Student-Athlete's Journey to UMSOM

Happy Tuesday! Today, we are interviewing Malina Howard, a former student-athlete on the Women’s Basketball team here at Maryland and a current fourth-year medical student at University of Maryland School of Medicine. Malina is here to share with us her journey to medicine as a student athlete! 

Malina HowardMalina played for the Women’s Basketball team during all four years of undergrad and graduated from UMD in three years in 2015 as a Kinesiology major. During her sophomore year, Malina decided to pursue a career in medicine, which meant she would take her pre-med required coursework during her fourth year as a sort of post-bacc. Before starting medical school at UMSOM, Malina worked for the UMD athletic department in life skills development, helping fellow student-athletes at UMD with career, leadership, and service development as they searched for jobs and applied to professional schools. She is a Terp at heart through and through! 

What made you pursue medicine?

During her freshman year, Malina witnessed three different injuries on her team and interacted closely with her team’s physicians. Given this, she found it  intriguing how physicians were able to rehabilitate a patient and give them the opportunity to play the sport they love again. Along with this, Malina had a family member diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and witnessed how her family began to navigate the illness with physicians. Malina also adds that she realized she was really interested in pursuing pre-medicine (over other pre-health pathways) when she took Anatomy 2, as she found the pathophysiology behind each illness intriguing and was curious to learn more. 

Anything about UMSOM you would like to share? 

Malina says that she believes Maryland School of Medicine really values the humanistic side of medicine, so applicants should try to talk about how they can interact with different individuals and the impact they hope to have on people in the future. In addition, she finds UMSOM values patient advocacy as well as other forms of advocacy in their students. In her application, Malina talked about her own community service and engagement; she worked to connect chronic illness patients with student-athletes as well as volunteered at the Pregnancy Aid Center here on campus. A tip Malina has for applicants is to have a running list of reflections that describe each service experience and what they learned from it, as it makes writing essays in the application a lot easier. 

Malina also wanted to add that UMSOM administration is very receptive and open to hearing feedback from students which is why she is so happy with her choice. She says although medical school is hard and filled with ups and downs, she has enjoyed her time at Maryland School of Medicine!  

How did your time as a student-athlete teach you about the competencies required for medicine?

“I got really good at interacting and communicating on a team-level…which can be important because it takes a village to treat a patient.”  

As a student-athlete, Malina emphasizes that she learned how to be on a team and how to work with others. She realized it was important to recognize her own role on a team and how that fit in with how she could help. She also learned when to recognize it was time to ask for help or to step-up more in a given role. 

Additionally, Malina said she learned how to effectively time manage. Many equate the first year of medical school as a fire hose of information coming at you, and Malina feels being a student-athlete prepared her to balance school with life and personal wellness. When describing how she manages time, she says “it's sort of like triaging where you have to focus on what is the most important thing at the moment and address that head-on.” In fact, Malina organized her time in her preclinical years by setting aside study blocks similar to how she would schedule practice sessions for basketball when she was a student-athlete.  

Most of all, Malina thinks being a student-athlete taught her resiliency and how to respond in times of adversity. Specifically, there were times during a game when her team was losing and she had to learn to keep a positive attitude and keep pushing through. Malina compares this experience to when she is working with patients, as there may be times when a patient’s treatment isn’t working but it’s important to keep problem-solving and to stay optimistic. Malina claims this sort of mindset was especially important working in healthcare during COVID-19. 

When asked how individuals should deal with adversity in the application process, she encourages students to try their best to really only focus on the next step of the application and try not to get too upset over certain mistakes. She says to give yourself one day to be sad but then switch your thinking into how you can be better for next time. Malina also says that students should remember that although they are trying to get accepted into a program, medical schools are also trying to fill spots in their class and find people like them. 

What advice do you have for other student-athletes?

Malina wants to tell other student-athletes that it is possible to pursue medicine while being an athlete, as there are so many resources to support these students. She recommends that athletes connect with the pre-health office sooner than later, as advisors can help them get clinical exposure early-on and figure out how to plan their coursework. These are things that athletes have to be wise about when scheduling given the time constraints of sports which is why advising appointments are so important! Malina also encourages athletes to not stay inside the bubble of other student-athletes and to also make friends in their pre-med classes, as these individuals will be your colleagues in medical school and beyond. 

How does basketball play in your life now? 

Malina says she is still fairly connected with people she met through basketball as well as her former coach. She even did an away-rotation with a previous teammate during her clinical years of medical school. In addition, Malina is currently on the board of Terrapin Club which is the main source of funds for student scholarships. When members join Terrapin Club, they receive benefits when going to sporting events and to food/gear shops in the College Park area; Malina says the most rewarding part of it is the fact that she is able to help student-athletes through scholarships, as these individuals not only represent the university through sports but also later on in their professional careers. Personally, Malina claims that her scholarship is the reason behind why she is in medicine now, as the coaches at UMD truly value education and supported her through her career search. Want to learn more? See the links below: 

Malina’s Scholarship Impact

That’s it for today folks! I hope readers were able to gain insight on what it’s like being a student-athlete pursuing medicine. Use the comments section below to tell us your thoughts on the piece. See you next Tuesday! 

With care, 


Editor: Grace Suh