Skip to main content

You are listening to Talking U & Med Student Life:

Episode 132 – Garrett, first year medical student at University of Utah School of Medicine

Oct 09, 2019

"I served an LDS mission in Africa and I kind of saw more of a lack of healthcare than I've seen in the U.S. and that sort of solidified the idea that I wanted to go into medicine and help people." Growing up on a small farm in Duchesne, Garrett knew he had a love for science. It was until he served an LDS mission in Africa and witnessed a real lack in healthcare that he thought of becoming a doctor. Today we discuss Garrett's experiences overseas, growing up in a small community, the benefits of building relationships with your premedical advisor and other premedical students, studying for the MCAT with a busy schedule, and finally, choosing an MD program from multiple acceptance offers.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Chan: How does someone from a small farm in Duchesne end up in medical school? How does the mission to Zimbabwe inspire a future doctor? How does one study for the MCAT while maintaining a busy schedule, and how do you choose which MD program with multiple acceptance offers on the table? Today on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life," I interview Garret, 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 great guest today, Garrett.

Garrett: It's good to be here.

Dr. Chan: Welcome. You're about to start school soon.

Garrett: Yeah, in a few weeks.

Dr. Chan: How's it feel?

Garrett: It feels good. I'm excited for it.

Dr. Chan: Nervous at all?

Garrett: A little bit, but I think that it's good nerves and it's more excitement than anything.

Dr. Chan: Cool. All right, let's go back in time. I love to jump in time. Time machine. When did you start thinking about going to medical school or becoming a doctor?

Garrett: I guess first I started kind of contemplating the idea was maybe in high school, and then I served at LDS mission in Africa and I kind of saw, I don't know, a little more of a lack of health care there than anywhere I've seen here in the U.S. And so that, I don't know, that sort of solidified the idea that I want to go into medicine and help people like that. And I don't know, it's really been kind of a build-up quite a few years of different activities.

Dr. Chan: So you said high school. Where'd you grow up?

Garrett: Duchesne, Utah.

Dr. Chan: All right. So how big is Duchesne and where is Duchesne?

Garrett: Duchesne is about two and a half hours east of Salt Lake City. It's a pretty small place. I think my graduating class had under 60 people in it. And then I think the whole town itself was like 1,500 people.

Dr. Chan: So how was it growing up in Duchesne?

Garrett: It was good. I really enjoyed it. I mean if you like outdoors stuff, which I do, then it's a good place because there's not really a city to speak of so it's easy to get out and do things. But it's certainly a lot different than, I don't know, being kind of in a bigger city.

Dr. Chan: Did you grow up on a farm or a ranch?

Garrett: Kind of. I mean, I like to say it's not a farm, but it was. We had cows and chickens and horses.

Dr. Chan: All right. So like growing up, you know, milking the cows and get the chickens?

Garrett: Actually, yeah. So I think from when I was the age, my dad probably started having me doing when I was around like 5 or 6. We'd get up, but before school probably like 6:00 in the morning and have to milk our family cow until I was 12.

Dr. Chan: Wow. Driving the tractor by the time you're eight.

Garrett: Not really. My dad he's . . .

Dr. Chan: Don't worry. Nobody is listening to this from the DOV.

Garrett: So it was good though. I mean, I hated milking the cow, I'm not going to lie. When I was young, I didn't like it, but that is an experience for sure.

Dr. Chan: Was this like, did your family, was this to sell or was this just sustain your family or a little bit of both?

Garrett: The milk we would actually drink, and then normally my dad would get a few calves and we would kind of raise them and then sell those. So yes, a little bit of both.

Dr. Chan: Why did you hate milking the cows?

Garrett: Oh, I don't know. Anyone that's ever done it. I mean I guess there's a reason I don't.

Dr. Chan: I did it at Wheeler farm for like five minutes before they shooed us away.

Garrett: That's not too bad I guess.

Dr. Chan: That's how most of us Salt Lake City kids get introduced to farm life is Wheeler Farm. Have you been to Wheeler Farm?

Garrett: I haven't.

Dr. Chan: Okay. It's probably, you would probably think it's a joke, but like honestly that's what, oh, let's go to Wheeler Farm and see what farm life is like. You've heard this before, right? Have you heard of Wheeler Farm?

Garrett: I've heard the name, but I don't know anything about it.

Dr. Chan: All right. Well, but maybe after your first year of med school, like we'll do a trip out to Wheeler Farm again. We can get commentary from you about what we see. All right. So growing up on the farm in Duchesne, did you have a connection with like your local doctor, or is there any events in your childhood where you got sick or ill or maybe your siblings or anything or they kind of, you were kind of intersected with the health care system?

Garrett: Yeah, so I mean honestly I think the only time as a child, well, even up until, I mean a teenager, the only time I ever remember going to the doctor was once for an ear infection when I was younger. We never had checkups or anything. Distance was a little bit of a challenge there. It was kind of a drive to go out, and then there's a little bit different of the, I guess a culture in a lot of rural communities where you don't typically go to doctor appointments that often. It's reserved for, I guess you could say my family reserved it for more severe things, which luckily I didn't have any, but no doctor appointments, they weren't a common occurrence at all.

Dr. Chan: Okay. And then high school, there's 60 of you per class. And then, I mean, where did that idea come from then to be a doctor? You just, like you said, it kind of started that time. Is it like a show you watched or something you read?

Garrett: Well, I mean, mostly that kind of just debating, just trying to figure out I'm going to go to college soon, what I want to go into. And I was always very interested in science, and I liked all physiology classes and stuff I did. So I was interested in it, but I wasn't like set on it at that point. And then I think I started debating a little bit more seriously when I got out on my mission.

Dr. Chan: So you went right from high school to mission?

Garrett: I had about six months before I went, so it's pretty quick.

Dr. Chan: Okay. And then you said Africa, where in Africa?

Garrett: Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Dr. Chan: All right. So you go from Duchesne to Zimbabwe. How was that jump?

Garrett: It was big. I guess, I mean coming from Duchesne maybe it wasn't as big of a jump as if I was from a more urban area, but it's just a different culture. It's a different experience. There's, I don't know, you see things there as far as poverty goes that you don't, I think being in the U.S. you don't really understand it. You can see it on TV and stuff, but it doesn't really hit you until you go there. And I mean, it was a great experience. I think it was really eye-opening.

Dr. Chan: They speak English there, right, or did you learn another language?

Garrett: They speak English. Zimbabwe wasn't as good with English. So typically, at least in Zimbabwe, it was really only the people about my age that could speak English well. The younger kids and the older adults didn't really speak it. So I learned a little bit of the language.

Dr. Chan: What's it called?

Garrett: Shona.

Dr. Chan: Shona.

Garrett: That's Zimbabwe. And then in South Africa, South Africa has like 11 official languages. They have a lot, but I learned a little bit of Xhosa and Afrikaans. And Xhosa is actually like a clicking language.

Dr. Chan: Because I just noticed you clicked.

Garrett: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Wow. That was very subtle yet professional. I love it.

Garrett: But it's cool.

Dr. Chan: So how many languages did you end up learning?

Garrett: I'm not fluent in any of them. I mean I could get by on them, but a little bit of three. Like I couldn't carry a very detailed conversation with someone, but kind of the basics.

Dr. Chan: Wow. So you go from your high school and then you worked for a few months before you left for your mission. Like what'd you do for work?

Garrett: Construction.

Dr. Chan: Construction. And then you go out on your mission. Sounds like a great experience. Zimbabwe, South Africa. For two years?

Garrett: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: And were you able to do any type of health care-related experience on your mission? Because I know some missionaries, they get to volunteer at hospitals at times or do translation. I don't know if that was something you did.

Garrett: Yeah, so we did a little bit. We did a lot of humanitarian stuff. That was one of the big things there is kind of we did a lot of stuff that's in orphanages, bring people food and then school supplies and other things. We did do some stuff with kind of like, I guess you'd call it, hospice type of things for some older individuals who did some volunteer work at those places. But I mean for the most part, there's not much of a medical presence in Africa. It's very limited. You'd have to get to a bigger city there for there really to be a hospital. And even then a lot of the individuals there, if they wanted to go, they couldn't. Financially it would be a struggle. So it was kind of interesting.

Dr. Chan: Do you feel on your mission that you were able to think about your future in health care, or were you just so focused on the work and everything else that was going on?

Garrett: No, I was able to think about it. I mean one of the things that I guess really pulled me towards wanting to do medicine is we had an older lady, she's probably in her 80s that we were teaching. And I thought it was so cool, and I was there because she was telling us that she had a heart condition and I mean in Africa, that's something you're not going to be able to fix. But there was a group of volunteer doctors from the U.S. that she was able to get on lists with them where she's able to get the operation that she needed to save her life. And so I thought it was such a cool thing kind of seeing the difference that those doctors are able to make in her life and countless other people. So that was one of the bigger things there I think that hit me how big of an impact you can have in medicine. And then it's something that I really would like to do.

Dr. Chan: That's awesome. Any other cool stories? I mean you probably have so many stories.

Garrett: Yeah. So one of the cooler like volunteer experiences we did was an orphanage. And this is, I mean there were probably like 40, 50 kids there and 2 people trying to take care of them. It was in Zimbabwe, and we were able to go there and it's kind of crazy to see how many kids are in this small building.

Dr. Chan: How old were the kids? Are these like newborns?

Garrett: From the age of probably like 4 or 5 up to 18. So there was a range of them. Most of them were younger. I think most of them were around like 10 or 8. And looking at the conditions they lived in, I mean, I don't know if they had beds. I don't think they did. We went into the building they stayed in and it was small. Like everyone was sleeping on the floor. They didn't really have water, running water. They didn't have electricity. It was rough. It was rough to see that. And so we were able to go there and we were able to bring in a lot of like food and different supplies, bedding. We brought in lots of school supplies, which was something they had a hard time getting. And so it's such a rewarding experience to do that. And then it was kind of eye-opening to see the suffering that people go through, but at the same time they're happy. I think that was one of the big things.

Dr. Chan: Did you get to teach them at all? Like English?

Garrett: They knew it. The kids in that orphanage knew it. Some of them knew it fairly well. We didn't do much with teaching. We're mostly there just for humanitarian stuff because it was a ways out of I guess our area that we were typically in. I guess some other story just thought of that was, I mean it was one of the of tougher things be told. At the time I was a 19, 18-year-old or 19, 20-year-old kid and we had . . . this actually happened a few times over. We'd be meeting with a lady and she kind of start breaking down crying to us and telling us how she'd been raped or had AIDS and got AIDS from it. Like that was a very tough, that happened multiple times. It was a very tough thing to hear, and you don't really know how to handle that. So I guess that was a . . .

Dr. Chan: The MTC doesn't really give training on that.

Garrett: No, they don't.

Dr. Chan: That's not like something you just learn in the field. Like how do you talk to people with really severe abuse or diagnoses or have had really bad things happen to them?

Garrett: No, I think it was a good learning experience for me to kind of be put in some little situations. And I mean, I'm not too qualified to help someone like that, but I think what little you can do, especially for someone in that situation they do feel a little like you're saying, abandoned, it helps a lot.

Dr. Chan: I think that there's a power in listening, but at a certain point in time, people need to feel that there are actions behind the listening. Let's pivot now. All right. So I think you have a decision to make. You're coming off of your mission and you're thinking about becoming a doctor. Where did you decide to go to school for undergrad?

Garrett: Utah Valley University.

Dr. Chan: Okay. How does someone from Duchesne end up at Utah Valley? How'd you make that choice?

Garrett: I had two siblings, two or three siblings I think that had went there. And so that was, I guess, one of the bigger reasons and I don't know. Okay.

Dr. Chan: All right. Where do most people from Duchesne . . . isn't there a Utah State Eastern campus nearby?

Garrett: There's one in Roosevelt, which is, I don't know, it's like a 40-minute drive or so.

Dr. Chan: Okay, so that one's the closest.

Garrett: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: And do you feel most people in Duchesne go to that one, or do most people go to like the U or UVU?

Garrett: Kind of depends. Most people in my class, it seemed like they went somewhere in Southern Utah. In fact, I think there's not many people in the class. It's 50 people but only like maybe two or three of them that I know of went to Utah Valley.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So, but it sounds like you have a family legacy, a family history of going to Utah Valley or just a familiarity.

Garrett: Yeah, more of a familiarity.

Dr. Chan: So you get to Utah State, and then what did you do at Utah State to prepare?

Garrett: Utah Valley.

Dr. Chan: Excuse me, Utah Valley. What did you do to prepare yourself in Utah Valley to apply to med school? What were your . . .

Garrett: So I think one of the big things, especially starting out is you need to meet with an advisor, like a premed advisor, because starting out an undergraduate, especially if you don't come from a family that's been in medicine, you don't really know what to do. You don't know much about the admissions process, you don't know what activities will be beneficial to you, and so I think that's a really big thing. And then for me, I had the idea that I wanted to go into medicine, but I didn't really know what the field itself is like to work in, what it's like to be around patients. And so I wanted to start volunteering with the hospital, which is something I did.

Dr. Chan: So is this at Utah Valley Regional or Mount Timpanogos?

Garrett: Yeah. [Southern 00:14:52] Utah Valley.

Dr. Chan: Okay. All right. And what kinds of things were you doing there?

Garrett: So the first like month or two, they had me at information desk. I think that was kind of their procedures. You'd spend a month or two there. And then after that, I was volunteering in the ER for like a year.

Dr. Chan: Cool. So were you like stocking shelves, or were you triaging patients or what was going on? Were you drawing blood or . . . Yeah.

Garrett: No drawing blood. We did quite a few different things. We would do some stuff with stocking shelves. Probably the bigger thing we would do is transport patients. So we would take people to get CT scans or MRIs. Sometimes we could help the nurses and staff lift the patient onto the like the CT machine. Some other things like that. And then just generally you would interact with patients a lot, and so our goal was to try to make sure they're comfortable and see if they needed anything.

Dr. Chan: And then during this time you're also studying for this test called the MCAT. How did you do that? How'd you kind of balance everything?

Garrett: That's a good question. I don't know. I think I started studying in advance. And then for me, one of the biggest things was if I learn what's in my classes very well and I learn kind of with the mindset that I'm going to remember it, that will be a lot better than just trying to cram things in towards the end. And so that was one of my biggest things is I approached my education with the mindset of I want to learn this to remember it and retain the information. I think that helped a lot. I did buy some like study or MCAT prep stuff and I went over that.

Dr. Chan: Were you working during school?

Garrett: A little bit. It's kind of on and off depending on what ended on the year.

Dr. Chan: So I get the sense of full class load during these experiences to get ready for med school. Also studying for MCAT. Socially, what was going on?

Garrett: I don't know.

Dr. Chan: Did you meet your wife during this time?

Garrett: Yeah, so dating, I do stuff with friends. I actually like playing basketball, going to the gym. So that was a big thing. That's kind of a big stress relief for me. And so a lot of evenings I'd go and spend an hour or something at the gym, play basketball.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So I went, what I'm trying to paint as a picture is like you had a very, very busy, full life, full schedule.

Garrett: Yeah, I did. I did, but I think at the same time it's if you replace some of the less valuable things we do. I mean I know a lot of people, we spend a lot of time watching TV or something every night. If you kind of replace that.

Dr. Chan: Netflix. But binging, yeah, I'm back on that train.

Garrett: Yeah. So my goal with a lot of that was just replace some of those things with things that are actually more valuable to me, and I think by doing that, it didn't feel as busy.

Dr. Chan: Excellent. And how did it feel because I imagine you got to know other premeds. How did you get through that? Like you're kind of in this intense premed environment. Did you feel as like a competition, or is it more cooperative?

Garrett: No, I felt like it was cooperative. We would talk with each other and kind of get others' opinions on what they were doing and what was helping them. It's like with MCAT stuff, I talked a lot about what you're doing to study for that and what do you find helpful? And I think it was really advantageous to talk to people that were maybe a year or two ahead of me, because I mean they're getting a little bit closer to it and they've maybe had a little more experience with what worked and didn't work for them. And so I think in general it was very cooperative and almost trying to like . . .

Dr. Chan: That's good. Good. And it sounded like you, did you form a good relationship with like an advisor or a premed advisor to kind of coach you through the process or kind of help steer you, guide you?

Garrett: Yeah, I did. I wish I would have done it a little earlier honestly. I think, looking back on it, that's a very valuable thing is to go and talk with them and then meet with them regularly because they can give some good pointings and the premed advisor at UVU is very good at that.

Dr. Chan: All right. And who, which one at UV did your work with?

Garrett: Kristen.

Dr. Chan: Kristen Anderson?

Garrett: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Excellent, excellent. And okay, so this, it's time to start applying. Like what kinds of schools did you kind of look at and like help us kind of understand your decision-making process.

Garrett: So probably the first thing I did was narrowed down what schools are kind of within or I'll be competitive in. And you do throw in some schools that are a little bit more of a reach and some more safety net ones. So that was the first thing that narrows it down. And then, from there, I looked a lot into bring up information about the schools and see which ones sounded good to me, which ones are in areas that I'd like to live in for years because four years is a long time. You don't want to hate where you're at. Yes. I think mainly it's just learning more about the program, their curriculum, what they do and if it seems like a good fit for you.

Dr. Chan: Okay. And then how many did you apply to?

Garrett: I think I applied to somewhere it's like 15 or 18, somewhere in that range.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Then what kind of response did you get if you don't mind sharing?

Garrett: Sure. Pretty good. I think I got accepted into, was it three or four of them up to the point that I got into here and then I interviewed at or had interviews at I'm trying to remember here like six or seven.

Dr. Chan: That's pretty good. What I tell people is you can kind of judge your overall strength of an application. Again, like an applicant is only as strong as their application. So if you send out 18 applications and you get 7 interviews, that's really good. So, but if you send out 18 applications and you only get one interview back, then, you know, that that's not as good. Because like when you think about it, like, you know, then if you have seven interviews, statistically you're going to get into one or two schools as opposed to like, oh, you only have one interview. Like then that puts all your eggs in one basket so it makes it harder. So how did it feel to interview at all these different places and feel kind of the love?

Garrett: It was a good experience. I really enjoyed it, and I kind of got to see how their schools are different. They have a different atmosphere to them. You don't really know that when you're just looking at a school on paper, you really have to go there.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. Everyone seems to have similar websites. We go and look and everyone has like happy people and nice buildings and people looking very serious in lectures, you know, like those pictures are everywhere on these like med schools.

Garrett: Yeah. Yeah. So it was good there. I thought it was really valuable to get to interact with some of the students when we were there. You kind of see, I think if you can tell how happy someone is pretty easily when they're talking about the place, especially if they're a student there. So that was valuable. And then when you do go to the interviews, you get a better idea of how they do things and if it feels right for you.

Dr. Chan: Did you have like a system in place where like you go interview and then, you know, interact with the students and you would come home and like throw it in a spreadsheet or talk to your wife or again, how'd you kind of organize those different experiences?

Garrett: So I talked to my wife a lot about it, because I mean she was a big part of this decision too. So we'd go over that, and then I didn't really write things down, put it in like a sheet, but I did reflect on it a lot. And I'd look up a little bit more about the school. That was something I do after I went there. If there was something that they talked about that I thought was interesting or I was a little bit hesitant on, I'd do a little more research on that.

Dr. Chan: So you got into a number of schools and then you got the phone call from me. I think this is later, right? Like we're talking March, April somewhere. So was it a slam dunk you wanted to stay in Utah, or did that create a crisis?

Garrett: No, it was. I wanted to stay here. I really liked the U. I started working here I think in September, sometime around then. I love being an employee of the U. I've always been a fan of the U.

Dr. Chan: So it was a no-brainer.

Garrett: It was a no-brainer. Like the interview day that I came here, you guys, I think you have, there's an amazing program here.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. What attracted you to the program? I mean, you talked about the culture, atmosphere. What did you experience or what did you feel?

Garrett: I feel like, I mean everyone had, first of all, it was a good atmosphere like you were saying here. Talking with the students, talking with the people that work here, with you because we had spoken in the interview day, everyone seemed excited about it, so that was big. I liked that there's a variety of different programs here. There's a lot of different options. You can choose all the different interest groups you can get involved with, and I feel like there's a lot of guidance on kind of getting you to where you want to go.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Awesome. And then when we talked about the new rural program briefly, but do you hope to do like a rotation back out in Duchesne?

Garrett: Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Or do you hope to practice there one day looking at more globally?

Garrett: Yeah. I mean for sure. I've definitely thought about that a lot, and I think it'd be cool to go back to an area like that. I don't know if Duchesne itself, I don't know if you could practice there.

Dr. Chan: Is your family still there?

Garrett: Yes. Yeah. Most of them are. It would be cool to definitely go back to a rural area, and I think that's something that I want to do. I think it'd be good to give back a little bit to those communities.

Dr. Chan: Because if you go back to Duchesne, you can tell your family like these are surgeon hands and I'm going to still milk the same cow, right?

Garrett: That's right.

Dr. Chan: These will cost a lot more because these are surgeon hands.

Garrett: I got to charge them more to do it.

Dr. Chan: The milk is going to taste like 13% better. Awesome. So yeah, like, you know, again, like, what does the future hold for you? I mean, I'm not going to hold you to this, but like as of today, Garrett, you know, a few weeks before school starts, what kind of field are you interested in? What kind of doctor do you see yourself being? I know that might change. It probably will change.

Garrett: So, yeah. So right now, I'm leaning a lot towards some type of surgery, and it's hard to really narrow it down specifically to one thing, right now. It's like you're saying, it's probably going to change. Right now I'm thinking orthopedics, but we'll see what happens with that. I want to be very open-minded going into it. I've talked to quite a few doctors about this, and they say that a lot of them say that, well, you'll have an idea going in that might change a lot.

Dr. Chan: Probably that's the whole goal of med school. It's like trying to pick a major, you know, we expose you to the different fields and eventually, you'll pick one. I want to go back to like working for the U. What do you do for the U and how'd you find that job? I think I noticed more and more I talked to people, they're like, "Oh, I would love to work for the U." I mean, how'd you pull this off?

Garrett: Yeah. So I wanted to do research. And so, I mean, the U has got a pretty streamlined application system for that. And so I just applied for a bunch of different labs here and I got into one. I think I got very lucky with what I got into because my boss is amazing. She's helped me so much on kind of getting or diving into the whole research world better and get their understanding of how everything works. And so it's been good. We've been studying mainly for the last or the first I think eight or nine months I was working there as on cystic fibrosis, and now we're starting to go a little bit more into colon cancer for just the last few weeks.

Dr. Chan: So when you applied for the job, it was just a research assistant position.

Garrett: It was for research technician.

Dr. Chan: Research technician. And then did you like have to say, oh, I'm interested in lung diseases, or was that not like important to you and you just wanted to kind of get a research experience? Do you see what I'm saying?

Garrett: Yeah. So it was when I'd go in for the interviews. When you're applying, you don't really know a whole lot about what they're doing, but going in for the interviews, I had a few different interviews here. They would all kind of dive a little bit more into what they were doing, and it was definitely important. I mean I wanted to research something that I thought would be relevant to what I like, and I am really happy with what I got.

Dr. Chan: And were you pretty upfront and say, hey, you know, I want to go to med school and I'm kind of looking for a position that would help look good on a med school application but teach me important skills.

Garrett: Yeah. Yeah. So I was clear with that and what my plans were.

Dr. Chan: And then did they come back and say, "Oh Garrett, we've had 10 people get into med school from this lab over the past." Did they give you like some sort of a statistic trying to sell them for you to join them? I'm just curious. It sounds like a mutually beneficial process.

Garrett: Yeah. I mean, most of them would mention a little bit on how they've helped other students, whether it was medical school or similar health program.

Dr. Chan: But if they told you like, Garret, we have never had anyone ever go to med school from this program, that would probably give you pause, right?

Garrett: Yeah, that would. It'd be a little more like, oh, I should probably find a different lab to go to.

Dr. Chan: What does a research technician do in this lab? What does your typical day look like?

Garrett: So like I said, I think I got pretty lucky with the lab I got put in because my boss at the time did not have any postdoc or anyone. And so she sort of let me fulfill a little bit more of that role where I had a lot more freedom in what I did. And for example, we just submitted, I've got a first authorship paper that we just submitted a few weeks ago, which is awesome. So I've done a big variety of things. When I first started out, the paper we were working on didn't really have much data on it, so I took that from start to finish. The main thing that we study there is the epithelial sodium channel. That's kind of . . .

Dr. Chan: I'm going to nod like I remember what you're talking about. Keep on going.

Garrett: Yeah. So that was a main thing. So I do a lot of electrophysiology stuff. So I've got to do electrophysiology, you know, histochemistry, flow cytometry, a lot of different things.

Dr. Chan: So you're playing with like the circuits and flooding, electricity and measuring outcomes.

Garrett: A little bit. It's actually really cool. A single channel patch-clamp analysis is the big thing, and it's awesome I got to learn it because it's a very specialized thing. And basically what you do is you take the glass electrode that the tip of it's hollow on the inside. It's the tip of, it's only about the size of the bacteria, a couple of microns. Under a microscope, you lower that down on a cell and you suck up a little bit of the membrane in it and you've got some electrical equipment attached to it. It's sensitive enough that it can measure individual ion channels opening and closing. So it's very cool. You can see what's happening on this kind of like individual atom basis when they're going through. And so you can get a lot of information on that. We do drug treatments so you can get a baseline recording of how active that channel is. You'll do a drug treatment and then measure that activity after the treatment.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. And this is all in the realm of wanting to treat cystic fibrosis. So this has like pharmacological implications?

Garrett: Yeah, it does because cystic fibrosis is an ion channel disease. It's the chloride channel specifically that doesn't work in cystic fibrosis, and for some reason, I don't necessarily know why, but the sodium channel is in the lung as well is hyperactive.

Dr. Chan: That's where the secretions come from.

Garrett: Yeah, yeah. And the water follows the salt, follows the ions. And so when you have issues with ion transport, it then causes issues with kind of the mucous layer in the lungs. And so the idea behind it is if you can fix transport, either you can get chloride transport to work again or you can decrease sodium transport, then you can get the lungs or the airways a little more hydrated.

Dr. Chan: Awesome.

Garrett: Yeah, it was cool. It's awesome. I like research.

Dr. Chan: Wow. Garrett, I'm so excited to hear. So I'm just thinking about like where you came from, growing up in Duchesne, serving your mission in Africa and now back here for the medical school. It's quite a journey. So last question, what advice would you give someone who's thinking about going to med school? What would you say to them? If you can go back in time, what would you tell yourself back in, you know, your high school days?

Garrett: Yeah. So I think I'd tell myself to talk to other people that are going through it or have done it and take it serious, well, with the advice they give you. I mean, you've got to figure things out on your own to a degree, but I think getting that guidance is extremely helpful. Particularly for me, the background I come from, no one in my family did medicine. If you come from a family that's a little bit more involved, you have maybe a parent that's a physician that can help you a lot. I didn't have that. So I really had to rely upon other people a lot, and I think that if you want to succeed really in anything, you've got to be willing to learn from others and take criticism, but yeah.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Well, awesome, Garrett. I appreciate you coming on the pod, and we'll stay in touch. I want to have you come back and kind of hear how your journey kind of changes as you go through medical school.

Garrett: Yeah, that'd be awesome. Thanks for inviting me.

Dr. Chan: All right.

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