Dr. Chan: How do you prepare for medical school while on the University of Utah men's basketball team? What is the latest research pertaining to ALS? How does it feel to return to your third-year after medical school from being five years away to pursue a Ph.D.? And what is the most important aspect of an MD-Ph.D. application?
Today, I'm "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life." I interview Jon, an MD-Ph.D. 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: Okay. I have another great guest today, Jonathan, third-year medical student, but it's complicated.
Jonathan: It's complicated.
Dr. Chan: It's complicated. All right. We're kind of doing a focus on MD-Ph.D.s.
Jonathan: Right. We're making a push for it.
Dr. Chan: We're making a push. So let's start at the beginning of this journey.
Dr. Chan: Why did you decide to apply to medical school?
Jonathan: Yeah. That is funny. You always get asked that question in interviews. It's funny. That answer for me has changed over time. I think I would have given you a much different answer before medical school than I would now.
But why medicine and why medical school? It's just a perfect joining of . . . It's so exciting to learn so much about the human body and understanding the inside and out, and then being able to apply that to patient care and helping people. And so, I think, that's what it was always for me. I was always very interested in the sciences and biology.
I found it fascinating, but at the same time, I wanted to help people. That's what I enjoy doing, is helping people that are maybe in worse situations than me or less fortunate or in serious pain or suffering. And this was the best way to combine kind of those two interests for me, and so it just made sense.
So I always knew I wanted to do it, and exactly what I wanted to focus within medicine has certainly changed a lot since I started forever ago, it seems like. But, yeah, that was kind of my thinking in that.
Dr. Chan: So did you grow up in Utah?
Jonathan: I did. I was originally born in L.A., but I moved here when I was very young, in first grade. I grew up in Bountiful, Utah. So I'm a local. I went to undergrad here and I was a walk on the basketball team here for a couple of years. Shocking to look at me and think . . .
Dr. Chan: Yeah. How tall are you?
Jonathan: I'm like six-seven.
Dr. Chan: Six-seven?
Jonathan: Yeah, shocking.
Dr. Chan: A big six-seven. No small six-seven. Yeah.
Jonathan: Yeah, it'd go either way. I made it up for in attitude. So, yeah, I did that and then I got to medical school here and then, yeah. So here I am.
Dr. Chan: So I just have a couple questions about your basketball days.
Dr. Chan: Were you known as like the brain on the team?
Jonathan: I was, yeah.
Dr. Chan: Or did you kind of hide your medical school aspirations?
Jonathan: No. As I walk on, no. No. They very much knew where my goals were. Believe me, I was not good enough to be doing anything serious playing basketball, and it is kind of the walk-on's job to hold the great GPA. To some extent, that is true, and there was no illusion.
Dr. Chan: They recruited you for your GPA.
Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely. Had I not have a good GPA there was no way I was getting on that team. So I knew what my job was.
Dr. Chan: Did you have like tryouts? How does someone walk on to a Division I basketball team?
Jonathan: It really depends. That year . . .
Dr. Chan: They must have known of you, right?
Jonathan: Yes. So I had meetings with them. Absolutely. Now it's whole other story how I got there, but, yes. So they had tryouts that particular year and, yeah, I went out. And I wish I could tell you how many guys came out. There was a lot and to this day I'm astounded I actually . . . There were guys a lot better than me out there.
Dr. Chan: So 100 guys running drills, getting five-on-fives.
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. Absolutely, yeah. Running drills, playing games like that and, yeah. I think they had about four rounds and everyone, it just seemed, kept on making the cut and I got the phone call saying, "Hey, we want to bring you." I was like, "Oh my gosh."
Dr. Chan: I love it, the phone call.
Dr. Chan: There was this image in movies where they post a list on the door. Do they still do that, or is that kind of old fashioned?
Jonathan: No. But they did do that in high school. Absolutely. No, that is still out there.
Dr. Chan: People run up, look at the list.
Dr. Chan: Get angry, walk away. Yeah.
Jonathan: Get angry, tears usually. Yeah, it's usually how it works. I do remember distinctly exactly where I was standing and where . . . I was standing outside the Marriott Library when I got that phone call.
Dr. Chan: Did they say like, "You're on the basketball team"?
Dr. Chan: Or, "You're on the practice team," or what did they say?
Jonathan: Yeah. It's like, "Hey, we really like what you had to bring to the table and we think you'd be a good fit. We want to bring you on. You'll be here." It was like not a question. "You'll be at practice tomorrow with this, this, this."
Dr. Chan: At 5:00 a.m.
Jonathan: Yeah. Pretty much.
Dr. Chan: And then you immediately countered and said, "I want number . . ."
Jonathan: Yeah. It was 31.
Dr. Chan: Did you demand 31 at the time?
Jonathan: I originally wanted 33, but I came to find out that was retired. So 31 was the next closest number I could get.
Dr. Chan: Fascinating. Any correlation between basketball and medical school?
Jonathan: Yeah, for sure. The medical school is hard work especially third-year, and you work your butt off. And I think being able to succeed academically and do D1 Sports is not an easy job. And so, I think, definitely the . . . as far as the structure of being able to study, I think, it really set me up well for third-year. You were working all the time in third-year and then trying to find time to study outside that is hard and you were exhausted all the time, and that was the last thing you wanted to do.
But I definitely think it gave me a good foundation to be structured in my studying and time management. And then being a team player, of course. You were working with so many different people from different disciplines in medicine, and I definitely think that set me up pretty well for that as well.
Dr. Chan: So, when a physician gets on you and is like, "Come on, Jonathan. That's not . . ." Is that like coach at practice?
Jonathan: Yeah. The attendings here would have to do a lot worse to rattle my cage that. Coach has said some awful things.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. I don't think attending physicians are allowed to say some of the things college basketball coaches say.
Jonathan: No. Absolutely not. You would be reprimanded for that.
Dr. Chan: Cool. All right. So, you applied to med school.
Jonathan: Got it to med school.
Dr. Chan: How did you have time for activities? Our application requires a fair amount. You have to [inaudible 00:06:26] doctors, do some research, and some volunteer work. How do you find the time?
Jonathan: Oh, man. When it was in season, it was difficult. As far as studying, you'd study on the bus or the plane. As far as finding time to do stuff, you fit it in. For me, I'm really a social person. I really like hanging out with my buds and whatnot and, sure, I didn't get to see them every day but, yeah. You can make time for the things you want to make time for.
You can't do everything, and so I think it requires a lot of soul searching on your part to determine what is important to you, what's going to fulfill you in your life. But you can make time for those things.
And I still make time for those things in medical school. Being physically active is super important to me, and I still find time for that. Do other things suffer as a result? Probably. I could see my family more often, things like that. So, I don't know if that answers your question or not.
Dr. Chan: So it sounds like you had to make some sacrifices.
Jonathan: Yeah. Sacrifices come with a territory and I really think it comes down to just determining what is going to make you happy in your life and making those a priority. And that's going to be different for everyone.
Dr. Chan: And I assume the basketball team had some outreach stuff. Did you combine some activities in a way?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. So I did actually get a lot of my volunteering experience through the team. We did a lot of like marathon-type things and outreach and going to homeless shelters and things like that. So, yes, I did get a lot of my outreach through that. I was also in the Greek system in undergrad and did a lot through that as well.
Dr. Chan: Interesting. So it sounds like you had a really great undergrad experience.
Jonathan: Undergrad was great.
Dr. Chan: Playing basketball, the Greek life.
Jonathan: Yeah. I had zero complaints in my undergrad.
Dr. Chan: Studying, taking pre-med courses.
Dr. Chan: MCAT test prep.
Jonathan: Yep. All that stuff.
Dr. Chan: Wow. Sounds busy.
Jonathan: It was busy, but I loved it. Undergrad was great.
Dr. Chan: All right. So you come here to the U for medical school.
Jonathan: Came out to the U. That's right. Yeah.
Dr. Chan: And it sounds like you made a really . . . a fairly big decision early on.
Jonathan: I did. Yeah.
Dr. Chan: Walk us through that.
Jonathan: I guess you should say I took a gap year between undergrad and med school. As far as getting into med school, I did have a lot of volunteering, but I felt like my research was lacking, and it was. I had zero research up to that point, and so in order to become a better applicant I decided to take a year off and I . . . In a weird turn of events, befriended, and I think he's one pretty well-known now, Dr. Schiffman. We actually took a class in my senior . . . We took human evolutionary genetics together in my senior year and he was kind of getting it . . .
Dr. Chan: He's the elephant cancer guy.
Jonathan: He's the elephant cancer guy. So this was when he was starting to get interested in cancer genetics and he wanted to learn more about genetics. And so we took our class together in my undergrad. He was a practicing physician at this point. So it's kind of funny.
Dr. Chan: And for those who don't know, apparently elephants don't get cancer.
Dr. Chan: So there's a lot of research into why elephants don't get cancer and, hopefully, that can apply to humans one day.
Jonathan: That's right. That's correct. So he had a big paper. I believe it was in JAMA, I believe, a year or two ago. It kind of explained that. It's some fun work, but this was pre-cancer.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, before the elephant stuff.
Jonathan: Yeah. So I kind of befriended him and he invited me actually to come be a tech in his lab for a year. And so, I totally lucked out big time on that and I recognize that. So, yeah, I decided to take that year off to work with him and I just fell in love with the research. It's fascinating.
That was also about the time I was applying for medical school. It was a little bit too late to apply for MD-Ph at that point. The application cycle already began. So, yes, I applied to med school, got in here at the U, thankfully.
And during my time as I started to walk away from my research, I really realized I missed it. It satisfied an itch that you just don't quite get with medicine. So in my second year at medical school I decided that I wanted to join the MD-Ph.D. program. I really wanted to continue developing my research skills and expand my research knowledge, I guess.
Dr. Chan: Did you interview, or did you have to write an essay? What does that look like as a current MD student?
Jonathan: Yeah. It is not nearly as rigorous as doing the med school application, although the application is much different now than it was then. Yes, you do have to write an essay about what your research experience is and why you want to do it. And I think there might have been two essays. One is specifically outlining what you've done and the other being why do you want to sacrifice all this stuff to come do this, which is a legitimate question.
And then you have just typical stuff, looking at your MCAT scores or Step 1 scores, because by that time you've taken Step 1. No, that's not true actually. But looking at your MCAT scores, your grades, and how you've done in school. And then, yes, you interview. You only interview one day as opposed to two days.
Dr. Chan: And did you kind of pick at that time what lab you were interested in, or is it more kind of broad?
Jonathan: I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to go, so yeah, the people I interviewed with on the Ph.D. side were people who I thought would mesh pretty well with my research interest. And they do try doing that with the Ph.D. interviews, trying to match you up with people that match what you're interested in. Yeah, I had a pretty good idea where I wanted to go. In my working with Josh, naturally, I studied a lot of genetics and genomics, which I found fascinating. And so, at that . . .
Dr. Chan: For people who don't know, what's the difference? I'm sorry to put you on the spot.
Jonathan: No. People use all those terms . . . So genetics is a very broad term that encompasses heritable traits, and that can be anything ranging from like mouse genetics, seeing how different traits in mice segregate, and what genes impact those particular traits, whereas genomics actually specifically involves nowadays using . . .
Dr. Chan: Is it therapies, interventions?
Jonathan: Kind of. No, it's more like dealing with technology and how to better assay the human genome, and the computational methods that come along with it, along with the technical aspects to help us better understand, once again coming back to genetics, those traits that are affected by genetic factors and things like that.
Dr. Chan: So you're definitely leaning towards that direction.
Jonathan: Yes. I'm fascinated by using genetic information and how that impacts therapy or health care decisions. That's really what I . . . the things I was interested in. And so, at that time, next-generation sequencing, so sequencing in the human genome, was just starting to become available to labs at that time. We were still using what's called microarray, which is you get an assay of little parts of the genome, but not the full thing. It's what 23andMe does now, where you get little markers in the genome, but that . . . And so, that's what we mostly used at the time.
Like I said, next-generation sequencing was just getting off the ground in labs. And really, the only lab at that time that was doing it, this was about 2012, was Lynn Jorde's lab. It's like, "Yes, I need to get in on that action," and I did. When I got into the program, I did one rotation, which is like two less than you should be doing, and yeah.
Dr. Chan: First of all, when they accepted you at the MD-Ph.D. program, did they go back and help pay for the first year of med school?
Jonathan: No. You're on the hook for that.
Dr. Chan: Oh, snap. All right.
Jonathan: For those who don't know, when you join the MD-Ph.D. program, they do pay for all your school first year, second year, third year, fourth year. On top of that, you get a stipend and then they pay for your Ph.D. education. So it's not a bad deal, but I was on the hook for those first two years and still am.
Dr. Chan: When you got in, did you have this goal in mind like, "I'm going to get my Ph.D. in three years or five years"? What did you tell yourself?
Jonathan: It's so hard. Ph.D. is funny like that. With medical school, it's so structured and you know exactly . . . not exactly what's expected, but you know generally what the timetable is looking like. In Ph.D. that is so not the case. It is a learning . . . Actually, it took me a lot of learning to be able to handle this, I guess, but I'm thinking I'm getting out in three, four years. I got out at five.
You can work your butt off so hard sometimes in Ph.D. and the results sometimes just don't come and then . . . I kind of ran into that. I didn't really link sink my teeth into a really good finding until about two and a half years into it really. And then it was off to the races. But, yeah, it's just kind of one of those things that will . . . It will manifest itself in a lot different ways.
Dr. Chan: What's the name of your thesis or your project? If you can explain it to the common folk.
Jonathan: It's been a while since I've given the spiel, so let's see if I can do this. So the title was "Serving The Genetic Risk Landscape of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis In the Age Next-Generation Sequencing." Yeah.
Dr. Chan: So did I hear ALS in that?
Jonathan: So, yes. You heard ALS.
Dr. Chan: Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Jonathan: So short version, two-sentence version. What I studied was how genetics affect the pathogenic mechanism of ALS and basically trying to use genetic factors to determine how much somebody is at risk for the disease. And also on top of that, by looking at the genome, trying to find other genetic factors that we don't know of yet that might have a role in the diseases. So that was one of the big findings we had. For my dissertation, we think we actually found a new gene responsible for ALS.
Dr. Chan: Wow.
Dr. Chan: What does that mean? What are the implications of that?
Jonathan: So, for those of you who don't know, ALS is a completely . . . it's a 100% fatal disease. Most people die within two to five years after diagnosis, and clinically there's not really much we can do.
Dr. Chan: It's a neurodegenerative disorder.
Jonathan: It's a neurodegenerative disorder and that's pretty typical. There's therapeutically not much you can do. However, I think where the importance of that is, is in genetic counseling. And we know that ALS is actually much more heritable than I think most people realize. Obviously not 100%, but genetic factors are important in it.
And I think if you know . . . if you yourself have a genetic predisposition for ALS, I think it's important for maybe some of your family members, or if you're thinking about having children, I think that's really an important thing to know. Or if you're worried about what your risk is for it and you have a family history, you really want to know. I think that's kind of where it more comes into play.
Dr. Chan: So we're talking maybe a blood test down the road, almost like a screening test.
Jonathan: That's right. Yeah. And we actually do that for a lot of the ALS patients here because a lot of them are enrolled in trials. We do get DNA on a good majority of patients that come though the motor neuron disease clinic here.
Dr. Chan: I think that's fascinating. In the news, kind of combining my sports talk from earlier, I know I've been reading that football players or people who have a lot of concussions or traumatic brain injuries, they're at a somewhat higher disposition to have ALS.
Jonathan: They are.
Dr. Chan: There have been some really high profile athletes . . .
Jonathan: There have been, yeah.
Dr. Chan: . . . who have passed away.
Jonathan: That's right. Steve Gleason is the one that . . .
Dr. Chan: He played on New Orleans Saints in football.
Jonathan: That's correct. Yeah. And he's done an incredible amount of outreach as far as helping ALS research and helping families who have ALS. He's done a lot of great work.
That is an interesting piece, yes, and then that is something that continues to be researched. The association would not be as high as you would suspect. There have been a couple studies, but it is not been as repeated and replicated as much as you would think it has been.
Dr. Chan: So it sounds almost like a nature versus nurture debate.
Jonathan: Almost. It's being explored and I highly suspect that it is, but ALS is a rare enough disorder that it is incredibly difficult to find associations like that.
Dr. Chan: Fascinating. So first two years of med school, you have classmates, you're going to class. I would argue a pretty social experience.
Jonathan: Very much so.
Dr. Chan: Was it hard to step away and watch your classmates progress?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. That was super hard.
Dr. Chan: And you're off the lab. Tell me about that.
Jonathan: It's still hard. So, I actually went to med school with your wife. I actually ran into her the other day. A lot of my friends are attendings now and moving on with their careers. And then I'll run into them and they'll be like, "Oh, how are you doing?" I'm like, "Yeah. I'm in third year of medical school." Which is great. I love third-year, but it is difficult to kind of see people I went to medical school with moving on with their careers and being successful and moving . . . I hesitate saying moving on with their lives, but yeah, kind of moving on with their lives. So that has been difficult.
And I think really the hardest one was at Match Day seeing all my friends get excited. It was like, "Oh, I'm going to Stanford and all these cool places." And I'm like, "Well, I'm here."
Dr. Chan: I'm still in the lab.
Jonathan: I'm here. So, yes, it is very difficult to do, to deal with, and obviously, you're super happy for your classmates and whatnot but, yeah, it is challenging to deal with.
Dr. Chan: So let's kind of talk about the match in a way. So, when you're doing your Ph.D. work, did you have some idea what kind of field you're going to choose? And then before you reenter the curriculum at third-year, how did that process go?
Jonathan: I think that depends on everyone. I think for me I wasn't 100% sure. I'm assuming you're talking about medicine and what kind of medical field. It depends. For me, I have been so largely undecided as to what I wanted to do.
Dr. Chan: You had five extra years to think about it.
Jonathan: Yeah. And I was all over the place. One second, I thought I wanted to do surgery. I'm not doing surgery, by the way. I know it changed a lot. For me, genetics is so widely applicable to so many different disciplines. For me, I felt safe in going that route because I got to apply it in so many different situations. But we have a lot of other students who from the get-go are like, "No. I want to do cancer research." And we have a lot of our students doing great cancer research up here, and that's highly applicable to what they want to do.
I'd argue it's not totally imperative that you line up your Ph.D. interests with your MD interests, in that I think a lot of the skills that are useful in the education of a Ph.D. can translate to lots of other things. You can pick up the technical skills at whatever it is you want to do. That's not the problem. It's being able to think in a scientific matter and being able to . . . I think the big thing about Ph.D. is really learning how to express your ideas in a coherent manner and explain to people why it's important and why we should research that.
I think that's the basic takeaway from Ph.D., because that translates to your presentations and how you write grants. And so those skills translate to a lot of different areas. So I wouldn't say it's necessarily important to match it up, but some people do, some people don't.
Dr. Chan: So did you always were thinking, "I love this cancer. I love these genetics"? That leads to oncology.
Jonathan: Yeah. Exactly. I didn't know oncology was the end game, although I . . . it was always kind of in the mix, but I love genetic research and I knew I wanted to apply it to my practice in some way. In this case, it works out perfectly and that's exactly what I want to do, using genetic information to better treat my cancer patients in the future.
Dr. Chan: And was it hard coming back for third-year as far as schedule and . . .
Jonathan: So hard, oh my gosh.
Dr. Chan: Then all these third-year medical students, your classmates, you don't know any of them.
Jonathan: All of it. Luckily the class I joined was great. I've gotten along with everybody. So that kind of came naturally. I think the big thing is you're looking at material you haven't looked at in like five years. And you'll get asked questions on rounds. It's like, "Oh, what is this? I vaguely remember that word. I know I knew that at some point, but I don't know it now."
And I think it's true of most Ph.D.s. You've really got to study your butt off because you're behind the game and behind everyone. You're with people who just took Step 1, and so they're at the peak of their medical . . .
Dr. Chan: There's stuff echoing in the back of your mind.
Jonathan: Yeah. "I know this is the thing. I know nothing about it though." You really have to work your butt off to catch up to everybody else.
Dr. Chan: So your third-year schedule, what did you start off with?
Jonathan: I started with psych, which I loved.
Dr. Chan: Why did you love it?
Jonathan: First off, it was a great transition in that all the attendings are great. And so, I wasn't getting killed for my lack of knowledge, but the patients were great and it was just very . . .
Dr. Chan: A little bit more laid-back.
Jonathan: It's very laid-back. It wasn't this crazy surgery schedule or something like that, and it was just a great way to learn how to talk to patients again.
Dr. Chan: Yes. So transition back into the life of . . .
Dr. Chan: So good experience with psych. What was next?
Jonathan: Family. Also great.
Dr. Chan: Where were you at?
Jonathan: I was actually just down the street. I was down here at the Salt Lake Clinic, the [inaudible 00:24:19] clinic, which is great. I learned how to do a physical exam again. I learned how to talk to patients. I learned how to do my physical exam, again.
Dr. Chan: I'd argue that psychiatry we still use those skills, but not as much as in family practice.
Jonathan: Yes. I would say that is fair. So family was great.
Dr. Chan: Good. I'm liking this. Sounds like an easy start.
Jonathan: Easy start. It ramps up.
Dr. Chan: Easier.
Jonathan: Yeah. And then we did pediatrics, so harder.
Dr. Chan: Glasgow's team?
Jonathan: No. I tried to get Glasgow. I missed out, unfortunately. No, I did Anderson which is like taking care of infants and things like that, which I enjoyed peds. Honestly, I've liked third-year in general. I've yet to have a rotation I really disliked. And then I did a brief elective in radiation oncology.
Dr. Chan: Oh, talk about that. What is radiation oncology for people who don't know?
Jonathan: So it's funny. When I think of like how you manage cancer, really there are like three different approaches to treating cancer. The one, I think, most people think of is the medical approach. We're treating with chemotherapy or immunotherapy and things like that. There's the surgical approach where we just cut the thing out, or there's the radiation approach, which is kind of similar to cutting it out, but it's a lot less invasive and really particularly useful if you have a solid mass that is just kind of inoperable and not in a great place to be operating, but needs to get taken care of.
That's kind of a three-pronged approach I think of cancer treatments. So that's what radiation oncologists do. They use a lot of imaging techniques to locate like where a tumor is and then devise really complicated plans as to like how to deliver.
Dr. Chan: Vectors.
Jonathan: Vectors. There is a ton of physics in that. Actually, they work really close with people who have Ph.D.s in physics. It's very technically complicated to deliver as high of dosage that is safe of radiation to a particular tumor without affecting surrounding structures. It was very fascinating.
Dr. Chan: I think it is a really unknown field. I don't think medical students know that it's its own residency. It's pretty competitive.
Jonathan: It's very competitive.
Dr. Chan: Not too many people know about it. It's very specialized.
Jonathan: Yes. It's very specialized. You don't get much exposure to it.
Dr. Chan: You literally just kill cancer all day. That's all you do.
Jonathan: Yeah. That's literally all you do. Yeah, pretty much all you do.
Dr. Chan: Cancer busters.
Jonathan: Cancer busters, yeah. Absolutely. They have a great life actually. It is a very competitive residency for a lot of reasons.
Dr. Chan: And then internal medicine or . . .
Jonathan: So let me . . . I'm backing up. So rad onc, neuro, which I love neuro.
Dr. Chan: Neurology.
Jonathan: Yeah, neurology. I loved it. Part of me still thinks I should be a neurologist, but . . .
Dr. Chan: You got some decisions coming up.
Jonathan: I'm doing medicine. And then I did OB/GYN and then now I'm on medicine.
Dr. Chan: Okay. And did you have that feeling like, "Oh, this is my home. I love this"?
Jonathan: I got one week into it and was like, "This is it." I knew it.
Dr. Chan: You found your people.
Jonathan: Yeah. I found my people. I knew it immediately.
Dr. Chan: Awesome. That's great. So, you're going to finish up third-year here soon and then start getting residency applications in order and then away you go.
Jonathan: Away I go. Yeah, I'm off to wherever I'm going.
Dr. Chan: No more Ph.D. research presentations. No more conferences for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan: No. Actually, I'm giving a talk in L.A. at the end of April.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Is it about the ALS?
Jonathan: It is, yeah. As I alluded to, this new gene that we found, it's kind of our coming out party, if you will. It's our first time we're actually debuting our work.
Dr. Chan: So, even though you've done the Ph.D. work, you can't call yourself a doctorate yet?
Jonathan: Yeah, I can. I do. Yeah, I do have a doctorate . . .
Dr. Chan: I learned something. This is why I love doing this.
Jonathan: Yeah. It is weird, because that's not true of all MD-Ph.D. programs where they are literally combined. Here, it's like you do one and then you do the others. So I do actually have a doctorate right now.
Dr. Chan: Woohoo. We get to call you Dr. Jonathan. I love it. All right, last few question. Any tips or advice for people thinking about applying to medical school or applying to a MD-Ph.D. program? What would you say to them?
Jonathan: I would say that those are two different . . . they're similar, but different in that I think with medical school, and I'm sure you've stressed this a lot, it really is your passion or whatever it is you're interested in really does come through on your application. And what you're passionate in may not be the same thing as somebody else.
And so you could be super passionate about serving under-served populations in Africa or something like that. You've done a ton of research about it and you want to continue doing that in med school and that's what your application is based around. Awesome.
For MD-Ph.D., that's probably not going to float you as much, in that strong MD-Ph.D. applicants, we really want to see very passionate about medical and biological research. It's a long road and if you are not fully in, you're so going to burn out. Really, it's a long road.
And so, typically things we look at, typical things. MCAT scores are important. We want to see that you did well in your classes. Obviously, we want to see that you're a well-rounded person. You've done shadowing and, of course, the things you want to do for med school.
However, I would argue those things are not heavily as weighted. Really, what we want to see is that you spent a considerable amount of time, at least a year usually, in a basic science lab. And that doesn't mean a chemistry lab, which chemistry is great, but really much more biologically applied. That's that kind of things we're looking for. Obviously, if you have publications, that's great.
Dr. Chan: Certainly helps.
Jonathan: It certainly helps. Is it required? No, it's not. We just want to see that you've taken the time to really think about this and have actually experience doing work in a lab. Other things? Other than that, I don't know. Do well on your MCAT. That always helps. Do well in your classes. That always helps.
Dr. Chan: I think you said stay engaged in the community.
Jonathan: Staying engaged community is super important. Do what you enjoy. I realize med school applications are super stressful, but you look back and hardly remember them like I do. Now, I barely remember, to be honest. In the end, do what makes you happy and that will come through on your application. And, of course, you're going to have to bite the bullet on some things you don't want to do, but focus on things you want to do.
Dr. Chan: That's awesome. All right. Last question, Jonathan. I want to hear some basketball stories.
Jonathan: Oh, no.
Dr. Chan: All right. So six-seven, is that even . . . is that power forward?
Jonathan: Yeah, power forward.
Dr. Chan: Okay. They call up the forward now, right?
Dr. Chan: That's the lingo.
Dr. Chan: So, what was your best game?
Jonathan: Oh, man. I did play the whole ton. I was a walk-on. I didn't play . . . So I guess if we want to go by the stats . . .
Dr. Chan: So let's talk about this. You're on the bench. Are you like, "Coach, put me in, put me in"? Or are you rooting for blowouts so that way you get in? What's the mentality?
Jonathan: The mentality is like I hope we can all crush this team so I can go out there.
Dr. Chan: I'll say this, you nod. Or that your team gets crushed, is being crushed, then you get in? Or is it more likely for you to go in if you're the crusher or the crushee?
Jonathan: Much more likely if we're the crusher. I don't know if I got in too much for getting crushed. Not often. Sometimes, but not often.
Dr. Chan: So what's the definition of crushed? Up by 20 points?
Jonathan: Twenty, yeah. Well, it depends on what point in the game too. So, if you're up 20 with 5 minutes to go, I'd say you're probably sitting pretty good.
Dr. Chan: And when you go out there, is it like you're having fun because the game's been decided, or you're just nervous you're going to screw up, or you're like, "Oh, I hope I really impress someone and they give me some more minutes"? What's the mentality?
Jonathan: Once you're out there is this, obviously, it's a very intense environment and you are expected to do well. I wish I could say you're going out there super loose, but you're not. You're engaged and you really do want to do well out there, but . . . I don't know. At the same time, you don't get to do this much and you're really trying to just cherish that.
Dr. Chan: Because the game is not really on the line.
Jonathan: No. There's a lot less pressure, but at the same, it's exciting, I guess, is what it is. It's a lot of rush of adrenaline and you do, when you first get out there, take a second and just breathe.
Dr. Chan: So what is your best game?
Jonathan: Oh, man.
Dr. Chan: Can I say it? Was it considered garbage points?
Jonathan: Yeah. It was total garbage points. I would say probably . . . Oh, man. Probably Colorado State I think was visiting us. Actually, yeah, I think it was . . . No. It wasn't our senior tonight. It was not, although I missed a tip dunk in that one. I was super upset about our senior night.
Dr. Chan: So that's where they try to get all the seniors in.
Jonathan: Yeah. Exactly. I think it was my senior year and Colorado State came in. I had a few out a few buckets and I had a couple blocks. Yeah, it was pretty good game.
Dr. Chan: Some dunks?
Jonathan: I never dunked, not in a college game. Like I said, I had one when TCU visited for senior night I should have put away, but just got away from me.
Dr. Chan: Jack up any three-pointers or that would send you back to the bench?
Jonathan: No, I'd get send back to the bench. I would get a lot of weird looks if I did that. That was not my game.
Dr. Chan: And while you were on the team, beat BYU or . . .
Jonathan: We did. Yeah. So we were in the same conference at that point. We were in the Mountain West, and so I think we split . . . My senior we split home and away, so we won here. They won there because they never lost at their home at that time.
Dr. Chan: Was at the most kinetic energy in the stands?
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. It gets rocking there and that was when Jimmer was still there. Yeah, it got rocking in there. That place got rocking for sure.
Dr. Chan: To the point where you were feeling the bench move, feeling . . .
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. The floor shaking. You cannot hear across the court. It gets loud Although I would say not the loudest place I played, but it gets a lot in there.
Dr. Chan: What's the loudest place that you played?
Jonathan: Probably The Pit in New Mexico.
Dr. Chan: Oh, wow. That's infamous.
Jonathan: Yeah. Apparently, they've changed the stadium now, but in the day they packed 17,000 in there and it's not a very big gym and it would get rocking in there. So that's it.
Dr. Chan: Well, Jonathan, I appreciate you coming in. We'll have to do this again, especially as we lead up to Match Day.
Jonathan: Absolutely. I'd be happy to.
Dr. Chan: It will be fantastic. Thank you.
Jonathan: Yeah. I'm very excited.
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,o, 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