Are you thinking of going to Medical School? MiOra Mentee, Buckley School student Psalm PC interviewed Professor Dr. Carl Maida from UCLA on how to develop a strong application.
Carl A Maida is a professor at UCLA and teaches medical anthropology, scientific research ethics, and action research in sustainability. His current work focuses on the ongoing dialogue between professional and lay knowledge in the areas of health, the quality of life, and sustainability of urban communities, and on the larger national and global debates on access to public goods. He directs the UCLA Pre-College Science Education Program, and conducts studies of project-based and inquiry-based learning in schools and action research in community-based organizations. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Anthropological Association, and the Society for Applied Anthropology.
Psalm: There are so many qualified candidates. How do you distinguish yourself from others when applying to medical school?
Dr. Maida: You’ve got to have the ability, grades and the test scores but you also have to have the heart, and you show that in your personal statement. The key is to be well-rounded. For example if you are planning on taking a major in Biology, broaden your experience by doing a minor in a Liberal Arts field. Medical Schools want students to have broad humanistic training. Today 92 languages, other than English, are spoken at home by students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The diversity is increasing in our communities. That is why it is so important to have a background in the humanities, such as your interest in classical civilizations, or in the arts.
Psalm: Can you please expand on what you mean by a “well-rounded” student?
Dr. Maida: In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford, Steve Jobs talked about his most important college class. Do you know what he told the Stanford graduates? Calligraphy, which informed his understanding of typography. You can’t just study biology. Colleges aren’t looking for young people who act like “automatons”; they are seeking emotionally intelligent young people to take part in a campus community.
Psalm: What would you recommend for someone who is starting college this fall?
Dr Maida: Starting college is more of a social and emotional transition than a physical one. 8th to 9th grade is a time when adolescents are adapting to changes occurring in their bodies; when we reach 25 or 26 years of age, there is another transition; that is when our neural pathways and patterns become fully formed. Going to college is a different kind of transition: you’re moving away from where you’ve lived for, potentially, years. There is a need for connection, and a need for mentorship. You also need a sense of sustainability, and an understanding of a university campus as a place, which is essential in a world where computers and video screens are such a large part of young people’s lives. We lose some of our sense of place with screen culture.
Psalm: Do you have an advice for women passionate about a career in STEM?
Dr. Maida: Link with like-minded women. Maintain strong connections with the people you meet in your freshman year. That’s the foundational experience in a healthy transition to adulthood, it’s why Stanford’s “First Year Experience” is a model for self-discovery, and the university supports incoming students with a more relaxed freshman year, one that that allows them to experience a less stressful transition from high school to college.
Psalm: Do you have any career advice?
Dr Maida: Dr. Charles Alexander, UCLA Associate Vice Provost for Student Diversity, and Director of the Academic Advancement Program speaks each year with high school students at our UCLA Pre-College Science Education Program. In his lecture, he writes down the decades of a person’s life course across the board; you know, 10-20, 20-30, 30-40, etc. The average life expectancy is into mid 80s. You want to be a doctor or a scientist? You go to college, and then to professional or graduate school, then you do your residency or post-doc. Then maybe you’re 32. Look at how many more decades you have. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? Try to broaden your experience in school and outside. Be aware and be especially mindful.