I have a slight dilemma!

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by SLC Flyfishing, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. SLC Flyfishing Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #1
    So I've found myself in a bit of a tough place. Luckily my dilemma has to do with choosing between two really great opportunities.

    I'd like to request the opinions of those members who've been required to make similar choices, as well as those members who have had higher levels of education (particularly physicians, pharmacists, dentists, PhD's etc) if there be any. I'm typing this from my iPod touch so bear with me if there are any typo's.

    I'll give a bit of background first, I'm a first generation college student, meaning that neither of my parents or grandparents had any real education beyond highschool. My mother's parents both held bachelor's degrees but not difficult ones and they were obtained in the 1950's, so they don't have a lot of insight here. I'm meeting with my pre-med advisor to get some advice too.

    So here are the options:

    I've been awarded an exclusive fellowship on my campus. It's funded by a very well known local philantholropic family. A family that has a huge (and I do mean huge) amount of influence at my school. The fellowship gives me the opportunity to do a year long project with a local non-profit. I've chosen to work with the homeless medical clinic that I've been volunteering with or the last year. I'd design and implement a new and extensive volunteer program there; I'd be starting from scratch and I'd be recruiting all types of volunteers: doctors, nurses, lawyers, IT specialists, EMS personell, PR people, office staff, you name it. I'd also be revamping the paid staff at the clinic and examining their jobs for redundancy and efficiency. It's a tall order, but I think it will be a huge asset for my résumé and for medical school applications. The fellowship also carries a very substantial paycheck! The other thing is that this fellowship has never been offered to an undergraduate student, I'd be the first one in it's nearly 20 year history. It's also been a rule that the same organization doesn't get to have a fellow two years in a row, the current fellow is working at the clinic that I'd be working at. They told me when they offered it to me that I should take pride because they had to re-write the rulebook for me. I beat 5 other highly qualified graduates to get this opportunity!

    The second option is to stay at my laboratory that I've been working at and continue to research. I run a project dealing with fish gender change and behavior; we study the way behaviors in a community of fish cause some of them to switch gender from female to male. We're on the verge of breaking through something great, and I'm confident that I'll be able to publish a good paper in a neurobiology journal within the year if I stay. I'm an undergraduate, this would be very remarkable and would also be a great thing for my résumé and medical school applications. The professor I work for is also conducting some fairly groundbreaking research separate from mine that he wants me to begin participating in, I would likely be secondary author on 5 or 6 papers from this research in the next year as well. My boss offered me a handsome raise today, as well a a very good benefits package. My salary at the lab would be exactly the same as the fellowship.

    So which do I choose? The time commitment for each will prevent doing both. I'd say that I would be equally happy with either one. And I really don't know which one would be more advantageous for medical school applications.

    So those of you who might have been through a similar decision making process or who have been through the professional education process; what would you do in my position? Which would you choose?

    I'm thrilled at both opportunities, I've been lucky enough to sort of stumble into each!

    Thanks in advance for any advice offered!

    SLC
     
  2. CalPoly10 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #2
    You've got some lofty opportunities knocking at your door step. Sounds like you need to do some critical decision making. I am a 3rd year Engineer right now, and I've had some great opportunities come my way, and I've had to decide on what to do. For instance, this Summer I had the choice of

    1) Moving to Seattle and doing a short project for Boeing
    2) Staying in Irvine at a current internship and continue working for an Aerospace company here.
    3) Take 3 months off, travel South America.

    I chose #1. Here is my decision making process, and I hope it helps you.

    First off, both jobs will pay the same. Now, I move on to, what area would you rather be living in? Sounds like those might be the same too.

    What position is more desirable from a 3rd party? If I were a bystander, and you offered me one of those two positions, with no affiliations, I would want to undertake the fellowship.

    Think about it like this. Which line of work will have a greater impact on people that are NOT in your field? At a dinner table, when you are with a bunch of random folks, and you tell them "I study the reasons why fish change gender...", will they be interested? Now, if you tell them: "I built, from the ground up, a medical clinic. I hired XXX people, revamped this, disposed of that, etc.", will they be interested?

    It also boils down to, what kind of person are you? Do you like having your own space, not being too stresses, working on specific assignments?

    Or, as in my case, do you like a spontaneous atmosphere, being in charge, making decisions, dealing with multitudes of people, and having an impact.

    From my perspective, the fellowship is the right choice.

    This is another question I ask myself when making decisions:

    In 20 years, when I look back at this time in my life, what would I regret NOT doing?
     
  3. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #3
    Wow thanks for that CalPoly! Yeah my gut tells me to take the fellowship, and I do think I'd regret it if I didn't.

    My main issue right now is that research and community service are both very highly stressed in medical school applications (at least the ones I've got my eye on). And I need to know which would be more appealing to an admissions committee. Sad thing is that the research (neurobiology) has nothing at all to do with my major. So if I don't get into medical school, it probably won't help me much with an alternate career unless I go into a graduate program in Biology, which I suppose wouldn't be a bad route to take (especially if I had a good portfolio of published work going in).

    SLC
     
  4. CalPoly10 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #4
    In my opinion, you're stressing too much about the little things. I'm sure graduate school is important, but it really isn't going to make you successful. Experiences, communication skills, management skills, decision making skills...these are all things that will make you successful.

    You keep mentioning getting in to graduate school, as if it is the holy grail.

    Let me give you a background of myself, and you may not like me afterwards, but this is who I am.

    I've always lived in a way where, you just live, have fun, and take only the BIG things in life with any seriousness. I go to a great Engineering school, and sure, I pay attention in class. I don't stress about getting all As, or even all As and a few Bs. I have roughly a 2.5GPA. I learn what I need to learn, take interest in what I feel is relevant, and most importantly, converse with everyone about everything. I talk to professors about their life, my friends about what career paths they want to take, successful business owners about "How they got there."

    I am currently working a job that required a 3.7GPA. When I went in for the interview, I nailed it. I was confident, funny, and probably a breath of fresh air for the people.

    If someone refuses to hire me because of my "performance", rather than what I've done with my skills (i.e. startup businesses, freelance engineering, etc.), then screw them.

    If you start up this medical facility, take all the steps to get it off the ground, hire the folks, manage it, etc, and then you get denied from medical school, it's not the end of the world. You know what you do?

    A) Start your own medical practice
    B) Step in to a hospital and manage it
    C) Start up a hospital with the help of angel investors

    I hope you understand the point I'm trying to get across.
     
  5. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #5
    No, I do understand completely! And I don't dissagree, but medical school is sort of like the holy grail for me. I've put a lot of effort over the past 5 years to be ready to apply. Everything I've done has been with medical school in mind. It's just the way that you have to do things to have much of a shot.

    I don't have any resources outside myself to rely on, that's probably why I'm making such a big deal, and why I feel like I really need to make the right decision.

    Thanks very much for your insight though, it really does help to hear what you would do!

    SLC
     
  6. Eanair macrumors 6502

    Eanair

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2009
    #6
    Well, from what you outlined, both options seem like they would be good opportunities, so at least you can take heart that regardless of what works out, you will be in a good place. :)

    But regarding which one would look better for medical school, it's a tough choice. Medical school admissions are, largely, a throw of the dice. What works for one student may not work for another student.

    Two of my friends were pre-med in college, and one of them got into medical school while the other one was denied at every school she applied to. The one who got denied had a 3.877 GPA (out of 4.00), volunteer hours at the local hospital, conducted research in a cell biology lab under the direction of a distinguished professor, was a volunteer EMT, and had been previously awarded two fellowships for projects. The one who got accepted majored in Spanish literature, had the basic science course requirements, and volunteered at a humane shelter because she loved animals. She was told that she was accepted because the admissions committee liked that she was a diverse candidate, and had a major other than biochemistry, biology, biophysics, chemistry, and so on. Essentially, she was someone not from the usual cut of applicants, and that was appealing to this particular school.

    I've even known applicants who have deliberately majored in something obscure like gothic literature so they could take a gamble that their application would stand out.

    So, trying to predict what medical school admissions committees are looking for in applicants can be it's own trick to begin with.

    With that said...

    Yes, publishing a paper (or 4 or 8) is a great achievement for an undergrad. But in medicine, publishing is not as highly emphasized as in an academic research setting. Don't get me wrong, if you're a medical doctor and publish a paper, that's fantastic. But patients aren't going to look you up on PubMed before deciding if they want you to be their doctor or not. If you're part of a clinic, and you don't get out a paper, you don't have to worry about being denied tenure. Papers are much more emphasized in academic research settings - they help professors get tenure, get a good salary, and get project grants. If you were applying for a PhD program and were looking into going into academia, I would probably be stressing that papers are of utmost importance there. The mantra of "Publish or perish" still holds very true.

    But for medical school, I would think that the emphasis would be more focused on a drive to help people. I think the fellowship would more highlight your drive to help people who are in the most dire need of it, and your ability to handle the administrative tasks as well as medical ones. It would leave in place a lasting legacy that's a bit more tangible than published papers (not that I'm dissing publishing). It would 100% immerse you in a clinic environment rather than just volunteering there on occasion, and allow you to experience that kind of work/environment fulltime for an entire year. It seems that you've already had an immersion in a research lab setting; it might be beneficial to try the other one.

    I once had aspirations of medical school, but once I worked in a hospital, no more. I realized that I actually preferred a research lab. So I am choosing the route of PhD rather than MD, and I figured that out about myself when I started working in a hospital and took a break from my research lab.

    Of course, I'm not saying that'll happen to you, but experience like that is something you absolutely cannot find in any book or website.

    Best of luck!
     
  7. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #7
    Thanks Eanir,

    I've focused on making myself as diverse and well rounded as possible. I've avoided the usual pre-med majors of Chemistry, Biology, Bio-Chemistry, Excercise Physiology etc.

    I also don't volunteer at the hospitals either since every other student I know does so. But I guess the homeless clinic would be similar (though I do a fair bit more than the average ER volunteer would ever do, and it's not in a direct patient care role either).

    I appreciate the viewpoint, keep them coming people. I didn't get a lot of sleep last night because of this.

    SLC
     
  8. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #8
    I'd caution you against the fellowship..... only because going into an existing organization and rebuilding it is going to cause a lot of stress in the other people, and that stress is going to get directed back at you. You are, in essence, firing and hiring people - even the volunteer cohort. I think you may find it a poisonous atmosphere. Plus, you are there for only a year. If the project takes longer than a year, the transition will be painful for them.

    To be blunt, you aren't being fair to the existing clinic organization. If it needs this amount of rebuilding, the person doing it needs to be available for however long the project runs. You also said you are an undergraduate. How well do you think the paid staff are going to take being told they are redundant from someone who may be very much their junior? It doesn't matter that you may be correct, it will become be an ugly year for you.
     
  9. Xfujinon macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Location:
    Iowa City, Iowa
    #9
    I'm in med school. I did the application process twice.

    Here's what I think:

    1. Do what you enjoy. This is your only obligation to yourself. It is your life.

    2. Admissions committees are fickle, unpredictable, and secretive. I don't want to burst your bubble, but there isn't really a formula for "getting in" that works for everyone, every time. Maybe if your dad or grandpa gave millions to the school. Nepotism works pretty well.

    3. Doing the startup clinic thing is more flashy to an admissions board than doing research. Chances are your research is interesting, but not as interesting to an ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE than someone that spent their summer ladling soup to starving children in Zanzibar and had a deep, spiritual, emotional revelation while doing it. I know I sound sarcastic (I am), but that is kinda how it works. Do something interesting instead of something impressive. Does that make sense? Interesting candidates, from my experience, seem to do better overall compared to people who are boring but highly qualified. Keep in mind that the US is currently looking at a doctor shortage; we need to find a diverse array of personalities to fill all the niches in medicine currently unfilled by the boring (but genius) people filling med school classes today.

    4. Med school isn't any fun at all. Medicine as a career is fabulous, but the road to get there sucks plenty. I am grateful to be learning what I am learning, and honored for the chance to do it, but the process is soul-crushing and induces a sense of nihilism. You have to have a thick skin. Admissions people want to see that. Doing something high-pressure, complicated, or outside of your comfort zone looks better to a committee than doing something prestigious but doable for your skill level. For example, a 4.0 student who does some piddling research in a lab would be expected, but not exceptional. Compare that to a person of average academic achievement who doesn't speak a foreign language and moves to Japan for a year to teach English meanwhile volunteering in a Japanese nursing home. The latter situation is more impressive, in the long run. Plus, the experience of the latter probably gives the person more "life experience", which is what admissions committees are looking for. Ever wonder why the average age at matriculation is closer to 24 and not 22? Why do half of applicants have a graduate degree, military training, or previous employment experience? I got my master's degree and did some research and community work, and I went from 0 acceptances to 7 acceptances in two years. Me, I didn't really change much. To the committees, though, I was a whole new candidate.

    5. Do something between college and med school. Take a year to travel, work in an interesting field, or pursue your hobbies. All of your personal endeavours take a back seat for four years during med school. The hardest thing about med school is learning to set goals, stick to objectives, and battle feelings of inadequacy or depression. The material itself is not complicated, it is voluminous. Almost anyone could be a doctor if they have the diligence and patience to do it. But med school is tough because of what it does to your emotions and sense of direction. Six people in my class have been kicked our or left of their own accord. Two of them that left willingly are now the happiest people I've ever met. But, misery loves company, and if you have a good crew you'll make it through. But, a good crew means interesting people and not super-competitive, boring braniacs. See my above discussion.


    Good luck. Medicine is a unique, ancient, fulfilling profession. I love the chance I get to do it. Consider your choices carefully. Love it more than you love money, free time, prestige, or your own ego. If you do, you'll be awesome.

    Best wishes!


    ~X
     
  10. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2008
    Location:
    Always a day away
    #10
    First and foremost, congratulations on being selected for the fellowship! It sounds like a pretty significant honor, and I'm sure you're to be commended for your achievements.

    Down to business - as I read your descriptions of your options (and they both sound good), I couldn't help but think that #1 is a no-brainer. Although you have two different and very unique opportunities in front of you, it sounds like working with the non-profit will give you a HUGE amount of administrative and management experience, and as an undergraduate opportunities like that are very rare.

    I'm sure whichever you choose, you really can't go wrong. Good luck, and congrats again!
     
  11. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #11
    That's fantastic advice, and I really appreciate it. Thank you very very much!

    Are you doing your school in Iowa? I have a friend at the D.O. school in Des Moines

    SLC
     
  12. CalPoly10 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2006
    #12

    I would take this with a grain of salt. Leaders come at any age, and it all boils down to your demeanor and attitude. If you aren't confident with decisions and aren't personable, people won't like what you're doing.

    If you come in with authority, make proper changes, and stick to them, people will follow.

    Don't think twice about whether or not people will judge you based on your age.
     
  13. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #13
    Thanks CalPoly10, I'm not really worried about it. I've got the full support of the administration at the clinic. I wouldn't be doing anything without their full approval.

    I met with the pre-med advising team at my university today, they essentially told me that they'd lean toward the fellowship, but that certain schools may look more favorably upon the research. The reassuring thing is that they told me that I'm way ahead of the pack in terms of both volunteering and research, that will help me stand out some when it comes time to apply.

    SLC
     
  14. Demosthenes X macrumors 68000

    Demosthenes X

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    #14
    I would say the Fellowship is a no-brainer. It will give you a wealth of very useful experience that no laboratory can match - especially one you say is unrelated to your field of study. Doing the Fellowship would, for example, prepare you to start your own clinic in the future if you decide you want to go that route. Or you could wind up being Administrator of a hospital. It opens up all sorts of doors that go beyond the medical world. Even if you didn't get into medical school, you'd have fantastic management experience that is easily transferable to another field.

    The lab work, while fantastic, is most useful in an academic setting. If you planned to get your PhD and teach, then I would say do the lab. But if you want to get your MD and practice medicine, then I think the people-oriented, management opportunity offered by the Fellowship is far better experience.

    And, as others have mentioned, it gives you much better networking opportunities. People will be interested to meet someone that built an entire clinic virtually from the ground up. A guy who spends all his time in a lab? Neat, yes. Useful? Certainly. Interesting to people outside? Maybe not so much.

    IMO, given a choice between two fantastic opportunities that you feel both suit you, I would take the one that offers the most opportunity. And that's, I think, the Fellowship.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, though. You're in an enviable position!
     
  15. SLC Flyfishing thread starter Suspended

    SLC Flyfishing

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2007
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #15
    I've not had anyone tell me any different than you, apart from the professor who wants me in his lab (of course) and the one response above.

    It's true that publishing isn't necessary for medical school admissions, but it would be nice to have that distinction above other applicants, but I think the fellowship will give my application more than enough distinction and uniqueness.

    The pre-med advisor that I met with today seemed to feel like I already have much more than enough research experience to make that aspect of my application very competitive.

    It really is a no-brainer isn't it? I think I'm going to go with the fellowship!

    Another great thing I found out today is that the professor wants to keep me on through the end of the summer regardless of my decision. So hopefully I can crank out a paper or two before early september. That's when I'd be starting the fellowship.

    SLC
     
  16. Xfujinon macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2007
    Location:
    Iowa City, Iowa
    #16
    I'm actually in Chicago, the information in my profile is old.

    Glad I could be of some help.

    Enjoy your time, it goes fast!


    ~X
     

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