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Breaking Down Barriers Between Med Schools And Pre-med Students

Ryan Gray, M.D., had had enough of online forums that offered med-school hopefuls discouragement disguised as advice. At a time when we hear about critical physician shortages in many disciplines and numerous locations, Gray and his wife set out to break down the barriers between the information and the students that desperately need it.

By Ryan Gray, M.D.

Like many med-school hopefuls, my wife and I got plenty of erroneous advice along our path to medical school. In fact, we were told simply not to apply. The advice didn't come from an anonymous commenter on a website or nay-saying family or friends. We were told by our own premed advisors – the ones we entrust with our future careers – not to try to get into med school. 

My advisor said that as a white male, I wouldn’t have a chance and advised me not to apply at all. My wife’s advisor told her that the first step is to formulate a backup plan. While some may see that as good advice, it is not the first thing you want to hear when you are excited to learn about your future.
 
While we were both discouraged by our advisors, others are deterred from med school by the most popular premed forum website, where they go seeking advice but instead are ridiculed, laughed at and told they have no chance of getting into medical school.  “That’s awfully ambitious. Do you really think you can get that on the MCAT?” one commenter asks. Other comments are peppered with name-calling that I won’t quote here.  Though the site is promoted as the one-stop shop for those navigating the med school application process, the premed looking for answers is getting them from unqualified peers, with the status “pre-med” next to their own names, not experts.
 
My parents aren’t doctors. Nor were any of our friends or family. I was on my own.  Just me and my "advisor." The same was true for my wife. Luckily my wife and I both ignored the bad advice we got and applied anyway. We met in medical school, became physicians, and now we are married. But surely some students are discouraged by bad "advice" and decide not to seek a career in medicine at all. These could have been the physicians that cure cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's, but now they are accountants or business executives because they were told they shouldn't apply.
 
As a Flight Surgeon in the United States Air Force, I work with younger enlisted airmen who often came to me wanting to know what it would take to go to medical school. I would bring them into my office and spill my guts about the premed process, about medical school and what followed.
 
They were amazed at the premed course requirements, the timeline for taking the MCAT, the need for letters of recommendation, the process for submitting the applications and, beyond medical school, how one picks a specialty and how long after medical school they’d be in training to practice that chosen specialty. Why wasn’t all of this information available online?
 
In a world where Google puts unlimited information literally at our fingertips, why is information about going to medical school still shrouded behind a veil of mystery?
 
That question, along with our desire to give back to the medical profession and a growing enjoyment of teaching the next generation of physicians, led my wife and me to start the Medical School Headquarters website.
 
We wanted to provide information to the roughly 60,000 students that apply to medical school every year so they could make the best decisions possible to lead them down their path to becoming physicians.
 
Our message is slowly spreading, growing to over 10,000 visitors to our site every month. That tells me that the information is critically needed. We continually strive to add more amazing, valuable content available for free for all to see.
 
The information is accurate, up-to-date and objective. On the site, students will find the newest matriculant class data, test prep advice and a timeline on what the student should be doing and when. We even started a podcast in which we interview the top experts and share the stories of amazing students that have a story to tell. We recently talked to Dr. Deborah German, the Dean of the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, about the types of students UCF is seeking. She also gave advice for what high school students starting out on their premed journey should be doing.
 
At a time when we hear about critical physician shortages in many disciplines and numerous locations, our goal is to break down the barriers between the information and the students that desperately need it. We want to create the source of information about everything needed to become a physician so that students can quickly, efficiently find answers to their questions and then get back to more important things – like studying for the MCAT.
 
Ryan Gray, M.D., is a physician in the United States Air Force. He graduated from the University of Florida with a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Sciences and received his M.D. from New York Medical College.  After graduating medical school, he completed his internship through a Tufts Medical Center transitional medicine program at Lemuel Shattuck Hospital. To learn more, visit The Medical School Headquarters.

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Posted by Sonya Collins on Mar 14, 2013 10:09 AM America/New_York
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