to study during the spring semester. So, if you are planning to reapply and join the 2017 entering class, your timeline will look like this:

March 2016: Launch plan B, since I didn’t get accepted this year

March 2016 – July 2016: Fix whatever deficit there was on my application that played a role in me not being accepted

August 2016: Reapply to medical school

August 2016 – December 2016: *Work. Complete secondary applications

December 2016 – Feb 2017: Interview for medical school

Feb 2017 – May 2017: Sort through my acceptances for medical school and pray about which to go to J

August 2017: Start medical school.

The most important part of this timeline is in bold. March 2016 – July 2016 is NOT that much time and so the deficits you noted when you gave an honest assessment of your application may not be able to be overcome in that short space of time. So, your gap year, goes from being a gap year to a gap 2 years. That is perfectly OK. Realize that many students end up taking 2 years before they start medical school, because one year is spent improving the application and the other is spent going through the process of applying, interviewing and getting accepted. The time in between undergrad and medical school doesn’t really matter. What matters is, is your application better the second time around. Do not reapply until your have crafted a more competitive application.

So what are your options?  Your options depend on where your deficits are.

Poor MCAT score:   Set up a detailed study plan now and prepare to take the test in August. Only do this if you will be able to devote sufficient time daily and more time on weekends to really study. If you aren’t ready to employ a hardcore study schedule, or your class schedule doesn’t permit you to devote much time to specific MCAT studying then defer your plans to start with the 2017 entering class. There is no use to retake the MCAT if you will not have adequate time to prepare well to ensure a better score. This is not the time for blind optimism. Be honest with yourself. MCAT prep takes time. If you don’t have the time, don’t plan to take the test this summer just so you can try and reapply for the entering class of 2017. If you will have time to employ a hardcore schedule, also consider taking a commercial MCAT prep course. They are expensive but can be extremely helpful if utilized appropriately, in conjunction with adequate personal study! You could enroll in the online courses available now, or plan to study on your own for the test of the school year and take a classroom course in your home town this summer.

No shadowing: Contact your home church and see if there are any doctors who will let you shadow. Contact your physician of physician of your parent and see if they will let you shadow. Shoot me an email and I can try and reach out to a physician I may know in your hometown to try and help make a connection. Contact your local hospitals and see if they have job shadowing programs – more offer this program than you think!

Poor undergraduate GPA: Retake some classes. Enroll in a post bacc program for academic improvement.

No research experience: Look for research assistant positions at local universities for full time work, you can participate in after graduation. Research summer research programs, there may still be a few that have deadlines in March.

Poor interviews: Your application was enough to get you interviewed but somehow you ended up with no acceptances. Practice mock interviewing with faculty members, family members in the summer.

Poor personal statement: Have your statement reviewed by faculty, family members, professionals. Consider revamping it if it reads like a resume and simply lists all the things you’ve done in your undergrad years. Read the following posts on the components of a strong personal statement



Finally, don’t give up. Your dream is still in reach, you just gotta work for it. Applicants who need to apply more than once have the same potential to be successful. Like this student.  Allison applied 4 times! Antonio applied 3, and is now in one of the most competitive specialities. IT.IS.POSSIBLE. Know that you are not alone. During the 2015 – 2016 cycle, almost 31,000 people were right where you are now: moving one step closer to medical school by learning from their mistakes and working to develop a more competitive application.

Good luck, keep the faith and know that the plans God has for you, He will bring to fruition in his time!   You are right where you’re supposed to be



Summer Programs

November 7, 2015

There is no such thing as a “free” summer if you’re a prehealth student.   All your free time from freshman year till your graduation should involve some sort of activity that can accentuate your application for professional school.

Options for summer include:

  1. Shadowing
  2. Research
  3. Volunteering
  4. Health related work experience
  5. Enrichment programs

Guidelines for exploring summer opportunities

  1. Going home and doing nothing or nothing clinical is not an option.
  2. Most of these opportunities include a stipend, and room and board.
  3. Doing research / enrichment programs shows a commitment to healthcare and that you’re actively seeking opportunities to learn more / participate in your future career.
  4. Apply to 5 – 7 programs.
  5. Some of these lists are tedious, but stick it out, check out some programs and actually apply to them! A good approach for lists that are extensive is to sort by location. Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.

 Research Programs

Extensive list of opportunities.  Divides opportunities by areas of interest. Includes dental programs

Another already compiled list of tons of programs. Organized by state. Enjoy J

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Nicely organized list that has programs arranged by state.

Links to many programs across the country.

2015 List but some of the links are active for the upcoming summer.

Links to several summer programs across the country. Beware that a few links are outdated, but most are active.

NIH research opportunities

EXTENSIVE list of opportunities. A good way to approach this list is to first scan by location.  Look at institutions in your home state / city.  Another approach is to look at schools that you may be interested in going to for professional school.  This list also includes industry opportunities / organizational opportunities as well.

Enrichment programs

This is link to the AAMC summer enrichment program database. It is searchable by education level, state, and program focus.

Volunteer / Medical / Clinical

Volunteer medical programs abroad

Dental Programs

Not the only list what includes programs for dental school, but it’s a great one to start with.

Personal Statement Tips

February 26, 2015

Writing a personal statement for professional school can be a daunting experience. This article will offer key tips on drafting a personal statement that displays your strengths and uniqueness.

How to Start?

Just start! The writing process will require multiple drafts. Begin by writing whatever comes to mind as it pertains to your application process. As you continue to write, your ideas will become more focused and you will be able to add and delete what you do and do not want to use.

Get to the point. Admissions will read thousands of personal statements. Do not bore them with flowery language and nonessential details or stories. You can always start with explaining why you are pursuing this area of study or a pivotal experience that pushed you in the career you are pursuing.

What are admissions committees looking for?

Most schools use your personal statement to understand who you are as a person and who you will be as a future professional. Schools especially look for examples of leadership, overcoming obstacles, areas of interest, and commitment to society. Think carefully about your experiences and only discuss those experiences that portray you positively. It may help to review your resume and next to each experience categorize it was “leadership”, “community service”, etc. Then use your resume as an outline to help you draft your statement.

What should I put in my personal statement?

Your personal statement should highlight your unique qualities and your ambitions for the future in your career. Use your resume/CV to guide your writing. Think about experiences that changed you as a person, solidified your decision to pursue this career, or particular areas of interests. Remember to always answer the ‘Why’. Why do you want to be a doctor? Why did a particular experience make you a better person? Why is helping others important to you? Include research experiences, poster presentations, involvement in organizations/clubs. Do not simply state that you were involved in various experiences be sure to explain how the experiences have shaped you as a person.

Lastly, always, always have someone read your statement and offer feedback.


Natalie Blake, B.A. English, M.A. English Education, offers consultation on writing and editing personal statements and essays. She has assisted clients who have been accepted to Nursing, Medical, Dental and Law Schools. For more information on services, email:

What to do during your gap year – Part 2

February 18, 2015

Earlier this week, we talked about the gap year and the fact that in most cases it’s not really a year at all.  Sometimes taking the necessary steps to cover deficiencies in an application may mean starting professional school 2 years later than a student had anticipated.  Like we’ve stated earlier this month; the gap year/s is not the worst thing ever.  If making the changes to take you from being an applicant to a matriculant takes 2 or 3 years it was time well spent.

The things that follow are all things you can do to augment your application. You are basically seeking to fill the deficiencies that may have played in a role in you not being accepted or in making the decision to delay your application.


  1. Post Bacclaureate (post-bacc) Programs

These are programs specifically designed to improve applications for professional school.  These programs cater to those with a less than stellar academic  ( science) record or to those who were not science majors).


Some of the things to keep in mind with post baccalaureate programs are:

– Post-bacc programs cost money

– Some programs offer guaranteed interview at the host medical / dental school

– Post-bacc programs offer academic support to boost academic record

– Some focus on test prep

The key is to know what your program is tailored to. A post bacc program can be rigorous, making time for adequate MCAT / DAT test prep difficult. So you may find yourself needing to sit out two years. I know, I know, that sounds like a scary thought, but trust me its not that long in the grand scheme of the many academic years you have ahead of you J

AAMC Post-bacc Database. Searchable database by location or type of program


  1. Shadow

Set up consistent and regular shadowing opportunity. Ask health professionals at your church or in your family. Check local hospitals and see if they have a shadowing program. This won’t necessarily be easy to do but you have to be persistent and you will eventually find someone willing to let you shadow them.


  1. Mission Work

Remember to consider when you are planning to start medical school before you go overseas. Interviews for medical school usually occur during October/Nov/December/ of the year BEFORE you plan to enter. So, if you are hoping to start professional school in August 2017, you would be doing interviews in October – December of 2016 and January/February of 2017; and so being abroad during that time may make interviewing a challenge.


  1. Work in a health related field

Job options include a scribe, unit clerk/ secretary, phlebotomist


  1. Pursue research

Research is not just limited to the summer. There are opportunities to work in a research lab for an entire year or longer.


Feel free to email me at to discuss your individual options. Planning for a gap year can be stressful, but HealthOU is here to help!

Stay tuned for our alumni profile for the month, a gap year success story 🙂



AAMC: What to do during my gap year

International Internship and Gap Year Opportunities (Calvin College)

Benefits of taking a medical gap year

What to do in your year off

Premed Gap Year

What Princeton Premeds did during their Gap Year







What to do during your gap year – Part One

February 15, 2015




Six Pros of the “Gap Year”

February 8, 2015

Six Pros of the gap year

Students tend to feel that having to take a gap year is the worst thing ever. They see it as a sign of failure. The gap year is far from being a sign of failure. The truth of the matter is more applicants are rejected each year, than those who are accepted to professional school. Don’t believe me, check this out.

In 2014 for example, there were a total of 49,474 applicants to medical school. Of that number, only 21,355 were accepted. That’s only 43%. That means a gap year for a lot of people. So, just know that if you find yourself needing to take a gap year next year, you are not alone. You are not a failure. This is not the worst thing ever. The gap year might actually be a great thing!  Below are six pros of the gap year.

  1. Time to get more shadowing experience

One of the most important parts of deciding to apply to professional school is an awareness of what you’re about to get yourself into. It is imperative that any student who hopes to become a doctor, dentist, optometrist etc, spends time talking with and observing someone in that profession.   During your gap year, you can arrange a regular and consistent shadowing opportunity.   This will help you to see if the profession is right for you and if it is, will motivate you to keep going. Specific experiences gained during shadowing also can be great anecdotes to use in your personal statement.

  1. Time to pay off undergraduate debt

Professional school is expensive and funding in the form of scholarships and grants are few. During your gap year / years, you can focus on tackling personal debt and undergraduate student loans.

  1. Time to decide if your desired field is truly right for you

Things happen for a reason; and sometimes, apparent failures are just life’s way of trying to move you into another direction. During you gap year, you really have the time to evaluate what your goals are. You may find that a career in healthcare, in the way you had initially planned isn’t for you. Better to use this time now and sort that out rather than doing that once you are a professional student.

  1. Time to take a little breather

Life as a pre-health student can be rigorous. You’ve just done four years of hard-core studying. Maybe you just need to relax. Too often, healthcare professionals don’t take the time to explore their other interests.   Maybe you’ve always wanted to travel. Maybe you want to do mission work but were too focused on passing Organic Chemistry to look up mission opportunities. Now is a great time! Maybe you enjoy things that aren’t science / healthcare related. Now is a great time to explore them.

  1. Time to take courses and improve your GPA

If your GPA wasn’t at the average for acceptees * to medical school because you had to take Organic, and Physics, and Survey of Calculus during the same semester; your gap year is a great time to retake a course that you performed poorly in to improve your GPA. (*Note that this is the applicant and matriculant data for all applicants and matriculants. Don’t pay attention to the average GPA for applicants. You don’t want to just be an applicant. You want to be a matriculant. So pay attention to the average GPA for accepted student. This is the average for all students. It is not broken down by race. That data was deliberately not presented. Your goal should be based on all applicants, not on your race. OK, spiel over 🙂 )

  1. Time for adequate test prep

If your MCAT score wasn’t at the average for acceptees to medical school because you had to take Organic, and Physics, and Survey of Calculus during the same semester and so didn’t have time to study for the test during the school year, your gap year is a great time to devote the time necessary to prepare for the exam.

Hopefully by now, you won’t feel badly about needing to take a gap year/years. It’s not the worst thing ever. It’s not a sign of failure. Look at it as an opportunity to become a better applicant; and that can never be a negative thing 🙂


Junior Year Spring Timeline

February 1, 2015

Junior Year Spring Timeline

–        Develop your game-plan and timeline for preparation for the next administration of the admission exam for your field of interest.  For those planning to take the MCAT in preparation to be a part of the 2016 entering class, you should have a detailed schedule / study plan for the next few months.

–        Make final adjustments and edits to your personal statement. (The initial draft should have already been completed). If you haven’t already, start working on your personal statement!!  Don’t put this off.  It will take you longer to write than you think and you will need time to get it reviewed by multiple people, edited and revised, and reviewed again; all in time for an on time application.

–        Start finalizing your list of schools you are interested in applying.  I say finalize because the initial list should have been started sometime last semester.  If not, start working on it NOW.  Applications are costly, so you want to put careful thought and consideration into the schools you plan to apply to.   Check out an old post to give you some guidance on how to proceed.

–        Gently remind faculty members about your letters of recommendation!  I say, remind, because again, this should have already been done.  If not, request them today.  Your faculty members are inundated with requests for LOR, make sure that yours is one of the first one’s they will write.