Roadmap to Physician!
Physicians are the leaders of the healthcare team. They are highly educated and highly skilled professionals with a deep understanding and respect for the human body. A physician undergoes many, many years of training and education just to be able to practice medicine. These doctors are the ones making the major decisions about your treatment.
A physician’s journey normally begins in high school and/or college, where they first realize that they want to practice medicine at the highest possible level. In order to get into medical school, you need to succeed in undergrad. Most successful medical school applicants have high cumulative GPAs as well as high science GPAs (GPA calculated solely based upon science classes), which is typically a 3.5 or higher (for school-specific stats, refer here). They also complete several hundreds of hours of volunteering and clinical service. Many premeds have a passion for research, which adds an additional element of intellectual drive to their medical school application.
There is also a major test that undergraduates must do well on to impress admissions councils: the dreaded MCAT. The Medical College Admissions Test is a 7.5 hour long test that analyzes your knowledge of psychology, biology, physics, chemistry, and many more of the core medical sciences. Doing well on this test improves your chances of getting into medical school! For more information on the MCAT, refer to the AAMC’s website here.
Finally, after all that work, during your senior year, you complete your application to medical school! If you do not get in right away, it’s okay! There are many doctors who have taken one or more gap years! Furthermore, it is almost a standard for current medical students to have taken at least one gap year. It is totally okay to have gap years, but the goal is to do something meaningful during that time, such as getting a Master’s degree or serving the underserved, both in the States or abroad.
Once you’ve gotten into medical school, much of the uncertainty in your life is over. This is it! You will be a physician! However, you still need to work very hard to get there! Medical school relies heavily on periodic testing, although schools may vary their grading scales as well as how grades and class rank are reported. In the first two years of medical school, you will be studying hard to pass tests in blocks, during your preclinical years (Medical School Years 1 and 2). In the latter two years of medical school, you will likely be on clerkships, often referred to as rotations. This is one of the most important parts of your medical school career, where you will be working with a healthcare team of physicians, observing how to practice within all the different fields of medicine. You will also be doing much more work than in your first two years of medical school, as you will have to complete exams as well, during this time.
Medical school has one major exam that you need to worry about: the United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE for short. The USMLE is split into three parts, Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3. Both Step 1 and Step 2 will be taken within medical school, with Step 1 most likely at the end of your second year, as it covers much of the basic, academic content of being a physician. Step 1 is Pass/Fail as of 2020. Step 2 is taken in the fourth year of medical school, while Step 3 is taken usually during your first residency year. For more information, please refer to the USMLE website here.
At the end of medical school, you will likely apply to residency. In residency, you are a doctor and are training in order to be a physician within a particular specialty. You will submit your Step scores, your extracurricular activities, your research, and your grades to a variety of programs across the United States. You will also rank these programs in the order that you want to attend. For example, if you are applying to be a psychiatrist, you may rank a residency in your home state higher than Yale Psychiatry Residency due to the ease of location factor. Many residency programs also require a transitional year or a preliminary year, especially if you are applying to be a doctor within an advanced specialty, such as anesthesiology or radiology. It is also possible that you may not match the first time around, which leads to you being part of a process called “SOAP”, or Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Programs. Essentially, medical students who don’t match will get paired with programs that have empty spots on their roster. However, SOAP-ing means that, potentially, you may not be placed into your desired specialty.
Once you are matched to a residency, you will work within that residency for however many years your specialty requires. Residencies can last anywhere from three to eight years, depending on the specialty. You will be supervised by senior physicians who are called attending physicians. However, throughout this time, you will work within a hospital, get paid, and learn much more about your chosen field than you ever thought was possible to know. At this point, you are one of the experts within your field.
At the end of residency, at long last, you’ve made it. You can either go complete a fellowship, which is further study in order to further specialize within your field, such as completing an anesthesia fellowship as a pediatrician, or you can start right away and lead the hospital healthcare team as an attending! Whatever you choose to do, you are now a fully-fledged doctor with both the title and the experience!
There are some notable exceptions within this path of being a physician, namely during the earlier years. Programs such as BS/MD programs can immediately commute this extensive path by providing a guaranteed acceptance to medical school. In fact, Aayush is currently in a 7-Year Medical Program with The College of New Jersey and the New Jersey Medical School. This means he will not need to apply to medical school in the future, as his spot is already secured. Many programs similar to his exist across the country, often attached to state medical schools.
While this article is by no means a full evaluation of the effort that goes into being a doctor, it is a good way to establish a sort of path for those who want to enter the field. For those with hearing loss, however, there are additional concerns. Hospitals, overall, do provide accommodations for medical students, residents, and attendings with disabilities. However, there are certain programs that require “technical standards” to be met, which are tests that ensure doctors have a basic level of ability to practice. These technical standards often include being able to take an unassisted history and physical of a patient (AAMC Data), which may not be possible without an interpreter.
Overall, being a physician can be an immensely rewarding profession. While there are barriers to access for students with hearing loss at any level, it is entirely possible for Deaf and HOH physicians to practice and become highly respected in their field. This article provides a general overview of the road one must take in order to be a physician. However, everyone has their own path in life and if there are deviations from this traditional path, that is entirely okay! At the end of the day, what matters most is that being a physician is your dream, not anyone else’s, and that you are doing your utmost to realize it!
Roadmap to Physician's Assistant!
Physician’s assistants (PA’s) are key players within the healthcare team. They function as physician extenders, doing minor procedures and helping take care of patients, of all types. They work under the direct supervision of the physician and work to provide supplementary healthcare until the physician arrives. PA’s also undergo approximately six to seven years of education and training, not including any post-graduate training.
A PA’s journey normally begins in high school and/or college, where they first realize that they want to practice medicine. In order to get into PA school, you need to succeed in undergrad. Most successful PA school applicants have GPAs of 3.4 or higher. They also complete volunteering and clinical service.
Finally, after all that work, during your senior year, you complete your application to PA school! If you do not get in right away, it’s okay! It is totally okay to have gap years, but the goal is to do something meaningful during that time, such as advancing one’s education through a research year or helping to serve the community.
Once you’ve gotten into PA school, your academic life becomes much more certain. However, you still need to work very hard to get there! PA school relies on periodic testing, although PA school exams will not be nearly as difficult as medical school exams. PA’s will also go through a variety of rotations in different fields to gain more experience into each. The first half of PA school mainly focuses on clinical studies, while the second half focuses on clinical practice.
There is also a major test that PA hopefuls must do well on to gain accreditation, called the PANCE. The Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam is a 5 hour long test that analyzes your knowledge of the surgical and medical skills necessary to be a PA. All you need to do is pass the test and then, you will be a PA! For more information on the PANCE, refer to the NCCPA’s website here.
At the end of school, at long last, you’ve made it. At this point, newly-certified PA’s can go get jobs provided their certifications are up to date, or they can seek further education and specialize in fields like family medicine or dermatology!
There are some notable exceptions within this path of being a physician, namely during the earlier years. Programs for students who are sure they want to be PA’s, such as the Accelerated 5-Year BS/MS with Thomas Jefferson University, are examples. Being in one of these programs means that a student will not need to apply to PA school in the future, as their spot is already secured. Many programs similar to his exist across the country, often attached to state PA schools.
While this article is by no means a full articulation of the effort that goes into being a physician’s assistant, it is a good way to establish a sort of path for those who want to enter the field. For those with hearing loss, however, there are additional concerns. Hospitals, overall, do provide accommodations for students and professionals with disabilities. However, there are certain programs that require “technical standards” to be met, which are tests that ensure doctors have a basic level of ability to practice. These technical standards often include being able to take an unassisted history and physical of a patient (AAMC Data), which may not be possible without an interpreter.
Overall, being a physician’s assistant can be an immensely rewarding profession. While there are barriers to access for students with hearing loss at any level, it is entirely possible for Deaf and HOH physician’s assistants to become highly respected in their field. However, irrespective of their ability to hear, so long as you are passionate in pursuing what you love, success will come to you, naturally!