Shadowing basics

March 29, 2012

Gaining exposure to the healthcare profession is integral to one’s success in deciding whether to apply to professional school and ultimately will provide you with the experiences to draw from when it comes time to write your personal statement and during interviews.  Yesterday during NICU rounds, we had the pleasure of having a visiting student join us.  It was a good experience for both parties involved because we got the opportunity to hone our teaching skills and she had the chance to see actual ward rounds, learn about a few of the interesting syndromes we currently have on our team and get a little glimpse into her future.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to talk with her and find out what her connection to our attending was, and how she made arrangements to shadow the team but none the less, her excitement and enthusiasm spurred me to post today about shadowing.

Your approaching summer vacation is a great time to get some shadowing experience in, and I encourage all current pre-professional students to take the initiative and secure some shadowing opportunities this summer.  This is especially important for sophomore students who will be preparing their application and personal statement in a year and thus will need clinical exposure experiences for personal statements and the AMCAS application.   It’s never too early to start shadowing however, so if you’re a freshman or even a high school student who aspires to a career in healthcare this goes for you too.

Who should I ask?

Healthcare professionals are all around you!  If you have a family member in healthcare, that’s an easy place to start.  However, it’s not that easy for most preprofessional students.  You can start by asking your own physician or dentist, even if you are not interested in their particular specialty.  It is likely that they have a friend or colleague in your specialty of interest that they can connect you with.   Church is another great place to find a physician or dentist.  In most larger churches there is a healthcare professional on call most Sabbaths.  Find out who some of these people are and approach them with your interest in shadowing.  You can also contact the volunteer office at local hospitals and enquire about shadowing opportunities or try and contact specific physicians in your local area, in specialties you are interested in.  

I have someone in mind but I’m afraid to ask. What do I do?

Firstly, don’t be afraid to ask!  99% of the time, the person you have in mind is MORE THAN willing to have you follow them around for a few hours.  Trust me, they won’t see you as a burden.  Healthcare professionals in general, usually like to share their knowledge 🙂 , so they’ll be glad to have someone around with enthusiastic questions.   

I’m not afraid to ask, but what do I say?

Tell them you are interested in their field and want to gain more exposure.  Let them know who referred them as a good person to shadow. Tell them where you go to school and what your future plans and that you wanted to have more clinical exposure.

Should I bring anything with me?

It might be a good idea to bring a small notebook to jot down notes about the things you see and how you felt about the experience.  This will be good to add to your “premed” journal, which will be useful when as you start to write your personal statement and prepare for interviews

How long should I stay?

You and the physician you choose can coordinate a reasonable amount of time for your shadowing experience.

After you’re done, be sure to send a thank you card to the person who you shadowed, and don’t be afraid to contact them to shadow them on a semi regular basis.  It can be helpful to foster a relationship with this particular healthcare professional as they may be a great asset to have when time comes for letters of recommendation.

Take a look at two other helpful links with tips for shadowing.

Don’t Let Your Christmas Break Go To Waste

December 20, 2011

One of the things I loved while I was student at Oakwood was the 3 – 4 week Christmas vacation.  I remember, I always seemed to start the spring semester at least a week later than my friends who attended other colleges and universities.

While three to four weeks of vacation is lovely, and may be well deserved after a long, hard semester; there’s still work to be done.  Your goal of becoming a successful medical professional takes sacrifice and delay of gratification , that started the day you decided this was the path God had chosen for you.  So, in between the holiday cheer, time with family and friends, and just relaxing, take some time to do something for your future, because before you know it, those 4 weeks will be over and the reality of being a pre-professional student and all that comes along with it will set in.


I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but the MCAT  is looming, and if you haven’t started studying for the April / May test yet, then you’re a tad behind.  Experts recommend 3 solid months of study for the MCAT, and since no premed student truly has three solid months to devote to the first of many tests they will take in their professional career, they recommend 5 – 6 months. Don’t panic.  If you get a good game plan in place NOW, it’s doable.

1. Do some research and decide what materials you’re going to use.  Kaplan vs Princeton Review, books vs private tutoring?

2. Devise a SPECIFIC study plan from now until test date . Be specific, how many hours a day, what topics.  Build in some catch up time.  If you have specific goals for each day, it will be more doable and less overwhelming.


4.  Free up your weekends, consider not working or doing any activity that will take up too much of  your time.  It’s only for a few months, for one of the most important tests of your life.

5.  Whatever you do, make sure that you do TONS of practice questions and at least 4 practice tests are factored into your schedule.

We can’t forget about those students taking the DAT , PCAT, and GRE.  The benefit of the DAT and GRE are that they are offered more often than the MCAT.  I would hope anyone planning to take the January PCAT has gotten their study plan underway, so…


NOW (actually a month or two ago) is the time to decide your summer plans.  Before you know it, spring semester will be over and the summer will be upon you.  Summer vacation is the perfect time for research, volunteer opportunities, and a chance to increase medical exposure; which makes up a significant part of the application to professional school.

Listed below are several sites with links to summer opportunities and just simple google search for “summer premedical opportunities” will provide you with more links than you could have time to check out. One of my  favorite summer programs is the SMDEP program.


2. Minority





Congratulations!  You got your secondary applications in, and now you’re sitting pretty on a few med school / dental school / pharmacy school interview invitations.  After you take some time to celebrate being one step closer to your dream with your family, take some time to prepare for your interviews.

1.  Familiarize yourself with the interview format of the school / programs you are interviewing. More and more schools are changing their interview format in an effort to get a more “well rounded” applicants.  At the University of Cincinnati, they’ve implemented MMI, which are basically 5 – 6 8 minute sessions where the applicant does a series of activities and scenarios that test an applicant’s problem solving, decision making skills when faced with ethical dilemmas, and teamwork.  You can read more about the MMI format of interviewing below.

2.  Practice, practice, practice.  The internet is full of practice interview questions.  Spend some time going over a series of questions and preparing an articulate and succinct answer to some of the basic 0nes. Those family members who are so excited that you’re one step closer to your dream, they’ll be more than happy to ask you your interview questions and perfect your answers. Then, if time allows, go a step further and have a professor, advisor or medical professional conduct a quick mock interview with you.   Anything to get some of the nerves out.

3.  One last thing: As you’re familiarizing yourself with the list of questions they will ask you, be SURE to familiarize yourself with a list of potential questions to ask them. They will ask you if you have any questions, and you want to have a few.  It shows interest and that you’re engaged during your interview and not just THERE.  Sometimes it can be hard to come up with questions because you feel like you’ve already scoured their website and learned all you need to learn, well check online and see what are some potential questions you could ask.  Here’s a list below:

1. 35 Questions I Wish I Had Asked

2. Common Medical School Interview Questions

3.  Common Dental School Questions  – not that different from medical school interview questions, but here are list for you future dentists.

4.  CommonPharmacySchoolInterview Questions –

Take some time to enjoy your vacation, but be sure to check out the links above that are relevant to where you are.

Good luck and happy holidays