Rachel Voss, second from the left, is sharing today about her hobbies, passions and what surprised her the most about medical school.
Tell us about yourself:
I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I attended Louisiana State University for undergrad, where I majored in biological engineering, then Louisiana State University Health in Shreveport for medical school. I will be staying at Louisiana State University for residency in psychiatry. Forever a tiger! Geaux Louisiana State University!
Outside of school, I cross-stitch, read books and comic books and play with my two boxer/cocker spaniel-mix puppies.
Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
Remember there is a world outside of medical school: family, friends and much more. You are not going to be trapped inside studying forever and there is time to have fun. Focus on your goal and why you came to medical school. And never, ever hesitate to admit you are struggling and ask for help.
What tips do you have for USMLE?
As everyone says, know how you study best. Learn what sources people worked with in the past and pick the one(s) that match your style. You do not have to do something just because everyone else studied with it. Make a schedule so you have a plan of attack but allow extra days for if you fall behind and to take mental breaks. And remember this harsh study time will not be your life forever. Keep the big picture in the back of your mind and do not delay your test unless necessary. Everyone feels underprepared no matter how much they’ve studied. Adding a week or two may not necessarily help.
What advice do you have for the students going through clinical rotations?
Take the first week of a rotation off from studying to figure out and adjust to your clinical duties so you are not overwhelmed. Always carry some form of study materials with you so that you can fit in your studying during breaks. That way you can take some time to relax when you get home without feeling guilty.
Remember you are not alone. You are on a team, so make sure everyone is on the same page and split work evenly. You have other medical students with you and a team of residents that you can ask for help. No one expects you to know everything, and it’s okay if you really do not like a rotation. This is what clinical rotations are for — figuring out what you do and do not like so you can pick a specialty.
What recommendations do you have for medical students to maintain their sanity?
Make time for yourself. Take days off to do nothing or enjoy a non-medical activity. Most importantly, stay in touch with family and old friends to support you when times are tough. And do not hesitate to go to your medical school’s counselor! You may feel you are alone when overwhelmed and stressed and it is not a weakness but a reality of the challenging nature of medical school. I can guarantee a majority of your classmates have felt the same way and have sought help, so do not hesitate!
How did medical school differ from your expectations?
For me, the preclinical years/basic science years were a lot more rigorous than I expected. They were almost pure studying and it was difficult to find the connection to the real world. I believed that medical school was going to be more clinical throughout. The clinical years were actually what I expected and had looked forward to with learning how to apply knowledge and hands-on training in medicine with real patients.
What things did you do during your four years of medical school that you believe particularly impressed your residency program?
Surprisingly, on the interview trail programs were most interested with my range of non-medical extracurricular activities and my previous non-medical work experience. I believe to them it showed beyond my numbers and standard coursework that I was able to be a well-rounded person. They were also impressed with how I was able to apply my knowledge learned from these other experiences to help with my clinical skills.
What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
I chose psychiatry because I love the patient interactions. Whenever I was in any other specialty, I wished I had the time to talk more with patients to get to know them, understand their circumstances and better help them manage their disease within the context of their life. Psychiatry gave me this opportunity along with having complex, interesting disorders that differ greatly in every patient, keeping the work from being boring or tedious.
What is your biggest fear about beginning residency?
My main fear is that I will be overwhelmed with the responsibility of being the physician to a whole team of patients and the possibility that I could miss something important.
What advice would you give third-year students about to start the Match process?
Don’t be afraid to ask everyone their opinion about your application. This includes friends and family’s opinion about personal statements, other residents and physicians in your specialty about other programs or even your school’s librarian to check your grammar. Everyone at your medical school will be willing to help.
And a fun bonus question! Please share an easy and quick recipe that got you through tough weeks in medical school:
My recipe is for simple one-pot (or I prefer using a wok) macaroni and cheese. I don’t really make it with precise measurements, so it’s really based on what you want.
- Make the noodles of your choice (it does not have to be macaroni) according to the instructions on the container. The important part is to actually use the water recommendation instead of just blindly filling it up with water and boiling. At the end, the water will start to evaporate so you are left with just enough to mix in for the cheese sauce.
- Put in a couple of tablespoons of butter and a couple of splashes of milk. Just enough to be able to mix with cheese to make the sauce.
- The best step and finale: Put in the cheese! However much and whatever kind you like. I usually use a shredded Mexican cheese blend.
And voilà! That is how you make the most basic of macaroni and cheeses! Add whatever salt, pepper and spices that you want for flavor.