Farrah Fong, a recent fourth-year medical student who matched to Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for family medicine, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
1. Tell us about yourself.
Farrah Fong: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and double-majored in exercise biology and piano performance at the University of California, Davis. I started state-hopping with my graduate studies and received my master’s in biomedical sciences from the University of Medicine & Dentistry-New Jersey, and then went to the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine for medical school. I’m postponing my westward trajectory for another three years because I fell in love with a program on the east coast. After residency, I’d love to continue working with under-served populations and advocating for preventive health.
2. Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve & “first-year you”?
FF: Find a study plan that works for you and do your best to stick to it, but also learn to roll with the punches. Don’t try to adopt the study plans of everyone around you, and also realize that some study methods that worked well for you previously might not work so well for different systems/subjects — so learn to adapt quickly. There will likely be times where you doubt yourself, but remind yourself that you’ve already made it this far. Just keep on trucking and you’ll make it through!
3. What tips do you have for USMLE?
FF: I didn’t take the USMLE (I went to an osteopathic medical school, so I took the COMLEX), but I would say to make a game plan and stick to it. Do a ton of practice questions and go over them. Make sure you understand why the wrong answers are incorrect. And, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to go over even the ones that you get right. Also, don’t be afraid to give your brain a rest and try to maintain a healthy diet (brain food!).
4. What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
FF: Understand that it’s okay to be wrong. Just learn from your mistakes and try to read every day. If you don’t know something, ask! Be nice to everyone, be proactive and show interest and enthusiasm. Your attitude can make a huge difference in both your learning and your grade. Even if it’s a specialty you have absolutely no interest in, try to learn something from it.
5. What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
FF: Find a hobby/outlet, or continue one that you’ve always had, that you love and make sure you give yourself a break every now and then. I did a lot of cooking — which was partially also to save money, since out-of-state tuition was somewhat astronomical — went to the gym, sang with the chorale in my town, taught dance lessons, volunteered at animal rescues and did a lot of writing. They provided welcomed and necessary breaks from all the studying!
6. How did medical school differ from your expectations?
FF: I expected it to be challenging and it definitely was, but what surprised me was that I actually still had room to have a life and continue pursuing a number of my hobbies — I just followed what I did in undergrad and wove them into community service activities. It worked out well and did wonders for my sanity!
7. Are there any particular patients you’ve encountered that have really stuck with you?
FF: How much time do you have? (There are a lot…) When I had spare time, I’d go check up on my patients again and also talk with their families if they were around, just to see how they were all doing. Part of why I love family medicine so much is that you really get a chance to get to know the patients and their families, and I think letting patients know that you care aids a lot in the healing process. I also had a few patients who could only speak Cantonese or Mandarin, and I think being able to explain everything that was going on in their language to them and to help them get their questions answered helped to relieve at least some of their worries.
8. What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
FF: I’ve been interested in family medicine and involved on some level in working with underserved populations and community outreach since college, whether through volunteering as a medical interpreter, doing research on the training provided to medical students and family medicine residents on working with patients with disabilities, medical service trips, etc. I kept all of that up throughout graduate and medical school, on top of a number of other extracurricular activities and volunteering.
The programs I was primarily interested in were all programs that had more of a focus in working with underserved populations, so I think they appreciated my demonstrated/unwavering commitment to both. I really enjoyed all my interviews and had a lot of fun talking with my interviewers, and several of my interviewers commented that they were impressed by my ability to balance everything.
9. What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
FF: I volunteered for a student-run free clinic, Paul Hom Asian Clinic, in college as a medical interpreter and patient advocate, and I loved getting to know the patients and their families and being able to help them. That clinic was a significant driving force for my interest in family medicine, and I’d love to go back there as a volunteer physician someday. I applied to medical school with the hope of going into family medicine so that I could continue working with under-served populations, and although I tried really hard to keep an open mind throughout my clinical years, I couldn’t find another specialty that I loved more!
10. What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
FF: I’m excited and nervous at the same time, although I’m told this is fairly typical. The fact that I’ll actually be making decisions that affect patients’ lives is somewhat daunting, and I’m worried I won’t be ready for it — but I’m definitely prepared to do the best that I can!
11. Here is a fun one — Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school!
FF: I run a food blog on the side, so choosing a single recipe is somewhat difficult, but how about baked eggs? They’re super easy to make, very customizable, and also nutritious! I’ll share my version below, but you can change up the toppings however you’d like (e.g. throw in meat, other veggies and/or herbs).
– 4 eggs
– ¼ cup red bell peppers, sliced
– ¼ cup zucchini, sliced
– ¼ cup squash, sliced
– ¼ cup green bell peppers, sliced
– ¼ cup red onions, chopped
– 4 pieces fresh mozzarella cheese
– grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
– freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
– garlic powder (to taste)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Layer your desired fillings (e.g. bell peppers, zucchini, squash, red onion, mozzarella) into ramekins.
3. Crack an egg over the top and season with desired spices (e.g. pepper, garlic powder).
4. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over each ramekin, then place them in the oven.
5. Bake for 10-14 minutes (or to your desired level of done-ness).