“It is not enough to be smart.” You also have to care.
That was a key message that Wichita-area high school students heard Saturday morning about what it takes to be a doctor. The message came during the annual “Doc for a Day” event at University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita. The event drew about 70 high school juniors and seniors.
In small groups, the students got a feel for what medical professionals do. In one room, they looked up close at an enlarged heart that had been removed from a cadaver and heard that one of the reasons the organ could have been so large is high blood pressure.
In another room, they saw X-rays that revealed cancerous tumors. In another, they got to hold a device to the swollen belly of a woman in her 37th week of pregnancy, hear her baby’s heart beat and learn that a heart tone in the womb sounds faster and louder than the mother’s. In one session, they drew a dark liquid into a syringe from a mannequin, learning how to properly use a needle.
In an introductory talk, first-year med student Nick Ojile told the high schoolers there is no single recipe for getting into medical school. But there are some general qualifications: liking people and liking to work with people, persistence and, on a practical level, being able to tolerate seeing blood.
Ojile is the one who told them “It is not enough to be smart,” that they also have to show they are caring. He told them that med schools look at more than an applicant’s grades and test scores. He urged them to be active and to record their volunteer and extracurricular activities.
He told them it takes four years of undergraduate college, four years of medical school and three to seven years of a residency to become a doctor.
But there is a reward, and not just the monetary reward. The students heard that a doctor can expect a salary of $125,000 to $700,000. But Ojile told the teens that for a doctor, the real reward is playing a key role at the most important times of people’s lives.
Some of his advice for college: Get a pre-med adviser who can guide you in what courses to take; you don’t have to get a degree in the sciences, but having a background in the sciences helps; develop good study habits but don’t just memorize stuff, which you will likely forget. You have to understand the information so you can apply it.
He recommended that they shadow a professional as soon as they start college. He urged them to get involved as a mentor or tutor for other students and join clubs, that “all physicians are leaders.”
Don’t stress too much in college, he half-joked, because “there is plenty of time to stress during medical school.”
Less than 40 percent of medical school applicants are accepted each year because there are more applicants than can be accepted, he said. “Don’t get discouraged.” Those who aren’t accepted the first time have a better chance the next time they apply.
Medical school interviewers, he said, always ask what would you do if you don’t get into medical school? So always have an alternative career in mind.
The students also heard that there are other good medical jobs besides being a doctor. There’s a huge demand in rural areas for dentists, and a dental hygienist might make $62,000. The demand for physical therapists is expected to grow dramatically.
One of the visiting high school students, Colby Rankin, from Goddard’s Eisenhower High, said he got inspired to go into the medical field when he watched a hospice nurse help his grandmother as she was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Jared Ridder, from Buhler High, said he is interested in medicine because “for me, it’s problem-solving. There’s something wrong, and I want to know … You’re never done learning.”
Med-school student Kysha Totten told the teens: “You need to work hard, but it’s not impossible. You don’t have to be a genius” to get into med school. “They really look at character too.”