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Successful Applicants—SUNY Downstate EME

Profiles of Successful Applicants to SUNY Downstate Early Medical Education Program

Success Stories by Year of Matriculation




2023 Matriculants


Name: Christopher Montalvo
Major: Biological Sciences
Minor: Political Science
Overall GPA: 3.62
Graduation Year: 2022
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: As an ever-evolving science, medicine has remained interesting to me the entire time that I have been studying. There is so much to learn and every day the scientific community adds to that knowledge.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I volunteered for a local City Council candidate, did research at Hunter, shadowed a doctor, and worked two per-diem jobs.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: STEM courses took most of my study time ranging from 8-20 hours a week depending on the content and schedule of tests. Other courses usually required less time and could usually be completed in a few hours a week unless there was a large test or project to work on.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I used Kaplan's online test prep course which included a live 3 hour class once a week.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: The EME program, of which I was a part, has a built-in gap year while you study for the MCAT. However, even if I had not been part of this program, I still would have taken the gap year in order to better prepare for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I don't think that any one aspect of my application stood out; I did not have the most shadowing hours or the highest GPA; however, I feel that my application showed a well-rounded candidate that was able to maintain a good GPA while working and maintaining extracurricular activities.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: Due to the nature of the EME program, SUNY Downstate is the only medical school I applied to.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The pre-health office has guided me since my first month at Hunter. I followed the 4-year course plan that my advisor created for me and only knew about the EME program because my Pre-Health advisor suggested that I apply. The pre-health office helped me secure my seat in EME as well as gave me advice on how to best work on my application and get strong letters of recommendation.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: It is never too early or too late to start going to the pre-health office. There was a period in my academic career where I feared that I waited too long to check in with the pre-health office and that it would be too late to continue my journey with them. Luckily, I decided to continue going to the pre-health office anyway and caught up with the requirements. This allowed me to end up in a much better spot than I would have been if I had decided to do this without their support. The best thing that you can do is to begin going to the pre-health office early and don't be scared to go often, because when it comes time for you to apply for medical school, they can only help students that they know.


Headshot: Jacqueline G. Serrano

Name:Jacqueline G. Serrano
Major: Biochemistry
Minor: Psychology
Overall GPA: 3.60
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate Medical School

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: Growing up I was heavily influenced by my cousins in Ecuador who were studying medicine when I was a child visiting. I continued to be pushed to medicine by life experiences that exposed me to the various sides of medicine, especially from the patient aspect.

The healthcare inequality in the U.S. as well as other countries made it a dream for me to participate in Doctors without Borders or similar missions of such to provide medical care to those in need. All those experiences continuously motivated me to become a physician and dedicate my life to work of service.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • I volunteered at the in-patient pediatric unit at Hassenfeld’s Children’s Hospital at NYU.
  • I co-started a knitting and crocheting club at my college where we knitted/crocheted hats, scarves, and baby blankets, and donated them to hospitals and shelters.
  • Mentored pre-medical incoming freshman students.
  • Tutored special needs children in math and reading.
  • Worked as a home-health aid.
  • STEM teacher for a public middle-school.
  • Worked as a canvasser for Black Health, an organization that focused on healthcare literacy to reduce health disparities among disadvantaged communities.
  • Research at CUNY ASRC in the Braunschweig Lab and was made coauthor in a published work I participated in.
  • Worked at a medical center for women as a receptionist, translator, and trained as a medical assistant.
  • Peer-teacher assistant for General Chemistry.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: It varied per semester and per week depending on the classes I was taking and if it was finals or midterm week. Usually I averaged 10-15 hours of studying per week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I was given a Kaplan Course through EME but I didn’t get much benefit from it, I preferred to self-prep.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I took 2 gap years. I studied for the MCAT not very efficiently the first year and focused more on working. The second year I began my MPH and took the MCAT as well as worked. I am glad I took gap years because I was able to take a mental break from school and have various experiences I couldn’t have during school.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I think everyone’s application can be very similar because we all have to do similar extracurricular and grades are also similar if not better than mine. I believe what made my application strong and stand out was how I chose to tell my story and passions. I focused on expanding on what I learned from each experience and how it would make me a better physician at the end of the day.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: I only applied to SUNY Downstate through the EME Program.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The pre-health advising office helped me tremendously and even introduced me to the program that got me into medical school. They helped me throughout the entire application process by proofreading my application, mock interviews, advise, and through advocacy.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Be genuine, everyone has a unique story and it is up to you to make it interesting and worth while. You should do extracurricular activities because you enjoy them not because it would look well on your resume. Apart from healthcare related extracurriculars you should spend your time doing activities that add to your story and passions because it will be much easier to expand and reflect from that experience. I would also say don’t compare yourself to other students, everyone is different and everyone has a different playing field. Comparing yourself to others can lead to a negative mindset and negative thoughts that can actually defer you from your goals.


Headshot: [Applicant Name]

Name: Abiha Naqvi
Major: Human Biology
Overall GPA: 3.57
Graduation Year: 2022
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate Medical School (through the Early Medical Education Program)

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I have always had an interest in helping my community. My particular interest in the sciences, especially related to the health sciences, initiated my spark towards the field of medicine. I wanted to actively make a difference for my community by providing care for the people around me and medicine checked off all my interests. Working in a medical clinic only confirmed my interest by seeing how much those working in the medical field aid people in living better and happier lives.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I volunteered in different organizations including an online support group for the elderly during the pandemic. I enjoyed working with people who really needed the help, so I also began working in Hospice care to aid those who did not have family or a support system that they desperately needed. In addition to this I did research on BAT Tissue and worked on gathering data for an AV Fistula project with Weill Cornell.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: Depending on the course, I would manage my time based on difficulty. For my STEM courses, I would study from 15-20 hours per week. For other courses, it would be less depending on the workload.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: The EME program provided a KAPLAN online prep course which was 3 hours every Saturday. I also used Kaplan’s live courses for 3-hour classes on topics I struggled with on the MCAT.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I did take a GAP year because of the way the EME program was structured. However, I was planning on taking a gap year anyway to prepare for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: One of the strengths in my application was the fact that despite challenges I may have faced, there was an increase in my academic performance and GPA as the semesters went on. Another strength was the extracurriculars I chose and how they connected to my overall narrative. It was clear in my application that I was very determined to go to medical school and become a physician.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: The EME program has conditional acceptance to SUNY Downstate, so it is the only medical school I applied to.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The advisors helped me throughout my undergraduate years. Through the Pre-health listserv I was able to find many opportunities for extracurriculars that enhanced my application and helped me understand where my passions lay. Kemile Jackson was pivotal throughout my application for EME and her advice during the process helped me understand what parts of myself to highlight. In addition, the Pre-health office went above and beyond with checking in with us throughout the medical school application in addition to providing helpful resources like mock interviews. I couldn’t be more thankful for this office for paving a way for me towards my dreams when it seemed overwhelming at times.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: No matter where you are on your journey and no matter how defeated you may feel, life can take an unexpected turn at any time. Never give up on who you are and when filling out your medical school application try to reflect on everything you have been through and what you have conquered. Never be afraid to ask for help and try not to compare yourself to others because no one can ever be you.


Headshot: [Applicant Name]

Name: Murad Razzak
Major: Biochemistry
Overall GPA: 3.56
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I grew up in a rural area in Bangladesh where access to medical care was difficult for many. Thus, it became meaningful for me to find ways to help those in need of proper healthcare. Moreover, I was always interested in learning about science: how the human body functioned and what happened when there were diseases like cancer. Thus, medicine was a perfect intersection between helping and learning. Since my freshman year of college, I knew that medicine was my calling and I have committed my life to become a physician.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I was part of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) for all four years of college and served as secretary and president. I was part of the Chi Alpha Epsilon Society at Hunter. I volunteered at NYU Langone/Manhattan VA Harbor joint obesity clinic and shadowed Dr. Aleman and performed research at his LTOR lab at NYU. I also have been part of a soccer team based in Brooklyn, AYSAB FC, where I served as the captain for the last 3 years.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: I studied around 20-25 hours on average per week for my courses. It would be higher or lower depending on how many exams I had.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I used the course provided by the Early Medical Education (EME) program, which was Kaplan and Testing Solutions for CARS. I also used mcatselfprep.com to schedule any additional study needed.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I did take a year gap to get ready for the EME application process and also to prepare for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I think my extracurriculars and personal statement were the strengths of my application. My extracurriculars were meaningful to me and they showed not only my commitment to medicine but also my dedication to personal wellbeing. For example, I was part of AYSAB because I always loved soccer and it not only helped me to build character but also to become a better version of myself, physically and mentally. In my personal statement, I was able to cohesively explain my passion for medicine as well setbacks I had to overcome.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No, I only applied to the EME program at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office has helped me almost every step of the way. Since freshman year, Kemile was there to guide me. The pre-med journey can be confusing with so many requirements, applications, deadlines, etc. However, with the help of Kemile, I was able to keep track of everything and most importantly, have a sane mind while balancing everything. I remembered that many times I would worry about slight issues such as a W on my transcript, but she would always reassure me in the calmest and most straightforward way and provide me with a solution. I am grateful to everyone in the Pre-Health Office. Without their guidance, the whole process would have been an impossible task.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: The most important advice I would give is to take a holistic approach to approach to your pre-medical journey. In other words, while your academic performance is of utmost importance, it is not everything. First, balance your time for things you love doing and are passionate about. Second, become involved with the pre-health community at Hunter such as the Pre-Health Office, clubs, etc. You will not only build meaningful connections but also learn about different opportunities and have an amazing time. Last but not least, with the help of the Pre-Health Office and mentors/upperclassmen, plan out your undergraduate years. Plan out classes you must take when you plan to take your MCAT, when you plan to apply to programs/research and any other activities ahead of time. It will become your roadmap and save a ton of hassle and stress.


Headshot: [Applicant Name]

Name: Rubia Shahbaz
Major: Biochemistry
Minor: English with a concentration in Creative Writing
Overall GPA: My GPA was weighted differently because I was part of an early college program in high school.
Previous Institution:
Medgar Evers College Preparatory School
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: As a child, after losing my baby brother due to medical malpractice in Pakistan, I became interested in the field of medicine. What drew me to medicine as an adult was the lack of healthcare resources available along with the lack of medical knowledge within my community. I came face-to-face with this when I lost my mother to cancer. Many individuals, including my own family members, were not aware of their rights as patients in a doctor-patient relationship and this caused many health issues later on. Specifically, they never questioned their doctors about medications they were prescribed and never questioned any changes in the care they were receiving. A lot of their health concerns, when brought up, were attributed to “aging” and blamed on “stressful jobs.” I realized that if their doctors had advocated for them, a lot of their health complications could have easily been avoided, and they could have lived long and healthy lives. Being on the other side of medicine as a patient and as an end-of-life caregiver to a loved one, gave me a new and valuable perspective, which I hope to apply in my career as a future physician.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I was a part of the Hunter MAPS club since freshman year, and I held several e-board positions such as secretary, treasurer, and vice president. I also volunteered and interned at Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell, and Brooklyn Methodist Hospital and shadowed several doctors in the specialties I was interested in. I also volunteered at my local library over a span of several summers to help elementary school kids read and engage them in activities.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: I did not actively keep track of the hours I put into studying. Everyone studies differently and I am someone who needs to study and incorporate breaks into each session. It is also imperative to take a rest day between studying to avoid burning out. I am also someone who doesn’t leave studying to the last minute and I like staying on top of the material to assess any weaknesses prior to exam week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I was offered a complete Kaplan course through the Early Medical Education (EME) program at SUNY Downstate free of charge. I do not recommend paying for a prep course out of your own pocket because it essentially just teaches test-taking strategies. I also purchased a Blueprint self-study course which I did not find very useful; all that material was already available on Khan Academy for free! Khan Academy is a very useful resource because it follows all the AAMC content outlines; if it’s on AAMC, it’s on Khan Academy! Although it is not a prep course, I strongly advise investing in a UWorld subscription for practice questions.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I did take a year gap to get ready for the EME application process and also to prepare for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I think one of the strengths in my application was being actively engaged in the fields I wanted to see a change in. I participated in cancer research after my mother passed away from this disease, and I volunteered in the cancer wards to learn more about end-of-life care and resources for patients/families. I also had many hours of volunteering and shadowing experiences. Although I did have several roundabouts in my track to medical school, at the end of the day these experiences kept me grounded in my path to become a physician and this was something that was reflected in my application.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No. I only applied to the EME program at SUNY Downstate.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Office played an active role in my undergraduate career as a pre-med student. Kemile Jackson is the one person who believed in me and encouraged me to apply to medical school when I felt like giving up and without her I may not have even applied to medical school so I am super thankful for her support and guidance. After my GPA dropped because I was still enrolled in classes at Hunter College while taking care of my mom, several academic advisors told me to pursue a different field. But Ms. Jackson advised me that if medicine is your end goal, it doesn’t matter if your journey from Point A to Point B isn’t a straight line, what matters is continuing to work towards getting to your end goal. As a first-generation immigrant, this support and advice was extremely pivotal in my transition to medical school. The Pre-Health Office is also the reason I was involved in so many volunteering opportunities. No other undergraduate institution has a listserv like the one we are provided; every resource and opportunity is already filtered out for you! All you have to do is be proactive and apply!

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: I have a lot to say on this topic, too much to fit on this page.

  • Seek out the help of the Pre-Health office!! They are your #1 resource on your road to medical school. Listen to what they have to say and heed their advice. They’re here to help you. Don’t be that person that walks in one semester before graduating.
  • Build active relationships with your professors early on because these are the people who will be writing your letters of recommendation.
  • Please don’t just sign up for volunteer and research opportunities to check it off of your pre-med list. This will not help you. You must take an active part in opportunities and fields that actually interest you.
  • Just Keep Swimming: like I said, if medicine is your end goal, there are many opportunities and roads that can get you there. It might take you longer but that’s okay. Not everyone’s journey is a straight line from point A to B. I know mine wasn't. And that’s okay! Focus on yourself and forget what everyone else is doing. It’s not a race.
  • I never had an active student mentor but I became one for several students, so if you ever need help feel free to ask Ms. Kemile Jackson for my contact details. I’d be more than happy to help.

 


Headshot: [Applicant Name]

Name: Sabina Kubayeva
Major: Biological Sciences
Overall GPA: 3.79
Graduation Year: 2022
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine through the Early Medical Education (EME) program.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: After growing up in an unstable household where I was cast into a caretaker role, I knew I wanted to pursue a career with a tangible method of obtaining answers to help those in need. I enjoy the idea of working with a team to look at every puzzle piece to figure out a patient's diagnosis and alleviate their ailments. With every clinical and research position I held, I realized medicine encompasses my values of being a lifelong learner, a mentor, and an advocate.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • Clinical: Medical Assistant at Dr. Elena Ocher Medical PC, Patient Experience Intern at NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, Laboratory Accessioner at Pandemic Response Lab, Surgical Stepdown Unit Volunteer at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical, Internal Medicine Shadow
  • Research: Goosens Lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, White Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center through the SCORE program, The Microbe Directory at Weill Cornell, Sacktor Lab at SUNY Downstate
  • Non-Clinical Volunteering: Macaulay at Hunter Peer Mentor, P.S Alumni Mentor
  • Clubs/Organizations: John P. McNulty Scholar, Undergraduate Student Government (Ambassador, Residence Life Commissioner), Macaulay Research Club Vice President, Phi Beta Kappa
  •  

    Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
    A: Approximately 10-12 hours on non-exam weeks and probably double that closer to midterms and finals.

    Q: Did you use a test prep course?
    A: The first summer of EME (MCAT bootcamp) is, in itself, a test prep course. We were given access to Kaplan, Testing Solutions, and Blueprint and had a calendar outlining a study schedule of what chapters we needed to cover every day. I did have to tailor this study schedule to my own learning style to make sure I finished content review on time. After the summer, I designed my own study schedule using some aspects of the resources provided and supplemented them with UWorld and Anki.

    Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
    A: I took one gap year to study for the MCAT and to work.

    Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
    A: One of my biggest strengths in my application was being able to articulate how my personal experiences directly led to me choosing a career as a physician. In addition to telling my story effectively, I made sure to show that my values aligned with SUNY Downstate's mission. Being a Brooklyn native and having done research at SUNY Downstate for 3 years gave me an insight into the community I will be serving, which is something I emphasized throughout my application.

    Q: Did you apply nationally?
    A: No. I only applied to EME at SUNY Downstate.

    Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
    A: Being a first-generation college student, I was overwhelmed from the start. I knew my goal was to get into medical school but I didn’t know how to get there. The Pre-Health Office not only laid a solid foundation of what I needed to do to be a successful applicant, but provided immeasurable support and encouragement throughout the way.

    Q: What advice do you have for others?
    A: Breathe. Being pre-med comes with such a huge mental, emotional, and physical toll that we sometimes forget to take a step back and breathe. Remember the support system around you and lean on them. It really does take a village and our friends, family, professors, mentors, and the Pre-Health Office are all part of that village. Find strength in knowing when to ask for help. There is no shame in it. Lastly, remember how far you've come in your journey thus far and be proud of yourself. You should be cheering yourself on just as much as the people around you are because they believe in you for a reason so believe in yourself!


Headshot: [Applicant Name]

Name: Zafar Syed
Major: BA/MA Biology Biotechnology
Overall GPA: 3.56
Graduation Year: 2022
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine (through the Early Medical Education Program)

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: My motivation for becoming a doctor is driven by cultural values, caring for others, and a passion for science that have been instilled in me since my childhood. I enjoy empowering members of my community, and knowing that I will have the ability to improve the wellbeing and health of others is what I find meaningful.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

    Research
  • Research Assistant at South Bronx Community Health Leadership
  • Research Assistant at Weill Cornell Medical Center
    Clinical Experience
  • Emergency Medical Technician at SeniorCare Emergency Medical Services
  • Volunteer at New York Presbyterian Emergency Department
  • Shadowing at Weill Cornell New York Presbyterian Pediatric Neurology Clinic
    Non-Clinical experience
  • Head Coach at Super Soccer Stars
  • Mentor at Peer Health Mentoring Initiative
  • Lead Rescuer at Rescuing Leftover Cuisine
  • Senior Health Educator/Leadership Counselor at Peer Health Exchange

 

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: As a full time student, I studied from 5-12 hours during weeks with no exams and during exam weeks it would be about 18 hours.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: The Early Medical Education (EME) program provided Kaplan and Testing Solution test prep courses. I found them helpful in learning the testing strategies and tips in tackling the MCAT. Alongside with self-studying, I felt prepared for the MCAT. I recommend knowing what would be best for your studying style. If you require a course to help you structure your studying, then take a course.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I took a gap year as part of the EME program. During this year, I prepared for the MCAT, and gathered work/clinical experience.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I believe my leadership roles and clinical experience to be the strongest aspect of my application.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: In the EME program, you commit to only applying to SUNY Downstate Medical School.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Office was my North star during my undergraduate career. They guided me through the challenges of the pre medical journey and introduced me to opportunities such as the EME program. I recommend building a relationship with the Pre-Health team early on to help you navigate your pre-medical journey.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Stay disciplined. The path to becoming a doctor can be challenging, so it's important to stay motivated and be resilient. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Find support from family, friends, mentors, advisors, and fellow pre-med students. Take care of your physical and mental well-being through self-care practices, exercise, and stress management techniques.


Gian Pierre Izquierdo

Name: Gian Pierre Izquierdo
Major: Biology
Overall GPA: 3.564
Previous Institution:
LaGuardia Community College
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate School of Medicine

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: Growing up with a Latino background and a deep interest in science, medicine naturally became a captivating path for me. The rich cultural heritage of my Latino origin instilled a sense of compassion and empathy, driving me to pursue a career where I could make a positive impact on people's lives. My fascination with science fueled my desire to understand the intricate workings of the human body and find innovative ways to alleviate suffering and improve healthcare outcomes. Medicine's unique blend of scientific exploration and the opportunity to serve diverse communities resonated deeply with my passion for making a meaningful difference in the world.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: Throughout my undergraduate journey, I actively engaged in diverse extracurricular activities that enriched my academic experience. Notably, I had the incredible opportunity to conduct research for a program founded by the National Institute of Health for about 2 years. Additionally, during summers, I dedicated myself to furthering my knowledge through research at City College. Beyond the academic journey, I also ventured into the practical side of medicine, working as a medical assistant in a prestigious Dermatology clinic located in the vibrant heart of Manhattan. These experiences have instilled in me a passion for both research and patient care, shaping my aspirations to contribute meaningfully to the field of healthcare.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: About 20 hours

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I had the opportunity to use the Kaplan MCAT prep course.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: During the transition from college to medical school, I made the decision to take a gap year to adequately prepare myself for the rigorous journey of the MCAT. This time off also allowed me to work full-time to support myself and reduce the burden of educational expenses.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: In my opinion my strengths in my medical school application lie in my extensive research experience and outstanding overall science GPA.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No, I only applied to SUNY Downstate Medical School through their Early Medical Education program.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office played a very important role in guiding me toward my goal of pursuing medicine. Through their invaluable advising, weekly support meetings and abundant resources, they prepared me for the MCAT. Moreover, the office facilitated various extracurricular activities that enriched my application, making it more competitive and well-rounded. The continuous support and guidance from the Pre-Health advisors undoubtedly reinforced my confidence and readiness to embark on a successful journey towards a career in medicine.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: As a medical school applicant, I highly recommend trusting your pre-health advisor and investing time in conducting research to become a more competitive candidate. Pre-health advisors possess valuable insights and experience in guiding aspiring medical students towards successful applications. Their knowledge of the medical school application process, prerequisite requirements, and selection criteria can significantly impact your chances of acceptance.


2022 Matriculants


Headshot: Yanilka Rodriguez

Name: Yanilka Rodriguez
Major: Human Biology
Overall GPA: 3.66
Previous Institution:
Borough of Manhattan Community College
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2022

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A:

  • The interest I developed for the biological sciences during college.
  • The passion I developed for the humanitarian aspect of medicine; interacting with patients and their families throughout my time as a volunteer
  • The aspiration to learn how to better the health of those who are sick via science and medicine I developed through my experiences within my family and can relate to the hardship that overwhelms patients and their families.
  • The desire to educate and help my community also drew me to a career in medicine.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I was a volunteer at Mount Sinai in the emergency department and in several inpatient units for 2 years. I was a research volunteer at Mount Sinai's cardiology department where I assisted the team for about a year while attending Hunter College as a full time student. I also shadowed an internal medicine physician where I learned more about the daily responsibilities of a physician in an outpatient setting.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: I remember studying every day when taking the pre-med courses at Hunter. Approximately 2-3 hours a day, so about 10-14 hours a week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: Yes for the CARS section. Since I am part of the EME program at SUNY Downstate the program provided us with a Kaplan book set and many Kaplan practice exams. We had our own boot camp month where Downstate students helped us with understanding content in preparation for the MCAT. I personally mostly used Blueprint for practice exams because I felt their exams were more similar to the AAMC material than Kaplan's. They also provided us with a CARS test prep course (Testing Solutions).

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I took two gap years, not by choice; nonetheless, I am glad that I had time off before medical school. Besides the fact that it was very difficult to find a study routine and schedule that would yield improvement in my practice exam scores and content retention, my mother was undergoing several procedures due to a health condition at the time I was preparing for my exam. I pushed back my exam because I felt unprepared both emotionally and academically. This pushed me back another year because instead of taking the exam in January 2021 to start classes in August 2021, I took my exam in August 2021, which means I officially start classes in August 2022. I do not regret pushing back my MCAT exam date, as it is best to go into the test feeling as prepared as possible. I also think that these gap years have allowed me to spend more time with family, work on myself, enjoy some of my hobbies, work to save money and also have a mental break from studying, as it can be easy to burnout when studying for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I think some of my strengths include the extracurricular activities I participated in while being a student and working as a paraprofessional. I believe these distinct settings: the hospital, outpatient clinic, research lab, public schools, have allowed me to develop a more well-rounded background and have enhanced my adaptability and communication skills.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No, I only applied to SUNY Downstate as per the agreement we sign where we are accepted into their EME program.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The advisors in the pre-health office have helped me greatly in preparation for interviews, advice regarding classes to take and in what order, informing me of volunteering, job and program opportunities. I was able to join the CARE program at Mount Sinai as a volunteer because Ms. Jackson informed me about this program. In addition, Ms. Jackson informed me of the EME program at SUNY Downstate and encouraged me to apply even when I doubted my potential. The advisors at the pre-health advising office have been indispensable throughout my pre-med journey.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A:

  • Take your time and don't rush through your undergraduate years and the pre-med process; it is not a competition.
  • Take your pre-med classes seriously because if there are inconsistencies in your grades, chances are you will have to explain this in your applications and interviews.
  • Seek help from others (including the pre-health advisors), and take part in group study sessions.
  • Shadow different health professionals to see which path is best for you or to confirm that the MD path is what you want (MD, nursing, PA, etc.)
  • Do not take the MCAT until you've seen consistent improvement in your practice exams. Prioritize practice questions once you've reviewed content for the first 1-2 months (depending on how much time you have to dedicate to MCAT prep).

Headshot: Favour Ononogbu-Uche

Name: Favour Ononogbu-Uche
Major: Psychology
Minor: Chemistry
Overall GPA: 3.51
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2022

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: SUNY Downstate School of Medicine.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I was always interested in medicine from a young age through my interest in science and human biology. My interests in medicine quickly shifted to the healthcare disparities underserved communities face regularly, and how these lead to dismal medical outcomes. As a physician, I want to address these issues from within the healthcare system through direct patient interaction as a caregiver and educator.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I participated in the typical pre-med extracurriculars such as clinical volunteering, research, and shadowing. Additionally, I was active in Hunter's Black Male Initiative as a Team Leader and Mentor. I was also a Peer Tutor for several science classes such as Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: I only learned how to study effectively after graduating from college. While in college, I put off most of my studying until weekends or days surrounding tests. On those days and depending on the course, I could study anywhere from 2 to 15 hours that week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: I was fortunate to be accepted to the SUNY Downstate College of Medicine through its Early Medical Education program. This program offered access to test prep courses like Kaplan, Blueprint, and Testing Solutions.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I took a gap year to participate in SUNY Downstate's EME program and study for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: The strengths of my application include the quality of my experiences. Instead of taking the approach of simply checking boxes when choosing my activities, I was intentional in pursuing experiences that align with my passions. This allowed me to craft an application that showed continuity in who I am now and the physician I want to become in the future.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: I did not apply nationally, only to SUNY Downstate.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office was instrumental in my success. Through them, I had access to various opportunities offered through the Pre-Health listserv and to stellar advisors like Ms. Jackson. The office has been a pillar of support for me throughout this process.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: I advise others to believe in themselves and their abilities. It is one thing to know that you are capable of achieving your ambitions, but it is another thing to truly believe it. At that point, the conversation shifts from whether or not someone can succeed to WHEN they will succeed. This perspective changed the way I approach everything I do in life.


2021 Matriculants


Headshot: Tasmia Promi

Name: Tasmia Promi
Major: Biochemistry and Special Honors
Minor: Sociology
Overall GPA: 3.96
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school are you attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
One of the reasons I chose to study medicine because it is a field that is innovative and continuously changing. As a person who is curious and loves to tackle challenging ideas, I strongly believe that medicine will nurture my desire to understand and critically analyze new scientific and medical information. As physician, I’d also be able to study different advancements and potentially apply them to serve and assist patients, who come from different backgrounds, in battling various illnesses.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: Lab research, clinical volunteering, tutoring students in underserved communities, New York Cares, Organic Chemistry Peer Teaching Assistant, American Medical Student Association, Pre-Health Mentoring Initiative, Hunter College Student Government.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A:25 hours/week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A:I would recommend studying by yourself to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Some resources include AAMC material and Kaplan Review Books.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A:I did not take a gap year.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I would say the strengths in my application would be my letters of recommendation, personal statements, and leadership qualities.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No.

Q: How did Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A:From the first day I started my undergraduate career, the Pre-Health Advising Team’s sincerity and dedication to help me navigate the pre-med track was outstanding. From offering time management sessions to creating support groups, the Pre-Health Advising Team did an amazing job in helping me become ready and feel confident about my application process. I am sincerely grateful for their assistance, work ethic, and support.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: I think the most important thing while preparing for and during the application cycle is to be confident in yourself and abilities. You have to always remember why you wanted to become a physician and let that drive you when encountering bumps on your journey. It is imperative to keep a positive outlook and never feel defeated. You have the ability to succeed and you can! It is all about making opportunities for yourself and maintaining a strong work ethic despite hardships, which is what I learned from my undergraduate experience.


Headshot: Sotirios Drenis

Name: Sotirios Drenis
Major: Chemistry (Biochemistry track)
Overall GPA: 3.79
Previous Institution:
Kingsborough Community College
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school are you attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine as part of the Early Medical Education (EME) program.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: It allowed me to be constantly involved in everything I was passionate about: science and learning, being in service to others in need, and working on a team.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I was a board member and mentor for PHMI. I also enjoyed some of the courses I found interesting during my time at Hunter, which led me to be a peer TA for Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry. I volunteered at NYU Langone's (Brooklyn) rehabilitation department and then New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center's emergency department. I was also a research co-investigator at Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: Roughly 25-30 hours a week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No. I used Kaplan's MCAT books which I found very helpful at the start of my MCAT prep. Along the way I also found UWorld, Blueprint prep, and Testing Solutions as top tier MCAT resources. However, the best prep out there is undoubtedly AAMC's question packs and full length exams.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I took that time to study for the MCAT.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I would say one strength was my volunteering experience in medical centers and disaster relief volunteering in Puerto Rico, which definitely shed some light into how much I valued helping others in need. Another strength in my application was my research experience where I was fortunate to be a co-author in a research paper. Lastly, I was fortunate to have strong recommendation letters from professors.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No.

Q: How did Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Office is such an amazing place to ask for advice and guidance. I remember being that shy freshman pursuing pre-med and not knowing how to navigate through this long and rigorous path. I admire how mujch effort each and every advisor puts into wanting the best for their advisees. I'm extremely grateful to Kemile Jackson. She has been such an extraoridnary advisor who would always push me to do more and was overall extremely supportive. I'm also very thankful to Nina Ledis. She provided me with excellent mock interviews, and was my go-to person for personal statement advice.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: In addition to staying on top of your academics, invest a good amount of time involving yourself in activities that you are passionate about. I also want to stress the importance of doing some kind of research. In regards to the MCAT, make sure you do as many practice questions and passages as you can along with full-length exams (I took 10+). Lastly, I urge you to go to the Pre-Health Office. They played such a significant role throughout my pre-med journey.

Trust yourself. Being a pre-med student is not easy, but with effort and a solid support system, you will get there.


Headshot: Muhammad Afaq

Name: Muhammad Afaq
Major: Human Biology
Overall GPA: 3.70
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school are you attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A:Having the opportunity to serve the underserved as well as to inspire others to persevere and follow their dreams despite facing adversity.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:
Clubs: Vice President of South Asian Cultural Club (SACC).Senior Senator for the Undergraduate Student Government (USG).
Clinical: Adult Daycare
Volunteer: Islamic Center. Member of the Diverse American Volunteer Association (DAVA)

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: Around 4 hours on the weekdays and 5-6 on weekends. Almost double before midterms and finals if I had the time but a rough average would be around 28 hours a week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, to study for the MCAT and strengthen my resume.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I take pride in the fact that my application was well rounded. I have a story that reflects an upward trend regarding my GPA. I also had a strong MCAT score. I have experience in research, clinical volunteering, and community/non-clinical volunteering, including shadowing, scribing, and leadership roles both in and outside of school.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No.

Q: How did Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health advising office helped me plan and manage the monster that is the medical school application process. I was given strict deadlines, which at the time felt like a burden but was a blessing towards the end. I was given a roadmap and all I had to do was buckle up and follow it.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: First and foremost, do what Kemile says, she is the pre-med guardian angel. Do not expect things to be handed to you, get things done on your own but ask for help when you need it. Please take pre-med classes seriously because the MCAT is no joke. Finally, as the great Kemile says “Just keep swimming.”


Headshot: Juan Carrero Munoz

Name: Juan Carrero Munoz
Major: Human Biology
Overall GPA: 3.69
Previous Institution:
York College
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school are you attending?
A: SUNY Downstate College of Medicine.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: A sum of experiences coupled with a desire to help communities and continue learning.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I did research, plenty of volunteer opportunities within emergency rooms and running youth groups, cycling and teaching youth to bike, and shadowing doctors and veterinarians.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A:It would depend on the semester but mostly around 8 - 12 hours

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A:Yes, I used UWorld and Kaplan.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A:Yes, I needed to learn more about myself and be sure of my career path and goals.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I would say I have a lot of experiences in varying fields and I believe they display my capability in regards to health, bedside manner, cultural awareness and diversity, social integrity, my leadership skills, and my desire to learn and push myself.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No, I applied to an early admissions program at SUNY Downstate and I was lucky to have been admitted before preparing to send out applications to other schools.

Q: How did Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A:I was provided with a variety of resources to gain experience and to prepare me for applying to medical school. I was also guided as to what steps to take if I wanted to seriously get myself into medical school. I also felt like I was pushed to maintain my GPA and responsibilities every time I talked with an advisor and I felt supported by their response every time I updated them.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Be prepared for a hard but very satisfying road. Make a schedule and adhere to it so that you can make it easier on yourself. Create a social circle that is in the same place as you in regards to applying to medical school, sharing experiences and where you are helps each other out in the long run.



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