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 California State University, Fullerton

Grant Ognibene- Future Physician

grantI was associated with the CSUF Rugby Club, Golden Key International Honour Society, and the Flying Samaritans. I was also fortunate to be a part of SI (Supplemental Instruction) for two semesters teaching organic and general chemistry. I highly recommend obtaining one of these positions if possible; it helped strengthen my understanding of the material as well as provide leadership experience.

My path to medicine was rather “non-traditional”. I think the foundation was laid during my third year of college when I realized a desire to hold a job that would provide some sort of purpose and fulfillment, particularly one that would afford the opportunity to invest in others. Initially, I sought to become a firefighter/paramedic and began working as an emergency medical technician. It was during this time when I discovered an enjoyment for science, particularly chemistry, through an unplanned chemistry course. As a result, I decided to combine my clinical experience with my newfound interest in science by pursuing medical school.

I worked for 1 year as an emergency medical technician at a private ambulance company and another year and a half at the Glendale Fire Department as an Ambulance Operator (EMT). I also traveled to Mexico twice to assist with health clinics and volunteered as part of the medical team at the annual Cross Fit Games. I also volunteered to assist a health clinic for the uninsured and worked in a fuel cell research laboratory.

I applied about a month into the cycle due to last minute changes to my personal statement. I applied to 15 schools, interviewed at four, and was accepted to one and waitlisted to the remaining three. One of the schools was an MMI, which I enjoyed, and the other three were traditional (one-on-one). 

My advice to current students is to apply early and to do well on the MCAT. Many schools prefer students who do well on the MCAT, because it is indicator for how well they can perform on standardized tests, particularly the STEP 1 and 2 tests. A school’s reputation is indirectly impacted by how well their students do on these tests so a high MCAT score will do wonders for you. I would also recommend obtaining a research assistant position at an academic institution during your gap year. These types of position are becoming more common and can allow you to gain invaluable research experience, amazing contacts, and significant professional development. Some of these positions are clinical or computer-based so you may not even have to be in the lab if you so prefer. Also, if you get rejected from your dream school, don’t be afraid to write a letter of appeal.