Update: More stuff that will bore you if you aren’t pre-med at Hunter. As of today, Feb 25th, I’ve been relieved to discover two facts. First, Hunter does in fact have an active student pre-med/biology/AMSA group, and I’ve started to get involved, so that’s good. Somehow I completely failed to find the dedicated prehealthhunter.com website via the main prehealth website. Second, the QuBi/Bioinformatics program does in fact have some research connections, but the list of opportunities is a bit hidden within the web site. In short, it took some digging, but the situation is better than I feared. As for connections within the medical community, the pre-med club does have faculty from various med schools in to talk about their programs and answer questions, so that seems like a good starting point.
This is going to sound a bit [unfairly] like complaining, and will profoundly bore anyone who’s not a pre-med/bioinformatics student at Hunter, but I needed to therapeutically regurgitate my experience looking for professional resources.
Nothing I ever do is straightforward, which is why my major is something like Computer-Science-Bioinformatics-Pre-Med. So what does it take for a returning student at CUNY Hunter to become a MD, or an MD/PhD, or even a plain ol’ PhD? What does CUNY Hunter offer a student like myself, who is interested in research and becoming a physician? What can I do to start being a scientist and medical practitioner?
Well, CUNY has a QuBi (Quantitative Biology) program, which for CS majors covers Bioinformatics. That means I minor in biology and chemistry, essentially. Since I’m also doing pre-med requirements, that’s not much extra work, aside from having to take biochemistry and computational molecular biology.
QuBi at Hunter claims to offer research opportunities at top universities, but I’ve only met one other student in QuBi and they haven’t yet taken advantage of that. When I spoke with the CS department chair, it wasn’t clear at all how to take advantage of these opportunities, but I plan to email the other QuBi program folks for more details.
The next potential resource is the pre-health advising center. The head of the center recently retired, and the new head is an organic chemistry professor who’s really nice, but has no involvement in the medical community. I haven’t heard of any resources at Hunter that are connected with the medical community, which isn’t at all what I hoped for. Apparently, pre-health simply advises on what classes to take to meet med school requirements and sends letters of recommendation. So much for that avenue.
One other potential source of career growth is the student body. Via the student activities web site, I found something for minority pre-health students, and an AMSA chapter. Since I don’t qualify as a minority, I skipped to AMSA, but they did not return my email. I have started compiling a list of pre-med students in case I take it upon myself to start a pre-med club at Hunter. Student services strongly suggested I would have options during my student orientation, but this does not appear to be the case. I sure don’t want to study for the MCAT alone all the time.
Finally, career services, which is where pre-health advising directed me, is another potential source of student research and internship opportunities.
So, there we have it. All of the med school legwork of obtaining extracurricular experience and qualification and preparing for the MCAT is left to the student. QuBi, an NIH funded iniative at Hunter may offer some research connections, and the career services department may have some opportunities listed, but even after speaking with my department chair, I am unclear as to what is available.
Thankfully, there are some awesome online resources for pre-meds. The Student Doctor Network forums is a helpful place for any kind of pre-med advice or support, while the Old Pre-Med forums focus specifically on older, nontraditional pre-med students, like myself. Online educational resources like iTunes University, Khan Academy, and WikiPreMed offer tons of material for studying for the MCAT absolutely free.
My current plan, given the situation, is basically DIY. I plan to directly contact researchers, start my own pre-med club, and try to establish contacts in the medical community (for advice, shadowing, volunteering, etc) directly as well. In an ideal world, I will be working on research (or a computational science job) the next two summers, will be part of an active pre-med student organization, will be in touch with physicians, med school faculty, and others in the professional medical community, and will be completing valuable extracurricular activities like shadowing and volunteering. While it’s conceivable that some of my options will pan out into opportunities, I’m expecting to have to do most of this on my own.
Hopefully I’ll connect with the QuBi program organizers and get support there. Hopefully my contacts in this field, whom I can count on one hand, can circulate my resume for some sort of bioinformatics or computational science position. Same old. Nothing I ever do is straightforward.