Allopathic Medicine Success Stories

Eric JonesEricJones

Major: Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior

Overall GPA: 3.65

Graduation Year: 2017

Which school are you attending?

California Northstate University

What drew you to this particular health field?

Growing up, I always had something inside of me that knew I wanted to care about and for people. In fifth grade, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I claimed, “I want to be someone who works in the ER.” Of course I had no idea what that really meant at the time, but it simply felt right. As I entered UC Davis, I held onto the notion that I wanted to be a doctor, but still had very little idea why. It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year where I was involved in a bike crash with a car moving over 50mph, that I found my true why for a career in medicine. Incredibly grateful to this day, I did not incur any life-threatening injuries, but rather tore my ACL, eventually undergoing surgery. Being a competitive runner and having something so dear to me taken away in an instant, was a feeling of initial despair and “why me?”. However, through the genuinely supportive and excellent care of the EMTs, trauma team, surgical team, and physical therapists, I was able to make a full recovery and come back stronger physically and mentally. During this time of recovery, I wanted to help others going through my injury. I started a blog and YouTube channel detailing my journey back to full health, and joined the UC Davis Sports Medicine program. Through my online presence, I was able to connect with and support others going through similar struggles. Working with UC Davis Sports Medicine, I had the opportunity to help lead an ACL Injury Prevention study, training local youth soccer teams on techniques to lower their risk for ACL injury. It was a true blessing to utilize my experience as a patient to help others lessen their risk of enduring the arduous process of ACL injury. With this newfound purpose, I began seeking many more opportunities to become involved at UC Davis. In reflecting on each experience, I began to realize that what I value most is interactions and relationships with others. Whether it be working the entire year to plan the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference with Joanne and my peers, office hours with Dr. Shaffrath, or a two-minute triage at the Emergency Department as a medical scribe, I truly appreciate listening to, talking to, and learning from everyone around me. I find profound meaning in people and all that they share, and that is ultimately why I want to become a doctor.

Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?

I took one gap year. The primary reason for this was due to the logistics and preparedness needed to go straight into medical school. Had I not taken any gap year, I would have had to apply at the end of my junior year, which I did not feel prepared for. With the extra time of my senior year, I gained a much more rooted understanding of my why in medicine, I became further involved in my experiences, I developed stronger relationships with my mentors who eventually wrote me letters of recommendation, and I had more time to focus on my application. I was a part-time student during Spring Quarter, and worked 2-3 days a week during my gap year. Having this extra time was very important because of the demands of the application process – mainly secondaries in my experience. Traveling to and preparing for interviews was also easier with the flexibility of being in a gap year. Beyond the logistics behind a gap year, I am extremely grateful for all that my year away from school taught me about life outside of academics and work. I learned the importance of time for simple enjoyment, and developed newfound appreciation for travel, reading, food, and even skydiving. My gap year was a time to reflect upon and express gratitude for all that my life is now, for where I’ve come from, and for the incredible people who have shaped me into the person I am today. Ultimately, this year was a time to learn about what truly matters most to me, and to the world.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I co-founded the UC Davis Cross Country & Track Club, making lifelong friends throughout my five years with this group. I truly found my people, and had the opportunity to travel across the country for races, help integrate new and international students to UC Davis, and do something I love with people I love every single day.

I was a part of the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference leadership team, working with my team to bring in hundreds of exhibitors from pre-health organizations across the nation and world at the Pre-Health Fair. I am deeply grateful for the professionalism I developed through interacting with innumerous health professionals, the exposure to the many various health fields I received and helped bring to conference attendees, and the strong relationships I built with UC Davis Health Professions Advising staff and my incredible co-workers and peers.

I was an intern for UC Davis Sports Medicine, and was able to learn and utilize clinical skills such as recording blood pressure and administering EKG’s with real patients. I also participated in research, including the aforementioned ACL Injury Prevention study. This experience showed me how interesting research can be, but that I ultimately find utmost value in directly helping and interacting with people.

I was a volunteer Track & Field Head Coach for Team Davis, a local organization that enriches the lives of children and adults with developmental, cognitive, and/or physical disabilities through sports and community involvement. Working with these athletes each week doing something we love together – running – showed me just how special each individual is. There wasn’t a much better feeling than getting a bear hug from an athlete sprinting to me as I showed up to practice, or seeing them dance together at the local Farmer’s Market like nobody’s watching. They taught me that happiness is universal, and to treat and appreciate each person for exactly who they are.

Lastly, I participated in the UC Davis Health-Related Internship program, volunteering in the UC Davis Emergency Department for two quarters. It was an excellent experience to immerse myself in the world of healthcare, with no previous experience required.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

In most upper division core classes, I spent approximately 1.5-2 times the time spent in lecture, podcasting and taking notes for that lecture. So for example if I had a 1 hour NPB lecture that day, I would spend 1.5-2 hours listening to the podcast that night and taking notes. I took very little notes in class, and would simply sit in the front of class, record the lecture from my phone, and do my best to absorb and process the information. I would try my best to listen to the podcast and take notes within three days at the most. Overall, I would approximate 20-30 hours per week studying, depending if there was an upcoming midterm. This time includes time to podcast/take notes. I also utilized practice tests as much as I could when studying.

Did you use a test prep course?

I utilized a Kaplan MCAT test prep course during the summer after my junior year. If I remember correctly, this course was approximately 6 hours per week of classroom time, for 1.5 months, and it took place on the UC Davis campus. It was like a normal class with fellow students also studying for the MCAT, and we had an instructor who taught common concepts seen on the MCAT, but more importantly test-taking strategies. Kaplan provided very comprehensive subject material through book learning and online learning, as well as many full-length practice tests. I would highly recommend a Kaplan MCAT course. It helped me to have structure, follow a trusted study plan, and maintain motivation by having peers around me studying for the MCAT as well.

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

First and foremost, a solid GPA and MCAT are necessary to get your foot in the door. While I didn’t have a top-notch GPA or MCAT (I got a 507 MCAT which was 76th percentile), they were good enough metrics to receive a secondary application and not stick out as a red flag. This is of utmost importance, as without these two factors, my application would likely not have been read further. Beyond GPA and MCAT, I feel my biggest strength was being a genuine person in my application. My application truly reflected my personal characteristics, motivations, and even joys in life. It sounds cheesy, but being yourself goes a long way. For example, I wrote about my YouTube channel in my application. When I interviewed at one school, my interviewer had actually found my YouTube channel before the interview, watched my very first video, and asked me about it. Was it a bit scary that this person found that? Yes, but it gave me the chance to talk about something real and personal about my life and my unique characteristics. My biggest advice is to never do something because it will look good on your application. Be yourself, and that will shine through to those reading your application. Because in the end, who wants to be successful for someone they are not?

Did you apply nationally?

I applied nationally to 35 MD schools, and 9 DO schools. My selection factors in order of importance were the following: metrics, percent out-of-state acceptance, specific qualities about the school. When I say specific qualities, I mean perhaps a majority of their accepted students are from the neighboring four states around them, or their mission statement heavily revolves around religion. These are not bad things, but simply qualities that my background or personal characteristics did not align with.

How did HPA help you achieve your goals?

HPA was instrumental in my application process. Joanne and her fellow advisors guided me every step of the way, truly. There were very few aspects of my application that I didn’t work with and run by Joanne. Her workshops and individually scheduled meetings were crucial to my confidence and readiness to apply, and more importantly in helping me understand why I wanted to become a doctor at this time in my life. I honestly cannot thank Joanne and the entire HPA staff enough for the consistent, genuine, and always readily available support throughout the entire application process.

What advice do you have for others?

In talking to pre-health students, and pre-med students in particular, I often am asked questions relating to how I knew I could do it. The truth of the matter is – I didn’t. No one knows what they can do, what they are capable of, or the places they can go. No one knows these things, until they try. And if the feeling in your gut, the fire in your mind, and the love in your heart is there, you will live freely in every moment, doing things you never could have imagined possible. I always trusted that feeling inside me that I had in 5th grade when I said I wanted to work in the ER, I always trusted there was a greater purpose when I nearly collided with a car going 50mph on my bike and had something so dear to me taken away in an instant, and I hold that same trust now. The most I ever doubted myself and this journey I am on, was days before submitting my application. But if you can have faith in those moments just before you take that leap, the trust in your heart can carry you to places you never could have imagined.


Ginearosa CarboneGineaerosa Carbone

Major: Microbiology

Overall GPA: 3.3

Graduation Year: 2016

Which school are you attending? 

University of Minnesota Duluth

What drew you to this particular health field?

Commitment to undeserved populations. 

Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?

I took a year to do a post back program in order to raise my GPA. 

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

Native American student union, student recruitment and retention center (AIRR), AISES, and research.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

 27

Did you use a test prep course?

Princeton Review for MCAT 

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

 Working in culturally relevant positions and committing myself to the Native American community.

Did you apply nationally?

Yes, in twenty different states. 

How did HPA help you achieve your goals?

Their news letters were always filled with opportunity and insight. 

What advice do you have for others?

Never give up, even if your GPA isn't the best or your MCAT isn't competitive- because if you really want it, you can make it happen.


Josten OverallJostenOverall

Major: Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior
Overall GPA: 3.85
Graduation Year: 2016

Which school are you attending?

I am attending the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I was involved in the Pre-Med AMSA club, and served as a mentor for two quarters. During my Freshman year I completed an internship at the UCDMC General Pediatric clinic. The majority of my final two years at Davis was spent with the Resource Desk program at WellSpace Health clinic, in Oak Park. 

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

An average of 35-40 hours per week.

Did you use a test prep course?

I was not enrolled in an official test prep course, but I did use the Kaplan MCAT 7-book review series to study on my own. It was sometimes challenging to balance MCAT studying while in school, but I usually dedicated a few hours of MCAT review in the mornings before classes, as well as additional hours during the weekend. If I could change one thing about my studying, I would have taken and reviewed more full-length practice tests—they make a significant difference!

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

I think one of the major strengths in my application was my excitement and passion surrounding the activities I participated in. Although I did not have an abundance of extracurriculars, I was able to detail how much the activities I did participate in, shaped me and reinforced my interest in medicine.

Did you apply nationally?

Yes. I applied to 21 schools in states ranging from California all the way to New Hampshire.

What advice do you have for others?

Try your best and do what makes you happy! This is especially important when deciding which extracurricular activities you engage in. Clinical experience and shadowing are very important; however, students should also feel encouraged to participate in other activities that can similarly highlight their unique qualities and strengths. Echoing the advice of my colleagues, students should work hard to maintain a strong GPA and achieve a great MCAT score. It's true that metrics are just one component of the application, but they are integral in helping the rest of your application stand out even more. Also, be sure to thoroughly research each school you're interested in so that you can strengthen and personalize your secondaries. Finally, for students who are preparing to apply or are in the middle of an application cycle, be patient and don't get discouraged! Although the application journey can be long and extensive, remember: you are great and you can do it!


AnasTreshAnas Tresh

Major: Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior
Overall GPA:  at Davis 3.7, overall about 3.9 
Graduation Year: 2016

Which school are you attending?

I will be attending the University of California San Francisco Fall of 2016.

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

ASUCD Senator, Minority Association of Premedical Students Program Director, TPMP Co-founder and mentor, Muslim Student Association mentor, Arab Student Union Social Chair followed by Co-President and Shifa Community Clinic Volunteer

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

On average at Davis, I probably studied fifteen hours a week. 

Did you use a test prep course?

I did not use test prep courses. I knew I had the ability to sit down and study on a daily basis and felt my grasp on the content matter was strong. I purchased all the test subject books and created a schedule in which I broke down how I would spend each day of the week making sure I included my rest days. Every week I took a practice test and towards the end, I began taking two a week. All in all, I took 18 practice tests. Practice tests in my opinion are the key to success on this exam! 

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

My strengths in my application were definitely my GPA and my MCAT score. However those did not suffice without combining them with appropriate extracurriculars, strong letters of recommendation and a compelling personal statement. A term I've heard over and over again that couldn't be more accurate is "holistic". Your application can't just be one dimensional. 

Did you apply nationally?

 I did apply nationally. I applied to 29 schools. 

What advice do you have for others?

If you're in a position where you're still in school, focus on your GPA and study hard for your MCAT! Getting into medical school is your hardest task, but you can do it if you work hard! Make sure that you work on your extracurriculars, but don't ever let them affect your grades. I think clinical experience is especially important! Apply when you're ready and feel most prepared. When getting ready to apply, understand the application thoroughly and know the timeline! Get your letters of recommendation and transcript well in advance! Apply early and tackle your secondaries consistently as there will be many. Best of luck!


NatashaCowanNatasha Cowan

Major: Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior
Overall GPA: 3.99
Graduation Year: 2014

Which school are you attending?

UC San Diego School of Medicine

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

I was on the UC Davis Women’s Rowing Team my freshman year, I volunteered in the UCDMC Pediatric ED the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I participated in a two week medical mission trip in Costa Rica with VIDA the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I worked as a research assistant in Dr. Cheng’s lab for a year, and I was a caregiver for the elderly for 2 years.

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

I graduated in 2 years and 2 quarters, so I took anywhere from 17-27 units per quarter. I studied about 30 hours per week for my courses.

Did you use a test prep course?

Yes, I took Kaplan’s test prep course. I’m extremely happy that I chose to do this, and it was well worth the money.

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

To be honest, my metrics (GPA and MCAT score) are one of my biggest strengths. Other than that, I’d say the diversity of my experiences (both clinical and research).

Did you apply nationally?

Yes, I applied to 23 schools across the continental United States.

What advice do you have for others?

Study, study, study! Do not take school lightly (same goes for the MCAT). Medical school is extremely academically challenging, and admissions committees want an indicator that you will be able to handle this challenge. As far as extracurriculars go, I advise others to choose a few activities they stick with for a long period of time, rather than a large amount of activities they only participate in for a short amount of time. This will add depth to your application rather than breadth, which will provide you with a better platform to speak about in your personal statement and interviews.


MichaelChoikMichael Chiok

Major: Animal Biotechnology

Graduation Year: 2014

Which school are you attending?

Weill Cornell Medical College

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

Swim Club, Fitness and Self-Development Club

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

21 hours / week

Did you use a test prep course?

Princeton Review & Examkrackers

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

Extracurricular activities, research, teaching/tutoring

Did you apply nationally?

Yes (New York, Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts)

What advice do you have for others?

Don't just do the typical pre-med activities; get involved in things you are passionate about! Don't get stressed out, find ways to relax, and join Fitness and Self-Development Club on Facebook!


NathanZimanNathan Ziman

Major: Psychology emph. Biology
Overall GPA: 3.42
Graduation Year: 2011

Which school are you attending?

Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

What UC Davis extracurriculars did you participate in?

Pre-Med Study Abroad: Oaxaca, Mexico, Hillel House, Ultimate Frisbee Team, Center for Neuroscience: Research Assistant, Same-day Surgery Center Intern, Botanical Conservatory: Summer Internship, Intramural Sports: Soccer and Frisbee 

How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?

I honestly do not remember and I am thankful for that. When I think back to my undergraduate years (coming up on 4yrs since graduation, 6yrs from finishing most pre-med courses) I don’t specifically remember the hours in the library or at home feeling bummed about missing out. I have much clearer memories of the fun I had with my friends in between studying. Looking back, I probably could have gotten a higher GPA but I definitely do not regret the choices I made and friends I still have. However I will say that I was very focused during lecture, always attended, and learned most of the material there. If I had to estimate I probably studied a couple hours on most school days and would turn it up as midterms approached.

Did you use a test prep course?

Yes, twice. Prior to each time I took the MCAT. I personally benefitted most from the course as it forced me to make steady progression through each section. Additionally because there is so much material to know for the test, the insight into the depth you should know each topic was very helpful. Little known fact: repeating the course is free if you register within a year of the first payment.

What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?

My extensive community work with underserved populations and research experience with many publications.

Did you apply nationally?

Yes, I sent my primary application to 21 schools the first time I applied and 34 the second.
What advice do you have for others?

What advice do you have for others?

Think about what you are interested in. What area of science do you like? What is important to you? Which population would you like to serve as a doctor? Answer these questions honestly with yourself and then pursue them - whether they are directly related to medicine or not.  It will help you build your narrative and you will be much happier along the way. Plus I am fairly sure that no interviewer or committee will look down on you for following your passions, especially if you can link them to why you want to be a doctor. 

Give yourself the best chance to win, keep your options open, research each school for each secondary and KEEP your notes - I never thought I’d get an interview at the University of Vermont but I ran into the dean at the UC Davis Pre-Health National Conference. I quickly pulled up my notes on my phone before speaking with her. We had a great chat and I was able bring up my school relevant experiences...a few months later got offered an interview- I’ll never know if it was related, but I’ll always know it didn’t hurt.