Public Health

Maggie Pollard (’15), MD: Family Medicine Resident

What did you do to prepare for med school (or your current job)? 

There are many roads to medical school and residency, but the place to start is a 4-year college degree (in anything) with the required pre-recs. This includes classes in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, etc. Some people go back and do a post-bacc if they did not meet the pre-rec requirements in undergrad, while others major in something unrelated and add the pre-recs on later. I know several colleagues who did both of these. The more common option is to major in something pre-med such as biology, biochemistry, chemistry, etc. I majored in biochemistry. It also is nice to minor in something fun and interesting that your passionate about to keep you well-rounded and relatable.  

From there, you fill your extra curricular time with research and clinical activities that require direct patient care. I did lab-bench research and volunteered at nursing homes while in undergrad. 

Then, you take your MCAT, and apply to medical school! The best thing you can do to package yourself for medical school applications is to be able to explain why all of your choices were purposeful (in some way) to getting you to this point.

Describe your day-to-day life in your program or job? 

I am a first year family medicine resident, also known as a PGY-1 or intern. This means that I did 4 years of undergrad, 4 years of medical school (I happened to choose an MD program, rather than DO) and then "matched" into a 3 year family medicine residency where my focus is on primary care and hospital medicine. In this first year I do several month long rotations in many specialties to learn a little bit about each one, which helps me to better refer my patients as a family medicine physician. Rotations I have to do this year include rotations in clinic (outpatient) and in the hospital (inpatient). I have rotated through the ER, ICU, OB-GYN, hospital medicine, and will rotate through surgery and pediatrics coming up. 

Describe your day-to-day life outside of med school (or your current job)?.

I am fortunate to be in a program where I rarely work more than 80 hours a week. Most weeks I get one weekend day off, and once a month I get two days or more. I also have 4 vacations (one week each) during the year. I feel very balanced, although this might not seem like a lot of time. Surgical specialties and other medicine specialties can spend much more time than this working each week. I make the most of my free time by spending time with my friends, family and significant other. I hike, run, and play board games. I play Dungeons and Dragons with medical school friends, and go to Renaissance fairs. I play piano and sing when I can, sometimes for medical school events. I swing dance with my boyfriend. When you don't have a lot of time to spare, you make EVERY minute count! And if you're a good planner, you can make time for many things. 

Is there anything that you wish you would have known before entering med school (or your current job)? 

I wish I had known more options for choosing medical schools, namely MD (Medical Doctor) vs. DO (Doctor of Osteopathy) school. The difference between MD and DO programs is that they are essentially equal, except DO's have additional training in OMT (Osteopathic Manipulation Therapy). This is a form of manipulation of the body that has therapeutic benefits. One DO described it to me as being a combination between Physical Therapy and Chiropractic, but this is one person's opinion. Regardless, DO's can bill for OMT services given to patients who struggle with chronic pain, which is the majority of all patients everywhere. I wish I had this skill set to offer my patients. DO's and MD's otherwise have equivalent skill sets for any field, where it is surgery or primary care. 

Is there anything that you’d go back and do differently? 

I would have developed better study skills in college. When you are learning high volumes of information, the most well-studied method to do this is interval-based learning, or "spaced repetition." This is an algorithmic form of learning where the key principle is that better learning is positively correlated to the number of times knowledge is reviewed, not the thoroughness of the review. I found that in college I would study for exams by doing a deep dive of one or two passes through the material. In medical school, this is impossible because the acumen of knowledge is so large, that you need to be reviewing it quickly and often. The best way to do this is via flashcards through an application that builds the spaced repetition in the software, so that you do not have to worry about making sure you review the right information enough times. A good application is Anki, a web-based application on which you can make your own flashcards.

Makensy Jabbour '19: Life in Graduate School

  1. What did you do to prepare for grad school? I spoke with a lot of professors at IC about grad school. I also emailed alumni who went to schools I was looking at or worked there to get a sense of what the schools were like. I had to fill out the SOPHAS application, which is like the Common App for graduate schools of public health. I had to write a personal statement, get references, take the GRE, and do a lot of research on the programs I was looking at. Once I got accepted, I visited the schools and spoke with faculty and staff in the department I was considering. Once I committed to a school, I had to brush up on my math skills, since my concentration is in epidemiology. 
  2. Describe your day-to-day life in your program? Most of my classes this semester have been in the morning, which is pretty typical for full-time MPH students at the University at Albany School of Public Health. Each day is different because of my class schedule. I am a Graduate Assistant at the School of Public Health, so on Mondays and Fridays I work because I don't have class. On Tuesdays, I have a statistics class at 8:45am and then an epidemiology class at 10:15am. Then I'll go to work after my classes are done. Wednesdays are nice because I only have a computer programming class from 9:20am - 12:10pm. Thursday mornings are the same as Tuesdays, except we have a stats quiz every week. Then I have break where I'll do homework on campus until my 2:45-5:35pm first-year seminar course. 
  3. Describe your day-to-day life outside of school? Outside of school, I mostly do homework. Grad school requires a lot of reading, so most of the time I am reading the textbook or studying for weekly stats quizzes. This semester, most of my classes were exam-based, so I've had very few papers to write, which has been nice. However, that means I have to study a lot to keep up with the material. I will often get together with friends in my program to do homework and study, since talking through the material really helps with comprehending it. Plus, it's a lot more fun to work with friends. 
  4. Is there anything that you wish you would have known before entering grad school? I knew it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn't realize how exhausting it would be. I wish I had known that you really have to make time to take care of yourself to ensure that you can do the best work possible. Don't get me wrong, I love the program I'm in and I know I made the right choice for myself, but you go through the material so much faster than undergrad, and if you don't consistently keep up, you'll fall really behind, and that can be very stressful. 
  5. Is there anything that you’d go back and do differently? I wouldn't stress as much about the application process. I was so nervous about not getting accepted anywhere, even after I submitted my applications and there was nothing left for me to do about it. As long as you can express your passion for public health in your application, you'll have nothing to worry about.