Applying to Med/PA School, Individual Pre-Health Stories
How I Got Accepted to Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
Originally from the Houston area, Ellen Gaudet received a B.S.A. in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016 and an M.S. in Cell Systems & Anatomy from the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2018. She is a first-year medical student at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Worth, and intends to pursue a career in pediatrics. In her free time, Ellen enjoys traveling, dancing, reading, and watching musicals. In June 2015, she participated in the Atlantis Fellowship in Ourense, Spain.
This is just one in a series of blog posts that will feature medical students telling their stories of how they got accepted into medical school. Today, Ellen Gaudet shares with us the story of her acceptance to Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Ellen, give us a peek into your life. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?
For me, going into medical school was a big combination of things. I have always been interested in science, specifically biology. My science teachers were always my coolest teachers, and they made me love learning everything about science. I really got interested after taking AP Biology my senior year of high school. I thought it was so cool to learn about the body, and it was my first time enjoying anatomy dissections.
I started thinking about working in medicine specifically because of my mom, who is an amazing nurse. She would always tell me stories about her experiences, talking about exciting surgeries and the patients and families that really impacted her. At first I didn’t really think I could see myself doing anything in medicine, but hearing more about it from her, the medical field began to sound more interesting and rewarding.
I also grew up as a ballet dancer, and my biggest dream was to move to New York City to become a professional dancer. However, I had a serious ankle injury at the beginning of high school that changed that trajectory. It led me to countless appointments with different kinds of doctors, but led me to an arts specialist doctor that worked so hard to get me back to dancing with a personalized, intentional plan of care. She let me know that I had to make permanent biomechanic adjustments that would mean I could never be a professional ballet dancer, but my time with her actually influenced me to pursue a career in healthcare instead. I then decided to study biology in undergrad and work towards a goal of becoming a pediatrician, because I loved working with kids as well. Through shadowing and volunteering experiences in college, I knew I had found my calling!
Why did you choose to apply to Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine?
I specifically applied to Texas medical schools because I wanted to stay as close to family as possible. And I am very grateful to be from Texas, since there are so many medical schools and all of them are so highly regarded, even nationally. I am so happy that I ended up at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM).
I actually applied to medical school twice, and I decided to add TCOM to my application only on my second round, after learning more about osteopathic medicine. Growing up, I had no experiences with D.O.s myself, so I had a limited view of what a D.O. truly was. But TCOM quickly became one of the top schools on my list — I loved the emphasis placed on being a more holistic practitioner and having a patient-centered view of healthcare. Also, because I did a master’s program in anatomy between undergrad and medical school, I had a way to integrate my love and knowledge of anatomy into my patient care, with additional Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) training.
“I loved the emphasis placed on being a more holistic practitioner and having a patient-centered view of healthcare.”
What are three reasons why you think you were accepted?
I think the major reason that I got accepted the second time was that my 2-year master’s program allowed me to become more mature and ready to take on the rigors of medical school. I learned so much, worked on research for the first time, and gained teaching experience as an anatomy TA for medical students. I was also more academically ready. Anatomy is the basis of basically everything in medical school, and I had such a strong foundation when other classmates were really struggling. I was able to bring that strength and help my peers. Also, had I gone to medical school right after undergrad, I believe I would have gotten burnt out with school. My master’s years gave me a different pace and perspective on learning and studying, and made me a better student who truly loved to learn.
Another reason may be that having to reapply to medical school did not make me resentful. While it was initially tough to be rejected initially and to decide to keep trying, I was very appreciative of my second chance, and I showed that in my application. I proved to the admission committees that I was not bitter, but resilient and humble about the experience. I accepted the reason I did not get in the first time, and I worked to get more experiences to make me a better applicant and a better student in general. I was very honest about my weaknesses, and demonstrated that I had gone through a lot of growth.
The last reason I was accepted was that I was genuinely so in love with working in healthcare. I did unique things that showed my passion for being a medical professional. I served as a Spanish translator at a free clinic as part of a medical mission. I volunteered for children’s hospitals through their child life departments, putting on parties and craft days for the kids. And my most favorite experience was being an academic tutor for children on dialysis, which allowed me to view healthcare from the patient perspective instead of just from the physician’s perspective. I got to know those kids so well as they shared their stories of scary diagnoses and years of treatments, and knew everyday that I was with them that I was meant to serve kids like them forever. This showed in my application that my motivation was really for the patients and not for my own ego. I really tried to reveal my heart in my personal statement.
How do you think the Atlantis Fellowship influenced or impacted your acceptance?
With Atlantis, I spent a whole month abroad in Ourense, Spain and shadowed doctors in eight different specialties. I learned so much just by watching how different doctors handled different patients and situations. And most of the doctors were so wonderful– each one took me in gladly and acted as a personal mentor, sharing advice and knowledge and a desire to get to know me too. I saw such a range of care, personalities, and daily routines. And after years of Spanish classes, I was actually able to immerse myself in hearing and speaking Spanish all day (poorly, but I tried!) to work on becoming fluent. It was just an amazing experience that made me so sure that I wanted to work in healthcare and have my day-to-day look like that of the doctors I shadowed.
In interviews, the fellowship always gave me an awesome story to tell! One of the main questions you get asked in interviews is: “What experiences do you have that led you to apply to medical school?” My interviewers were always interested to know what the differences were between healthcare here and in Spain– they had a lot of questions about how public healthcare worked, how resources or standards were similar or different, and what my favorite experiences were. It was always so fun to talk about Atlantis, and the interviewers were always excited to hear about it, because there are not a lot of experiences like it.
How did you feel after the interview?
I had three interviews total. Two of them were standard, where you sit with one interviewer and he or she asks you lots of questions to get to know you. I felt like those two went really well; I felt very comfortable having a conversation and telling my story. However, it is kind of funny to remember that I did not feel good about my interview at TCOM. It was an MMI, and I had five questions in a row, each for for five minutes. I had to walk into a separate room for each question, each timed and with a different faculty member, and I felt so much pressure to appear competent and relaxed. I am sure I looked so nervous and frazzled! I walked out feeling like I had done horribly and that I was not going to get in, but surprisingly TCOM felt differently and accepted me.
MMIs are not my favorite. It is definitely hard to elaborate around those short questions because they are more focused on a situation or an ethical dilemma rather than getting to know the applicant personally. Also, you have to get used to making your point pretty quickly. I had not really known how to prepare for the MMI. I could have looked more in depth online, finding different examples of questions to practice with, but I decided not to look too much at those so as to not freak myself out. I did prepare for all of my interviews by coming up with examples of stories that I could apply to multiple situations, though. I was able to talk about Atlantis in all of them!
“I had to walk into a separate room for each question, each timed and with a different faculty member, and I felt so much pressure to appear competent and relaxed.”
Walk us through the moment you found out you got accepted.
For Texas, there is a matching process for medical school acceptances, similar to the national residency match day. After each interview, I had to rank the school in comparison to the others, then the match came out in February. On match day, I found out that I actually had not matched anywhere, so that was pretty disheartening and really made me doubt my chances. But slowly each school let me know that I was on a waitlist.
After a lot of suspense, I was finally given my chance to start medical school and I was accepted to TCOM two weeks later. It was probably 4:00 PM on a Friday, and I was just casually opening my email, sitting with my friend in my apartment. When I saw the beginning of the email subject line I went silent, opened it and read every word so slowly, and all of a sudden she looked at me, and asked if I was okay. “I just got in,” I said. I started crying, elated, and began calling and texting my loved ones. My fiance and family especially shared in my joy since they were so involved in all of the years of struggle it took to get to that point too (MCAT studying and anxiety, applying twice, moving to new cities, etc.). It was such an awesome feeling to finally get that “yes” after so many years building up to that moment!
Last question: How can others imitate your success?
I had a pretty emotional route to success, but I think the key is to make sure this is really the career path that you want. It is such a stressful application process to go through, so you have got to be sure it will be worth it for you personally. If it is, stick with it! Be resilient if it does not work out the first time. And I think it is becoming normal that, like me, people have to apply multiple times; I know so many students at different medical schools that did so. There are always people that come straight from undergrad and that is still awesome, but not everyone has to follow that standard route. For me, I am more appreciative that I had to learn to readjust my goals and path. My experiences helped me become more prepared and mature, as I said already. I felt like more of an adult coming into medical school.
“Take pride in your own path and know that it will make you a better student and then, eventually, a better doctor.”
Do not worry if your path is not the expected one. You do not have to apply during your junior year of college and get into medical school right after graduation unless you want to. And do not think that you have failed if that plan did not work. Many routes will make you the best version of yourself, whether that means going to graduate school, working full-time before going back to school, or taking time to become a spouse and parent first. Take pride in your own path and know that it will make you a better student and then, eventually, a better doctor.
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