Sophia Tolliver, fourth-year medical student and recent matcher out of Ohio State University School of Medicine in Columbus, OH, gives us her expert advice on succeeding in medical school and beyond.
1. Tell us about yourself: Where are you from? What is your undergraduate degree and where did you receive it? Did you do anything between undergraduate and medical school?
Sophia Tolliver: I’m currently a fourth-year at The Ohio State University, with both undergraduate degrees and my MPH from OSU. Between undergrad and medical school I worked for The Wexner Medical Center for seven years and in that time received my MPH. I would like to utilize both my MD and MPH and work not only as a clinician but also as a community health organizer, developing programming for health promotion that will impact the community in positive ways.
2. What residency program will you be joining and where?
ST: The Ohio State University Family Medicine Urban Track program in Columbus, Ohio.
3. Looking back on your medical school experience, what would you say to the young and naïve “first-year you”?
ST: Medical school is going to be what you make it — what you put in, you will get back in return. Study, study, study — that’s a given, but have fun while doing it. Volunteer, lead an organization, advocate for issues that are important to you, and so forth. Seriously, you will look back on the four years and be astounded at how fast it went. As often as possible, create memories and build those experiences that you will be proud of after graduation.
4. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the first two years in the classroom?
ST: I couldn’t have made it through medical school without the friends that I met and were able to rely upon when it came to study groups and social outings. I never once felt like I was in this thing alone. There was always someone to call and vent to, or laugh with.
5. What things did you do that you believe were valuable to succeed the second two years through clinical rotations?
ST: We are all very smart individuals and I think, for the most part, very well-mannered when it came to conducting ourselves through our clinical years. Be cognizant of the fact that when you do encounter different personalities, be they clinician or patient or colleague, maintain your behavioral decorum — always be polite, be a team member that you would want to work with, say what you mean, under-promise, over-deliver. Make good eye contact with your patients — they respect that.
6. What things did you do during your four years of medical school that stuck out or particularly impressed your residency program?
ST: As a non-traditional student, I came to medical school with a wide variety of significant experiences already on my CV. I feel like residency programs were just as impressed with those experiences as they were with what I was able to accomplish in medical school.
7. What things were unhelpful or you wish you hadn’t done in medical school?
ST: Blame burnout, slothfulness or distraction, but there are going to be times where you just don’t feel like studying for another test. Get over it and push through it. Falling behind is always unhelpful to your ultimate goal of finishing well on an exam.
8. What was your level of involvement in research and other extracurricular activities, and your opinion on how important that involvement is?
ST: I was involved in a wide variety of activities over the course of medical school: student organization, admissions committee, medical student singing group, free clinic volunteering, medical student ambassador and research. All of my experiences were incredibly important to me succeeding and balancing my need to be sociable with my need to be studious.
9. What attracted you to your chosen specialty?
ST: Family medicine is awesome! What an incredibly exciting place to be with all of the health care developments taking place in the US and abroad. I feel as though I will never get bored in family med, that there will always be something new and interesting walking into my office. And most importantly, I love that ability to grow with my patients as they age and their reasons for needing my services change and evolve.
10. What attracted you to your residency program?
ST: The Ohio State University has so many resources to offer students, faculty and staff. Aside from the fact that the faculty and facilities are amazing, I will be able to receive excellent training in working with underserved and low-income populations, which is really important to my long-term goals as a physician.
11. What things did you do to maintain your sanity in medical school?
ST: Travel when I could, sing in my band when I could, hang out on the couch a lot, binge-watch TV!
12. The floor is yours — what do you wish to share with current medical students?
ST: Have fun in medical school — it’ll be done before you know it!