Dr. Chan: Why does one choose to turn down two acceptances into medical school? How does personal growth impact applying to medical school? What is urge surfing? And what are the pros and cons of the Early Decision Program, or EDP? Today on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life," I interview Colin, a first year medical student here at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
Announcer: Helping you prepare for one of the most rewarding careers in the world. This is Talking Admissions and Med Student Life with your host, the Dean of Admissions at the University of Utah School of Medicine, Dr. Benjamin Chan.
Dr. Chan: Well, welcome to another edition of "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life." I have a fantastic guest today. Colin, how are you doing?
Colin: I'm doing great.
Dr. Chan: Good.
Colin: Fantastic, thank you.
Dr. Chan: Colin is an incoming student to the medical school. And let's see, we're end of June, beginning of July, so you have about a month to go. How's it feel?
Colin: I thought I would know how it felt beforehand thinking about it, but the closer we get, just this kind of mix of excitement but also almost nausea of like this little bit of nervousness. But it's such a good feeling, you know, actually being here and getting ready and getting my life ready has been really exciting.
Dr. Chan: Okay. You're getting your affairs in order. We were talking about that before you came in, so yeah.
Colin: Yeah, yeah, getting my house all ready.
Dr. Chan: It's not quite like death.
Colin: No. Not quite, but yeah, getting my relationship ready. I have a fantastic partner, she's the best, and kind of getting her ready for that transition into medical school.
Dr. Chan: So let's go back to the beginning. Like when did you know you wanted to be a doctor? When did that kind of come into your mind?
Colin: I would say there's actually a couple kind of points where I made the decision. You know, as a kid, like a lot of kids, I said, "Oh, I'm going to be a doctor or firefighter, superhero," like that combination. And eventually I lost the superhero and the firefighter and doctor is the one that stuck. But as far as my adult life actually making that decision this is what I want to do as a career and a lifestyle and all of that, I actually came . . . I applied during my senior year. During my undergraduate I applied for admission at the U. And I wasn't able to get in that year to the U.
Dr. Chan: So let's go back to that. So how many schools did you apply to?
Colin: That first year, I actually applied to about 15 schools.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: I got into two. And I didn't get into the U, and that was really impactful for me. Because my whole life I had been so blinders on, "I'm going to do this. I'm not going to take any breaks. I'm going to get done as quickly as possible. And I'm going to go through, going to be a doctor and be done." But that first rejection from the U was really important because it was the first time in my life really, well, in my adult life anyway, that I thought, "You know, what are some other paths that I could take? Is this the right path for me?"
And I was able to do some exploring. It gave me the opportunity to have a couple jobs that I wouldn't have had if I had just gone straight into school. And I learned so much about myself. And it really gave me the opportunity to choose, like, "Yes, it's true, this is what I want to do. I want to go to medical school. I want to be a good doctor." And that's one of the things that changed between my application cycles. I actually was focused on being a doctor versus focused on being a good doctor, which I think is different.
Dr. Chan: I did not know you got into two other med schools. So was it hard to turn those two down? Because generally I tell people when they get in, they should go wherever they get in because it's so hard to get in.
Colin: Yeah. You know, I was able to defer at one of the schools. And so that was easier to say, you know, I'm going to take a year off, reapply to the U, and still have that school kind of as a safety. But the reason I felt right doing that was that I looked at their educational standards and kind of what was important to them, and it wasn't quite in line with what I thought was important. And from talking to the students there versus talking to the students that have been going to the U and graduated from the U Medical School, I just really thought that as far as my educational style, what I think is important outside of education really lines up with the U.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: And that was a really big reason. Like I kind of mentioned, being a good doctor versus a doctor. I feel like the U Medical School was a great pathway to be the kind of doctor that I wanted to be.
Dr. Chan: Okay, okay. So first year, applied to 15, got into 2, but didn't get into the U.
Dr. Chan: Did some soul searching, deferred, turned down one of the schools. And then kind of walk me through what happened that next year. Did you do any more activities or did you kind of change your approach? It sounds like you changed your mindset.
Colin: I did, yeah. Something that changed, and I actually did, I applied a second time to the U and I only applied to the U that year. Because I even knew myself, you know, I don't think I'm ready. And that was almost harder than hearing from the U that I wasn't ready, you know, realizing that I still wasn't where I felt like I needed to be to start medical school. And so I applied to the U just to see if I would get in this time. I did change a couple things. And I didn't . . . .And I kind of wasn't surprised that time. I knew I wasn't ready.
Dr. Chan: Why do you say that? I mean, was it something you felt that happened on your interview day?
Colin: Well, the reason I felt that way was just I had been working at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute.
Dr. Chan: UNI, yeah.
Colin: Yeah, UNI, for a couple of months. And I had grown more in a couple months at that job than I have, you know, in a whole year of education. And I felt like another year there would be amazing for myself. And I loved the work I was doing there.
Dr. Chan: And what were you doing, exactly?
Colin: So I worked as a psychiatric technician.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: During my first year there, I was what they call a float tech. I went to all the different units. They have acute units with active psychosis, active suicidal ideation, those kind of high acuity mental health patients as well as the other child units, adult units, the detox units for substance abuse. And then my second year, I went core on a unit, the detox unit, focusing more on substance abuse with less of the kind of other, you know, less suicidal ideations, psychosis, that kind of stuff because addiction is just fascinating.
Dr. Chan: How'd you get interested in this job? I mean, did you just apply? It's a fascinating job.
Colin: Oh yeah, definitely. I was actually volunteering here in the main hospital. We call it "the big house" over at UNI.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: I was in a program called the HELP program, stands for Hospital Elder Life Program. Nancy is kind of the one that runs it and interacts with the volunteers. And she saw me working with some of the patients there. And it's focused on hospital-induced delirium, the HELP program is. And she thought that my working style and my work ethic would be really helpful to UNI, and she encouraged me to apply and I did. And interviewed with Mike Sanchez, one of the nurse managers there, and he felt that the experience of the HELP program would do me well there at UNI and that's kind of how I got started there.
Dr. Chan: So what's the difference between what a psych tech does at UNI and a nurse, just for people who don't know what that looks like?
Colin: Yeah. So the way the unit is set up, it's a little bit different than, like, how you think of, like, a hospital unit. It's a behavioral health unit. And there's usually about two nurses there. One is kind of the charge nurse, kind of making sure everything is running smoothly, kind of head of the show. And then there's a med nurse giving out meds.
And then techs kind of do a lot of the . . . it's kind of a mix of like CNA, a little bit very minimal, like therapist there, you're there to interact with the patients. You're doing kind of the stuff you would imagine a tech would do, taking vitals, making sure meals are being eaten, you know, helping people with meals, stuff like that. But you're also just there on the front lines, eyes and ears for the doctors there. You know, we chart on our interactions with the patients, how we think they're doing.
Dr. Chan: Do you do groups? Did you lead any groups?
Colin: Yeah, yeah. I did have the opportunity to lead a lot of groups. One of my favorite groups to lead was on an idea called urge surfing, which is kind of this idea . . .
Dr. Chan: Urge surfing?
Colin: Yeah, urge surfing.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Wow.
Colin: I'm from San Diego originally. And so, you know, it snagged me because I love to surf. I love the ocean.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: And that visual. I'll kind of go into the details of the urge surfing just really quickly. It's the idea that, you know, we have these urges whether, you know, in behavioral health it's self harm, drug use, things like that. We have these urges that come to us. And our instinct is to either give into them or to fight them.
Dr. Chan: So for my urge is, like, I want to go to Five Guys for lunch today.
Colin: That's a great idea. I think I might do that.
Dr. Chan: I have an urge not to eat healthy.
Colin: Yeah, yeah. You know, and . . .
Dr. Chan: Yeah. So I think it could work for a lot of different things. Yeah, yeah.
Colin: Yeah, and we laugh about that, but it's true. I use examples like food all the time in my groups. But it's the idea that you don't have to fight because fighting an urge is exhausting. You know, eventually a lot of times you're going to wear down and you're going to give in, eventually. But urge surfing is this idea is there's somewhere in between where you can accept the urge for what it is.
And it's a really analytical technique because if you practice mindfulness, you take a breath and you try and observe how the urge affects your body, what it feels like, really, really how it's affecting you, not just where it's coming. You know, where's the urge centered in and all this stuff. And it's really cool to watch people try and practice that and, like, take this idea that has helped me personally. I've used it in my life a lot. I've used it in my life a lot. And to see it go on and help people is really, really cool.
Dr. Chan: So it sounds like it's almost like mindfulness, like being in the moment.
Colin: Yeah, it's a type of mindfulness, for sure.
Dr. Chan: Okay, cool. With a San Diego twist.
Colin: With a San Diego twist. And yeah, it really is. And you get better at it. It's like surfing. You fall down sometimes. But you start to get a feel for the water and you understand. And as you become better at it, you're able to kind of ride out the urges more successfully, all that. Yeah.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. I mean, I think that's great, Colin. Because what I think about, like, you know, when I talk to patients too, it's like similar dynamics. You know, like I talk about anger a lot. Like, everyone gets angry. I still get angry, you get angry, we all get angry. You know, and our goal is not to eliminate that emotion.
Dr. Chan: It's how you manage it.
Dr. Chan: You know, what do you do with it.
Dr. Chan: And for a lot of people, their anger gets the best of them and then, like, they lash out either, like, verbally or physically and that causes problems.
Colin: Yeah. I've got a concussion or two from my days at UNI.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. But, you know, how do you manage that skill? And so I'm a child psychiatrist. One of a lot of things we do is like family therapy where we talk to families, and teenagers, and kids. And it's really powerful. And like, you know, teenagers really want to get a lot off their chest and they want to kind of say all this stuff.
And I kind of tell them, "Like, okay, you need to stay in the room. It's okay to be angry, but you cannot be raising your voice and swearing and slamming doors. You need to keep it calm, you know? And if you need to take a break and go for a walk, that's great. If you need to kind of punch a pillow, that's good. It's better than punching a person."
Dr. Chan: Yeah, so I love this. Urge surfing. I'll have to use that next time I have you in again.
Colin: Yeah, yeah, and I can explain it better. I have a little cheat sheet.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: But I could explain it better with that.
Dr. Chan: You didn't know I was going to ask you about that. All right, so second year you applied. You felt you weren't ready.
Colin: Yeah. And I got some really great feedback from the office, kind of the pre-professional office down at the main campus.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: They gave me some really good feedback.
Dr. Chan: Do you mind sharing what some of that was, if you can remember?
Colin: Yeah. This doesn't come through the podcast, I don't think, but I'm a fairly bouncy person. I don't take myself very seriously very often. But something that I got as feedback from them was that I needed to take myself more seriously. As a physician, you need to be able to be seen as someone who's reliable, who knows what they're talking about.
And while I think it's important to be yourself, it's also important to have that professionalism and carry yourself in a way that it will be respected. And that's something that I incorporated a lot is how can I still be myself, my kind of bouncy self, but how do I make that professional and how do I show my future patients that I am a serious person and that, you know, their health is important to me and I'm going to do everything I can to help them.
Dr. Chan: Okay. All right. So that sounds like it was just kind of more of a tone that you needed to change in your demeanor and your application, I guess.
Colin: Yeah, and it really helped me change my perspective too.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: And again, working at UNI did that as well. Like, I was interacting with patients and doctors and I was seeing their interactions and I kind of see what I saw as successful and what I saw as maybe less successful that could be tweaked.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: And I incorporated that as well.
Dr. Chan: All right. So kept on working at UNI.
Dr. Chan: Were you doing any other activities during that second year?
Colin: Yeah, yeah. A really big change from my first to my third year, kind of that two-year process, was at the beginning I was doing everything the way I thought it should be done. Like, this is what I think is going to look good to the U, this is what I think, you know, they're going to like me to say, all of that. But after that second application cycle, I really thought to myself that I need to be doing what I think is important. And there's a way, I think, to bridge that gap of, "Okay, this is important to them. This is important to me. And where's that in the middle where I can still do what I think is important, you know, serve a population that I'm passionate about, but still, you know, have it applicable to my application?"
I started volunteering at The Utah AIDS Foundation, and they serve a lot of . . . you know, they're focused on mainly patients with HIV. And, you know, those medications can be so expensive. You know, and you never want someone to have to make that choice of, you know, making rent.
Dr. Chan: Food, rent.
Colin: Yeah, food, rent, or medicine.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: Yeah, especially with something, you know, so serious. And they have a lot of really good services. I am a huge fan of the Utah AIDS Foundation. I've used their services myself.
Dr. Chan: So would you work with patients to kind of procure medications?
Colin: So that was part of it. I was in kind of two major roles there.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: I helped with their kind of public outreach. HIV is actually on the rise in Salt Lake Valley, at least it was a year ago when I started working there. And kind of the outreach and disseminating public information to everyone.
Dr. Chan: Just awareness.
Colin: Yeah, awareness of that this is still something, you know, everyone kind of . . . I think a lot of people have forgotten about it. You know, "Oh, that's not a problem anymore." But it is. It's still a problem. So we would do the marches. You know, we've marched in the Pride Parades and gave out fliers and talked to people about it.
And as well, I helped with the STD testing they have. Depending on your circumstances, they have the opportunity to have free STD testing, which is really important. You know, it's important to be informed about your body in lots of different ways, not just like physical health, going to the doctor. But, you know, you need to make sure that all of you is healthy. And so that was really cool.
And then another volunteer opportunity that I was a part of was the Utah Food Bank.
Dr. Chan: Oh cool.
Colin: Something I think I'm really passionate about is, you know, no one needs to be hungry in this country. You know, I feel like we're at a place where we can feed everyone. And the Utah Food Bank, I think, is a really good organization. They work really hard to get people not just canned . . . you know, they have a lot of the canned food. But not just canned food, but, you know, that healthy, nutritious, some of that fresh food.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Yeah, fresh fruit. Yeah.
Colin: That was a really cool experience. And that was I was checking people in who were, you know, able to come into the food bank, making sure that, you know, it's the right person using it and helping them go through and actually make the nutritious choices. You know, walking through the grocery story, the little grocery store they have and, you know, helping them make educated choices, and that was really, really cool.
Dr. Chan: That's awesome. Wow, Colin. So it sounds like you just really grew as a person during that time. And then I have to ask. Like, looking back, did you ever kind of say, "Oh, I regret not going to those other medical schools"?
Dr. Chan: Did that ever enter your brain?
Colin: No, not even a little bit.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: Well, okay, that's not entirely true. After the second application to the U and I didn't get the acceptance, even though I was kind of prepared for that, it was still like, you know, if I had started at that other school, I'd be a year in, I'd be two years in, whatever it was.
Dr. Chan: Okay, all right.
Colin: And I really believe this, I don't think I would have been in a good place to be learning all that information. I don't think I would've been ready. And so I'm grateful. I didn't feel it at the time, but I'm grateful for those rejections from the U.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Well, that's very beautiful for you to say. All right, let's talk about third time.
Colin: Okay. Yeah.
Dr. Chan: So you made a strategic decision, and I want to hear . . . like, I want you to talk about it.
Dr. Chan: Because we brought a new program back, and we sort of advertised it. But, again, this program had been dormant for many years. We had it like 15, 20 years ago.
Colin: Oh, okay. I didn't know.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. And this is the first year we brought it back. So talk about your strategy, I guess.
Colin: Yeah, I believe you're talking about the Early Decision Program.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, EDP.
Colin: Yeah, EDP. And I am a huge fan.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: Very glad you brought it back.
Dr. Chan: Sure.
Colin: I feel like it gave me the opportunity to show the University of Utah that I'm very serious about my education, that I'm very serious about coming to the U, that I really believe that . . . I kind of mentioned this earlier, the standards of education and learning and, you know, their focus on community outreach and bridging that gap between, you know, this medical school population and the general population, bridging that gap and interacting, shows that that's all really important to me. And if I were to, you know, the whole idea is that if I were to get accepted, I'm going to go there. I read about it. Yeah, I remember reading about it as I was applying that third time.
Dr. Chan: So the pre-med office didn't tip you off? You kind of found it yourself?
Colin: Yeah, yeah. I was reading through the admissions website and kind of stumbled upon it myself, and reading about it. And I did a lot of Googling, you know, as any good student should. It's a good place to start. Reading about the pros and cons. You know, the cons to me were just nothing.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, so let's talk about it. So the pros are . . . I mean, so taking a step back, you're held to the exact same standard and criteria as people who are not in the EDP.
Colin: Right, right. It's not easier or anything to get in.
Dr. Chan: I should know this, but the dates are the same at the beginning, you know. Like, you know, applications open up June 1st. You can start so many of them July 1st. You know, so that's the same. But, like, the calendar is drastically moved up for EDPs.
Dr. Chan: All right. So what were the pros and cons from your perspective?
Colin: So from my perspective, and from what I was reading, you know, the pros that I mentioned, it showed to you that I was serious about my application there.
Dr. Chan: Because a lot of people say, "Oh, you know, the U is my number one choice. I want to stay here. I want to be here." This makes you put your money where your mouth is. Right?
Colin: Yeah, yeah. You can tell every school that you interview that that, "Oh yeah, this is my number one choice. You know, give me an acceptance, I'll definitely come here."
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: But the EDP is a way for them to know that you're serious.
Dr. Chan: You're locked in to only applying to the U. You cannot apply to any other programs.
Colin: Yeah. And, you know, another pro is that if you were not to be accepted to the Early Decision Program, I believe you're still considered for the pool at that school. And you're also able to open up your application to other schools.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. We'll release your application.
Colin: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, during my third application cycle, one of the reasons I was comfortable doing that is, yes, I was 100% I wanted to go to the U. But I was also at a point in my life where I felt like I was ready to start medical school.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: And so, you know, in the scenario where I wasn't accepted to the U, I was going to apply to other schools and probably get . . . I'm ready to get started on that phase in my life. And so it was a really good choice. Like okay, going to the U, but, you know, small chance I don't get in, I can still apply to other schools and start my journey.
Dr. Chan: In the risk benefit analysis, it was worth the risk?
Colin: Oh yeah.
Dr. Chan: And also the huge plus is, and I was going to ask you about this, you find out before October 1st. Right?
Dr. Chan: Yeah. So you found out really early that you got in.
Colin: Yeah. I think I found out in September.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, end of September.
Colin: Yeah, which is really awesome.
Dr. Chan: So like yeah, let's talk about that. How did that feel? How does it feel? You've gone almost an entire year knowing you got into med school here. So yeah, what's that like?
Colin: You know, it's actually been a little bit more mixed than I thought. I thought it would be all good. You know, I'll have a whole year to get ready, everything. But, you know, as soon as I got that acceptance, I was just so excited. I wanted to just jump in.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, you wanted to run through the walls right there. Yeah.
Colin: Yeah, exactly, exactly. And so, it's almost a mixed bag. Like where I'm excited, I really want to get started, but I've been waiting to get started for so long. You know, and that's okay though because it has given me an opportunity. I've known for a long time, so I've gotten a lot of my affairs in order and I've gotten a lot of opportunity to do some traveling, which has been really great. I think that's so important.
Dr. Chan: Because another advantage of EDP is you didn't have to spend money applying to other programs or traveling to them to interview. So it's a huge cost saver on a certain level.
Colin: I spent thousands of dollars my first year applying. And this, you know, I just applied to the U and it saved me a ton of money. Yeah, I don't think I would have . . . Yeah, exactly. Wouldn't have been able to do the traveling. And then, oh gosh, but I remember, I don't know if you remember the phone tag that we kind of had.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, you were difficult to get ahold of. I think I talked to your mom at one point.
Colin: Yeah, I'm really sorry about that.
Dr. Chan: I love talking to parents. Yeah. Yeah, the parents, I can tell they're like trembling and they're crying/happy.
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Chan: You know, I've learned over the years. When I just say really nice things about their sons or daughters, that goes a long way, because, like, parents love that stuff. That's like catnip for parents. They love that stuff.
Colin: It is. Especially those three words that you said, the trembling, happy, tearful, that describes my mother in a nutshell. And she's the one that you talked to.
Dr. Chan: And yeah, it's the strange thing. Again, I've done this long enough that moms, you know, like, moms can track down sons or daughters like that.
Colin: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I see my mom calling.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, yeah. Like when you see your mom call, you're like, "My mom's calling." You pick up. Like for some reason, like, it's not as strong with dads. Dads can't really kind of pierce wherever their sons or daughters are on this planet, but moms can usually cut through the fog and find someone. Yeah, so.
Colin: Yeah, it's really true. You know, I actually interviewed with a good friend of mine the same day we had the interview. And I saw her post on Facebook near the end of September, like, "Oh, I got accepted into the U." And I saw that and I was like, "Oh, I didn't get a call yet. I wonder if they're doing like the acceptance calls today and the not accepted . . ."
Dr. Chan: Was that the day of?
Colin: So that was the day before I talked to you. And I didn't hear anything that day, and I was like kind of getting myself ready for that, you know, moving on to that next application side step, you know, of applying to other schools. And I remember being kind of bummed out. But them my mom called me the next morning and said, "I'm so sorry. I got a voicemail from someone from your school. They really need to talk to you. Do your best to get ahold of them." And I was like, "Oh, what have I done?"
Dr. Chan: That's right. I remember I left a message.
Colin: And that was actually Friday. And so I had to wait the weekend.
Dr. Chan: Oh, sorry.
Colin: No, that's okay, that's okay. It's my own fault. But I was finally able to get ahold of you. And you actually called my mom again and she gave you my number.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: And then you called me.
Dr. Chan: Like yeah, there was some confusion about your number and where you were exactly.
Colin: Yeah, our numbers are one off, and so it's kind of . . . anyway.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: And then she called my partner right after she got off the phone with you. And so we were having that conversation. And my partner was talking to my mom on the phone.
Dr. Chan: And I was travelling. I remember, I was up in Idaho.
Colin: Oh really?
Dr. Chan: Yeah. I think that's why I might have been delayed.
Colin: Oh yeah.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, I had to get on an airplane, and so yeah. Yeah, I've called people before. I've been sitting in airports and there's like, you know, that noise in the background, like don't leave your bag unattended, you know, that's been blaring. Yeah. Yeah. So I try to track people down
Colin: Yeah. Well no, you did a great job. Sometimes I can be hard to track down, and I promise to fix that.
Dr. Chan: Colin, I'm getting the picture that you just disappear and go fight crime and do good and help people.
Colin: I should probably go. No, but, man, I remember that call. I'd kind of talk to myself. Especially after kind of hearing that the friend that interviewed the same day had already got the acceptance, I kind of started talking, like, "Oh, I don't want that acceptance that bad. I'll be okay either way." But I remember you called and you said, "How would you like to start?" I just fell to my knees and it was just like it really hit me all at once, like I did want this really bad, like it really came rushing in.
Dr. Chan: Well, Colin, I'm really excited that you're here. And like, you know, I love my job. The hardest part of my job is like we just don't have enough positions. We have far more qualified people than we have positions. And, you know, it's really hard because I know a lot of reject . . . like, we have far more people who don't get in who are rejected than do get in.
Dr. Chan: And the numbers are just staggering. I mean, you know, the past few years, we've had close to 4,000 people apply for a class size of 125.
Dr. Chan: You just do the numbers and it's so competitive. And so, you know, I'm glad you kept on plugging away. I'm glad you kept on improving. Not, I mean, you know, improving your application, but improving yourself.
And, you know, like what we're seeing nationally, I think all the medical schools have seen this, is that the average age of someone coming to medical school has slowly been rising. You know, people are taking gap years after they graduate. People are pursuing other careers or doing other things. And I think that's really beneficial to a certain degree because, as you said, like, people are coming in kind of knowing more who they are and what they want to be.
And as you said, you wanted to be a really good or great physician. And, you know, with this past couple years, especially with your work at UNI, the Utah AIDS Foundation, the food bank, I think that really gives you these, like, unique experiences and skills that will be really helpful in medical school. So I guess that's my perspective. So what do you think?
Colin: No, I appreciate that perspective. And I would definitely agree with it that I've been able to interact with a lot of different people within the medical field. I remember after I got in, I talked with all my . . . they're all so proud of me at UNI. They're like my second family and I appreciate them all. My charge nurse, Sharon, she's great. And they're all so excited for me.
Dr. Chan: Well, that begs my question then. Are you going to try to work during medical school?
Colin: So I actually . . .
Dr. Chan: Because the official policy is you're not supposed to.
Dr. Chan: But as long as you keep your grades up, no one's going to say anything.
Dr. Chan: But it's really stressful.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: And so I've actually kind of . . . I hope this is okay. I don't know if we've talked about this. My manager over at UNI, her name is Cheryl and she's fantastic, really wants to get to know her employees as people and get to know what they need, and I've really appreciated that. And so we had our employee review about a month ago and I was talking with her and told her that I wouldn't be able to work during medical school. You know, I can't have any sort of scheduled shift because I need to be able to throw my whole self into this, and I'm going to do that. And she kind of brought this . . .
So I thought my options were, you know, continue working part or full time there and, you know, kind of split my time between that and med school, or not work and focus solely on medical school. But she kind of brought this third option to the table where I'm able to work PRN. And so, you know, if there's maybe during one of the breaks that we have, or if there's a weekend after a test where I don't have as much studying to do potentially, that there's this opportunity for me to call in and still work.
Dr. Chan: Get some shifts.
Colin: Yeah, exactly. But the benefit for me for that is that there's no scheduled shifts, I have no obligation. But if I have the time, I'm able to go. And I get a certain fulfillment from working and feeling like . . . this is going to sound a little selfish, but I love to feel like I'm helping people. And I hope that doesn't come across the wrong way, but it brings me a lot of satisfaction. And, you know, working at UNI has been so fantastic and I'm really excited to be going there every once in a while.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Yeah, we've noticed more and more people are working there and applying to medical school.
Dr. Chan: In my dark mind, I think that might be because I'm a psychiatrist.
Colin: Okay, okay.
Dr. Chan: Or the fact that they're just growing and expanding.
Dr. Chan: And mental health is being less stigmatized and a lot of people are needing help.
Dr. Chan: I mean, they opened up a whole new wing. Or maybe it's just easier to get a job there than other places. I don't know. Did you look at other tech jobs?
Colin: I did. At the time when I was volunteering for that HELP program, I was looking at tech jobs within the main hospital and other clinics and stuff like that. But what drew me to UNI actually was that, you know, there is a lot of stigma still. You know, it's gotten so much better in I would say even in just the past five years, so much better.
But there still is a little bit of that stigma of behavioral health. "Oh, that's not as serious as physical health." But that's what really drew me is I realized I didn't know a lot about mental health, and I felt like that was a part of me that I could grow. And going there, it's been amazing. I've been able to work on my own . . . you know, brought to light my own issues within mental health, which has been great to be able to work on.
Dr. Chan: As I tell people, we're all a little broken.
Colin: Yeah, yeah.
Dr. Chan: We're all a little broken. yeah.
Colin: We're a little broken. I love that.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: Because, you know, some people might be like, "Oh, broken." But it's true. You know, we're all broken and we're trying to do our best to be our best selves and fix ourselves. But, you know, we're all in it together. We're all a little broken.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: I love that.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Beautiful. Okay, well Colin, this has been fantastic.
Dr. Chan: Last question.
Dr. Chan: San Diego weather. Is that hard? Do you miss it?
Dr. Chan: How'd you end up in Utah?
Colin: Oh yeah, that's great. So San Diego weather, ended up in Utah. So my teenage years I spent in Oceanside, California. It's as beautiful as it sounds.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Yeah, I've been there. Yeah, wow.
Colin: Yeah. And, you know, the U wasn't even on my radar, to be honest. But my dad graduated from the U and so did his father. And so I'm a third generation. You know, we do the triple U.
Dr. Chan: The triple U.
Colin: It doesn't come across as I'm doing it.
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: And so I talked with him about his experience going here and, you know, how grateful he was that he ended up going here. I was deciding mainly between, you know, the U and UCSD.
Dr. Chan: Okay.
Colin: Ended up coming to the U. And I'm like, you know, I'll do four years at the U, go back to San Diego as fast as possible. Because what is this snow? The summers are so hot, like seasons blow my mind.
Dr. Chan: San Diego is gorgeous. Yeah.
Colin: Yeah, it's just perfect. You know, 73 and perfect all year round.
Dr. Chan: You know, it has bad traffic, but not as bad as L.A. So, you know, it's like all the good things about L.A. but less people, you know.
Colin: And I'll be honest. I miss the weather, I miss the ocean. Like I mentioned earlier, I love to surf. So much fun. There's no other sport where the field is constantly changing. It's awesome. But, you know, I came to Salt Lake, I came to the U, and I just felt in love. It's a beautiful valley. The people are amazing. I feel like I found my people, like my family away from home.
Dr. Chan: So did you live in the dorms?
Colin: Yeah, yeah, I did.
Dr. Chan: Because I know that the U over the years has been known to be a commuter campus, but they're trying to create more dorm life. And I know the dorms, they've been expanding. There's more and more students.
Colin: Oh yeah. I think that if people are in the right place in their life, I think everyone should try to go to the dorms if they can, at least for a year. It was such a great experience. I actually lived there for three out of my four years of my undergrad. I was a residential advisor there.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Good old RA.
Colin: Yeah. I loved living on campus so much, I'm like, "Is there a way I can get paid to do this?"
Dr. Chan: Yeah.
Colin: And, I mean, they didn't pay me, but they did let me live there and feed me, so that was pretty good.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, I was an RA in multiple places.
Dr. Chan: The bane of my existence was people getting locked out of their door. I hated it so bad. So all RAs have, like, this master key.
Dr. Chan: You know, and I'm under the opinion now that people like don't even bother to bring their keys when they go to the cafeteria.
Colin: "Oh, my RA will just take care of it."
Dr. Chan: Yeah. So I remember once we had to . . . like we were seriously talking about like a three strikes, like, you're out policy.
Dr. Chan: That the third time you asked the RA to unlock you. You know, I don't mind doing it once in a while. But when you're waking up all hours of the night, like at 3 in the morning, you know, you get a knock on the door, "Hey, I got locked out. Can I get the key?" So like the third time it's like a $5 charge. The fourth time, like, $20, you know.
Colin: Okay, yeah. That's great.
Dr. Chan: We never got to implement that because, you know, it just enforced it with all these like rules. But like I just remember. Yeah, I remember I loved being an RA. It was just, you know, because you help out the residents. It's kind of like being a psych tech. You know, like you celebrate their, you know, the highs, you kind of help them through the lows.
Dr. Chan: You plan really cool activities. Yeah, I remember we got all this . . . you know, so we had money assigned to us every year. And then like we had a bunch of it left over at the end of the semester. And if you don't spend it, it doesn't track to the next semester.
Colin: Yeah, it doesn't roll over.
Dr. Chan: So I remember we had enough that we went out and like rented out Chuck E Cheese.
Colin: Oh, that's such a great idea.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, and they're like, you know, everyone, you know, they have like all these college kids just lost their minds, you know, because they had so much fun, you know. And like the tokens and then dancing robots and the questionable pizza. Yeah, it was a really good experience, so yeah.
Colin: No one loves questionable pizza more than undergrads.
Dr. Chan: Well kids, like you know, they're not there for the pizza. So cool. All right, well, Colin, it's been great having you come on.
Colin: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Dr. Chan: I'm excited you're starting in a few weeks and we'll have to have you come back in about a year or so. We'll get an update.
Colin: Do you mind if I make just a quick shout out?
Dr. Chan: Sure.
Colin: There are three people. My mom and dad are so supportive. I was texting them just before this that I was a little nervous.
Dr. Chan: What's to be nervous about?
Colin: I know, I know. So much affirmation from them. So I wanted to thank them and my partner as well.
Dr. Chan: Okay. All right.
Colin: Thank you.
Dr. Chan: Does your partner have a name?
Colin: Hannah. Hannah Christiansen.
Dr. Chan: Hannah. Give a shout out to Hannah. Okay, cool. Well, I hope Hannah and your folks get to listen to this.
Dr. Chan: Do I get to meet them at white coat?
Colin: Yeah, yeah, all three of them are planning on coming, even with that awesome eclipse. It was a hard decision.
Dr. Chan: Oh, I know, I know.
Colin: That's okay.
Dr. Chan: Cool. All right, well thanks, Colin.
Colin: Yeah, no problem.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life" with Dr. Benjamin Chan, the ultimate resource to help you on your journey to and through medical school, a production of the Scope Health Sciences Radio, online at thescoperadio.com.
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- Episode 160 – Adventures in Argentina feat. Med Student Burnout
- Episode 159 – Olympic Weightlifting as an MD PhD Student
- Episode 158 – Creating Memes for Med Students
- Episode 157 – Mountaineering & Wilderness Exploration with a Med Student
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- Episode 156 – The Art of Practice Interviewing
- Episode 155 – How Disney and Medicine Can Collide
- Episode 154 – Drive Thru White Coat Ceremony
- Episode 153 – Injuries on Reality TV Shows