The 5 Types of Premeds

Every so often, I like to share my personal opinions in order for you to get a physician’s perspective. It is good to know what the doctor you are shadowing may be thinking about you or expecting from you. It may help those of you meeting that physician at a conference, when asking for a letter of recommendation or when preparing for that big interview day. As a premed, I had a sense of some of my weaknesses and my strengths but I was oblivious to how physicians really viewed me. Below are 5 different types of premeds I come across.

1. The “Save the World” Premed:

I personally love being around this type of student. These are the students with a huge heart and passion for people in general. They tend to form and lead organizations, travel the world (if possible) doing charitable work, and commit to probably too many extracurricular activities. Many physicians love these students because they easily stand out and express interest. It is easy to see they are there not just shadowing you simply to check a box but they actually want to immerse themselves in the world of medicine. Everything they do they do with the mindset of being an excellent physician one day. These are the type of students that can truly make a huge impact in the field of medicine. The problem at times can be that this student is at high risk for burnout. Grades can be jeopardized due to over-commitment. While many physicians and med schools love this type of student, it is important that the student not overdo it now and in the future. Even though many of these students will one day become great physicians, some may actually be better served using their passion in another area such as research where they can reach a larger population.

2. The Self-absorbed Premed:

This is the type of premed that looks at every situation as how it will ultimately benefit them. The volunteer hours, extracurricular activities, and shadowing experience are done simply to check the box. Motives for becoming a physician may not be entirely genuine and this student may be the type to hide valuable information from his or her peers. These type of students may eventually turn into overly ambitious med students who will do anything to be on top of the class. They are identified as “gunners” in med school and they tend to make life miserable for the rest of the class. Even as physicians, these traits persist and it is obvious when you run into that typically bright physician with horrible bedside manners, that loves to hear him or herself talk. Often times, this was that self-absorbed premed. As you see below in this webinar clip, the cocky premed can easily be spotted.

3. The “I Can Do it all By Myself” Premed:

These students are very tough to watch. I was actually this student my first year of undergrad but snapped out of it by my sophomore year. Whether it is that they are shy, arrogant, embarrassed, or feel as though they are a burden, these students will not seek counsel or will wait until late in the game. I do believe that in this day and age there is a lot of noise out there so one must be selective when it comes to getting advice. Not everyone out there knows what they are talking about and some may even have malicious intent. This type of student fails to go to office hours. They fail to meet with their adviser. They fail to find mentors. They fail to befriend solid premed students. As they say, no man or woman is an island. Eventually, this premed will hit that wall and realize it is late in the game to dig themselves out or it will take a whole lot of work to do so. One thing you will quickly learn as you travel down this medical journey is that medicine is a collaborative profession. Very few doctors make it without having a solid network they trust and confide in. My advice to this student is to always reach out to others for help sooner than later.

4. The “Super Pessimistic” Premed:

“I’m not smart enough to be a doctor.” “I’ll never score high enough.” We all have doubts along our medical journey and this is completely normal. It becomes problematic when they consume our thoughts. I recall meeting a student presenting a poster at a conference who told me he is interested in medicine but likely won’t apply to medical school because he wasn’t smart enough. Well, it turned out he had an above average GPA and appeared to be very intelligent based on our conversation. I assumed he was not knowledgeable about what it takes to get into medical school but once I told him his GPA was competitive he proceeded to list another 10 reasons why he would never be accepted into medical school. At the end of our conversation I could see this student likely would never apply to medical school which is perfectly fine. My fear is that one day he may regret his decision.

5. The Solid Premed:

It only takes a good 30-60 minutes to spot one of these rare breeds. You don’t need to even study a CV or personal statement to arrive at this conclusion. These students aren’t necessarily always the ones with the top scores. They don’t always have the most convincing stories. They aren’t necessarily from a lineage of physicians. These students exhibit passion for medicine. They understand and follow Dr. Dale’s G.R.I.N.D. pathway even if they aren’t aware. A very good way to know this is a solid premed is by the questions he or she asks. I actually believe the art of question asking is overlooked by many. I like to think that the greatest physicians know how to ask the right questions and the patients that tend to do the best also ask the right questions. Solid premeds are aware of great resources and don’t keep it to themselves. They are the ones sharing tools and congratulating their peers. On interview day, these students are the ones who do the little things but don’t go overboard trying to be noticed. I myself was not this solid premed but I sure could spot them out and establish friendships with them!

Well, there you have it. This is a quick rundown of how I personally categorize premeds. I hope it can help you introspectively examine things. I must add that these are only my thoughts and every individual is different. We may exhibit characteristics from one or multiple groups and it is possible to move from one to another. What are your thoughts? Do you recognize any of these students? Are there other premed types you can think of?