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Episode 133 – Annabah

Oct 23, 2019

"It was really fulfilling being able to create products that I knew were going to better people’s lives, but it didn’t feel as real without seeing their actual impact and seeing the people it was helping day to day." Annabah's family experienced a lot of health related issues during her teen years. Spending time in and out of the clinics allowed her to grow respect and appreciation for doctors and the health care industry. It wasn't until after achieving her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and working in the field that she realized she wanted to practice medicine. Today we talk about the pivot in career choice, what it is like to move away from Utah for the first time to attend Stanford university, volunteer time in "street medicine and how that led to a term with Americorps, and finally, preparing to apply to medical school.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Chan: What is it like to tear your Achilles tendon, have a sister diagnosed with epilepsy and your mom diagnosed with breast cancer all within a year? What's it like to move out to Utah for the first time to attend Stanford University? How does one go from a passion for chemical engineering to wanting to practice medicine? And how does a volunteer experience in street medicine lead to serving a term with AmeriCorps? Today on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life" I interview Annabah, 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: So welcome to another edition of "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life." I have a great incoming student, Annabah. Am I saying your name right?

Annabah: Yes, you are.

Dr. Chan: Who will start school here very shortly and I'm really glad you're here. We were just talking, before I turned on the pod, about you're doing some last-minute vacations, but let's go back in time. Time machine with Dr. Chan. So you grew up in Utah. When did you make the decision to go to medical school? Was that like an event that happened when you were little, or was it a little bit later on in your career? What helped to nudge you to that decision?

Annabah: There have been I think a lot of little moments in my life that have led me toward medicine, but I wouldn't say that I had that entire clarity until after I had graduated from undergrad. But I had some health events happen throughout my life and especially through high school that really opened my eyes to the power of medicine. I tore my Achilles when I was 16 playing soccer. My sister was diagnosed with epilepsy and my mom had breast cancer. All kind of within the span of a year, all of these things happened. So we were in and out of hospitals and clinics pretty regularly, and I felt like the doctors that were involved in those areas of my life had been so healing and powerful in ways beyond just treating the person.

Dr. Chan: And you grew up in Sandy, right?

Annabah: I grew up in Sandy.

Dr. Chan: And then where'd you go to school?

Annabah: I went to Juan Diego for high school.

Dr. Chan: Tell me about Juan Diego.

Annabah: Juan Diego.

Dr. Chan: It's a newer school because I grew up in Utah too, and I remember like they were building Juan Diego but it didn't exist yet.

Annabah: Yes. So Juan Diego is the newer Catholic school of the Salt Lake Valley, and I really enjoyed that going to Juan Diego.

Dr. Chan: As a counter proposal to Judge.

Annabah: Exactly. There was a huge rivalry.

Dr. Chan: To make more Sandy.

Annabah: Yes, exactly. Because Sandy needed a rival. We needed some action down there.

Dr. Chan: It's like Judge but with Sandy flair.

Annabah: Exactly. Exactly. But I really enjoyed going to Juan Diego. I actually attended Catholic school my entire life, so got to wear uniforms, which actually removed a lot of stress from the day to day.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, that's what I've heard.

Annabah: But I am glad that I went there. I connected with a lot of my teachers, and my teachers really pushed me. I can think of a handful that actually encouraged me to apply to the schools that I applied to when I didn't intend to do that in the first place and just imparted a lot of wisdom with regard to the educational aspects that were influenced in their programming and elsewhere.

Dr. Chan: And I don't know too much about Catholic schools, but catechism . . . like how much religious education was built into the curriculum?

Annabah: We had a religion class every year, and that was part of the required curriculum is you were required to take a religion course and each religion course kind of focused on different things year by year. So it wasn't like you were being taught the same thing over and over again. And it was definitely, I think they did a good job of catering it to the age you were at too.

One of our religion classes was my junior year of high school in ethics and morality class, which I thought was interesting because they were able to pose, I guess they were like case studies of moral issues in society and what that would look like if you were looking at it from a Catholic lens and then also just what we thought about it in general. And they didn't do anything to shame or condemn us for having different beliefs. So I thought it was a really nice open environment, and I really valued that.

Dr. Chan: Cool. How many in your graduating class? I mean how many students were at Juan Diego? Because I think it's grown over time.

Annabah: I think it has too. I think there were around 200 in my graduating class. We were 3A at the time, so midsized school.

Dr. Chan: Not all of them were Catholic, right?

Annabah: No.

Dr. Chan: I mean, like half would you say or is it tough to say?

Annabah: That is really hard to say because I know that we had people from different religious backgrounds, people who didn't practice religion at all. The only thing that really unified us is that we all took religion classes and . . .

Dr. Chan: And wore the uniform.

Annabah: And wore the uniform, yeah. Uniform unity.

Dr. Chan: All right. So I was teasing you before we turned on the pod too because you went to an awesome university.

Annabah: It's true.

Dr. Chan: So like walk us through that. Like, how many schools did you apply to? It sounds like Juan Diego really encourages to, you know, cast a wide net. And then how'd you get in? So yeah.

Annabah: Oh my gosh. Luck of the draw. Well, I applied to about 10 schools. The school that I went to, Stanford was . . .

Dr. Chan: Stanford.

Annabah Stanford University.

Dr. Chan: We call it the S bomb.

Annabah: Yes, I know. I am always afraid to rip off the Band-Aid.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. So people know, like I went to Stanford as well, and you know, someone that went to Stanford, but people are like, "Oh, where'd you go to undergrad?" And like they kind of coach you at Stanford and just kind of vague like, "Oh, I went to undergrad in California, in the Bay Area."

Annabah: In the Bay Area, Palo Alto.

Dr. Chan: But then they really drill down like, "Oh, where'd you go to? Stanford?" Yeah.

Annabah: And then once you say it, there's a lot of, oh. No, but I applied to, it must've been 10 schools coming out of high school. Stanford was my reach school, and I actually didn't intend to apply to Stanford at all. I thankfully had some really good teachers that pushed me beyond what I was applying to already, and I'm really grateful for that.

How did I get in? I just tried to be honest on paper. Especially in my personal statement, I think, you know, you have an opportunity to write about whatever you want and the compilation of your experiences, so I just did my best to do that. And outside of school I tried to study really hard and stayed involved in activities that kept me interested. I love playing soccer. Soccer was my life, and so I talked a lot about that.

Dr. Chan: Did you play for Stanford?

Annabah: I did not play for Stanford. I wish I played for Stanford.

Dr. Chan: You can claim right now because I don't have the internet in front of me so I can't confirm. You can just tell me you scored 10 goals a few years ago.

Annabah: I wish I did. I did play for the club team at Stanford. So we still got to travel and do fun things like that. But it was not Stanford varsity soccer. My best friend played. We were actually roommates. We were matched to be roommates, and she played varsity soccer.

Dr. Chan: So how was it jumping from living in Salt Lake City to the Bay Area? Was that pretty smooth or was it kind of a culture shock or . . .

Annabah: So that was my first time ever living out of the state of Utah. I've lived in Sandy my entire life. I wouldn't say that it was culture shock. So my mom is a 100% Navajo, so I've had experiences going down to the reservation and visiting with family in other cities throughout the country. So being in a new place wasn't with different ethnic backgrounds and diversity. I mean the Bay Area, it just has a wealth of diversity there, which I was really grateful for, and that wasn't shocking in any way. I think the shock was just living away from home.

Dr. Chan: Okay. Yeah. And what did you like beyond soccer club, like what did you do at Stanford? Like, how did you jump into the undergraduate experience? Because I think this is very key for later. Like, you know, people always ask like, "Oh, how'd you get into med school?" Well, you need to do a lot. I know you did a lot during your undergrad days. So what were some of the things that you did outside of class?

Annabah: Well, outside of class I played club soccer, which I really loved, and honestly in that first year I had to adjust to the Stanford course load big time. And I took chemistry and math all in the first quarter at Stanford. Stanford's on a quarter system, and that was a pretty rude awakening for me. So a lot of my time was spent just adjusting to what the new course load was being like and also club soccer. And at Stanford there are freshmen specific dorms, and I was in a freshman dorm, so a lot of the social aspects of life kind of consisted in the area that you lived. So it was kind of just getting acquainted with other people from all over the country, all over the world that were in the same dorm and playing soccer and just kind of nose to the grindstone.

Dr. Chan: I remember I was hot. I went to Skyline, and then, you know, I was pretty strong academically, took a whole bunch of AP tests, and I remember I got there and the person across the hall, like I was a national merit, like quarter, I don't know, I can't remember the exact terminology, but the person across from me in the hall, he like, he was the national merit person and he took like 30 AP tests. I was like, my high school didn't even offer that many. I was like, "Who are you?" And I just remember like my world just . . . I felt kind of rocked because all of a sudden like everyone is super smart. Everyone is like super driven, and, you know, like there's like, yeah, like there's the athletes, but they're also really great in the classroom. And then like there's the musicians and then there's like the activist, it was just like all these different people and it was like wow.

Annabah: All incredibly passionate.

Dr. Chan: And people ask me like, you know, "Oh, it was like, it was really beautiful." I was like, yeah, like, yeah, it was beautiful. It was the Bay Area. But like truth be told, when I think of Stanford, I think of like the people, like your dorm mates, your peers, the people in small groups or in classes. And to me that was like what the experience was about and just such high-quality interactions and those 3 a.m. dorm discussions about, you know, what have you, and there was just this feeling that there's so many problems facing the world and the country and that like these people, this generation, we're going to help tackle them and help solve them. And it was just that sense of like ambition and idealism on a certain level. So, yeah. I'm sorry, I digress. I don't know if that was similar to yours.

Annabah: I love it. That is exactly, you summed it up perfectly. A lot of empowerment and being able to interact with passionate people. I think it's, I don't know, it's encouraging. Also humbling too. It's a little bit of everything. So I'm grateful for, oh man, all the friends and the people that I got to interact with. Very rich experience.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. All right. So you're at Stanford, and then did you have any like health care? Where did you start shadowing doctors, or I mean, did you have any healthcare kind of intersections then that kind of solidified the medical school idea?

Annabah: So when I first went to Stanford, my thought was that I was going to go into engineering, and I did end up doing that. I graduated in chemical engineering, but at the time I knew I loved math. I took chemistry, and chemistry kicked my butt. So I wanted to come back and try and attack it a little harder, and by organic chemistry, I kind of fell in love. So I combined the two and thought chemical engineering was going to be the way to go. And it wasn't really until I think it was my senior year that I took a class offered by the Human Biology Department.

Dr. Chan: Hum bio

Annabah: Yeah. I started to say it.

Dr. Chan: Like Fro-yo. Stanford speak [inaudible 00:12:09].

Annabah: Yes. Human Biology. The Human Biology Department and it was a class that looked at social determinants of health essentially. And I took it on a whim, not really knowing what it would look like, and I was fascinated by it. And by that point, I had already declared chemical engineering and it was my senior year and it was a course that I was able to finally take because I had some more flexibility in my schedule. But it wasn't until then that I took a more health-focused course in my senior year of undergrad.

Dr. Chan: And then would you qualify yourself as nontraditional because you graduated Stanford a few years ago?

Annabah: Yes, I graduated in 2015.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. So what happened after graduation? Where did life kind of take you before you decided to start applying to med school?

Annabah: Right. Because at that point in time, I think after four years at Stanford, I was ready to start working. And so I came back to Utah after working a summer at Stanford Sierra Camp and came back here and worked at Actavis Pharmaceuticals, which is, I think you can actually see the building from . . .

Dr. Chan: It's on Research Park.

Annabah: Yeah, exactly. And so I wanted to apply my degree as best as I could. So I started off at Actavis as a, I guess it was pharmaceutical technology specialist, and we worked with the manufacturing science and technology on a large scale with these pharmaceutical products.

Dr. Chan: What, giving the medications to the poor animals?

Annabah: Oh, well, I mean . . .

Dr. Chan: Oh, boy. Here we go. The poor little bunnies.

Annabah: So because I was on the large scale side of things. So I didn't do much of the research and development. It was like R&D for the big machines, which does take a little bit of adjustment because it doesn't scale up quite the same way. So that was what I did for a year and a half after undergrad. It was my first experience in the real world, real work scenario. And I loved it. I loved being able to apply my degree.

It was fascinating to be able to tackle manufacturing, processing problems, but it just felt incomplete and I couldn't figure out why that was for a really long time. And I just realized I need to interact with people. It was great. I felt really fulfilled in being able to help create products that I knew were going to better people's lives, but it just didn't feel as real without seeing their actual impact and the people that it was helping day to day. So that was when I realized, oh man, that sounds more like medicine.

And so I actually took a biology class while I was working at Actavis just to take a bio class for the first time, and I took it at Salt Lake Community College and I loved it. I loved biology and all of the science behind life and cells. It was, I mean it's funny because I didn't take biology at all during my undergrad. I took biochem, but it was fascinating. And so I thought, man, I'm taking the prereqs for med school wouldn't be terrible.

Dr. Chan: So it sounds like you pivoted.

Annabah: I did.

Dr. Chan: You're kind of on this path, and I assume you're making good money, you've had kind of a bright future if you kind of stuck in the company. It was like, you know, climb the ladder kind of thing.

Annabah: Definitely. And I think also just being financially on my own for the first time in my life was really, really nice. And giving that up a little bit to pursue something different was, it took me a while to realize that, but ultimately I wanted a career that I was passionate about, and I felt that I was making an impact in medicine was the optimal way for me to do that.

Dr. Chan: Was it hard to go back to class? Like, I mean, you know, like once someone's been working and you're kind of used to the working lifestyle, you know, like, you know, you have your nights off, your weekends and then all of a sudden you've got to start studying and tests. Was that hard or is it, it was just kind of come back to you naturally?

Annabah: Honestly, I think if I had studied anything else, it would have been difficult but because I loved it wasn't a chore. It didn't feel like I was trying . . . I didn't feel like I had to work my way back into it.

Dr. Chan: Okay. And then did you do all your premed reqs at Salt Lake Community or did you do some at the U or where did you start going?

Annabah: So I had finished most of my prereqs from chemical engineering, which was great, but I did most of my remaining ones at Salt Lake Community College. And then I took one here at the University of Utah, because my biology instructor at Salt Lake Community College recommended I take a class from Renee Dawson. And so I took my human genetics class here, which I was really grateful that I did. Renee's been an excellent teacher.

Dr. Chan: Cool. And then you applied to a program before you came here. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Annabah: Applied to a . . .

Dr. Chan: AmeriCorps?

Annabah: Oh, AmeriCorps, yes.

Dr. Chan: So let's talk about AmeriCorps. Yeah. And how'd you get interested in that and how'd you learn about it?

Annabah: I happened upon AmeriCorps in a really roundabout way. So that same biology instructor, when I told her I was interested in applying to medical school, she gave me a lot of recommendations for things that I should do to help boost my application and just good experience to make sure that that's what I wanted to do. She recommended that I volunteer at the Fourth Street Clinic downtown and just get a lot of volunteer hours working with the homeless population. So I took her advice and went, and while I was there, I met a gentleman who was in charge of the outreach operations at the Fourth Street Clinic and we hit it off. And I had gone out on outreach a couple of times with him just to shadow and see what it was all about.

Dr. Chan: What does that mean outreach for the Fourth Street Clinic? I mean, what does that look like?

Annabah: Outreach for the Fourth Street Clinic is, I think it's one of the first applications of street medicine in Salt Lake City. I think street medicine was founded back on the East Coast, and it's a lot more popular in cities back there. But at the Fourth Street Clinic, what it looks like is they have a little van with some medical supplies and just personal hygiene supplies where you take the van, you drive it out into the community, and you go to different locations seeking out people that look like they're in need and start a conversation about health. So it's bringing care to the people as opposed to what you would see almost anywhere else.

Dr. Chan: I did my residency in D.C. I'm a psychiatrist, and one of the things that they did, that we did is kind of similar. That there's a lot of homeless individuals with severe mental illness, and they will, you know, some of them, I hate to like be too broad and stereotypical. Some of them won't go to the doctor's office or won't take their medications. And some psychiatric medications can be delivered by an injectable. So like this kind of same thing. The van kind of went around and they kind of knew where people kind of clustered and kind of like, okay, like you know, would document it. So it's, let's give you your shot, this keeps you out of the hospital. This keeps you safe. So it's kind of the same thing. Yeah, I think you're right. Like I'm not an expert on street medicine by any means, but I do think it started on the larger East Coast cities. So yeah. So you started doing that . . .

Annabah: Yes, and I fell in love with it. Just being able to meet people in their environment and talk about health care. It's a little bit less intimidating, and you can overcome some of the barriers that are in place when it comes to actually coming into a clinic and asking for help. But yeah, so I started doing that, and the gentleman that I worked with, he said, "Hey, we're looking to have someone come on, but we're looking for an AmeriCorps member to do so." So that's when I went in and researched what AmeriCorps was, because I wanted to do AmeriCorps and specifically at the Fourth Street Clinic. So I applied and the Fourth Street Clinic has pretty good relationship with the AmeriCorps center here. And so we were able to coordinate so that way I could be an AmeriCorps member volunteering on Fourth Street Clinic medical outreach.

Dr. Chan: But it's a full-time program, so you had to quit your job with Actavis, or could you do both or how would that look like?

Annabah: So I had, I stopped working at Actavis Pharmaceuticals in May of 2000, oh geez, 2017 and started taking prerequisites more regularly. And so there were a few months in that time frame where I did a bunch of different jobs and took classes, and then by November of that year, I started my AmeriCorps term.

Dr. Chan: Okay. And then I envision, I imagine you had, you ran across some of our med students and doctors because they volunteer a lot to Fourth Street Clinic. Did that help you in kind of your desire to be a doctor or, yeah.

Annabah: I mean I already, I loved being at the Fourth Street Clinic and I liked the people that I worked with. And then seeing medical students come down in their free time. It was, I mean that definitely made it a note for me to apply to the University of Utah. Absolutely. And then I spoke with a lot of the medical students, and when they had time, I'd ask them questions about their application process and everyone was really helpful. I must have a list full of names that I still have that people that were willing to help me.

Dr. Chan: So how long did you do the AmeriCorps for?

Annabah: It was a year long term. It was a full-time year long term. So it ended November of 2018.

Dr. Chan: But they paid you a little bit, right? It wasn't a strictly volunteer.

Annabah: Yeah, they give you a stipend . . .

Dr. Chan: Stipend, okay.

Annabah: . . . which is really nice.

Dr. Chan: Probably not enough.

Annabah: That's true. That's true.

Dr. Chan: All right. And then, and what changes did you see at the Fourth Street Clinic during that year?

Annabah: Oh, man.

Dr. Chan: Because I assume your responsibilities kind of grew a bit and you were doing different activities than you were doing before.

Annabah: Yeah. So I think the biggest change for me personally was . . . so when I first started working there, I was working with my partner, the guy who informed me about it. His name is Matt Pierce. He's actually, he started PA school here recently. Yeah, he's wonderful. But he started school during my AmeriCorps term, and so he stopped working in April of my AmeriCorps term. So from April to that November, I was more or less in charge of the outreach operations at the clinic. Just coordinating what sites to go to, which doctors were coming out with me or which medical assistants, EMTs were coming out with me to go provide treatment.

And we also did a little bit of, we gathered a little bit of data on, you know, who did we see, what did we treat them for, how many times did it take them to schedule an appointment or become a registered patient, how did they show up for their appointments, things like that. So we were also doing our best to kind of capture the impact of medical outreach as well.

Dr. Chan: Do you feel the need for services surged? Because there's this perception in the media that the homelessness, they're growing in Salt Lake City, and I know there's this whole political thing about them maybe spinning off different shelters or re-establishing different shelters. Did that impact the Fourth Street Clinic at all, or is that kind of not wasn't part of your wheelhouse?

Annabah: I guess I didn't necessarily see the impact. The only thing that really impacted me were when areas where people had camped were uprooted and then we couldn't find the people that we were looking for. And that was really difficult. Just another example of the barriers that are up, especially for people in the homeless population to accessing care. These homeless shelters were supposed to have been started. I haven't stayed up to date on when they're starting. But in terms of impact that it's had on the Fourth Street Clinic, it's always busy. There are always people coming in.

Dr. Chan: The demand is so high.

Annabah: It really is. It's going to be high no matter what.

Dr. Chan: Is it easier during the summer months or winter months, or is it just the same?

Annabah: It is hit or miss. It is in the summer months it's usually easier to find people. Just people are typically outside. In winter months sometimes people go away to find warmer shelter, and we don't really know where that is. Or a lot of the homeless population will move into hotel motel rooms try to make money for a night. And so in the winter, that's really popular.

Dr. Chan: With the shelters will let you in, welcome you in?

Annabah: Yeah, they did.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So you guys had a good partnership with the shelters.

Annabah: So the Weigand Center and the homeless shelter downtown is a block, two blocks away from the Fourth Street Clinic. So there were some days for outreach where we would walk over and check in on a patient. But the benefit of outreach is that it extends to populations outside of the immediate few blocks of the Fourth Street Clinic. Theoretically, if you're at the shelter, it's fairly easy to get to the clinic. So outreach tried to drive to people that maybe it would've been difficult for them to transport themselves to the clinic.

Dr. Chan: Interesting. Okay, so AmeriCorps is winding down. What's your strategy? Sounds like and that's kind of when did you start applying to school? I mean what was your strategy when you started applying to schools?

Annabah: Sure. So I started my AmeriCorps term, November of 2017, and I was still taking some prerequisites, one or two classes at that point since it was full time. And I also started studying for the MCAT beginning of 2018. So I took the MCAT in April. And in terms of strategies for applying, I started early on my personal statement. Writing is not something that comes very easily to me, and I know that it takes time, so I wanted to build as much of a statement that articulated the things that I wanted it to over time and have as many people read it as possible. So that was one of my strategies was to start on that early and to allot for a good amount of time studying for the MCAT as well.

Dr. Chan: And I mean, how many schools were you looking at? How many did you end up applying to?

Annabah: I think I ended up applying to 25 schools. And I applied to so many because so many of my classmates that were premed at Stanford either didn't get in the first time, also had applied to that many and had a handful of interviews from those applications.

Dr. Chan: The Stanford premedical experience can be quite rocky. It's very competitive.

Annabah: I believe it. And I am in some ways grateful that I was not premed at Stanford. I did end up taking a lot of classes with premeds.

Dr. Chan: A lot of anxiety.

Annabah: I imagine so. I have plenty of anxiety anyway. So, yeah. So I guess strategies when you're applying to that many schools. Just the honest, honest to God strategy just start as early as you can.

Dr. Chan: Were you targeting more like geographic areas, like the coasts, or you did you look at DO schools? I mean, how'd you kind of approach it?

Annabah: So I didn't look at DO schools this first round. And I applied to schools . . . It was kind of like I applied to schools on the West Coast. I applied to Stanford. I applied to other UC schools. I applied to the University of Utah. And then I applied to a lot of schools on the East Coast. I have a lot of family back there as well, and I felt like being in an area close to family, especially during this hard time in your life where you're working really hard, having that support system embedded was really important to me. So I applied to some schools in New York and upstate or in the Northeast. And then I applied to a few schools near North Carolina. I have family in North Carolina as well.

Dr. Chan: So you sent out the primary, started to get secondaries. What started happening? How many interviews?

Annabah: So if I could do it over again, I would've gone in and tried to get secondaries done as early as possible. I think my journey was a little rushed because I did MCAT and then applications open, primaries and then you're getting secondaries back immediately. There wasn't really ever any breaks there.

So to people who take the MCAT early on and know they want to go to medical school, I applaud them. I think that that's a really good strategy, because the application process itself is really taxing. So as the secondaries came back, I tried to complete as many as I could by their deadlines. Ultimately, I ended up getting . . . what did I get? I got five interviews.

Dr. Chan: Good, good.

Annabah: Not too bad. And then I also didn't complete secondaries for all of the schools that I ended up applying to. I had an early acceptance from one school when I still hadn't finished secondaries for others. And so I did, I weighed my options and thought if I have this option,

Dr. Chan: Risk-benefit analysis.

Annabah: Exactly.

Dr. Chan: It's because it's going to cost more money.

Annabah: It is. And that process is applying to 25 schools is not . . .

Dr. Chan: Twenty-five separate essays.

Annabah: It is not cheap. Yeah. So I got into this school and not the University of Utah, another school, but I just decided I would probably go to that school over these ones anyway.

Dr. Chan: So of the five schools that you interviewed with, what was your experience with the interviews and just trying to learn about these different schools from admittedly a very kind of short exposure to them? Like how'd that go? What was your experience?

Annabah: Honestly, it's hard. So in preparing for interviews, I wanted to go on the websites and look up as much information as I can. It all ends up looking similar.

Dr. Chan: Most websites look exactly the same.

Annabah: They look the exact same.

Dr. Chan: Happy students and happy classrooms.

Annabah: They look exactly the same. I would search one school and then go to the next one and think, I think this was the exact same page and it's hard. So you really have to dig into it and see . . . I liked reading the history of the school. A lot of, especially East Coast schools, they have a lot of really fascinating history around their founding and what their foundational principles were at the time of their founding. Mission statements are really helpful.

In one of my interviews, I flied out a day early and met some students and one of the students said, "Read the mission statement and understand what that means for you." And I think that was maybe the biggest help. And that was also my first interview as well. That was the biggest help because at the end of the day you are also choosing this medical school. They're not just choosing you. So to be able to pick a school that fits the values that you have and what you want to take away from your education is the most important thing. I think that's the groundwork for success. I mean, I'm saying this, I haven't even gotten started medical school yet, but I believe that having a match both ways is really important.

Dr. Chan: So you go out and interview five times. You got into an . . . was it early decision, early acceptance?

Annabah: It was an early acceptance.

Dr. Chan: So that's like you found out maybe November, okay.

Annabah: I found out November.

Dr. Chan: November. And I think you got in here about February, March. And so you at least two acceptances. Any other acceptances?

Annabah: Yes, I had one acceptance at another school and then one waitlist.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So why did you choose us? Curious that I'm asking dangerous question. I don't know the answer to this. Yeah. What compelled you to stay here in your Utah?

Annabah: So this is actually . . . this was a really hard decision for me. One of the schools that I got into was on the East Coast, and that interview gave me a pretty good idea that I didn't want to go there. It just didn't match my vibe, and I didn't see myself enjoying my time there. These other two schools, University of Utah and other school was the University of Arizona.

Dr. Chan: Tucson or Phoenix?

Annabah: Tucson.

Dr. Chan: Tucson, Okay.

Annabah: And it was really hard because I could see myself at both of them. And as someone who has left before and really valued my experience leaving home, I always thought throughout this process that I would leave Utah. Ultimately, I chose Utah. One, because I'm close to family and having a close support network was really important to me. I also really value the outdoors and being close to mountains. I sometimes when I drive to my parents' house, they live in Sandy, I get teary eyed looking at the mountains. That just is centering for me. And I think having that force here while I'm going through med school is really important.

And having the proximity to the Fourth Street Clinic and some of these other resources that I enjoyed was really wonderful. And frankly, on the second look day, when we got to meet some of the other professors, I was fascinated by every single one of them. I thought that . . .

Dr. Chan: That makes me happy to hear. A lot of work went into those days. Yeah.

Annabah: Those days were really valuable. So I'm trying to think which second look day . . .

Dr. Chan: So you got to go, did you go to Arizona's second look?

Annabah: I did go to Arizona.

Dr. Chan: Did you go to this East Coast school second look?

Annabah: I didn't go to their second look. I had known by then that I wasn't.

Dr. Chan: You weren't going to spend airfare to go back. Yeah.

Annabah: Right. It was too expensive. And then also Arizona and Utah are just closer.

Dr. Chan: Yeah, totally get it. Yeah.

Annabah: So it's just easier to either stay or move nearby. And the University of Arizona had a great team of teachers as well.

Dr. Chan: Yeah. I know it's a great program. I would say, yeah, it's very similar in many ways to our program.

Annabah: It is.

Dr. Chan: Like something that, you know, I have a lot of classmates, your future classmates, previous students, they've reached out to me. And some students have gone elsewhere and people always ask me like, "Oh, like Dr. Chan, I got into the U and I got into this other school." And it creates this crisis because they feel like they can see themselves at this other school and they can see themselves here at the U. But then, you know, to me the end of the day, it's like a personal decision because then you start going into finances and proximity to family and, you know, relationships and all that kind of stuff. And what I tell everyone and I'll tell you is like no matter where you go, you're going to be a great doctor.

So it's either going to be at Arizona, and if you ended up at Arizona, I would urge you to come back here for [SMC 00:35:35]. If you're here med school like, oh, you should check out Tucson for your future residency program. And these are all great options. And I know a lot of people struggle with it, but to me, like at the end of the day, like clearly multiple schools saw your potential, saw your value, and no matter where you end up, you're going to be a great doctor. So that's my fighting speech.

Annabah: Thank you.

Dr. Chan: I give a lot. I don't know if that helps.

Annabah: It does. And it was a hard process. I would say crisis is an accurate statement. I have a whiteboard in my room, and each day I wrote down the date in which school I was leaning toward that day. I must have done that for a week and a half, and it was all over the place and then towards the end, it was Utah, Utah, Utah.

Dr. Chan: Where was your family in this? Where they just like, well, we just want you to be happy, which it doesn't really help you.

Annabah: They are so biased. My parents absolutely wanted me to stay.

Dr. Chan: They're like we already lost you in California.

Annabah: Exactly. And I think they were surprised to have me move back in the first place. And so they got to experience what it was like after undergrad having me back home. And they were not, I mean, they would've been supportive either way, absolutely, but they did not hide the fact that they wanted me to stay, which I'm glad I, I am glad I did and I'm glad they were honest and candid about it as well. Yeah.

Dr. Chan: Good. So first physician in your family?

Annabah: Yes.

Dr. Chan: Okay. So you'll start getting the questions round about Thanksgiving about like medications and things.

Annabah: I look forward to it.

Dr. Chan: Annabah, yeah, help us cut this turkey with your surgical skills kind of thing.

Annabah: I'm just reading textbooks right now.

Dr. Chan: The doctor told me this in my last check. What do you think Annabah? Is this true?

Annabah: I'm not qualified to answer that.

Dr. Chan: All right, so last question before . . . this has been great. Like what advice do you give someone out there who, you know, again, Stanford very unique experience, but there is this common theme that people sometimes feel like just not encouraged by the premed experience. Like what would you say to someone out there who's thinking about medical school or maybe he's not feeling like, you know, that this premed, all this premed coursework is what they want to do? What advice would you give them? What would you say to help them? If you can go back maybe and talk to yourself from four or five years ago, what would you say?

Annabah: I would say if there are discouraging factors about it, which throughout the application process or throughout school there are going to be bumps in the road, it's inevitable. I think the best advice I would give would be to take the time to really ask yourself what you want in a career, what you value about yourself and what you want the rest of your life to look like. And those are hard questions to answer, but I think if you have answers to them or have an idea about where to go and you feel that they're genuine, you've spent a lot of time looking inward to know that and medicine lines up with it, then I would say that those bumps in the road are a little bit easier to overcome when you know yourself. Yeah. Just honesty.

Dr. Chan: Great. Well, Annabah, I want you to come back on the pod after school starts because I want to hear how it goes, and we can talk next time about what's going on in the Bay Area or Stanford. So, unfortunately, you're the only Stanford student in this class. So you'll have to represent.

Annabah: Yes, I'll do my best.

Dr. Chan: So you'll have to help me recruit more Stanford students outside the . . .

Annabah: Yes, I would like to do that.

Dr. Chan: All right. Thanks, Annabah.

Annabah: Thank you.

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