The Life of a Pre-Med Student: The Black Guy Perspective

The Life of a Pre-Med Student: The Black Guy Perspective You know…a lot of people have their different views and perspectives of affirmative action and whether it still works; or even whether it is still needed. I believe that it is a tad hard really to form opinions about the subject when you are only seeing the effects of it at the undergraduate level.

I was born in the richest black county in the United States. You can look it up; Prince George’s County in Maryland has the most affluent African Americans in America, and I live there. No where else in America will you find so many black homeowners with mansions; no where else will you see so many black people with professional degrees; no where else in America will you see so many black people with $80,000 cars. Am I rich? No. Am I poor? No. Am I disadvantaged?….. At times I feel like I could be. You see, even though I live in the most affluent black county in the U.S., I was 2 maths behind my friend who attended public school in the white county beside us. Most of the concepts in science and math, that I happened to learn in elementary school were taught to me by my mother when I came home from school. Its all stupidity. I went to a private school and I was still 2 maths behind my friend in public school. Do I have all the explanations as to why? No I don’t, but what I do know is that my situation was better than most, however I still received the worst preparation in science and math. Something is seriously wrong with the educational system in America that one public school in a black county can be 2 math subjects behind another public school in the white county. What causes this? Probably tax payers who aren’t active enough; whatever the reason the effects are felt by the students. The standardized tests that I used to take in elementary school and high school where complete jokes compared to the SATs. So no wonder why when I took the SATs, despite the $300 prep course, no real difference in my performance was seen. I was never taught to think like the SAT wanted me to think, and if I hadn’t learned by the time I took the SAT, I definitely couldn’t have learned by the time I took the MCAT. But once again, my situation was better than most. My mother is a science whiz, so I inherited a little of what she had, which allowed me to do pretty well; but what about all the others? The black kids whose parents never finished high school? The black kids whose parents received master’s degrees (in non-scientific fields) but who still can’t help them with them with their science and math homework? Where will they find help? Who is there to push them and force them to work harder in science and math?

So now (and I’m making this guy up) we have Chad Jacobs, who is a male, Caucasian, Biology major at Columbia University. He is a good guy, but he just can’t understand why his black friend Jamal, can’t score above a 26 on his MCAT. I mean, Chad took the Kaplan course just like Jamal did, and he knows that Jamal is smart because he does well in class. So why can’t he get over a 26? It doesn’t matter that Chad scored a 1470 on his SAT and Jamal scored an 1120; they have both taken the same classes, so they should be on a level playing field now…right? Heck Jamal even tutored him in Organic Chemistry before a couple tests. So why the 26? “You know what”, Chad thinks, “Jamal can probably do better if he would just retake it, but he is probably going to keep the score and play the race card to get in.” And you know what, there are many black folks that do; but most don’t. Many black people with 3.4 GPAs and 24s on their MCAT aren’t getting in anywhere. They aren’t taking anyone’s spot, but the prevailing stereotype of black applicants still sticks. I could feel it at my Vanderbilt interview. I walked into the waiting room with the other applicants and they looked like they hadn’t seen a black person before. The laughing and joking that I heard as I walked in quieted, and they looked slightly uncomfortable. It was only because I broke the silence with conversation and jokes that things got back to normal. Even though I’m sure that none of those guys were racist; most probably couldn’t help but think that I had only received an interview because of my skin color. Forget the fact that I’ve fed little children in African refugee camps, done extensive Hurricane Katrina relief, sutured chests closed (he was already dead), anesthesized gun shot wounds, been president of the premed club, won research awards in neuroscience, done research at Cincinnati and Hopkins; etc., all of that doesn’t matter…you know why? Because I only got an interview because I’m black.

Would these stereotypes go away if affirmative action was ended? No. If people feel that others are inferior, they will always feel that way; a change in school policy won’t change that. So what do I do as a black applicant? Heck, I could quite possibly care less about what others think. Sure people say that they would never want to be treated by a doctor who got in through affirmative action; so I guess that counts out Ben Carson. Surely the only way he got into the University of Michigan in the 70s was because of affirmative action; but you know what, if my little daughter is dying due to a tumor in her brain, I’ll march her right down the another doctor; a doctor who didn’t receive his training because of affirmative action. All of the babbling and bickering that goes on about affirmative action is stupid. In the PERFECT PREMED WORLD, gaining an acceptance to medical school would only be dependent on GPA and MCAT. Fortunately, adcomms realized that this method yields shallow, arrogant, daft, one-dimensional physicians who can’t relate to their patients. They realized that becoming a good doctor took more than great scores, but something almost intangible that they search for in your extracurricular activities and in your personal statement. So although many students may think that affirmative got me into medical school (where ever I end up) I won’t really have the time to worry about what they think; you know why?….because I’ll be studying to be doctor, and that can get pretty busy.

Premeds are weird people. We are expected to be at the top of our class, even if its pottery; we are expected to have a compassion that evaporates from our pores for others; we are expected to balance a 3.96 GPA along with being the president of scientific clubs; we are expected to spend our summers in the research lab doing crap that we totally aren’t interested in, then we are supposed to present this crap research and act excited to people who know that you are only doing research to better your medical school application. But that is the way the game goes, and if you don’t play it, then you may not make it. The honest truth though, is that you don’t honestly need a 3.8 GPA and a 36 on your MCAT to get into medical school. You should always aim for it, but as the Dean of Admissions at the University of Maryland School of Medicine told me; committee members basically look at your application to make sure that you meet a certain minimum requirement in terms of GPA and MCAT. From his own mouth he said that a 3.4 GPA and a 25 on your MCAT is all he believes an applicant needs to actually handle the medical school course work. Should you strive for this? NO. You should aim for the highest possible, and hope you land somewhere close to the top.

Should you major in Biology or Chemistry when you enter college, planning to become a doctor? I know I’m biased, but I would definitely recommend majoring in science and more specifically, Biology. Of course, you don’t have to have a science major to take the MCAT, but you still have to take Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics, no matter what major you have. Also, if you want to know at least what the teachers are talking about for the first 2 weeks of medical school, you also would need to take Biochemistry, Gross Anatomy (if they have it), Physiology, Embryology, and Microbiology. What is the use of avoiding a science major if you have to take all these science courses? It seems more like a headache to me, than a benefit. This also brings me to why I would choose a Biology major. If you look at the extra courses you should take to get a handle during the first 2 weeks of medical school, you see that they are all Biology courses. In fact, most the classes you take in medical school are Biology classes. If you don’t think like a Biologist, medical school will probably be more challenging. Plenty of Chemistry majors have gotten through just fine, but I bet you they sucked at Gross Anatomy and Micro.

I’m not really sure why i wrote this entry, but i hope it helps someone.

4 Responses to The Life of a Pre-Med Student: The Black Guy Perspective

  1. Jasmine says:

    As an aspiring Black Physician, I would simply like to say that your entry really “spoke” to me. I really appreciated both your honesty and prospective about the game all Pre-Med students play, although some play different games. I’d also like to thank you for you entry.

    However, I have a few other questions…(Although some of course may have already been answered in previous unread entries, your responses would be most helpful!)

    1. How’d you find a mentor?
    2. What’s your advice for the pre-med students that faced unforeseeable adversity during their undergraduate studies?
    3. What advice can you give to those trying to network and become members of Black medical societies? (They are not offered at my white majority private university!)

    Thank You,
    Jasmine

  2. Nathou says:

    Great blog entry. Once in a workshop I attended, the instructor told us that SAT scores can be predicted by the household income. I thought that was pretty interesting. What did you do to overcome the MCAT obstacle? Specifically learn to think the way they want you to think?

  3. Malak Bis says:

    Black need to be represented at Med schools at all cost!

  4. Yellow says:

    That something that the adcomms discovered isn’t intangible; it’s called popularity. Also, I just looked for evidence that Dr. Carson needed affirmative action to gain admission to medical school. The answer was OMFG yes. Of course he did. The entire admissions procedure is comparable to a presidential election cycle.

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