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What's it like to be pre-med? Four students discuss

Rutgers students talk about their experience on the pre-med track. – Photo by rutgersu / Instagram

At Rutgers and in universities across the world, undergraduate students hoping to pursue a career in medicine follow a pre-med track. Four pre-med students describe the responsibilities they hold and the obstacles they face in this pathway.

Saniya Batliwala, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year, said that during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, she was afforded time to reflect on her future and she was able to finalize her decision to pursue medicine as a career.

She said the pandemic also underscored the importance of the health care field in general and led to an increased appreciation for health care workers. Batliwala said she is currently still in the early stages of the pre-med track but anticipates that it will be rigorous. 

“I know that being a doctor is no easy feat or just being in the medical field is not necessarily something easy to do,” she said. “It’s a very high-stress situation, an all-switches-on type of area.”

With regard to the most difficult aspects of the premed track, Batliwala said that she finds it challenging to complete academic courses in time for the medical college admission test (MCAT).

Juwairia Hasan, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said that she finds it challenging to remain motivated knowing how much more time and work there is remaining prior to entering medical school.

Hasan, who hopes to specialize in surgery or obstetrics, said she is currently looking for extracurricular and shadowing opportunities but it is difficult to secure such positions.

“It’s really difficult because either (employers) want experience or some kind of certificate or the hours are just difficult with school,” she said.

Anisah Mahmood, also a School of Arts and Science sophomore, said she was able to do research through the Douglass Residential College’s Project SUPER initiative.

Mahmood said the program allowed her to have her first research experience, which she greatly enjoyed. During this experience, she said she appreciated using the scientific method, interacting with senior researchers in a lab environment and being responsible for an entire project.

Mahmood said several factors led her to the pre-med track including a natural interest in science since middle school, participation in science-based extracurriculars such as Science Olympiad, parental support and encouragement from teachers.

"I had this one teacher who taught me actually sixth through 12 grade," she said. "She was like 'you have to tune into your talents, and you have a talent.'"

Currently, she said both her internal motivation and her support system push her forward on the pre-med track.

Mehak Ali, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she has wanted to attend medical school since childhood, and the more experience she obtains in the medical field, the more she is sure about her career choice.

She said after her undergraduate degree, she hopes to take a gap year to complete a master's degree. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ali said she recommends pre-med students take a gap year to decide whether they are ready to commit to medical school and gain more field experience.

Ali said she feels particularly fulfilled as a pre-med student when she is able to work in the field and contribute to it.

“If you’re a person that likes helping others, even if you’re just volunteering, even if you’re just shadowing and observing a doctor, you’re getting that patient experience,” she said. “You’re making a difference in the field, and it’s really fulfilling to see that.

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