Applying to Med/PA School, Individual Pre-Health Stories
How I Got Accepted to Wayne State University School of Medicine
Michael grew up in Metro Detroit, in between Macomb and Clinton Townships. He graduated from Wayne State University with a B.S. in biological sciences honors and a minor in Spanish. Michael continued his medical education at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan and is now currently in his fourth year of medical school. For his Atlantis Fellowship, Michael shadowed at the Complexo Hospitalario Universitario de Ourense in Ourense, Spain in summer 2015. Michael intends to become a surgeon after medical school and is particularly interested in pediatric surgery. Michael is an avid traveler and has been to Ecuador, the Galapagos islands, Tanzania, and many areas of Europe. In his free time, Michael is part of a Slovak folk dance group that performs in the tri-state area of Michigan and occasionally performs abroad.
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, Michael Sobolic shares with us the story of his acceptance to Wayne State University School of Medicine.
Michael, give us a peek into your life. What initially attracted you to pursue medicine?
I think most people don’t like this answer anymore because they say it is cliché, but what attracted me, and I think what attracts most people to medicine — what should attract people to medicine — is the desire to help people and to care for their ailments, so they can live fulfilling lives.
Additionally, growing up, I always excelled in math and science, which is definitely helpful when taking up this track. I really enjoyed anatomy and the courses that you need to take before medical school, which prepared my path towards becoming a doctor. My passion for helping people and my love of the sciences is what drove me to pursue medicine. It is not the most fascinating response, but I think these principles prevent physicians from burnout, which is a hot topic in the medical field these days.
Why did you choose to apply to Wayne State University School of Medicine?
First of all, I applied to a lot of local medical schools because my family and community are very important to me, but I did apply to some bigger names in other states.
What really made me decide that I wanted to go to Wayne State University School of Medicine was their national notoriety for their clinical experience. The clinical experience here in Detroit during your third and fourth years is almost unparalleled in the nation. The residents that Wayne State University pumps out are above and beyond a lot of their peers in terms of clinical skills for this reason.
The stages of pathology that you see in Detroit are also unparalleled. Many of the patients often times don’t have health insurance and don’t seek healthcare until late in the game, so you see things that you wouldn’t see elsewhere. You might see a patient with tertiary syphilis or someone with diabetes that has sugars of 600 – 700 mg/dL. A lot of students, including those at some of the more notable institutions, don’t see similar pathology.
As I have gone through medical school, I have realized more of the real benefits to attending Wayne State, such as the academic partnerships with the Detroit Medical Center, the Henry Ford Health System, and the Beaumont Health System, that are very strong for networking once you finish medical school. Also, we have a really great longitudinal ultrasound program that takes place throughout all four years of medical school, which trains us very well to perform various ultrasound techniques once we leave medical school.
What are three reasons why you think you were accepted?
It is difficult to answer this question because you must put yourself in the shoes of the interviewers and think about why they chose you. You can feel really good about an interview and not get in at that school, and you can feel very bad about an interview and have been accepted. First and foremost, grades and MCAT scores definitely get you in the door. Unfortunately, that is the way that the system is. You need a certain MCAT score and a certain GPA to be considered.
I think that initially got me in the door, but what sold my interview there, and at other places, was my many extracurricular activities. I have a laundry list of extracurricular activities that included volunteering at a hospital, working at that hospital as a nursing assistant, shadowing with the Atlantis Fellowship, tutoring as an undergraduate, conducting research, and going on a mission trip to Tanzania. I think that between all of those, the interviewer was able to see that I am not just numbers on a paper, I am not just an MCAT score, I am not just a GPA. They could tell that the person in front of them had a story to tell and has had all these amazing experiences that would enable him to be a good contribution to their medical school.
“The interviewer was able to see that I am not just numbers on a paper, I am not just an MCAT score, I am not just a GPA. They could tell that the person in front of them had a story to tell and has had all these amazing experiences that would enable him to be a good contribution to their medical school.”
How do you think the Atlantis Fellowship influenced or impacted your acceptance?
It is actually really funny how I happened upon the Atlantis Fellowship. It popped up on my email one day, and the location was the Canary Islands, so I thought, “How cool would it be to go somewhere tropical, but simultaneously get some hospital shadowing experience to see what it is like to be a physician?”
When I got accepted, the Fellowship location was Ourense in northwestern Spain and I said, “What? This is not what we talked about,” but I thought, “This is going to be something different, and I should keep an open mind.” Anyway, I ended up going to Ourense and had an absolutely amazing time. It was the first time I went somewhere where I didn’t know any of the people I was going with, except for one Fellow that I met at the airport here in the States.
The hospital shadowing experience is unbelievable. It was similar to being a third-year medical student in the sense that I was engaged in interactions with the patients as they were discussing their cancer treatment, or I was up close and personal during surgeries, which were things that I didn’t get to see before I was a third-year medical student.
It was just a great experience overall, and it definitely came up in several of my medical school interviews. The interviewers were really interested that I went overseas to do hospital shadowing and wanted to know what I had seen and experienced. Especially in terms of the healthcare debate in the U.S., they were interested to hear my experience with the socialized healthcare system in Spain and how it compares to healthcare in the U.S.
“I was engaged in interactions with the patients as they were discussing their cancer treatment, or I was up close and personal during surgeries, which were things that I didn’t get to see before I was a third-year medical student.”
How did you feel after the interview?
After the Wayne Interview, I felt really good. I think It really helps when you have a connection to your interviewer. Medical school interviews are not job interviews, where they ask about how well you are suited for the job, what your three best qualities are, and all those other typical interview questions. They just want to get to know you and have a simple conversation with you. One friend of mine had a 30-minute conversation about football with one of his interviewers because, again, they just want to see that you can carry a normal conversation, that you are a normal person that can go to school and get along with your peers and will one day get along with your co-workers.
That is what ended up happening in this interview; we had a simple conversation. I got the chance to look up my interviewer beforehand– which I would highly recommend doing. If you have the opportunity to learn about the field of medicine your interviewer is in and the research they are doing, it can only help you guide your conversation. I think that really helped me in my interview.
I mentioned in my interview that I speak Spanish, and that is something that I got to do a lot during my Atlantis Fellowship in Spain. My interviewer ended up being Hispanic, and she was a plastic surgeon, so we had a lot to talk about. The topics ranged from the fact that I knew Spanish (she actually tested me when I walked in and said a sentence to me in Spanish) to Mexican music, to my interest in surgery. I knew that we hit it off during the interview, and I walked out feeling really good about it.
Walk us through the moment you found out you got accepted.
This was right before Christmas. I woke up around 11:30 am, I was flipping through my phone, and I opened up my email and saw that I had an e-mail from Wayne State. I think the whole house heard me scream because my parents came rushing into my bedroom, busting the door open because they thought that I was dying, and I started crying after I read the email.
It is such a strong emotional moment. You work very hard through all of your education– through high school, college, and the whole application process. It is a lot of work, and it is so stressful. To reach the end of the journey where you are accepted into one school– and Wayne State was the first school that I was accepted to– is such an overwhelming feeling of emotion and thankfulness. It was an amazing moment and an amazing early Christmas present. I will never forget it.
Last question: How can others imitate your success?
There are multiple paths to get into medical school, and there shouldn’t be one path to medical school because the journey is what makes people stand out during their interview process. There are certain elements that make or break applications, depending on what school you want to attend. You want to make sure that you have extracurriculars, shadowing, volunteering, or working in the hospital; something that will show that you have done some research and have garnered other experiences along those lines.
Those are the typical things, but the things that get brought up in interviews the most, and what people want to hear and read about in applications, are passions that you’ve developed throughout your life. For example, I tailored my personal statement around the folk dance group that I’m involved in. That is something different that most people don’t have. So it is important to have something that you are passionate about, and it is important that you are developing that passion throughout your education.
The other thing that I would say is: do everything that you do 110% but don’t do a million things 110%, AKA don’t be the jack of all trades and king of none. Quality over quantity. Pick a few things that you are working on, that you are passionate about, and put your all into them because that is how people will notice you. If you are doing a research project, put your all into that one research project, impress your professor, and if he/she is happy with your work, then you will get a good letter of recommendation. So in summary, make sure you have checked all of the required boxes for your application, but then have a couple of things that you are passionate about and give those things your 110%.
“The other thing that I would say is: do everything that you do 110% but don’t do a million things 110%, AKA don’t be the jack of all trades and king of none.”
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