MD's Journey at DUCOM + Interview Tips

Hope you all had a relaxing and joyful Thanksgiving break! Today, we are so thankful for the opportunity to interview an accomplished alum: Jessica Titherington (Jessie)! Jessie graduated from UMD in Winter of 2018 with a major in Physiology and Neurobiology and a minor in Spanish. She is currently in her second year of her MD at the Drexel University College of Medicine (DUCOM). As a student interviewer at Drexel, Jessie shares valuable tips and insight about the program!

Life at UMD

jessie titherington photoJessie spent the beginning years of her undergrad education at Salisbury University, where she played on the softball team. She transferred to UMD as an undecided major, uncertain of what path to choose. Being a part of the First-year Innovation & Research (FIRE) program at UMD enabled Jessie to do translational research in a lab. By conducting research, Jessie realized that she was more interested in science applied in a healthcare setting than the clinical lab-based science. Jessie’s love for biology courses and experience with scientific research helped her narrow down her options to going to either PA or MD school. The experience that fueled Jessie’s passion to devote a life to healing patients through medicine was a summer internship at Anne Arundel Medical Center, which she heard about from the HPAO weekly list-serve. At her internship, she was given the wonderful opportunity to shadow a radiation oncologist, who is a doctor specialized in treating cancer with radiation therapy, enabling Jessie to see biology, chemistry, and physics in action!

“Through my internship, I was able to see patients, learn research methods, and give presentations during morning conferences! I’ll never forget one patient who was grumpy due to the adverse side effects associated with neck radiation. But, at the end of the summer, I got to see him ring the bell, signaling that he finished chemotherapy and he was so happy! That’s why we work hard and study. It all pays off!”

She was also a Guided Study Sessions Leader for BSCI170: Principles of Molecular & Cellular Biology course, where she led collaborative study sessions to facilitate student learning. During her junior year of undergrad, Jessie knew that she wanted to become a physician. She graduated in December of her senior year, and spent her Spring semester and her gap year scribing, volunteering, and conducting clinical research. This reaffirmed her passion and gave her confidence to pursue an MD. Through these experiences, Jessie knew that she wanted to dedicate her life to medicine and also give back to her community who helped her become who she is today.

Application process and Medical school interview

Jessie emphasizes completing the HPAO Committee packet, as it’s very helpful in letting you reflect on your undergrad experience and understand how it has prepared you for the journey ahead. The personal statement is a “work-in-progress.” It’s advantageous to start writing your personal statement early, so you can revise it and ask multiple people to edit it. Once you are ready for the initial primary applications, Jessie recommends submitting the earliest day you can!

The secondary applications can be overwhelming, but the questions between different schools can start to overlap! Being organized, creating a schedule, and setting reminders ahead of the date you want to submit your essays is a great way to complete your tasks proactively. Jessie also recommends prioritizing secondary essays according to the school you want to attend. Then comes a breath of fresh air! Jessie began working as a scribe, which helped her stay connected to medicine and learning.

As a student interviewer, Jessie has interviewed multiple students interested in pursuing their MD at Drexel. She states that one of the easiest and most important things a student can do during their interview is be in a good mood and smile! Small gestures, such as nodding your head and listening, shows that you are present and attentive. Most importantly, be yourself! Talk about your interests and personality. Jessie says she can tell when students talk about things they truly love! Being a good communicator is an important part of your future career as a physician helping their patients.

“As interviewers, we’ve seen your application, so we know the volunteering and research you’ve done. What about that experience stood out to you? How might that translate to what you plan to do in med school?”

Curriculum at DUCOM

Since August 2017, DUCOM has implemented a new MD 4-year curriculum called “Foundations and Frontiers,” which replaced the lecture-based curriculum with one focused on small group collaborative learning and clinical problem solving. This program has 3 phases. Phase 1 includes the first two years of medical school, which lays the foundation for basic and clinical science. Phase 2 is known as the “Applications” phase, which allows students to apply their knowledge related to patient care and skills to multiple clinical settings during their third year. Lastly, during the fourth year, the “Transitions” phase focuses on gaining advanced clinical skills and preparing the students for residency.

“This model is a great way to learn, because it enables you to take notes and independently learn at your own pace and come together with your classmates to work on cases!”

The “Frontiers” portion of the curriculum operates in the form of four 1-week blocks. During these breaks, students learn about fascinating topics related to medicine!

“The content covered during the breaks are always so practical and interesting! We also discuss topics including population health, health insurance and policy, translational research, and transgender health”

Life at DUCOM

Located in close proximity to the city center of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, DUCOM is the consolidation of two medical schools: the first U.S. medical school for women and the nation's first college of homeopathy. As one of the largest medical schools, DUCOM has an entering class of about 256 students every year. Jessie emphasizes that the large class size enables you to constantly meet new students! The average age of those entering DUCOM is 24. People from all walks of life, from places across the globe, and of diverse cultures come together at DUCOM to study medicine.

Golden Tips from Jessie:

  • Explore new study strategies! Don’t stick to studying in a certain way, just because it worked for you before. Work smart and work hard!
  • Focus on high-yield topics as you study for exams! The amount of content in a semester of undergrad is roughly equivalent to 2 weeks of medical school. It’s okay if you can’t study all of the content perfectly! Study the high-yield topics.
  • Trust the concepts you are learning. You know the foundation already from your pre-med courses!
  • Be adaptable and always ask yourself “How can I learn this better?”
  • There are many study resources available in undergrad and at medical school. Take advantage of them!
  • You’re not alone!
Editor: Supraja Kanipakam