The PremedHQ Guide


How to Develop Clinical Experience as a BS/MD Applicant: The Four Core Activities

Deciding to attend a BS/MD program can very well determine the trajectory of the rest of your life. Not only do you have to be confident that medicine is the right path for you, but you also have to effectively demonstrate this developing passion for medicine in your applications. Participation in the following four medicine-related extracurricular activities will display a level of passion for medicine that BS/MD admissions boards expect to see in ideal candidates. If you lack such experiences, consider looking into opportunities that would allow you volunteer, shadow, conduct research, or champion a public health project in order to further solidify your application.

1. Volunteer and Give Back

Having volunteer experience should be a baseline requirement for any individual applying to BS/MD programs. The ability to be an altruistic, compassionate individual is a highly valued quality in potential candidates. Furthermore, the practice of medicine is a pursuit catered to satisfying the needs of others, and admissions boards value candidates who can empathize with people from all walks of life. There is no better experience than volunteering to both help people in need, and to learn to appreciate what one has. Whether it is working at a homeless shelter, participating in community cleanups, or assisting in day-to-day operations of a hospital, a potential BS/MD applicant should seek out such opportunities in order to proactively improve the world around them.

While volunteering is an experience most college applicants will have, BS/MD applicants can distinguish themselves by identifying novel problems in their local community. By demonstrating a strong commitment to addressing such problems through volunteer work, applicants can show passion and commitment in their pursuits…traits that only further prove the quality of their candidacy for such highly selective programs.

2. Shadow, Shadow, Shadow!

If you do not have any shadowing experience, start looking! A lack of shadowing experience can be a huge disadvantage to a BS/MD applicant. Admissions boards want to be absolutely sure that the candidates they accept are fully committed to practicing medicine. If a candidate has not yet experienced the environment and workflow of a hospital or clinic, there may be concerns about how informed they are in deciding to pursue medicine as a career. The largest obstacle to finding shadowing opportunities arises from their overall lack of availability. Most public hospitals do not offer extensive shadowing opportunities, and the best avenue for pursuing such opportunities would be through contacting private clinics. In order to catch the attention of physicians while contacting them for shadowing opportunities, be sure to submit a resume alongside a cover letter explaining why you would like to shadow and what you hope to gain from the experience.

3. Find Research Opportunities

Conducting research in an academic laboratory is another critical experience all BS/MD applicants should have. Such an experience demonstrates initiative and a general interest in science, two qualities that are, yet again, greatly valued in applicants. If you do not have any research experience, consider contacting laboratories at a university in your local area. The process of finding such experiences can be tedious, but occasionally a willing P.I. (Principal Investigator) will allow you to work in their lab. Alternatively, university-sponsored summer research programs are another great way to experience a research environment and develop basic laboratory skills. The main downside to such programs is the cost, but having this research experience is still better than submitting an application devoid of any lab work at all.

4. Demonstrate Leadership in Medicine

There are many ways to demonstrate leadership in the medical field. Leadership is especially important to have as a future doctor, because doctors are constantly put into positions where they have be the leader in their patient’s healthcare delivery. One of the best ways to demonstrate leadership in the medical field is to create your own public health or global health initiative.

For example, let’s say you are volunteering at a hospital and you notice that homeless patients are coming into the hospital due to infections. They are getting infections because they do not have bandages to cover up small cuts, and those small cuts turn into serious infections. So your public health project might be to distribute first aid kits to the homeless populations in your local area, and spread awareness about how the lack of basic first aid access will actually result on a big cost to the healthcare system further down the down.

When you champion these sorts of initiatives, you are telling medical school admissions committees that you not only care about people, but you are actually going out there and doing something about it. You care enough that you are creating a solution when a solution does not presently exist. That is something most high school students simply do not do, and something that can truly help you stand out. Medical school admissions committees will love to read your essays regarding your unique healthcare initiative, and it will definitely be a topic of conversation during your BS/MD interview.
Overall, these experiences comprise the four core activities that are nearly essential to have in any solid BS/MD program application. Be sure to keep this in mind if you eventually decide (or have already decided) that practicing medicine is your future career path!