If you’re interested in working in the medical field, there are a number of ways you can develop your hook to demonstrate your interest in medicine and stand out as an applicant to top colleges and universities when the time comes! As a minor, it can be difficult to have access to patient care due to HIPAA and other regulations. Nonetheless, the field of medicine is particularly broad, and students often find success developing their hook through clubs, research and individualized passion projects. Read on if this sounds like a challenge you’re ready to take on!
Join Clubs at Your School
School clubs are a great place to explore your interests outside of the classroom. They’re also a great way to meet friends who share your interests. Here are some of the clubs you can join at your high school if you’re interested in medicine:
Pre-Med Society/Medicine Club
Other clubs are created in conjunction with existing charities and organizations. These include:
The Red Cross Club is a club that “provides you and your peers with opportunities to make a difference by addressing your community’s greatest needs and developing leadership skills. Red Cross Clubs empower you with knowledge and life-saving skills to help prepare your school and community to respond to emergencies.”
“The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 on the principle to save lives, celebrate cancer survivors, and fight for a world without cancer. Cancer affects people of all ages. Everyone has been affected by cancer in a relative, friend, or teacher – the fight is personal.”
“Future Health Professionals is a national organization of secondary and post-secondary students that supports career development in health professions and improvement of health services delivery to the general population.”
“The Relay For Life movement is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser dedicated to helping communities attack cancer. Relay is staffed and coordinated by volunteers who give their time and effort to help fight cancer in their communities. From team members to volunteers, we all want to remember those we’ve lost, help those affected today, and take action
Whether you attend a small or a big school, the club you’re interested in joining might not yet exist. If that is the case, you can think about founding your own club. You can find our guide to founding your own club here.
While attending club meetings for a series of clubs is a good first course of action, your end goal should be to play a large role in one or two clubs. This will allow you to hone in on your specific interests, develop specific skills and demonstrate your ability to take initiative and to make an impact in your community.
Intern in Your Field
Interning is a great way to explore a field of interest and gain valuable experience. There are a plethora of opportunities within the field of medicine, if you know where to look.
Shadowing: One of the easiest ways to explore different areas of medicine is through shadowing. Shadowing will allow you to follow a medical professional throughout their work day. While this can give students valuable information about what it’s like to actually work in medicine, there aren’t many ways for students to make an impact in this position. One of the best ways to obtain a shadowing opportunity is to ask doctors or other professionals if they, or other doctors in their network, would allow you to shadow them.
Interning: Medical internships can be extremely valuable to prospective pre-med students, but due to HIPAA guidelines and age restrictions they can be hard to find.
Start early: Even if you aren’t yet eligible for an internship at your local hospital due to age restrictions, reach out and inquire about volunteering, shadowing, or other experiences that may help you land that internship when you’re older.
Know which questions to ask: There are two main categories of high school medical internships: administrative and practical. While you may be able to work in the hospital’s gift shop or at the front desk of your pediatrician’s office, those kinds of experiences won’t allow you to explore medicine or give you much to talk about on your application! Instead, ask for patient-facing internship roles such as delivering books to patients’ rooms, organizing group activities for patients, or restocking medical supplies. Many areas of medicine do not actually involve patient-facing work, so discovering if you enjoy this early on will help you choose your field of medicine in the long run.
Research: Medicine research experiences can either be offered through formal programs, such as those offered
Start a Blog or Podcast
The process of researching and creating content for your own podcast or blog can be particularly insightful, as it will allow you to learn a great deal about your niche of interest. If you think you’d be interested in founding a blog or podcast of your own, you might want to start by researching some of the top existing blogs and podcasts related to your interests. In the field of medicine, some of the top podcasts include:
Top blogs include:
Medicine is such a broad field that the possibilities for the type of content you can produce are endless. As you research and listen to podcasts that currently exist, think about the niche you would most be interested in exploring through your own. If you think you’d be interested in starting a podcast or blog, you can read our guide for both here.
Take STEM Classes
While you might not be offered medicine-related courses at your school, you should take as many STEM courses as possible. The pre-med track requires the completion of courses across many STEM disciplines, including calculus, physics, biology and chemistry. Taking many of these courses in high school will prepare you to ace them in college:
- AP/IB Biology
- AP/IB Chemistry
- AP/IB Calculus
- AP/IB Statistics
- Anatomy and Physiology
The MCAT also requires that students study the behavioral and social sciences, so taking the following classes will also let you lay a basic foundation for further study during your undergraduate studies:
- AP/IB Psychology
- IB Social and Cultural Anthropology
Outside of courses typically offered at your high school, you should take advantage of the plethora of courses offered on MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses. You can find moocs on sites like mooc.org and coursera.org.
You might want to take a STEM course at a higher level than offered at your high school, like organic chemistry or a higher level calculus or statistics course. This will also help you to prepare for rigorous pre-med classes you will need to take in college.
Outside of pre-med courses, you should choose your classes based on your passions and academic interests. For example, if you are working to found a health oriented club or raising money to donate to an organization seeking to end food insecurity, you may want to consider taking a nutrition course so you can learn more about the very basis of your passion project.
You can also take a course that may help you explore the field of medicine you think you might be interested in pursuing, like dermatology or cardiology. This will expose you to content you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to learn about in high school. Some of the courses found on MOOCs are particularly advanced, and offered to graduate students, medical students, or even medical professionals, so be mindful of the level of course you choose to take!
Beyond courses at school and online, a number of universities offer fantastic summer programs geared toward students interested in medicine. For example, the Emory Summer Scholars Research Program enables students to join oncology research for six weeks during the summer months. Whether or not you want to pursue a career in oncology, gaining exposure to the cycle of translational research is crucial to understanding how medical treatments are created, from origin to development to trial, all the way through to the phase during which they reach the market and are sold to patients.
Other great summer programs for students interested in medicine include CEE’s Research Science Institute (RSI), where high school juniors complete intensive research at MIT over the summer, the Jackson Laboratory’s Summer Science Program, where students spend the summer in Bar Harbor, Maine conducting biomedical research and Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Human Oncology & Pathogenesis Program, during which students “conduct independent research projects and attend enriching training sessions and tours designed to support their interest in the clinical side of translational research.”
These are just a few examples of medically oriented summer programs available to high school students. If you’re interested in attending a medical summer program, we recommend spending some time searching for medical programs offered by medical schools, research institutions and hospitals in your nearest city, region, and state!
Participate in a Contest or Competition
Another great way to develop your hook in medicine is to enter competitions and contests relevant to your field, such as those listed below! Be sure to also familiarize yourself with the regional and state level competitions local to your area, as those should be the starting point for any student interested in STEM and medicine.
Between going to see your pediatrician or general practitioner, dentist, optometrist and perhaps a few other doctors along the way, you’ve probably had a lot more exposure to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals than to say accountants, lawyers, entrepreneurs and engineers, and you likely have a good understanding of what doctors do and how they spend their time on a daily basis. That being said, the medical field is particularly broad and houses a multitude of professions, some of which you may not yet be familiar with. You should keep in mind that medicine is developing at such a rapid pace that many of the roles you and your peers will take on in the future do not yet exist. Here are some existing professions you can consider within the medical field:
And of course…doctors!
The role that comes to mind when you think of the medical field is a medical doctor, who has attended medical school and earned either an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine). While there are many kinds of doctors, there are also combined MD programs that allow you to explore the intersection of medicine and another field. For example, MD/PhD programs are popular amongst medical professionals who have an interest in conducting research. More rarely, MD/JDs have attended both medical and law school and are well equipped to work in bioethics, healthcare policy, or provide legal counsel to other medical professionals or institutions.
If you’re sure you want to become a doctor as a senior in high school, you can consider applying to combined BA or BS/MD program, many of which would allow you to secure your place in medical school before you even start college* and complete your undergraduate and medical training in seven years. You can check out our list of best combined medical and undergraduate programs, here!
*As long as you meet your program’s requirements.
Case Study of a Past Command Student
Raised in a family of doctors, Devon* knew she wanted to enter the medical field starting from a young age, and challenged herself by taking advanced coursework as early as possible. In addition to taking advanced mathematics, Devon elected to earn the IB Diploma, and chose IB Physics, IB Mathematics and IB Psychology as her Higher Level courses. Outside of school, Devon spent the summer following her sophomore year of high school interning for her local dermatologist and at the local hospital. The following summer, Devon completed a research internship at a nearby medical school, and simultaneously paired her internship with an Intro to Neuroscience course online.
At school, Devon joined her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society and Science Olympiads, which she eventually became the president of her senior year. In regards to her passion project, Devon founded a club whose main aim was to raise funds to donate to Alzheimer’s Research. Devon published a fact book about Alzheimer’s Disease targeted towards other teens whose loved ones also received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and hosted two fun-runs, raising $10,000 dollars over the course of her high school career. Devon was admitted to Johns Hopkins University, where she studied neuroscience and completed the pre-med track.
*Name and details changed to comparable alternatives for anonymity