Dr. Chan: How does growing up close to nature inspire a love for science? How do you turn your talent in sports into college opportunity? How does one overcome discouraging feedback about being a woman in medicine? And what's it like to apply to 25 different schools and go on 13 different interviews?
Today, on "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life," I interview Kaitlyn, 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 Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn: Hello, everybody.
Dr. Chan: Incoming student who is so excited who . . . we were just talking before I turned it on. Who just drove down here from Idaho.
So let's get in the time machine and go back to the beginning. So you grew up in Post Falls.
Kaitlyn: So Rathdrum, Idaho, actually, but I was in Post Falls, yes.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Educate people where that is.
Kaitlyn: So Rathdrum, little town, a little bit north of Coeur d'Alene. I think more people have heard of Coeur d'Alene than all of those other surrounding towns. But yes, little town of about 7,000 people, currently. It was a lot smaller when I was born a few years ago. But no, it's kind of nestled in the mountains and it's my home.
Dr. Chan: And then you grew up, up in Northwestern Idaho?
Kaitlyn: Yes. So born and raised.
Dr. Chan: And then did you have any early childhood experiences that led you to wanting to be a doctor? I mean, where did that idea come from? How did . . .
Kaitlyn: Of course, I've kind of gone back and looked at that as I've gone through the application process. But I feel like a lot of people had some sort of experience with being sick or having family members being sick, and I was thankful enough to not have that. But I think that it kind of just goes back to who I am.
So I'm a fairly ambitious person and I grew up surrounded by nature and everything, and I think that that really drew me towards science in general. As I started going through school, I started getting involved in sports and that kind of led me more to my interest in the human body.
Dr. Chan: Interesting. Okay. What was your sport?
Kaitlyn: So I did a few at first, mostly volleyball and track in the end. Of course, I'm tall. You can't see me now, but . . .
Dr. Chan: How tall are you? For the listeners.
Kaitlyn: I am six feet tall. And so I did play basketball for a little bit, but it wasn't really my jam. So volleyball and track is where I ended up. I just . . .
Dr. Chan: Were your parents tall?
Kaitlyn: Yeah. Yes.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Did they play sports too?
Kaitlyn: My dad did a little bit of track himself. My mom, not really, but they go to the gym together now.
Dr. Chan: Well, I think it's fascinating. I have little kids and, you know, there's this like kind of sports culture and I kind of struggle with how soon do you introduce them to sports and the camps?
Kaitlyn: Yes. That's a big conversation.
Dr. Chan: Because it's almost like a separate kind of . . . So how old were you when . . . I mean, did your parents actively say, "Oh, you know, you seem to be kind of really fast and natural with this"? How did they do that?
Kaitlyn: So where I live, we have mountains. My brothers and I were always kind of outside playing on the mountain and I guess being active outdoors. And then my mom was the one that suggested that I do a volleyball . . . like a club team and kind of start doing volleyball camps. I was probably in third or fourth grade when that happened and I started playing club volleyball in sixth grade.
Dr. Chan: Were just dominating?
Kaitlyn: No, I was actually . . . I'm a lot stronger than I was. I was kind of a little string bean. And so I actually remember not being able to serve over the net when I was in sixth grade, which is . . .
Dr. Chan: Was it the normal size nets or were they lower for the kids?
Kaitlyn: You know, I don't remember that. Either way, I was kind of a little string bean. So no, I wasn't very good at first. I don't think I was super coordinated, but it finally came after the past few years.
Dr. Chan: So you're doing sports, learning about the human body, and then were you doing club sports or were you doing varsity at your high school or?
Kaitlyn: Yeah. So I was doing club sports and then junior high and high school with school-organized sports was . . . you know, I started those then. Yeah, for the first . . . I was a three-sport athlete for the first two years of high school and then I had a choice between club volleyball and doing varsity basketball, and I chose club volleyball.
Dr. Chan: I would think volleyball would be easier on the body in certain ways, because I just look at basketball and so many people, you know, twist their ankles and knee problems and you get elbows to the face during rebounds.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. There is a net between you in volleyball, you and the other people, so that's generally helpful in that respect. But I mean, I was a front-row player and you do a lot of side-to-side movement, so you still get the knee problems. You're still jumping, and sometimes running into your teammates because as a middle, you're kind of like running around in circles.
But no, it is a little less physical. And I took to it more. I enjoyed it more. Club was really fun. I got to travel and experience other places, and so I just ended up picking that.
Dr. Chan: So doing volleyball and track?
Kaitlyn: Volleyball and track, yes.
Dr. Chan: And what was your event? Is that the right word?
Kaitlyn: Yeah ,event. So I pole-vaulted mainly and I did end up going on and doing that in college where I was then kind of thrown into the heptathlon, which was not super successful for me, but it was a really good experience. But pole-vaulting is what I mainly did. Yeah, it was fun.
Dr. Chan: And then during high school, were you thinking like, "Oh, I'm doing . . ." I mean, did you think, "Oh, I'm doing so well at these sports, I might be able to do these in college"? Was your mindset then . . . like, do you send out tapes or did people come and watch you and recruit you, or how did that work?
Kaitlyn: So for one, I think it's kind of funny. In retrospect, it's really easy to shine, I think, when you live in a small town and you go to a small high school. So I did well at least in high school, and then I got to college and I just kind of was middle of the pack with everybody.
But some people do send out tapes. I didn't have a lot of . . . I didn't have a lot of involvement in that, but there are a lot of college coaches at state meets and at club volleyball tournaments. And so I had some interest in doing club volleyball, but that was more at a junior college level and I knew that I wanted to go to a four-year university.
And then the opportunity arose at Idaho State University. Dave Nielsen, our head coach at the time, was at a couple of the state track meets and we ended up talking with him and that's kind of how I ended up down at ISU. And I had done a couple of track camps there in the past, so I was familiar with it.
Dr. Chan: So it wasn't totally unfamiliar going from Coeur d'Alene to Pocatello?
Kaitlyn: Yes. I think that's probably the big thing.
Dr. Chan: For people who aren't familiar with Idaho, that's like nine hours.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, eight or nine. Yeah, depending on traffic and construction, you know? Depending on how fast you're driving.
Dr. Chan: And during this time, you're taking science classes?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, so taking science classes and I was doing a little bit of volunteering. I had gotten into research my second or third year of college. I knew I was interested in medicine. I'm not really sure where the idea ended up coming from exactly, but I was drawn towards it because of, I guess, what it offered. I really was interested in science. It was the best place to learn about that stuff. And I like interacting with people. And so there was that.
I feel like it's kind of this cliché a little bit. You know, you're interested in science. You want to help people. I don't want to say it was a challenge and that's why I chose it, but it was a worthy enough career to go after in my mind.
And so I had been drawn to it. I was taking science classes, preparing, and I then started shadowing physicians and that's really when I decided, "Okay, this is what I want to do. This is awesome."
Dr. Chan:Were you doing this mostly in the Pocatello or were you kind of doing some . . .
Kaitlyn: A little bit of both, yeah.
Dr. Chan: . . . in Coeur d'Alene, kind of bouncing back and forth? Okay.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, a lot of it ended up being in the summer. I was very busy with track in school and research, and so the first person I shadowed was Dr. Cher Jacobsen up in Post Falls, Idaho, and I just wanted to be her. I thought she was just awesome.
Dr. Chan: What kind of doctor was she?
Kaitlyn: A family practice doc.
Kaitlyn:Yep. And she just had such a good relationship with her patients and she was so competent and so caring and so on top of. And I just thought she was such a great role model to look up to.
There were a few bumps along the way. I think I had a lot of doubts. I shadowed with some other physicians who kind of cautioned me because I was a woman in medicine and they were, I think, a little old school and they were like, "It's going to be really hard for you. You are going to have other challenges if you want to have other things in your life."
Dr. Chan: So they overtly said that to you?
Kaitlyn:And it was brought up a few times and I had a few doubts, but I ended up shadowing another female physician who had . . . I mean, she had family and kids, just someone who had other obligations in their life and were balancing other things in their life. And that's when I knew I could do it, which is sort of silly, but, you know, it points I think to the importance of representation in medicine. Your mind is so moldable when you're young, you know? And you can really be affected by the role models that you see around you.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Did you come from a family and medicine or . . .
Kaitlyn: No. You know, nobody . . .
Dr. Chan: Okay. So in a way, you're going out there trying to get these experiences and I would say mentorship, and it sounds like some of it was . . . most of it was positive, but there was some negative as well.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. I think it was well-intentioned. Like, I think it was trying to caution me to be realistic. And I don't think this person would probably . . . I don't know. They probably didn't know me or life of being a woman. So, you know, in retrospect, I think it's silly that I even doubted it. But it was good because it did challenge me to think about those things.
And like I said, I don't think it was really trying . . . I don't think they were trying to discourage me. I think they were just trying to encourage me to be realistic, which is fair. But I still . . . yeah, I look back and I'm like, "Really?"
Dr. Chan: Yeah. I think it's hard when you have a dream, you have a goal. And to use an analogy, and you may disagree with me with that, in track, in sports, it's kind of the same. You're working towards something. There are going to be setbacks. You know, you're not going to "win the gold medal" or win the tournament every time. But if you show perseverance, resiliency, hard work, eventually that will pay off.
Kaitlyn: Right. Exactly. And it has, so I'm very excited about that.
Dr. Chan: All right. So let's go back to undergrad. So I have other friends and colleagues who did sports as an undergrad and they have told me that it becomes almost like a job and it kind of weighs down . . . I mean, if you're very passionate about sports, that's great, but it also kind of weighs down the academics and it complicates schedules and life is very busy, very full. Does that resonate with you?
Kaitlyn: It does. I mean, it's absolutely true. I think that I was . . . how do I put this? So I applied three times to medical school before I got accepted and I really think that part of that was due to having such a busy schedule and being involved with that because it takes away time from other things that you can do to prepare for medical school.
With that said, I wouldn't do it any differently because I learned so much from the whole . . .
Dr. Chan:The application process.
Kaitlyn:Yeah. But it's true. It does kind of become like a job, and by the end of it, I was ready to be done. But still, there were so many lessons that I learned and I think that it really pushed me to manage my time well because I was doing the part-time research job and I was doing school full time and I was doing track full time. And I think that's going to be really helpful, you know? The tools that I used then are going to be very helpful for me in medical school and as a physician in the future with my goals of balancing multiple things in my life.
Dr. Chan: Okay. All right. Let's, again, go back in time. So the first year you applied, what was your strategy? How many schools did you apply to? Were you using the premed advisor up at Idaho State? What was going on back then?
Kaitlyn: So I was a little bit. I don't think that I was getting enough mentorship looking back now, which could have been a combination of my own fault and . . . I don't know. Just not finding somebody that was really great to mentor me.
I applied to . . . let's see. I think my first application cycle I applied to around 15 schools. Only applied MD. Just did the one application cycle or one application process. And I got one interview that season.
I also applied late. That's what happened. I applied late because I took my MCAT later and my scores didn't come in I think until September. So that was kind of . . . I think I had been warned not to do that and I kind of just had this mindset of, "Well, I'll just do it anyway."
Dr. Chan: Give it a shot.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. I was like, "You know, I'm going to make it. It's worked up until this point." Very naive of me. I had the one interview and then I didn't get accepted, and it was kind of this giant thing.
Dr. Chan: Okay. Was that with us?
Kaitlyn: No, it was . . . yeah, it was with the University of Washington, which was great, but I was also . . . I was studying abroad that semester, so I was writing secondary essays and studying abroad, which was just not a good combination.
Dr. Chan: Were you in this little internet café? Where were you?
Kaitlyn: I was in Spain, in Valencia.
Dr. Chan: Okay. In Spain in this little internet café.
Dr. Chan: Hoping, you know, there's not a breakdown.
Kaitlyn: Right. And it was not a smart idea. I would not recommend that at all. I would recommend a gap year if that's what you're thinking of doing.
So there were a lot of mistakes I made that first application cycle, and I think it was very fair that I didn't get an acceptance. I just didn't have an idea about the whole process as a whole.
And the second time I applied was a little harder because I did feel like I had a better idea.
Dr. Chan: So in between the first year and second year, what did you do? You had kind of a gap year foisted upon you.
Kaitlyn: Sort of. So I . . .
Dr. Chan: Sort of. So what'd you do?
Kaitlyn: Let's see. So we're backing it up to during that first application cycle, I am studying abroad my first semester of my senior year, and then I came back and the application cycle is still going and I wasn't sure if I was going to reapply right away or not.
And so I didn't really know that I would be doing that, and I don't think I was preparing necessarily accordingly. I did do . . . let's see. I'm trying to remember. I shadowed a few more doctors in different specialties. I started volunteering. I think that's where I was more deficient, again, kind of back to the time commitment with track. So I did some more volunteer work.
Dr. Chan: What'd you do for volunteer work?
Kaitlyn: So I first . . . let's see. Two things. I volunteered at the animal shelter in Pocatello, which was great. I feel like it was not super applicable, and that's maybe where I went wrong. And then I really wanted to try to get in and do some volunteering in a medical setting, so I went and volunteered up at Portneuf in IV therapy at the hospital there. So that was fun and good.
I'm trying to remember. I got a job. That was a thing. Then I got a job working as a nanny for a disabled girl for a family that was in the area. And so those were main things I want to say that I did.
Dr. Chan: Sounds pretty busy.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. But then I applied immediately. And so not all those hours and all that time was on my application. And by the time I got to do an interview, I could speak to it, but . . .
Dr. Chan: Okay. So did you apply to more schools, or the same schools, or different schools, or what was your strategy the second year?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, so then I applied to . . . I want to say I applied to five more, so I think I did about 20, and I pre-wrote my secondary essays. That was a big thing because they come in, in waves.
Dr. Chan: Yeah, it's like a [inaudible 00:17:05].
Kaitlyn: It's madness, yeah. And so there's a little gap of time from when you submit your primary application and when you are able to get secondaries. And so I had been reading around, trying to gather some information, and I went ahead and pre-wrote my secondary essays based off of previous year's questions. Because a lot of the time, some of them will be the same. Not all of them. And that was definitely the case. And there might be nuances you might have to change, but then you have a basis to go off of and you can save yourself a lot of time, which is really important in the whole cycle.
Dr. Chan: So you sent about 20, and then how many interview offers did you get that round?
Kaitlyn: Two. And so that was . . .
Dr. Chan: This is where we came into the game.
Kaitlyn: This is where you guys came into game. Yeah. So just two. After not getting accepted that second year, I thought, "Okay, maybe I'm getting screened out with something basic."
Dr. Chan: Because I believe we provide feedback at that point.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. And so I did. And I got feedback from . . .
Dr. Chan: There was a mechanism. And I'm not sure . . . does Washington . . . did they give feedback?
Kaitlyn: So I got feedback from them both times and tried to do what they suggested and it was really helpful.
Dr. Chan: Did it line up? Did we give the same feedback, or was it polar opposites? Because I can see how that can be very frustrating.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. It's hard to focus your efforts I think when you're getting a lot of information coming in from different sides. I would say it was pretty consistent.
I did get some feedback from you guys that was frustrating to me after that second round. It was pertaining to my volunteer work and it was that it wasn't super applicable and it didn't seem to follow my story, is what the words were. And I thought, "What does that mean?" But it was really good for me. I think it was good to hear because I did end up, I think, finding that meaning and volunteering in a field that I was more passionate about and that was more applicable to my story. And so that ended up being really helpful.
Dr. Chan: I think what you're referencing is . . . I think it's good advice to all applicants, is establishing a good narrative. You know, we have a finite amount of time in our day, in our lives, and why does anyone pick these activities over others? And I think one shows what you're interested in by what you do with those activities. And I think that's what the committee was referencing.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. And it was fair.
Dr. Chan: It's how you tie them together. Like, who you are, how do these activities speak to your priorities and what you want to do in life and where you kind of see yourself going. And so that's what's a personal narrative.
You know, there's a reason why . . . I think Idaho State has this. You walk into these kind of community service centers and they have all these different activities. Why do you pick some ones over the others? You know, why did you pick . . .
Kaitlyn: Well, exactly. I felt like I went on this journey to figure that out, and I did. It took a lot of self-reflection, and I would absolutely encourage anybody who doesn't get accepted to get that feedback because it's important to have that honest feedback, especially from somebody who's seen you through the entire process.
And it prompted me to do a lot of self-reflection to think, "Okay, what is my narrative? Who am I and why am I doing this and what is something I'm passionate about? Go volunteer in that."
It doesn't have to be medically related. I mean, it's helpful I think to be around that and to see that, absolutely. But it just has to be something that you're passionate about and that you care about. And then you really are . . . when you're volunteering, then you're really are getting that extra benefit too of you feel really good helping because you feel like you've done something towards something that you really care about. And it's a benefit on both sides.
Dr. Chan: Did you, after the second year, have thoughts about giving up, doing something else?
Kaitlyn: Not really. I mean, yes and no. Of course, you have to reevaluate your position. And all the feedback that I had gotten was that I could do it. I don't know. I feel like I'm just a very determined person. Maybe that's a good thing. Sometimes not so much.
I didn't want to do anything else. I really did think about it because if anyone has gone through the application process, they know that it's not an easy one. It's emotionally and, I guess, kind of physically taxing, mostly emotionally taxing and financially taxing and taxing on your time. And so I did consider . . . I tried to look at other things and I thought, "Okay, well if this doesn't work, what am I going to do?" But there was nothing at all that I wanted to do more in the world than this.
And so my parents were absolutely amazing and so, so, so supportive. My friends too. But my dad said to me, "You don't build a plane and then not put the wings on it." And so they were just a huge support in that time and I was able to kind of push through and decided to take the gap year. And that was mostly for retaking my MCAT. I decided I would . . .I felt like I could get a better score.
Dr. Chan: Which you did. Congratulations.
Kaitlyn: Which I did, yes. Thank you.
Dr. Chan: Did you study on your own, or did you do Khan Academy, or did you pay, or Kaplan or Princeton Review or anything?
Kaitlyn: Yeah. So the first time, I self-studied, and then I thought I should switch that up if I wanted to change things, so I did end up paying for a Kaplan course and it was amazing. I had a really good experience. I did a live online version where you can take it from afar, because not a lot of people have cities that actually host them.
And not only did it help me with my MCAT, but I really think that it helped me learn how to learn better. And I do think that that's going to be super helpful now. So I'm very thankful for taking that. It's a little chunk of money, but especially if you don't have success your first time, it's totally worth it on that second round. So I did redo that.
Dr. Chan: Do they have a money-back guarantee? Because I've heard . . .
Kaitlyn: They do, yeah. They do, actually.
Dr. Chan:That's good.
Kaitlyn:So it's fairly . . . it's not really a gamble, I guess.
Dr. Chan: So your score should improve?
Kaitlyn: Yes. And if not, then I think you can retake the course. And they probably provide some counseling on that. I'm not sure. Don't quote me on that.
Dr. Chan: And then what different activities were you doing in between your second and third time?
Kaitlyn: Okay. So I was actually living in Pocatello at the time and I moved back home, retook my MCAT, and I did some self-reflection on what I should do for volunteering. And I thought, "All right. I'm really passionate about women's issues. Why don't I find a place in the area to volunteer helping with that?" There we go.
And so I ended up volunteering at a . . . it's a violence prevention center. And so I did a bunch of training in that. There's a women's shelter associated with it. And then I was essentially on call for if anybody came into the hospital with a sexual assault case.
Dr. Chan:Wow. Heavy stuff.
Kaitlyn:And I was an advocate for them. Yeah, it's tough, but at the same time, it's really, really rewarding to be there for somebody who is going through a tough time and have the training to be able to help them and offer what we offer.
Dr. Chan: What'd you learn from that? I mean, how'd you grow from that?
Kaitlyn: Well, it's hard to . . . I guess it would be hard to put it into words, but I think it was hard seeing the reality of what I already knew was there. But again, it just made me feel like I was in the right place doing something that I really cared about or helping somebody through a hard time.
I mean, I have known people in the past that have gone through similar things, and so it wasn't totally new to me, but I think it just was a reassurance of knowing I was in the right place and knowing I was following the right direction because I can help people like that in this field.
And so, really, I think it just reassured me on my path. But I learned a lot about talking to people in crises and kind of how to be gentle about it.
Dr. Chan: As a psychiatrist . . . do you know I'm a psychiatrist?
Dr. Chan: I don't know if that's come up before. What really struck me about our healthcare system, our mental healthcare system, is that there are a lot of people who are alone and the system can eat people up. It's hard to navigate. People don't have loved ones. For whatever reason, bridges have been burned.
So, you know, Kaitlyn, I think that's awesome you did that experience because I think what I've learned doing psychiatry for these many years is sometimes people just want someone to talk to and listen and then just help them out because there are so many resources out there.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, it's hard to organize that.
Dr. Chan: But just to connect them to resources . . . It can be very daunting.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, especially when you're in a place where you're not thinking probably straight and are emotionally distraught. Everything is everywhere.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Everything's kind of flying around and things aren't making sense. So that's really beautiful that you did that.
Kaitlyn: It was amazing. I feel like I wanted to help more in certain situations, but like you're saying, sometimes people just need someone to talk to and to point them in the right direction for resources they can use. That's essentially what I did. It was amazing. So that was kind of the big thing. And then I actually ended up volunteering as an assistant track coach with my old high school. So that was really fun too.
Dr. Chan: I'm curious. What was your coaching technique?
Kaitlyn: That was a learning curve for me because I hadn't done a lot of coaching.
Dr. Chan: Tough love?
Kaitlyn: I don't know if I'm that kind of person. Well, I learned a lot by watching other coaches. Mostly, I learned how to give kind of short, succinct advice to somebody, because while you're pole-vaulting, there are a million things running through your head and it's important as a coach to not tell your athletes to think about all these things that might be wrong and to really just focus on one thing at a time.
And so I think I learned a lot about how to be a better teacher. It was just fun because I got to work with my old coaches and I gained an appreciation for what they did for me.
Dr. Chan: Did you still have your skills? Because I imagine you would have to kind of show them and then there's pressure. "Okay. Here I go." You show them. You start running and then you can't . . .
Kaitlyn: You can't do it. You lose your credibility.
Dr. Chan: So you had your skills still?
Kaitlyn: I think so. I didn't end up . . . gosh, it's really hard to . . . you can't practice pole-vaulting much after school. It's a little different than volleyball in that respect. But it's still there. It's sort of like muscle memory. I'm not in any way near where I was . . .
Dr. Chan: According to YouTube, you can probably do lots of things with pole-vaulting that looks somewhat dangerous. People are always going over fences and . . .
Kaitlyn: It's scary.
Dr. Chan: . . . trying to go up into trees. I'm sure you have never done anything like that.
Kaitlyn: No. My friend and I, who also pole-vaulted with me at Idaho State, we like to pole-vault off of the dock into the lake. So that's fairly safe, right? You have sort of a soft landing, right?
Dr. Chan: Oh, okay. You have great YouTube clips out there. Did you have your own pole?
Kaitlyn: She does. Her family helps with all of the coaching of high school and stuff in the area. And so they actually have a pole-vaulting pit in their backyard, which is the coolest thing ever.
Kaitlyn:They're very dedicated to the sport.
Dr. Chan: All right. So third time applying. Different schools? Same schools? Did you decide to go kind of more DOish? What was your philosophy?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, so third time around, I decided to go big or go home. So I applied to a total of 25 schools. I did apply to . . . I applied MD and DO, and then I applied also to Texas schools, which is a separate application service. So that was a lot, but it was really good.
And I had ended up having a very good response. I was really happy about it. I hadn't expected that because of my applications in the past of applying about 20 schools. I thought, "Well, if I'm applying to 20 and I get two interviews," I just didn't expect to get as many interviews as I did, so that was . . .
Dr. Chan: How many interviews did you get?
Kaitlyn: I interviewed at 13 different schools.
Dr. Chan: Thirteen? That's amazing.
Kaitlyn: Yeah. It was ridiculous.
Dr. Chan: That sounds expensive too and stressful on some level. Yeah. Double-edged sword.
Kaitlyn: It was all of those things. But I had a lot of support along the way and a lot of help getting there. So it wasn't all just . . . I wasn't alone. But it was . . . yeah, I was overwhelmed cause I really, really, really didn't expect that.
Dr. Chan: Did you go on all 13 or did you just start turning down some?
Kaitlyn: I went to all 13 because I ended up getting . . . let's see. I got two or three acceptances maybe at the end of the fall, in the middle of winter maybe, before the end of the year, but they weren't my top schools that I was really excited about.
And actually, for Idaho applicants, usually we have to wait at least for University of Washington's, which is our other in-state option, interviews until January or February. And so I was like, "I need to wait." And I hadn't heard from you guys yet either.
And so I ended up getting on seven waitlists or something. So I felt like I needed to go and explore my options. I needed to make sure that I was leaving my options open and not leaving any stone unturned.
It's really hard to get a feel of a program without going there, I think. You know, they can be great on paper or horrible on paper and you get there and have a totally different experience.
Dr. Chan: Going back to what we just talked about with muscle memory, the more interviews you did, did it become easier to interview, or is it still really anxiety-provoking and hard? I mean, did you feel you got better with all the different . . .
Kaitlyn: I hope so. I think so, yes. That was a huge part too. I'd think I practiced and prepared a lot more for interviews and researched the crud out of schools. I do think it got easier definitely, but you still have those nerves. I think you have those nerves because you care. And so that's not anything to be ashamed about it. It's totally normal. But I think it was easier as time wore on because it's like, "Well, I've done this. I know myself. I know my application. I really just need to research the school and make sure that you can speak to how you feel you're a good fit there."
Dr. Chan: That's amazing. I don't think I've talked to anyone that's gotten that many interviews.
Kaitlyn: It was unreal.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. Was it overwhelming or was it like too much information almost?
Kaitlyn: Yes and no. I mean, I was very pleasantly surprised. Had no expectation at all because of the past, obviously. Yeah, it was overwhelming at times. I think I got very lucky because I was working as a medical assistant at the time and my job was so, so flexible with me and my schedule, because that's a tough thing. You have to take time off of work. And at that time, you know, I was living on my own. I'm paying all my bills. I have to go to work.
And I think I got very, very lucky because I don't think a lot of jobs would've let me do that, but I was very upfront when I applied there, applied to work there, that I had this application coming up. I would probably have . . . I said I hoped I would have five interviews. Then it was overwhelming. I was like, "Wow."
Dr. Chan: So you're going all across the country?
Dr. Chan: So is there a funny story you can share? Did you get any, "Idaho? Where's that?" Did you get any of that? Any potato jokes?
Kaitlyn: Yes, lots of potato jokes. Most people don't know about Idaho. Lots of people don't know about North Idaho too, just because the panhandle is kind of . . . it gets lumped in a lot to Washington and Montana. And so I kind of told people that it was . . . yeah, I don't know. There were a lot of people that didn't know. They thought it was really cold. You know, everyone thought it was really cold here.
Dr. Chan: Were you seeing people . . . did you start recognizing people from . . .
Kaitlyn: I did. You know, it was crazy. I ended up seeing at least three people at multiple interviews that I went to who had been at previous interviews and we'd be like, "Hey, what's up? How's it going?"
Dr. Chan: And then mostly MMI or just a wide mixture of interview techniques?
Kaitlyn: A good mixture, yeah. There was definitely MMI and different forms of MMI.
Dr. Chan:Do tell.
Kaitlyn:So here, you guys do the MMI where you're standing outside the door, you read the prompt, you hear the bell, you go in, and you talk to the person who's in the room.
But at one interview, I had an MMI that was a large room full of multiple desks and multiple interviewers asking you questions, and you had a bell and you would go from station to station with all the other applicants.
Dr. Chan:So it was loud.
Kaitlyn:And it was like this loud room, which was okay. It was not . . .
Dr. Chan: Oh, boy. Sounds a little stressful.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, it was almost . . .
Dr. Chan: Were you by yourself or were you supposed to do some of the activity with another applicant together, like a cooperation station?
Kaitlyn: So that one just by yourself. But at another interview, there was a cooperation station. I had an MMI with actors, which was scary.
Dr. Chan: Were the actors pretending to be sick or scared of flying?
Kaitlyn: Mostly angry or upset. So that was fun. I learned a lot. But yeah, a wide variety. I mean, there were interviews with panels of people and there were interviews with single people or interviews with two people. Yeah. So just kind of got a wide variety of it.
Dr. Chan: I feel so bad for you. It's like literally running the gauntlet.
Kaitlyn: It was, but I'm really happy for it. I mean, I can't complain, obviously.
Dr. Chan: All right. So now I can tell you this. So I remember when I called you, you didn't sound so happy. So I don't know if you were . . . I think you were working or maybe . . .
Kaitlyn: I was at work.
Dr. Chan: Yeah. And I kind of got off the phone with you and I'm going, "Eh, I don't know if she'll come here." I got this sense like . . . I've done this job long enough to know that I can tell by the tone. I was like, "Okay, Kaitlyn definitely has other offers." I got that tone from you. And so I was just like, "Okay, well, we'll see what happens." So that was my perception on my end. What was the perception on your end?
Kaitlyn: So this is what happened. I'm at work. My phone goes off. It's on vibrate. Probably should be on silent. It was on vibrate in my pocket, and I was with a patient, so I was not paying attention to my phone. I left, I got out of the room, looked at my phone, and I had a missed call from Salt Lake City. I was trying to talk myself down, you know? Like, "It's probably spam call. It's probably nothing. Don't get your hopes up."
And the doc who I worked for, Dr. James, so great, he was like, "Oh, just go check it. Go look." So I went to the break room and I called the number back and I got the Admissions Office. At this point, I'm losing my mind. And I talked to Tammy and she said, "So I'm not allowed to tell you anything, but Dr. Chan is in a meeting right now."
Dr. Chan: We played phone tag for a long time.
Kaitlyn: She was like, "I'm sure if he called you, though, probably an acceptance." And I literally started bawling because . . .
Dr. Chan: See, Tammy never told me that. When I called you, you sounded so laid back about it. You were like, "Oh, yeah. I know I got in. Okay."
Kaitlyn: No, I was absolutely . . . because it's a call I never thought I would get. And at that point, I had found out I was not accepted to the other in-state option for Idaho students, and so I had kind of given up on that. I thought, "Well, I'm on the waitlist. We'll see." But I had been on a waitlist before, so I didn't want to get my hopes up. And so I lost my mind. I was crying. And so, by the time you called me back, I had already cried.
Dr. Chan: Okay. That's good to know. This is why we're doing the pod.
Kaitlyn: So you got to miss the really beautiful ugly cry that I had. And I was kind of just in shock because this was a dream come true. This is my dream school. This is amazing.
Dr. Chan: So at the end of the day, how many schools were you accepted to?
Kaitlyn: So I want to say I had four or five acceptances. And I actually ended up getting off another waitlist of a school the same week after you guys called me. And that was crazy. So I want to say it might've been five.
Dr. Chan: And so the follow-up question is, Kaitlyn, why'd you choose us?
Kaitlyn: A lot of good reasons.
Dr. Chan: I'm just curious because, again, the way . . . you know, I've listened to your story and you've worked so hard, and all of a sudden, you go from no offers to five offers.
Dr. Chan:How do you make that decision?
Kaitlyn: Yeah, it's a hard one. I'm kind of a pros and cons list person, so, of course, I'm making my pros and cons list, which, of course, I had my giant Excel spreadsheet of all the things about every school. Talking to my people, my parents, my best friends. But in the end, it really came down to the fact that this school was the best fit for me and my interests. I mean, it's in state. It kind of stinks that financial stuff has to come into play ever, but it does. It's realistic.
Dr. Chan: It's part of life in our American capitalist system.
Kaitlyn: Yes. It's an in-state option, and so that's great. Salt Lake is great as far as lifestyle goes. I'm a big snowboarder. I'm a mountain biker, and so it's kind of a perfect place for that. It's closest to home. But the program just was . . . it's amazing. I felt really welcome here.
I know people who are in the program already ahead of me, and I called one of them and they told me, "You absolutely have to come here. There's nothing bad I can say about this program. It's so great," and on and on and on.
And so, in the end, it really just ended up being the perfect fit for me and I felt like it was a place that I could learn and do the things that I wanted to do and be supported in doing that. So I think it just took a lot of sitting down and making priorities and choosing the school that fit those best, I guess.
Dr. Chan: Did you go back and . . . I mean, did you look at other programs? Did you fly in, do second looks? Did you do any of that?
Kaitlyn: No second looks.
Dr. Chan: More internet, looking up kind of thing?
Kaitlyn: Yeah. I had done a lot of research before interviews and stuff, so I had quite a bit of information, but I did go back and look at a couple of the schools that I was, you know, seriously comparing to. But I kind of knew, I think, in my heart where I wanted to be. So I ended up being here. I'm so excited. It's amazing.
Dr. Chan: Kaitlyn, this is . . . I love . . . yeah, I love talking to you.
Kaitlyn: It's crazy. It's been a journey.
Dr. Chan: I guess last question, just wrapping it up, what advice would you give someone out there who's thinking about med school or maybe didn't get in the first or second time? What would you tell them? What would you say to them?
Kaitlyn: Well, people who are thinking of it, I would say explore, explore. You know, do some shadowing. Make sure this is where you want to go because it's not an easy way there, but it's so worth it if it is what you want to do.
And if you have applied and not gotten accepted, don't give up. Seriously, don't give up. If this is the only thing you want to do, keep working at it. I mean, let your failures be moments of reflection and let that allow you to grow. And just keep going. You know, you're going to make it. If this is really what you want to do and you know you can do it and you have all this background to support that, then don't give up. You're going to do it. So that's all I would say.
Dr. Chan: Awesome. Sorry, I'm lying. One more question. With you being from, I would dare say, rural Idaho, have you thought about going back and practicing there or . . .
Dr. Chan:What are your thoughts about that?
Kaitlyn: So a little piece about Idaho and North Idaho. My family has lived there for generations, so they kind of have this . . . I don't know. I feel my family is very established there, is what I'm saying. And I love Idaho. I love North Idaho. It's beautiful. It's amazing. It's really my home. So yes, I've absolutely thought about going back there.
With that said, I don't know where I will end up. I don't know what specialty I will choose. I have no idea. And so, depending on that, of course, I hold . . . the future's open. You know, I hold options for that, but also I really want to end up there.
Dr. Chan: Cool. Well, Kaitlyn, we're going to have to have you come back because I want to hear more about the journey as you progress. And yeah, I'm just so excited you're here and I'm glad we were able . . .
Dr. Chan:I have some phone calls with people and it's good to kind of hear the other side. I got the vibe from you like, "Oh, you're not coming."
Kaitlyn: Oh, my goodness. I was in shock. It was. I was so excited. You just missed the crying.
Dr. Chan: All right. Well, thanks, Kaitlyn.
Kaitlyn: Yeah, you're welcome. Thanks.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to "Talking Admissions and Med Student Life" with Dr. Benjamin Chan, the ultimate resource to help you on your journey to and through medical school. A production of the Scope Health Sciences Radio, online at thescoperadio.com.
- Episode 161 – Conquering Spartan Races & Med School
- 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
- This is TALKING U & MED STUDENT LIFE
- 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