In this episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Nii Darko, an amazing surgeon and podcaster. His podcast Docs Outside the Box, featuring "ordinary doctors extraordinary things." Nii uses his show as a way to rekindle his love of medicine.
Today, Ryan and Nii talk about his medical school journey, his greatest influencer to become a physician, his MCAT experience, the importance of reaching out to people, and what needs to be done to increase the number of minorities in medical school.
Here are the highlights of the conversation with Nii:
Nii's journey of becoming a physician:
- Growing up in Queens, New York and being always interested in medicine
- No prior exposure to the medical world except for The Cosby Show as his only window (Bill Cosby actually played the part of an obstetrician)
- Nii's aha! moment: Shadowing a trauma surgeon and witnessing an organized chaos as they treated a patient with multiple gunshot wounds
Bill's memories of The Cosby Show and wanting to be a physician:
- Growing up in the projects and a two-parent household
- Growing up poor but having a stable household environment
- Latching on the the TV show personality of what a physician is
- Never had any feeling of inferiority but knowing that he just had to work harder
Nii's medical school journey:
- Thinking that doing well in school will get you to medical school
- Running track in college and everything was in periphery including academics
- Being an OK student and not reaching out to his premed advisors
- Not applying to a broad range of schools and just doing it on his own
- Applying the first time and getting wait-listed, and getting rejected
His next steps to figure out why he got rejected:
- Going through the mourning process for being rejected
- Having no "plan B"
- Stepping back and deciding to be more strategic on things
- Working at the Sports Authority selling sneakers
- Getting invited to become a graduate assistant to help coach the track team and in return get a portion of his school tuition paid for
- Knowing his MCAT score and his application had to get better
Not doing well in the MCAT the first time:
- Nii got a 21
- Not studying for the MCAT because he was scared and was naive to what the MCAT actually was
- Not understanding the concept of doing practice tests
Seeing the importance of reaching out to people:
- You cannot be an island.
- Find people who are doing the same thing as you.
- Try to find support groups and forums.
- Dealing with his ego the he didn't need any help (to the point of even throwing a postbac program letter away)
How to get more minorities to be interested in being premed students:
- Pipeline programs from multiple sources
- The need for more grassroot approaches
- Physicians, lawmakers, teachers going back to reach and getting involved
- Not just a "physician" issue but a public health issue
- An issue on cultural competence that needs to be addressed
- Increasing the amount of medical schools to increase the amount of seats available to minority students
Factors affecting the low number of minorities in medical school:
- Price tag of education
- Lack of role models and opportunity pipeline programs
- Delayed gratification is discouraging
The impetus behind Docs Outside the Box:
- Nii's entire life as a delayed gratification
- Interest in computers, running, and connecting with people fell by the wayside in order to become a physician
- At his happiest times when he's involved in doing different things
- There is so much more to him than being a physician
- Learning about stories of so many ordinary doctors doing extraordinary things
Some pieces of advice for premed students:
Take a deep breath. Relax. Dream what it's like to be on the other end but really understand why. It's tough to get in but you can always re-apply.
Think strategically. No man is an island. Reach out to other people. It's a team approach and cooperative. Read books on the best way to become the best applicant.
Links and Other Resources:
Nii's podcast, Docs Outside the Box
Nii's blog, Keeping Up with the Darkos
Join the AMSA Premed Fest on October 1-2, 2016 in Tampa, Florida and get the chance to hang out with other premed students, medical student, and doctors and learn about the reality of what becoming a physician looks like. Learn about emerging issues like physician-assisted suicide, how to ace your interview, and participate in suturing clinics. Every activity is focused on helping you get into medical school. Use this Coupon Code: MSHQ17 and get a discounted registration cost of $49 for AMSA members and $69 for non-AMSA members.
Take this opportunity to meet and greet Dr. Ryan Gray at the event. He will be one of the speakers specifically talking about how to ace your medical school interview.