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Finding My Way to Medical School: Avni’s Story

The medical school admissions process is one of the most challenging, yet gratifying, journeys one can embark on. While every medical student eventually reaches the same destination, each student’s journey and drive for pursuing medicine is different. Though I hope my story provides some encouragement and inspiration, I urge you to remember that your story will inevitably look different from mine, and that is okay. This unique journey of yours is what will make you a personable, passionate physician with your own niche in this profession.

Where It All Began

It is true that at 3 years old, I would carry my medical bag with me everywhere I went, auscultating my cousins’ hearts and administering “vaccines” every flu season with my plastic needles. However, it wasn’t until much later that I decided I wanted to be a doctor–after I fell in love with science.

As an active member of my school’s Science Olympiad team, I competed year after year in events like “Anatomy and Physiology,” “Disease Detectives,” and “Experimental Design,” receiving my first exposure to medically relevant science, and I couldn’t get enough of the nitty-gritty details.

Soon after, I spent an entire summer participating in an immersive biomedical science summer program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, called Mechanisms of Human Health and Disease. After writing a comprehensive literature review on the molecular mechanisms of rheumatoid arthritis, learning about several different types of gene therapy, and listening to a cancer biologist teach about the hallmarks of cancer, I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to study human health one day.

This combination of enriching experiences ultimately propelled me to major in Biomedical Science at The Ohio State University.

Go, Bucks!

The central pillar of the Biomedical Science major is an immersive research experience, and amongst the countless resources available to me at a school as big as Ohio State, I found my home at the intersection of cancer biology and translational therapeutics, working under the mentorship of Dr. Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD, and Dr. Melanie Krook, PhD, to improve treatment options for a rare, aggressive bile duct cancer called cholangiocarcinoma. Shadowing a physician-scientist allowed me to witness how a constantly evolving body of research enables physicians to provide extraordinary care. I analyzed our research results to help decide which cancer medication would provide optimal benefit for patients. I listened to conversations convincing insurance companies to cover the cost of novel therapies backed by scientific findings. I interacted with patients who were enrolled in clinical trials we designed. I learned that research and medicine are interdependent, with medicine sparking new scientific questions, and research driving medicine forward.

While my time in the lab designing studies, conducting experiments, and analyzing data sharpened my scientific reasoning and critical thinking skills (and almost pushed me to get a PhD!), these interactions with the patients in Dr. Roychowdhury’s clinic reaffirmed my desire to be a clinician–to listen to patients’ stories and search for creative solutions to guide them through their most vulnerable moments.

The Nuts and Bolts – Full-Length Practice Exams

When the “why” is clear, the “how” is easy! Unfortunately, hundreds of Reddit threads and an overwhelming number of MCAT resources beg to differ. When it came time to start studying for the MCAT, I had no idea where to start. I scavenged the Internet for the perfect combination of resources, as this exam truly is two years of foundational scientific coursework tested in one eight-hour critical-thinking focused exam.

Eventually, I leaned on my upperclassmen friends to point me toward Blueprint. Studying for the MCAT is like training for a marathon. It takes weeks of preparation, and the more practice we do, the better trained our brains are for Test Day! Blueprint’s full-length exams were the perfect training tool for me. Alongside hundreds of practice questions, the detailed explanations outlining both correct and incorrect answer choices really allowed me to truly think like an MCAT test-writer and to rewire my brain to think strategically about how to answer passage-based questions. At an affordable price point, I felt that the full-length exams were representative of my real MCAT, which I ended up taking in May 2021.

I applied to medical school that same summer, and in January 2022, I was accepted to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where I began in August 2022.

Food for Thought

Here is what I hope to leave you with:

-Find your passion for science and for medicine! This journey is long and it is hard–I’m not going to sugarcoat that. Enjoy the little moments–the long organic chemistry nights, the failed experiments you troubleshoot in the lab, the endless iterations of your medical school personal statement–all of it. When the “why” is clear, the “how” will be easy.

-Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Lean on your academic advisors, research mentors, physicians you have shadowed, upperclassmen in your extracurricular organizations–whoever you know–to nudge you in the right direction when you’re stuck. Find your people, and know that they’re always going to be in your corner.

-When it comes to MCAT studying, find a resource you like and fully commit to it! For me, that resource was Blueprint, and if you’re stuck, it might be a good place for you to look as well.

Thank you for being here and for reading my story–I can’t wait to read about yours soon. If you need some free resources to kick-start your journey, create a free Blueprint account to get a free practice test (with analytics), 1600+ flashcards, and a study planner (that you can personalize).