Meet my coresident Joyce of teawithmd.com - A guide to looking and feeling good from the inside out. Below she shares her journey and advice for those who aspire to a similar path (or don't yet know their path). You can follow along with her daily on instagram, facebook, and twitter.
Name: Joyce Parks, MD
Hometown: All over the Bay Area in California
Current City: New York City
Undergrad + Major: Stanford University, Human Biology
Medical School: Stanford University School of Medicine
Residency program: New York University Ronald O Perelman Department of Dermatology
Other training: Media fellowship at WHO/NBC
Social media: Teawithmd (snapchat, instagram, twitter, facebook, youtube)
Take me back a decade, what did you want to be when you grew up? Strangely enough I think I always wanted to be a doctor. My brother and I were sick often when we were young so we grew up in and out of hospitals. Seeing the huge effect doctors had on us and especially our parents made me so appreciative of the medical field and I wanted to be just like these individuals who were my personal heroes.
Tell me about your college application process? How did you decide on a school and major? I applied widely and because I was interested in medicine I ended up choosing between the 7 year medical program at Brown (PLME) and Stanford. I went to both Admit Weekends and Stanford's weekend just blew me away. The Stanford students I met had so much vibrant energy and I loved the general spirit of entrepreneurship fostered in every corner of campus. I chose human biology as my major because it was an interdisciplinary field that allowed me to study both hard science and humanities (psychology, sociology, etc.)
What was the hardest part of your undergraduate studies? How did you get through it? Honestly, organic chemistry was really tough! But it is just a way to weed people out, because let's face it, ochem is not the most important factor in a career in medicine (in fact I never used it after college. Ever.) I got through it by having lots of help from friends and spending tons of time in the library.
How and when did you decide on medical school? I applied the summer before my senior year in medical school but I had been premed since freshman year.
What did you do to be a good medical school applicant? I have a post on my page that goes into my medical school journey in more detail, here's an excerpt: In my time at Stanford as an undergraduate, I did basic science research in a neurosurgery lab working with mice, started a global health publication, volunteered at the free clinics, and helped with global health community service groups such as FACE AIDS and SIRUM. The summers are a great time to explore longer projects, so take advantage of them! I went to Ghana one summer with Unite For Sight, working at eye camps in rural villages, and another summer traveled to India to teach leadership boot camp at paramedics training programs.
Whatever you do, do it well, and have something to show for your time spent on that activity. If you spend a lot of time in lab, try to have a publication in a peer-reviewed journal. If you join a service group or work at a free clinic, try to take on a leadership role. Show that you are devoted to these activities and that you really went the extra mile.
How and when did you decide on dermatology? What other specialties did you consider? I chuckle reading this because I just wrote a very lengthy and heartfelt post on this! In a nutshell I decided tail end of 3rd year / beginning of 4th year. I was pre-ophtho and at times pre-internal medicine, but after I rotated through derm I fell in love with the field. Read the full story here.
Dermatology is a very competitive specialty. Any tips on how to excel in medical school? The best advice I can give you is to stick out from the crowd of thousands of applicants applying with you. Keep in mind, you need the basics to make it past the first round filter: a solid science and overall GPA, good letters of recommendation from people who know you well and can strongly vouch for you, decent MCAT score, extracurricular activities that show your interest in medicine, etc. But the majority of applicants will have those qualifications. What makes you different, what piques the interest of someone reading your file, will be something else. Whatever that something else is depends on your interests, talents, and passions.
Be exceptional in something that excites you, whether it’s scientific or clinical research, community service, technology, patient advocacy, health policy, etc. It’s better to be absolutely outstanding at one thing that shows your dedication and ability to succeed rather than mediocre at several things.
I read on your blog that you took a year off of medical school to study medical journalist. That's original and very cool. How did that opportunity present itself? Right before I started 3rd year, I received an email that the Stanford-NBC Global Health Media Fellowship was created and offered to any medical student, resident, or attending for the first time ever. I jumped at the chance! I had an interest in global health and had worked on school newspapers and started my own global health publication during undergrad, so I wanted an opportunity to blend these interests. What followed was the most fantastic year of my life! Read more about my year here.
How has the move been from the West coast to the East coast? Do you still think West coast is the best coast? The West Coast will always be the best coast! Haha! My friends and family are there, and West coast is home. However, I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed my 7 months in NYC so far. My husband's family lives in NYC and in Pennsylvania, so it has been a blessing to spend more time with my in-laws, sister/brother-in-law, and their three ADORABLE little girls. I've lived in the Bay Area my whole life so I'm actually really thankful for this chance to live somewhere else for a while and explore a new part of the world. Where better to do that than in the Big Apple?!
What advice would you give to a freshman premedical student? What about a 1st year medical student interested in dermatology? To freshman: I urge you to keep your options open and explore other career opportunities, so that if and when you do commit to a career in medicine, you KNOW you made the right choice. College is a time for exploration; take classes that challenge you, push you out of your comfort zone, or just simply ones that you'll never have the opportunity to take again.
Study abroad, meet fascinating people from all over the world in your classes, fall in love, join clubs, take risks, make mistakes.
College was the best time of my life because I explored so many things that enriched my life in so many ways.
To medical students: Again I urge you to be open minded and explore many different fields before settling down to just one. I wish I had! You never know what field you will fall in love with.
Shadow, meet faculty, do research, volunteer, etc. to see whether or not you could see yourself in that field.
the big picture
What sacrifices have you made for your career? The biggest "sacrifice" I can think of is my time. It's an interesting thing, when all of your friends graduate from college the same time as you and start working at start ups like Google or Facebook or go into finance jobs. I stayed a student for five more years. At times it was hard because I felt like I was falling behind in life; everyone else was working, supporting themselves financially, becoming "adults," and I was still sitting at a desk memorizing mundane little details that would never apply to anything clinically. I will be 31 when I finally finish my training (unless I do fellowship, in which case I'll be 32). But hey, I love what I do, so it's worth it!