Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Student Success Story: L. Sunhye Park, UVA '14

1. What led to your interest in medicine? 
In high school, I was part of a student philanthropy group that required volunteering at an assigned organization for the summer. For almost all my life until then, I was focused on pursuing arts and design, so I wanted to be assigned to a museum. But instead, I was assigned to a local free clinic. Soon enough, I fell in love with the ability and privilege that a physician has to help people in our community. That’s when I realized I wanted to pursue a career that can have a direct impact on the health of individuals in my community.

2. Who or what inspired you to pursue medicine? 
For me, one of the most attractive aspects of medicine is lifelong service. Taking intro science classes my first two years in college was interesting but frankly not the most attractive part of being pre-med. Fall semester of my third year, I studied abroad in Denmark for a semester for more holistic perspective on what I want to pursue. To my surprise, the program I signed up for allowed me an exposure to clinical experiences equivalent to first year medical students. That’s when I reaffirmed my passion in medicine because I loved connecting patient stories with biomedical sciences to ultimately help someone. When I realized what pursuing medicine meant for me, I found many selfless professors and physicians in Denmark and UVA who continue to inspire me.  

3.  What did you major in and what inspired you to choose this/these area(s) of study? 
I double majored in Biology and Media Studies. Majoring in Biology was more or less naturally fitting with my interests in medicine while I was fulfilling pre-med requirements at the same time. Media Studies was a major I did not expect to study. I took Introduction to Media Studies first year (I was planning on minoring in film studies at the time) and absolutely fell in love with learning about media theory and current media environment. Up until my fourth year, I didn’t know how I was going to incorporate my interests in media with my interests in medicine. Overtime, I met great mentors who encouraged me to explore the interdisciplinary topics between media and medicine that led to my current interests in medical journalism and telemedicine. 

4. What activities did you participate in at U.Va? 
I initiated multimedia contents on (UVA student journalism website) and frequently reported and produced news pieces. I was a member of Grace Christian Fellowship, through which I went and led inner city mission trips. Lastly, I was fortunate enough to take part in multiple research projects on grounds. My research topics were: quantifying auditory perception and learning, immunology of pulmonary diseases, and patient satisfaction and effectiveness of telemedicine in rural areas. 

5.  How did you prepare for the medical school application process? 
I was mindful of the advised timeline for applying. I wrote multiple drafts for my personal statement by April-May, but for my final draft, I ended up pulling ideas from a paper I wrote for a class I took on Medical Narratives. Instead of “listing out” my activities in an essay form, I felt like a genuine narrative of just one event was able to tell who I am and why I am interested in medicine in a greater depth. Overall though, I definitely sought advice from many upperclassmen who are in medical schools. They were very willing to give me genuine advice about the general application process to interview structures of certain schools, because they have been in my shoes not so long ago. When I was about ready to submit my application, I had my application reviewed by Ms. Susan Salko, the Director of Pre-Health Advising, who has been a wonderful guidance throughout my four years at UVA.

Also, one of the most important tips I received during the application process was to apply early. I cannot agree more! Start preparing for your application early – even if you’re just thinking about what you want to write for your personal statement throughout the spring semester. 

6. How did you balance the demands of applying to medical school with additional obligations and challenges? 
I started work as a medical scribe at an Emergency Department (ED) at the same time I turned in my primary application, so it was very difficult to train/get adjusted to the fast-paced ED environment while finishing my secondaries and going on interviews. I just had to prioritize my free time to work on applications and practice for interviews after work. By December, I was done with most of my interviews and familiarized myself to the work environment, so I definitely had more free time to relax and enjoy my gap year. In retrospect, it was just a short period of time management and self-discipline. 

7. Have you been accepted to a medical school thus far? 
Yes, I am excited to start medical school at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, RI this August. It was my first choice school when applying, so I couldn’t be happier. Brown has programs that accommodate my unique interests, and I definitely had the best interview experience here. 

8. What advice do you have for new applicants considering a career in medicine? 
Remember that everyone has a different path to medical school. Study hard, but also don’t compromise on the activities that you enjoy, even if it is not directly related to medicine. Take interesting classes, study abroad, get involved in interesting research projects, etc. Do things that will expand your horizon. You will be encountering a lot of different people in medicine after all. The process is just as important as the outcome, and every step of your journey will be meaningful on the application and interviews. 

9. In what ways did Pre-Health Advising support you in your journey? What was most helpful? 
Like with anything, Pre-Health Advising is what you make of it. I benefited a lot from various advice and support from UVa Pre-Health Advising, because I sought help and kept in touch pretty frequently. Whenever I had questions regarding classes or certain programs/opportunities, I went to Monroe drop-in hours, sent a quick email, or set-up an appointment to meet with the advisors. For me, getting my application checked and practicing interviews was most helpful. Throughout the application cycle though, it was just comforting to know someone who knows the application process and my premed journey is able to provide genuine advice and advocate for me. 

10. Is there anything else you would like to share? 
I think the most difficult part of the journey to medical school is making sure that medicine is the ‘calling’ for you. Don’t be afraid of trying different classes, activities, internships, etc to find out!