Moderated and transcribed by Edward Chen
Panel discussion with Alexandria Lee, Alexis Derrigo, Gwendolyn Lee, and Jacob Ingber
Welcome! (Image by Edward Chen; headshots from respective individuals)
SvP held its first annual pre-health panel on November 6, 2021 at 4 pm PDT/7 pm EDT. The panel was moderated by Edward Chen, SvP national president, and the panelists were Alexandria Lee, SvP co-founder; Alexis Derrigo, SvP director of youth programming; Gwendolyn Lee, SvP co-founder; and Jacob Ingber, former SvP national president.
If you weren't able to join, or want to refer back to the discussion, the full transcript is below.
Edward Chen (EC): Everyone, welcome to our first annual SvP pre-health panel. And I would like to thank you for coming. And I also want to thank our panelists, Allie, Alexis, Gwen, and Jacob. So, let’s just start by having Gwen talk a little bit about SvP before moving on to questions anybody may have. I have also come prepared with a list of questions that I think will be of general interest, in case we have some extra time.
Gwendolyn Lee (GL): Sure, thank you so much for having us, Edward and for hosting this. I’m really excited to share a little bit about SvP’s mission and also all of our professional journeys toward a career in pre-health. Students vs. Pandemics is a catalyst network solving time sensitive humanitarian crises and that really all began with COVID-19 back in March 2020. We were founded at Harvard University and within the first week of our founding, we had over 100 students interested and to us that really showed how important it was to students to feel like they had a platform to get involved and give back to their community, especially during times of crisis. Over the past couple of years, we’ve grown to over 600 students and that has really built a nationwide movement in terms of students addressing a public health crisis. Today we have three main pillars. It’s to educate, to advocate, and to serve, and so that includes writing public health blog posts and it includes serving our legislators and writing policy memos. And it also includes serving our hospitals who may be under-resourced in terms of PPE. Our numbers of projects have grown, and each chapter of SvP has taken on its own passion, their own passion projects, and so today we’re really excited to be able to share our pre-health journey and help educate and advocate and serve some of our own SvP members and their journey toward a pre-health career. Edward, I’ll pass it back to you in terms of how you want to lead this session.
EC: Thanks for your great introduction for SvP. So, since you mentioned a pre-health journey, would you like to start by describing your pre-health journey? Then maybe we can have our other panelists join in.
GL: Sure, I’ll keep it brief and broad, just as an introduction, I’m Gwendolyn. I’m one of the cofounders of SvP. Really excited to be back this year. I’m a current 4th year medical student at UCLA and I completed a dual degree program. So, I completed my master’s in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School last year. In terms of my premed journey, I had majored in public policy and international affairs in college, but really felt that there was a great need for direct medical service and that’s what drew me to medicine. When I got to med school, I realize that medicine and healthcare so directly intertwined with health policy and the bigger picture of what happens outside of hospitals’ four walls and so with that I decided to do a dual degree. It was not the initial plan, so if anyone is interested in combining passions and interests outside of medicine, I’m happy to speak to that.
EC: That’s good. So maybe we could have Allie introduced herself.
Alexandria Lee (AL): Hi everyone, I’m Allie or Alexandria and I was a recent grad of Harvard Chan School of Public Health in 2020 and I completed my master’s of epidemiology there. And similarly, to Gwen, I actually went into public health. Kind of falling into it my last year of college. I decided to tack on a minor in evolutionary medicine and was really exposed to a lot of public health and epidemiology classes then, and so really last minute I kind of applied to grad school and then ended up in my master’s program and loved it. So originally, I was actually pre-med like the rest of the panelists here today and so they can give you plenty of insight into the pre-med route. But for me, I guess. If you’re not as much of a planner so much as just going along with the flow wherever your life takes you, then I guess you can direct more questions to me. I kind of went from public health right into work. During the pandemic there was a lot of it considering the crisis, and so I worked at the LA County Department of Public Health as an epidemiologist and health program analyst for a year, and now I’m transitioning, likely into my UCLA Department of Family medicine position as a public health administrator. The plan kind of is that a lot of my clinical and research background kind of drew me more upstream and to of interest so as opposed to working directly with patients and in the hospital, I kind of want to work more in the legislative policy side, which ironically was Gwen’s master’s program. And so, I’m thinking of going into health law in the future. And so, kind of following where my life track takes me. But if you if you guys have questions as to how I’m doing and like the steps that I’ve taken so far, happy to answer.
EC: Thanks Allie, and this is a panel, so I’m really opened to just having people just jump in and talk with any thoughts. Jacob?
Jacob Ingber (JI): Yeah, so I’m Jacob. I’m a first-year medical school student at Case Western. I’m in the MD, PhD dual degree program. I graduated last year with a master’s in immunology at Harvard. Same program, Edward’s, and now so it’s pretty cool connection. I went into college pre-med, and I want to be a doctor and then start doing research over the summers because I always heard people talking about how you need to be researched for medical school. Realize that I really loved research and couldn’t decide between going again and MD or getting a PhD. So here I am attempting to get both. Pretty kind of unique track. If you’re really into science and also medicine, it’s definitely something worth considering. It’s a bigger time commitment. If science is what you love then it’s really great way to be able to incorporate kind of lab work. Have a deeper evaluation of science than what you might normally do in medical school. So yeah.
EC: Thanks Jacob.
Alexis Derrigo (AD): Awesome, I will go next. I’m Alexis, I am a fourth-year medical student at Trinity School of Medicine. I started my undergrad majoring in psychology, kind of the opposite of Jacob. I actually thought I wanted to go into research. My plan was a PhD in psychology and then I started working as an undergraduate in an animal lab and realized I was bored and needed to talk to people and not just animals. And so, I did human research and then I didn’t really love that either, so. Then I decided to go into medicine and have fallen in love with the training patients and just daily hospital activities. So, I guess that was the opposite. But from undergrad I struggled through college, so I started a master’s at Case Western and then a Caribbean medical school reached out to me. And so instead of waiting a year, finishing my master’s and going to medical school, I ended up going to medical school in the Caribbean. So, you do two years there and then. I did a year in Baltimore and now I’m doing my final year in Georgia. I’m studying rural medicine, so kind of an interesting track as well for anyone who has any questions about that path.
EC: Thanks, Alexis. So maybe for the first question, I just wanted to ask: as physicians or as public health experts who are maybe still training, what are your thoughts on the current pandemic? What do you think the world needs to do to fare better against future pandemics?
GL: Well, that’s a big question Edward and I’m happy to give that shot. As a trainee, it’s been very eye-opening working in the hospital, seeing patients in the ICU, talking to them, talking to their family members when patients are unable to do so themselves. And so, when I see the pandemic from that lens, I really think of: how can we prevent patients from even entering the hospital in that state? I think for many public health officials that would be vaccination, and so ensuring that people get vaccinated, when appropriate and even some of my patients, they were vaccinated. So, then we think what can we do to make sure those people have the least amount of risks? So that includes masks. You know, social distancing, but I think first and foremost as a society as a community, we need to come together during times of crisis like this and think about what we can do to help each other and ourselves and so those are the kind of medical or public health things I see. One thing that SvP I felt has done a really good job of during this crisis is also building community and social relationships during a very isolating time. And so, while I know you’re asking us as pre-health or health future health professionals, I think that piece has also been critical. You know, we were just talking about before the panel started. How doing Zoom classes it didn’t lead to a lot of class cohesion and medical school things like that, so that’s another piece? I’d say it’s very important.
AD: For me, I think it revealed, how important education is and how easily misconception spreads. I know a lot of people have a fear of a vaccine. They feel pressured into it. So, there’s more pushback and it really showed me how important education is to your patients to the general public and how you need to establish a trust between physicians and medical professionals that you know you can trust and the general public.
AL: I guess for me I will speak on a more governmental perspective. I suppose. I think a lot of counties and states that a very good job of creating rapid response teams. I know I joined a newly formed team myself for outbreak management, and I think in that sense we did a really good job and in the sense that we came together very quickly. I definitely agree with Alexis and Gwendolyn that perhaps more education for the general public is necessary, as well as just having more cohesion in general. I think maybe if we could coordinate like state, county level stuff with national level, it might be a little more helpful. I can’t really speak to that much because I am only figuring this all out myself as well. But yeah, I would definitely say maybe having more pillars in place for prevention in the future, or at least a system that can be tapped into if we encounter another situation like this again, because I think for a lot of us that was OK. This is kind of new. Let’s just assemble something really quickly together and respond. Hopefully we’ll just have more experience in the future, and we won’t even have to really get to this level in the future as well.
JI: Yes, for me, you know, a lot of it boils down to scientific communication. I think that goes hand in hand with Alexis pointing out education. I know SvP’s been going for a while with the blog posts. But you know a lot of the misunderstanding, or the distrust really comes down to. A lot of people, and either the scientific kind of world or the healthcare world not being great at explaining things to kind of lay people. It’s difficult to explain and mRNA vaccine. People who’ve never heard the mRNA before, but it’s something that is so important. To be able to do if you’re good track, convince people to get the vaccine in the first place. And so, I know it’s becoming a larger part of both medical and like PhD training is being able to explain your results. Explain your damage plan just what you’re trying to do to people outside of your field. But I think a lot of ways. We tend to focus on. How do you explain something to someone who isn’t an expert who’s not in your field, but the assumption still tends to be that you’re speaking to someone who has a baseline knowledge of what you’re talking about? While other times were like OK, I study immunology. How am I going to explain these immunology concepts to someone who studies biophysics. The assumption there, though, is still that they have a baseline knowledge. If they’re already studying just different facets of biology at a high level, and so I think that’s where a lot of issues come. Are people have gotten good at explaining their research. To non-experts in the field but not really just to laypeople and that’s really where you need to focus. But obviously right now for this pandemic, but just in the future, really, with any sort of health issue, whether you’re trying to convince people it’s taking new drug or to do this or that, it really comes down to being able to explain succinctly and clearly, it’s people who really have no idea what you’re talking about, why it’s important that you do this.
AL: And I think I would like to add onto what Jacob is saying is that I think, historically speaking the US has had instances where the government has not been fair or just to certain populations, and so I think in addition to education, there is a very large need to face our historical context as well as establish a larger level of trust with our own people. So, I think where that starts? I’m not really sure whether or not that starts in schools. I like there are. There are corrections in our history books now. There are more people speaking out on it. I definitely admire the new generation for really doing their homework beyond classwork and trying to figure out exactly what happened. And I think in that sense. Beyond just education, I think there is a very large need for establishing a level of trust. But hopefully we’ll work on that soon.
EC: Thanks to each of you for your thoughts. You know, now I’m sort of curious because education comes up. Misinformation, of course, comes up. And basically just, you know, communication. So, I’m sort of curious, for some of you who have formally studied policy, like Gwen, do you think that changes in science policy should happen? For example, you know, like the world has been shifting towards more open access, but can lay people really understand the articles in the journals so they can seek out those sources of information? So are there certain scientific policies that you would advocate for, or you would like to introduce or amend, that you think will help us be better scientists?
GL: Yeah, so my internet connection cut out there for a little, but I believe the question is are their policy changes that I would advocate for to ensure greater education of the public? Is that OK? Yeah, I think they’re definitely policy solutions, Edward. And that is one path I think Allie has seen. The kind of government side through her professional work. But in terms of outcomes, I would advocate not only for legislative action, but actually more through community education. There is a huge strength and the work that nonprofits do, for example. And those are people who are truly passionate about a cause. Including community education. So, I would say that we could lean on nonprofits and SvP is one of them. As many of us here have tried to do, public education is really important, and translating these scientific terms and discoveries into common terms that are understood by the public is something that is very important to us. I’m thinking about policy, though, because you did bring it up. I think education policy is a fascinating topic. Unfortunately, I am not an expert. In that field, but when I do think about our public-school systems or our charter school systems and what is required, I do think there is an opportunity for greater scientific education for greater historical education as Alexandria brought up as well and a lot of those policies are pushed through by lobbyists or grassroots organizations including nonprofits who take what you I would. The general public wants and is able to advocate for that. So that’s all I can speak to in terms of educational policy. It’s unfortunately not a focus for me, but I would say education policy and then also nonprofit work.
EC: Thanks Gwen. So we were all here before the pandemic. So, thinking back to when you were undergrads, like the students who are watching us right now, how has the pandemic shaped your idea of a career path? And what was your idea of a career path then?
JI: Well, I guess I can get us going. I’ve always been interested in infectious disease when people ask, I usually say I’m interested in going into ID clinically have a while before that comes though, so we’ll see. The first thing people always ask as well: did you think that more than a year ago you know, were you interested in ID before there was a global pandemic and all of a sudden, the most famous person in the world is infectious disease doctor at the NIH, and I mean the answer is, yeah, all of my research in college was kind of based around microbiology and vaccines. So I guess for me it’s more. It’s less that it’s shaped my future career path, which is a while away and more that it’s reaffirmed my interest in that and yeah, when I was doing my master’s, my research was on COVID, and I loved it and I’m doing similar research now as I’m road stand around for my PhD. So, I think it’s really just solidified that this is the kind of work I like to do. Those kind of on the research side of things, as well as more clinically.
GL: I can share a little bit about the career trajectory as well. Before COVID started, I was interested in internal medicine. Thinking about primary care and whatever health policy implications we can provide to better support primary care physicians and care delivery. Just before COVID, I actually discovered more about digital health and health technology, and I ended up writing my graduate thesis on a digital health grant program that was funded by state government. So really looking at the intersection of medicine, business and government and so just before COVID, I had started to dip my toes into that pool and then with COVID we’ve just seen this incredible acceleration of telehealth of digital health and similar to Jacob. This has really reaffirmed an initial interest. And combining clinical care with new technology and so now as a future physician, I really think about how I’m going to incorporate telehealth into my care. To increase access to patients who otherwise would not be able to come into clinic. For example, ensure that they get the care that they need and then also think about how we can better monitor to disease. Really for preventive care whether we can use wearable technology to better predict whether a heart attack is going to happen. And how we can provide preventive care for those patients? So, I would say that the pandemic has really solidified my interest in digital health and health technology.
EC: Thanks Jacob and Gwen. Does one of the other panelists want to say something or should we move on to the next question?
EC: OK, moving on, what sorts of research did you do as an undergrad? And I know that, Jacob, you mentioned that you were already interested in infectious diseases, so you probably did some sort of research involving that. Do you want to start us off?
JI: Yeah, I can get going, so I did my undergrad at Washington and Lee University, which is really tiny. Liberal arts school. So I went elsewhere for most of my research over the summers just because a lot of the biology research that they had did interest me. I’ve playing friends who did research there, so absolutely nothing wrong with research at liberal arts colleges. They have some great stuff, but just as far as ID wasn’t really my thing there. So, I always went elsewhere, and I spend all of my summers doing research at a biological engineering institute. I’ve worked on the microbiology team. And we spent most of my time, I had some side projects here and there, but most of it was working on a vaccine. Broad spectrum vaccines. The idea was that we want to be able to make a single vaccine kind of scaffold if you will, that you could quickly I guess personalize for lack of a better word right now. So, whatever the threat might be, so they’re using right now for COVID. I know that they have some stuff going on with it, but it was really met early on for like urinary tract infections and E. coli and yeah, being able to fight emerging threats. Particularly in low resource settings, because a lot of it was stuff that you could keep it room temperature and put together pretty quickly and easily. Shows it was really cool project beyond as this really kind of combined both biology and that I was like growing bacteria and viruses and all this stuff and then also some engineering. Yeah, got to learn how to 3D print stuff and laser cut stuff and cattle that fun stuff. I think I still have like a glass business card somewhere in here that I like laser cut just for the fun of it. And then when I went through my master’s, same program Edward is in now. It was a little more basic biology. I worked in an immunology lab. We’re working on cell death, but again, it kind of took. Is it infectious disease kind of theme? Early on when I first joined the lab, COVID wasn’t a thing, so I was doing different research, but then COVID hit, and we pretty quickly transitioned to working on COVID and trying to see if infection causes inflammatory cell death and if that might be part of what tribes really severe disease in some people. So, two very different, I guess, research projects like one was definitely a little more vaccine-engineering focused and then one was very like basic biology cell signaling type of stuff. But both really cool, and I now continue that. Right now, I’m rotating in a lab in the biophysics department for my PhD and again working on cell death, but this time not in the context of infection, or just kind of core basic biology, cell death.
EC: Thank you Jacob, that’s really interesting that you’ve done 3D printing before. Sounds like you have had an engineering experience, which is really neat. Alexis, I believe that you mentioned that you had done research with animals before. Do you want to describe a little bit of that?
AD: Yes, so I really worked on two research projects, and neither were infectious disease related. The first one looked at tinnitus and we were essentially trying to come up with a treatment for it. But in the stage, I was working on we had trained rats to respond to certain pitch of noises to see if we could induce tinnitus, which is ringing of your ears in the rats enough so that we could decide if a treatment would actually work if we could find one. So as an undergrad, you don’t do very glamorous things. It was laying there at socializing, then making sure you could pick them up, putting them in boxes, timing it, taking it out of boxes. That whole thing I did get to do a little bit of data analysis, which was very interesting, but just not for me. At the time I decided I needed social interaction more than the two other people in the lab with me. It was long days, it was. They took a long time to see results. This just wasn’t that long, so that project wasn’t for me. I stayed there for a year, and it was interesting, but not for me. So, the next project. And I was looking at the connection between psychiatric and systemic diseases, so we were focusing on depression and asthma and children, which I found really interesting. We would give children in an inner city. Asthma, clinical depression scale and decide if they could fit into our criteria and then see if that had a difference in their treatment program for their asthma or if it was worse and at the end of the project. I jumped on that project more toward the end so I could see the result. We did find a definite link between the psychiatric and systemic illness, which is a big topic now in medicine and psychiatry. So that was my research experience.
EC: Thanks Alexis. We can totally have you go on a talk show and see if you want to say something about that.
EC: Either you can say something about that if you want, or maybe Allie or Gwen might want to share something?
AL: I could go into my research background. I kind of had a different research experience. Kind of bouncing everywhere. It’s sort of started in high school. I was working in a children’s hospital lab and essentially, I was working with a rat selling model looking at necrotizing enter colitis, which is essentially a pretty lethal condition for premature infants. And I was testing an experimental drug to see if it could relieve or treat the symptoms. So mainly cell culture, Western blot, silver staining, and that kind of got me on the road to pre-med/pre-health research kind of track. So, when I hit college, I’ll try to keep this brief cause again my research is bouncing everywhere like my career so. I started out in another wet lab looking at cumulus cells, so essentially reproductive health in women and so looking at the quality of cells and whether or not that could predict the success of endocyte or an egg. And then I kind of was not really a fan of the early morning cell retrievals and then the whole devotion to cells themselves. So, then I kind of bounced into a biological anthropology lab and there I kind of got more upstream perspective of health, so I was looking at a lot of Hispanic immigrant women and their experiences during pregnancy and their backgrounds as immigrants and how acculturation has affected. Their entire treatment as well as experience during pregnancy. We would follow them postpartum and see how many of them ended up developing depression and helmet and its correlation to how much support they had in the US and so that kind of got me thinking more into public health, epidemiology cycle or a track. And so, I wanted to look into more of them. Impact that that lie beyond just basic biology and so in my master’s degree I looked at a lot of environmental toxins and how they impacted minority women and their pregnancy and reproductive health so. There was some direction in my research. I would say if you’re not enjoying it, go feel free to bounce into a different type. I loved what I did. I learned a lot about everything that I wanted to learn about. I feel like I got a general understanding of all stages, and I can’t say I’m an expert like these guys here, but at the very least, if they bring something up, I think I can follow along.
EC: Thanks Allie. Gwen or Alexis would you like to add anything?
AD: I was just gonna echo Aliie’s comment in general that if you don’t like what you’re doing, whether it be bio research, anything like that, there are so many ways to get to medical school as an end that you should really be enjoying your education, especially while you’re an undergrad.
GL: I wholeheartedly echo that as well, and I’m happy to share some of my research experiences, but similarly have been who that have kind of jumped all over the place. Well, I also started research in high school a similarly in a wet lab and I was studying the influenza virus, the H1N1 flu pandemic had just occurred at that time, and so understanding the reproductive mechanism or the budding mechanism of influenza was a very hot topic in my lab. I’m particularly exciting aspect of that lab experience was not just developing the cell lines and growing the virus but using cryo electron microscopes to image the virus. And then creating three dimensional reconstructions. So, I’d say if you’re interested at all in physics or a technology, I think there’s also a way to weave that into wet lab research. And in college I decided to do more Policy Research. At the time, the Affordable Care Act had just come out and they were implementing a new 30-day hospital readmission penalty. So that was a very exciting new policy that hospitals had to grapple with and ensure that they did not go. Over that threshold, so the research I did looked at patients who are discharged from the hospital to this skilled nursing facility. So very specific transition of care, and I conducted qualitative interviews and survey analysis for that project. So, for the pre-med or pre-health viewers listening there are different types. We’ve heard a lot about wet library search. There’s also qualitative survey analysis and so I would encourage you to explore other pathways like that. One other type of research that you may be interested in conducting is a systematic review, and so that’s when you go through a journal database, and you find many articles about a topic that you’re researching. So, one bit of research that I do did was about trauma systems and disaster preparedness, and our findings. Some of the articles were about the Boston Marathon bombings and how the trauma system and Boston was able to respond. And we looked at many other disasters, situations, and many other casualty incidents and what we found was that trauma systems helped create this support system because they allowed for training before an emergency ever happened. They allowed for a community of hospitals to be linked prior to an emergency, so they had protocol about where to triage and send patients. So, this idea that you can build on an existing literature and offer an overarching. Solution or overarching themes is another form of research that I did and would highly encourage, and more recently, during med school I’ve done some quality improvements, research projects and so that can come about in a couple of forms. One also was through qualitative interviews, and so I called patients who had not yet received their COVID vaccine asking what barriers to their vaccination and our hypothesis were going in was that. These were social determinants. We were looking at patients who had a high social vulnerability index and so we thought perhaps they didn’t have transportation. We would have provided transportation vouchers or open satellite vaccination sites instead. What we found is a lack of education. What many of us here on the panel have talked about today? Which is information or misinformation about vaccines and the risks and benefits and so that kind of quality improvement through interviews. Is another form of research and I’ve also done quality improvement in terms of chart review? I’m currently working on a project looking at reproductive planning and anticipatory guidance provided to patients with chronic kidney disease. CKD or chronic kidney disease can have major implications for women who are trying to get pregnant. So going through the charts, identifying patients with CKD, and identifying whether they’ve received reproductive planning advice. So, using charts. And the electronic medical record system is yet another way to conduct research and improve quality of care.
JI: And so, I’d like to add one thing if that’s OK, which is I guess two parts: The first part is like 5 seconds. First, agree with what everyone has said that you should do it you like. I just had a conversation with someone in a few days ago. He’s interested in MD PhD, and he asked me if it would be OK for him to leave the lab he’s been in for a while, cause he’s not that interested in the work and that seems to be something that just talking to a lot of applicants is a concern is, you know, is bouncing around from lab to lab a bad thing or is it better to have kind of one really long longitudinal experience and the answer is that it doesn’t matter as long as you’re interested in it. cause when you’re applying whether it’s to med school or to an MD PhD and ask you about your research, no one’s really gonna care if you’ve been in that lab for three years versus six months. If you can speak really passionately about what you do, that comes across very clearly. If you’re not that passionate about what you do, that also comes across very clearly. So, I mean kind of from an admission standpoint, just from you enjoying your life, you’re a lot better off doing something that you’re actually really interested in, then staying somewhere else because you think it’s possibly the right career decision for you. And the second thing which is kind of similar to that is. It’s all about your mentor at the end of the day, so as I’ve been looking for a lab to do my PhD in the program, director has had a lot of discussions with us about how. You shouldn’t choose a lab for the research. You should choose the lab for the mentor. Especially, the older we get, we tend to really pigeonhole ourselves and what we think our interests are. But the reality is that all of us, especially if you’re an undergrad right now. We don’t really know what we want to do because we haven’t done enough things to know. It’s like for us, we’re almost pushed to do a rotation in a lab that has nothing to do with what we’ve done before. cause if the only type of research you’ve ever done before is immunology, how do you know that you don’t like something else? You’ve never given it a shot. And so just pay attention to who the mentor is, because a good mentor can really lift you up and take you professionally and personally to a whole another level, even if you at first think you know, maybe this isn’t the right research for me. If the environment is right for you, and if the person is right for you, everything else will follow. So just keep in mind that you know mentorship is probably the single most important part of it. Especially, I mean, I’m speaking in terms of the lab, but obviously there’s lots of places. Again, mentor outside the lab as well.
EC: Thanks, Jacob, for adding that. I agree that it’s very important, and it’s also what I’ve come to believe from my experience as well. So, since we’re coming up on the hour, with just time for one more question, as a final question, what advice would you have for undergrads who might be watching us right now? And anybody could start us off.
AD: I’ll set this one up. So my advice would be actually just echoing Jacob is doing what you like and when I was in undergrad I didn’t know until my senior year that you didn’t have to major in biology and premed to go to medical school, so I struggled through all of these classes and was miserable through so many. 8:00 AM microbiology classes that I in the end really didn’t have to take. They lowered my GPA, and it wasn’t necessary. And I don’t regret the Caribbean path, but definitely could have made my life a lot easier just knowing my resources and knowing that I could have majored in anthropology, or I didn’t major in psychology didn’t have to take on the bio major. Something like that that I could do what I wanted and still have the same end goal. And finding a mentor that supports you and that I had so many teachers in undergrad say, well, your science. You guys need enough. You can’t be a doctor. You have to choose something else, and you can. You just have to find a mentor that says. Of course, you can take a dance class and a psychology class and a science lesson. You can still go to medical school, so just finding that right mentor that’s going to lift you up and not tear you down. That’s my advice.
EC: Thanks, Alexis.
JI: I guess I can go next cause a lot of what I was gonna say Alexis hit, which is that if this is what you wanna do. Just make it happen. Don’t listen to what other people say I had. At my school I had a lot of people similarly telling me that I wasn’t gonna be able to go. That’s cool, because I wasn’t the best undergrad student. I also had a low GPA. I had a lot of people telling me like just go get PhD. But that’s not what I wanted to do, so I just didn’t listen to them. I’m now doing MD PhD, so if this is what you wanna do I mean. Obviously. You need to listen to people who know what they’re talking about. If you need to find good mentors, they need to. You know, make those connections and find those people who are gonna help you in your path. You need those letters of rec and stuff like that, but ultimately. There comes a point where there’s always good people telling beat. People telling you that you can’t do it, whether it’s medical school or I obviously haven’t hit residency time yet, but I’m sure that people tell you that you’re not gonna get in here and got to match this up later on when you’re looking for jobs, there’s always gonna be people who are negative and who want to see you fail. Or even if they don’t want to see you fail, expecting to fail and. None of that ultimately matters, as long as. You believe that you can do it and you keep trying for it. There’s nothing wrong with, you know, trying, failing and trying again. A lot of people don’t get into medical school their first go around. I know a lot of people who didn’t get in medical school their first go around. Yeah, it’s always just gonna be a matter of you. Try and if you don’t succeed just look back, reflect, see. What might have gone wrong? You could improve for the next go around and just keep going until you get what you want.
EC: Thanks Jacob, it’s certainly very important to just have some confidence in yourself.
AL: I think as a non-premed or medical transcription, altering my two cents of obviously used to be pre-med. So absolutely if they say like if you want to do it, commit to it, just go for it. I think that’s absolutely good advice. Finding mentors. Good mentors are also very good advice. I will say as someone who still keeping my options open if you enjoy certain aspects of your education that go beyond. medicine still indulge in them. I think it’s absolutely good to have a physician who has a broad understanding of life and has a lot of interest in their patients that go beyond their basic medical history. So, if you still want to go down the medical tax that it’s not limiting you, but I would also say it also opens a lot of other paths for you if you discover that medicine isn’t for you. I think for me, keeping an eye open, trying different classes, not majoring in bio, kind of. Let me have the freedom to roam the different areas of expertise that I actually am interested in pursuing today. So, while I definitely would say focus on committing to your goal and taking the steps to there to your end goal, I think there are also. Options that you can keep in mind. If it’s not for you, but, that’s my two cents.
GL: And I’ll wrap up by just saying it’s incredible because the other panelists have, I feel like are so aligned because these are all things that I firmly believe in as well. I’ll add one logistical piece of advice and then also want to talk about the bigger picture when, at least for me, when I was told to find mentors who will support me and help me succeed. I was like where am I going to find them? Is it kind of like a shot in the dark? Just cold email. A ton of people and in some respects yes, but the piece of advice that I want to give was given to me by one of those incredible mentors and he told me think about your dream job or you know what you think will be your dream job and look for a person who is doing that and see what degrees they hold. Maybe it’s an MD. Maybe it’s not or see what other degrees they hold and how did they get there and if maybe a cold email works out, maybe that person with your dream career. Will become your mentor, but I thought that was a very good piece of actionable advice about how to find mentors. And then, in terms of just pursuing this pre-health path that you’re currently on, I would definitely echo the sentiment to keep your options open. One of the greatest gifts that I found was pushing myself outside my comfort zone. And that was a wonderful piece of advice that I received to give an example, I ended up finding the intersection of business medicine and policy because I took a class at the Business School that is. Something I envisioned for myself, but someone told me economics and finance, or critical and healthcare. I didn’t know anything about it, and it was tough for me, but through that course it opened the door to venture capital and investing and new health technology which I’m very passionate about now. And so, I think when you are finding your path and finding your passion, take the path adjacent to where you think you want to go because it may lead you somewhere unexpected and it may. Lead you to a new passion, so that’s my two cents. And how I’ll wrap it up.
EC: Thanks Gwen. I’d just like to end by reiterating our big thanks to each of our panelists for coming here, and we have a comment that says that this was a wonderful panel. And thanks to all of you for sharing your fantastic advice. So, thanks everyone. Have a good night, have a nice rest of your weekend.
About the panelists:
Alexandria Lee holds a B.S. from UCLA (2018) and an M.S. in epidemiology from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2020).
Alexis Derrigo holds a B.A. in psychology from the University at Buffalo (2016) and is currently a 4th year medical student at the Trinity School of Medicine.
Gwendolyn Lee holds an MPP from Harvard Kennedy School (2020) and a B.A. from the Princeton University School of Public & International Affairs (2016). She is currently pursuing an MD from UCLA (2022).
Jacob Ingber holds an MMSc from Harvard Medical School (2021) and a B.S. from Washington and Lee University (2019). He is currently pursuing an M.D. and Ph.D. at CWRU School of Medicine.
Edward Chen is a master's student studying immunology. He's also the national president of Students vs. Pandemics. @EdwrdChen