An Outline of My Career Plan Over the Next Five Years

The purpose of this paper is to outline my career plan over the next five years. As I begin to finish my time as an undergraduate in college I am becoming aware of the options available to me over the next five years. Ideally, my goal is to attend medical school and become a primary care physician. I have also investigated various other opportunities including pursuing a career in research through earning a PhD, and pursuing a career in health care administration. While pursuing a career in research of health care administration both seem appealing to me, first and foremost it is my desire to become a primary care physician. My desire for pursuing primary care medicine stems from my upbringing early in life. Growing up I have had to overcome various obstacles in order to reach the point I am currently at.

I grew up in an abusive home for three years of my childhood, later on in my adolescence I was raised as one of four children of a single mother who had almost no income due to disability. During this time my family and myself went without health insurance because we could not afford it, I distinctly remember not having access to services such as basic medical check ups and sports physicals. I feel that these experiences, although obviously challenging, have provided me with valuable opportunities for growth and insight into the struggle of other socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals in our society, sparking my interest in working with under served populations. This is one of my motivations for pursuing a career in primary care and giving back to others who are going through similar situations which I had to go through in my life.

My commitment to pursuing a career in medicine was further bolstered after participating in the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) at Yale University during the Summer of 2011. In this program I took classes, worked on a public health research project, and most importantly shadowed physicians. My shadowing experience confirmed my desire to become a physician. During my time in the Yale-New Haven Hospital emergency department I shadowed Dr. Ted Melnick and realized that a career in medicine does not just entail treating patients but also reading papers, learning new techniques, and teaching students. This appealed to me because it showed me that the work of a physician is always changing, it is never stagnant. Obviously, in order to successfully become a physician I must first matriculate into a medical school.

Medical schools within the United States require two semesters of Biology, two semesters of Physics, two semesters of General Chemistry, and two semesters of Organic Chemistry as prerequisite classes. They also require their applicants to take the Medical College Admissions Test or MCAT (MSAR). These are the minimum requirements, many medical school applicants have research experience, medically related jobs, and volunteer activities. The average grade point average for acceptance into medical school is 3.6 out of 4.0 and the average MCAT score is 30 (AAMC).

The medical college admissions test is scored out of 45 points and consists of three sections: Physical Sciences, Verbal Reasoning, and Biological Sciences, each section is scored out of 15 points. There has never been a perfect score on the MCAT. I have placed myself in a good position for acceptance into medical school by having a grade point average and MCAT score close to the mean acceptance scores of most medical schools in the United States. I have also participated in a Summer research program and worked in a clinical setting as a Spanish interpreter to help boost my chance at being accepted to a medical school. The medical schools in which I have applied to all have a mission statement which reflects on the education of physicians who are willing to serve communities which are socioeconomically challenged.

Some of these schools include The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse Medical College, Howard University School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, and Tulane School of Medicine. I have recently completed secondary applications to these schools and have scheduled an interview with The Brody School of Medicine on October 15th. I also have an interview with Meharry Medical College scheduled for October 29th. I anticipate receiving further interview invites as this semester continues.

I am also applying to medical schools with a strong background in biomedical research. These schools include Yale University, Wake Forest University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Tulane University. I am particularly interested in doing research in genetics or biochemistry because I find these subjects to be interesting and relevant for the future of medicine. Medical school takes four years to complete. The average salary for a physician varies greatly by specialty. A primary care physician working in family practice will earn $189,402 on average. While an Anesthesiologist will earn $407,292 on average (Bureau). Although physicians are compensated well, they must work hard in order to earn their living. Many physicians work long, irregular hours, and in order to become licensed they must complete four years of medical school and then at least three years of residency depending on their specialty. Primary care specialties take three years of residency while surgery residencies can range from five to seven years in length. While in residency physicians can expect to earn anywhere from $45,000 to $55,000 per year (Johns Hopkins).

Residency hours are long and irregular, while in residency, physicians can expect to work up to 80 hours a week. At minimum it would take seven years in order to start earning a six-figure physicians salary. As mentioned before I would like to ideally become a physician within the next five years, however, I have come to realize that getting into medical school is very difficult even for the the most talented applicants. Considering this information, I have begun to look into alternative plans for the next five years. One of these plans includes attending graduate school to receive a PhD. During the past Summer I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Summer research program at Stanford University School of Medicine. This opportunity allowed me to experience, first hand, what research would be like in a graduate school setting and I found it to be really enjoyable.

I worked in the Department of Biochemistry with two graduate students under the supervision of Dr. Aaron Straight. My research, entitled Investigating the role of non-coding RNAs in pericentric heterochromatin formation taught me how to apply the scientific method, perform basic biochemistry techniques, and how to present research in a formal setting. My experience at Stanford has motivated me to apply to their department of Biochemistry to pursue a PhD. The Biochemistry department of Stanford University has an application deadline of December 3rd. In order to apply for any PhD program I must take the Graduate Record Examination or GRE before applying. I plan on taking the GRE November 17th if I still decide on applying to Graduate School. The reasons to applying for Stanford are numerous, not only are they ranked 7th in the nation in biochemistry (U.S. News), but they also have a strong tradition in fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in their students.

Many biotechnology companies such as Genentech and Elim Biopharm have all been started by Stanford students and faculty. Stanford is located right in the heart of an area known as Silicon Valley in Northern California. Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Ebay, Hewlitt-Packard, Oracle, AOL, and many other technology companies are located a short distance from campus. These companies have a vested interest in the area and promote start ups through funding and providing workshop programs. Also, there are many venture capital firms in the area that are willing to provide funding to great start up ideas. Having spoken with faculty and students who are involved in start-ups at Stanford University, I found that being involved in a start-up is something that is realistic while attending Stanford and that it is something that I would be interested in pursuing. Stanford has also started a program called StartX which is designed to help students create their own start ups by providing funding, workshops, and mentors (Geron). In terms of research I am very interested in continuing the project that I started last Summer within the Straight Lab under Dr. Aaron Straight.

If this is not an option then I would love to work on other projects within the Biochemistry department. One of the other labs I am interested in joining is the Das lab headed by Dr. Rhiju Das. The Das lab researches the 3D structure of proteins and RNA from the genetic code. The lab work is heavily focused on developing algorithms to predict the folding of proteins from the base gene sequence in DNA. They are also focused on modeling the structure of various non-coding RNAs which is related to my summer research project. Another lab in which I would like to join at Stanford University outside of the Biochemistry department is the Chen Lab under Dr. Xiaoke Chen in the department of Biology.The Chen Lab attempts to predict behavior and decision making based on brain circuit information. The lab is currently focused on interoception, which is the sense of physiological condition in the body which includes feelings of hunger, satisfaction, and stress.

This research, although not related to my previous research experience, seems interesting to me and would like to rotate through the lab if given the opportunity Other graduate schools I am interested in applying to include UNC Chapel Hill. The Biology Department at UNC Chapel Hill is ranked 24th in the nation (U.S. News). I am very interested in the Cell Biology department at UNC Chapel Hill especially the research of Dr. Kerry Bloom. Dr. Bloom is investigating chromosome segregation much like I did in my research over the summer. However, Dr. Bloom is using fission yeast as his model organism instead of human cells as I have used. Also Dr. Bloom is investigating chromosome segregation at the microtubule level instead of at the actual chromosomes themselves (Kerry). I believe that Dr. Bloom’s research could be complimentary to the research that I performed this past Summer, and I am excited to see what kind of results will be generated in the future. The application deadline for UNC Chapel Hill’s graduate program in Cell Biology is December 11″. Receiving a PhD within the biomedical sciences is a lengthy process, perhaps even longer than medical school. Students within the Biochemistry department at Stanford University usually take around five to six years to receive their PhD (Stanford). Students within the Cell Biology Program at UNC Chapel Hill usually take around four to five years to finish their PhD (Degree).

Following graduate school many students apply for post-doctoral positions that can last up to two years before applying for a faculty job within academia. Recent PhD graduates may also apply for jobs within industry or government without having held a post-doctoral position. Salaries within academia are lower compared to salaries in government or industry. There are also more jobs available within government and industry compared to academia (Hanson). Salaries for PhD scientists in biochemistry also vary throughout the country with the highest salaries being located within the Northeast and Pacific region and the lowest salaries being located within the South Central United States and Southeastern United States (Hanson). Overall, I would prefer to go into industry or government rather than academia if I were to receive a PhD in biochemistry or the biological sciences because of higher salary and increased job opportunities. An alternative option that I am interested in pursuing over the next five years is to receive a degree in hospital administration and work as a hospital administrator. Hospital administrators have a median salary of $84,270 per year.

Hospital Administrators also known as healthcare administrators or healthcare managers, help to plan, coordinate, and direct services provided by physicians, nurses, and other health care providers. Healthcare managers can also be involved in running the day to day operations within a hospital ensuring that it is profitable. Healthcare managers have a high job outlook and the profession is expected to grow by 22% within the next 10 years (Bureau). Most Healthcare managers have a master’s degree, however, it is not uncommon for some to only have a bachelor’s. Master’s degree programs in healthcare administration are very common, however the best programs include The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, The University of Minnesota, and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (U.S. News). I would be most interested in applying to Chapel Hill’s program because their tuition is cheaper and they are closer to home.

I am interested in pursuing a degree in healthcare administration even if I attend medical school. Many medical schools offer a combined degree program which allows physicians to also work as healthcare administrators. Having a degree in healthcare administration would be extremely useful if I ever decided to run a free clinic for those less fortunate much like the one that I have volunteered at in Salisbury. Admission to healthcare administration programs are less selective than PhD programs and MD programs. Most generally require a grad point average above 3.0 and the applicant having taken the GRE. The applicant’s work experience is generally viewed as more favorable compared to lab research experience when applying for such programs. Upon receiving a master’s in healthcare administration one can start working immediately, there are no post graduate programs within this field. The application deadline for UNC Chapel Hill’s healthcare administration program is January 10th with their early admissions program beginning on December 10th. However, If I decide to attend medical school at UNC Chapel Hill I can enroll in the program right before my fourth year without having taken the GRE as part of the dual degree program. Ideally, I can receive a master’s in healthcare administration through some type of dual degree program depending on which medical school I attend.

However, if I do not receive admission to medical school or a PhD program then I can still apply for the master’s program in healthcare administration as a backup and later reapply to both programs after boosting my grade point average or test scores. Overall, it is accurate to say that within the next five years I will likely still be in school or in training for my career of choice. However, that does not mean I should not start planning for my career now. I am fortunate to have all the opportunities I currently have and I look forward to making the best use of these opportunities so that I may help others who are less fortunate than myself. I know that I wasn’t able to reach this point in my life by myself, I had to rely on kindness and grace from others at times. Hopefully I can help to provide that same kindness and grace to someone in the future so that they may in turn help others. Although, monetary gain and providing a comfortable life for myself and future generations is one of my objectives for choosing to go into the sciences, my main goal is to enrich myself through a commitment to lifelong learning and also enrich the lives of others through providing care.

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