Once my inevitable blog post comes around during the Tour, I often reflect on themes that arise from students during the sessions. This time, I wanted to discuss opportunities. Students often wonder how to get involved in organizations or shadowing or leadership or et al. Many times the involvement is more related to knowledge of your environment, timing, or being alert. This is not a great answer to share with students, so my general tip is that you need to “keep your head on a swivel” and see what comes up around you.
To use examples from my life:
- Importance of knowledge of potential opportunities: I was very fortunate to get selected off of a waitlist to participate in the Summer Medical Dental Education Program (SMDEP) through the AAMC. I learned of the program late my junior year*. I barely got the application out before I spent a quarter abroad in Florence, Italy. Near the middle of the program, I received an email about participating; I immediately changed my flights to ensure I was in New York for the start. Not only did it give me a plan for preparing to the MCAT (which I didn’t have), it also allowed me to meet an amazing woman who became my wife and mother to my baby boy! While I lucked into a situation, it was one I definitely could have broadened my knowledge base for these opportunities; my other classmates knew about them—I didn’t.
- Importance of interest and timing: I have written before how I stumbled into my PhD, as in I did not apply directly to a combined MD/ PhD program. This opportunity, though, allowed me to further my research background as well as take advantage of other opportunities that opened from having this “time”. Often with these opportunities, though, you really need to weigh the risk/ benefit in a short window of time because the timing window may close abruptly.
- Importance of staying alert: I was at a Student National Medical Association (SNMA) Annual Meeting where I saw a brief video about the T4D after it had completed the first tour. I would have never thought that years later, I would be talking about completing my 5th tour. I have met an awesome group of people, some who are my peers and colleagues, some who are great mentors, and others who are just really good Geese (aka people)!
Notice I did not talk about being lucky when it came to these opportunities. While luck may have played a little role, I had to make conscious decisions about these opportunities and how they potentially could impact my life in the short and long term. I had to have discussions with loved ones when something could have altered our plan. That’ll being said, some would prefer to rather be lucky than good. Others say we make our own luck. In either situation, you have to be aware of and open to the potential of opportunities coming in very quickly!