'Admission Granted' podcast is for anyone considering a medical career
Host Amber Smith: Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York invites you to be "The Informed Patient" with the podcast that features experts from Central New York's only academic medical center. I'm your host, Amber Smith. If you're contemplating a career in medical care or health sciences, you need to know about a podcast hosted by Upstate students called "Admission Granted." I'm talking about this podcast with director of special admissions programs, Dr. Krystal Ripa and medical student John Cote, who's one of the hosts. Welcome to The Informed Patient, Dr. Reba and Mr. Cote.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: Thank you so much for having us, Amber. We're excited to talk about "Admission Granted" today.
John Cote: Thanks for having us.
Host Amber Smith: I know this podcast got started last year, and "Admission Granted" now has at least seven episodes available in Apple podcasts. It's about preparing for and gaining admittance to medical school or a college for advanced training in health sciences. Whose idea was it to create a podcast hosted by medical students?
Krystal Ripa, PhD: So originally, our Upstate Accelerated Scholars Program is a BS (bachelors) / MD (medical) program (where students with strong academics apply to undergraduate and medical school.) And that program has a task force of faculty and students, and we got talking about how do we connect with the youth of today, and how do we connect and stay relevant? And the idea of a podcast came up. And at that time, the faculty around the table and the students around the table were like, "oh, we could have a podcast for our BS / MD students." But I said, you know, those students are already a captive audience and I find myself, personally, after being in admissions as long as I have, repeating kind of the same hidden rules of engagement. And I feel like from my perspective, I have a certain lens, and our students have a lived lens. And so we started this podcast last spring, and John and Andrea, who is our other inaugural host, really helped to get it off the ground and imagine what it could and would be. Originally it was started for medical school. We have since made it a little bit more diverse and related to many different health professional programs that students are really trying to figure out the complexities of, the many nuances associated with applying and the hidden rules of engagement. So that's a little history.
Host Amber Smith: So your target audience is a student who already has a bachelor's degree, right? I mean, people don't come into Upstate without that. This is advanced training, right?
Krystal Ripa, PhD: So I think that John could probably talk about target students too, but I find that we get high school students listening to these, that are really trying to get prepared. And if you think about, if students are shopping, like, "hey, I just, met my doctor for the first time, and I adored them," or "I met my PT (physical therapist) for the first time, and I adored them. How do I do that?" And maybe today's youth would refer to their Apple podcasts, and if they were looking on admissions, they'd find us. And, me as a rural first generation student, sometimes I just made it up as I went along. So it could go back to students with a bachelor's degree in high school, even in middle school, the students are becoming more aware of the careers surrounding them, and we hope that this can connect them with how to make it all happen. What do you think John? Who is our target?
John Cote: The goal for, at least my vision, was for it to be toward anybody who's just interested in medicine at, really, any stage of the process. When the idea kind of first came to Andrea, and I -- Andrea Price, my cohost, has worked with Krystal for a lot of different things in Admissions -- and she came to me saying, "oh, we have this idea for this podcast," and we kind of were, we were thinking about like, what would be a good idea, and what we could bring to the table and what we might have ideas for. And we kind of altogether agreed that this would be something that we thought wasn't well covered. Like for me, when I was applying, I like podcasts, so I was listening to a lot of like application podcasts and things about how to best apply, how to prepare. And this was kind of toward the end of my college career, and then during my gap year when I was applying. And I didn't find that there was a ton of great resources, like for podcasts out there in terms of helping students apply and giving them all the real, like nitty gritty things that they really need to know about the application process. I came from like a liberal arts school, and to be honest they didn't really have the best guidance, I felt. And so I kind of felt like I was doing it on my own. And so I wanted to kind of give other prospective students who are coming into the medicine programs and any other medical graduate programs some guidance on really wherever you are in the process. So that's kind of what we tried to do is, even if you were in high school, or maybe you were in middle school, just to get involved in at whatever step you're in, you know, kind of lay out a timeline, a framework. So wherever you are in your process, you can look at it and say, OK, here's where I am. Here's what I can do from here to prepare myself for a graduate degree in medicine.
Host Amber Smith: So it sounds like this information may apply, not just for people coming to Upstate, but it looks like it would be applicable to anyone that's interested in a career in medicine.
John Cote: Exactly. That was the goal. Because we really wanted to help the broadest range of people possible. And we didn't feel like the resources that were there currently didn't cover everything that we thought could be covered. And so hopefully this is a good holistic view on how best to prepare yourself for a career.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: I think it's fair to say, also, that we want students to go where they thrive, and where maybe their support systems are regionally not in Central New York. And so we wanted to make the information palpable and of use to the broadest audience. And selfishly, we love Upstate, but everyone may not be able to come to Upstate, afford Upstate, have a support system near Upstate Medical University, and we still want to help those people have the information to aspire to this goal. And so it really isabove and beyond Upstate. I hope it gives our audience a sense that at Upstate, we have a vision of making the process transparent and helpful to anyone.
Host Amber Smith: This is Upstate's "The Informed Patient" podcast. I'm your host, Amber Smith talking with Dr. Krystal Ripa from Upstate's student affairs office and John Cote, who's a third year medical student at Upstate, and we're talking about the podcast called "Admission Granted."
I'm curious about how you prepare for your episodes. So, do you research a topic and do you rehearse? Or do you just decide on a topic and then just chat?
John Cote: So the way that Andrea and I approached it, at the beginning we kind of sat down and said, here's the big, we have our six keys is what we call it, right? So each step of the process in terms of like one being GPA (grade point average) and coursework and undergrad, and another one being the standardized tests, so like the MCAT, (Medical College Admission Test.) And then also like research experience and then shadowing. And then also like the timing of everything and making sure that it all is done at the right time. So we kind of had those loose kind of outlines that we gave for our keys. And then once we had that, we kind of set a brief outline of just the things we want to hit. So we kind of go through it from our combined experience, because we both had kind of unique ways of applying. And so we brainstorm together, okay, here's the things we want to hit: we want to talk about making sure that if we're doing GPA and coursework, making sure you're hitting your grades, you know, you're studying correctly, you're doing all these things right, you're talking to your pre health advisor, you're doing all these things. And so we had kind of like a brief outline that we'd write. And then we basically would just kind of talk once we got on the mic, we would just kind of go with it. Sometimes we'd have to redo takes if it was bad. We wanted to make it more like off the dome and conversational then like really just having a script that we wrote down. So we had the topics, but we more or less just kind of talked with each other and got good takes out of that.
Host Amber Smith: Dr. Ripa, I gather that applying for medical school is not the same as applying for an undergraduate college. Can you walk us through, briefly, the typical process?
Krystal Ripa, PhD: There are several routes to apply to medical school, and some of those are early acceptance, and some of those are applying traditionally. Early acceptance is a somewhat different process, because you aren't utilizing the AMCAS, or the American Medical Common Application System, for an early acceptance.
So I'm going to focus on the traditional process, and that's through the AMCAS application. And so typically, a student applies the year prior to their anticipated matriculation to medical school. And that application is really where a student inputs every single thing ever. So they list every single course they've taken from every single school, the MCAT exam that they took in order to have an entrance exam. It's a standardized exam to go to medical school. They have 15 places to put down their experiences, and three of those can be their most meaningful. They input there's letters of recommendation into AMCAS. And then AMCAS does a pretty rigorous verification process. That takes four to six weeks. This is really just the culmination of years and years of them working toward submitting that application, preparing academically to have high scores on their MCAT, for them getting clinical experience and insight, for them committing their lives to service and really showing "I want to be at service to people, above and beyond being a physician. I've made that kind of a theme of my life" when I'm applying or preparing to apply. And the letters of recommendation... some institutions use what's called a committee letter. And if you don't have a committee letter from a pre health department or pre-med department at an undergraduate institution, there's a substitute for that pre health committee letter. So applying to medical school is very complex, and that application may be a culminating experience, but you put in years, you put in years. And so the podcast really helps us to address all of the different components that are captured by that application. And AMCAS is the application, but our governing body, the Association of American Medical Colleges really captures what students need to -- not explicitly communicate in their application, but -- display as competencies in your application. And those are the double AMC pre-medical competencies. Those pre-medical competencies are also what we use to review applications and what we use in our pre matriculation programming for early accepted students, to continue to prepare them to come into medical schools and really have a baseline, not just for the academic rigor, but also the interpersonal rigors, the cultural competency, the interpersonal skills that really build them to be their best possible physician at the end of their journey.
Host Amber Smith: And for someone who wants to become a researcher or a physical therapist, not a doctor, is the process the same?
Krystal Ripa, PhD: It is not. It is not. And I would encourage anyone in this journey where they're hearing about medical school to also consider all of the options. Medical school is one of those things, or being an MD, is probably one of those things that kind of is most understood, but there's all these other allied health professions and research careers that are highly valuable and really amazing. One of our programs -- say clinical perfusion, many people don't even know what that is, and there are very few programs across the nation for clinical perfusion -- and so I think anybody who's interested in being a doctor, exploring all those options and understanding what's out there and really intrinsically understanding what do I love doing? What puts a fire in my belly? I think that one of the most understated professions is research, and research is the foundation of all of healthcare, from something as simple to a bandaid to a vaccine. Research is really the way that we have modern medicine, that we have the practice and the everyday work of a physician. So I really encourage them. And at Upstate, we're a perfect kind of facility to do that. We have $40 million in research funding, a ton of translational research opportunities, so if you're interested in medicine, but research is really calling you, puts a fire in your belly, you can still work on truly impactful clinical and translational research here. So I would just implore anyone interested in science and medicine, in helping, to look into all of the options, not just MD. Also DO. Osteopathic medicine is an amazing route. It's just newer than allopathic or MD programs. So it's a little bit different. It's more about manipulative medicine, but I just encourage our listeners, anyone considering this path to know all the options and to get picky, right? This is a life choice, and it's an investment, and it should put a fire in your belly and keep it burning for years to come.
Host Amber Smith: Well, Mr. Cote, why did you want to become a doctor?
John Cote: I didn't really know what I wanted to do until I got to college. I was kind of one of those people who wasn't super sure. I got to college and my parents had always said, "oh, you know, maybe consider something in medicine." I've always liked kind of being around people and helping others. And, I was really interested in sports medicine at the time. And so, I decided to just kind of be pre-med, and I ended up really liking the courses. And, I did some time-- you know, we talk about on the podcast a lot about shadowing and getting volunteer experience and making sure that you get some type of work in the field. And so by doing that, I had chatted some physicians that had treated me and then I'd also done a lot of volunteer work. I volunteered in the hospice unit and also an emergency department. Through doing all those things, I really kind of started to value the clinical side of medicine and really loved just being around and helping people and helping others. My biggest story would be when I was in high school, I played a lot of sports and I got injured a lot. And so I had a couple of surgeries, and my physician really made me feel a lot better about that at the time, which felt so important, those injuries. He really made me feel comfortable, and I really always appreciated him for that. And then going back and shadowing him and watching what he could do for others really kind of inspired me, and so it's just kind of taken off from there.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: John, do you still have that fire in your belly even after the first two years of medical school?
John Cote: Of course, if it's stronger, if anything, but it's definitely there.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: Good.
Host Amber Smith: Some people are intimidated by microphones, but you really seem like a natural. Did you have media training before medical school?
John Cote: I did not. No. I make a lot of music. I have, I had all the equipment here to be able to record in my apartment. And so Andrea and I just kind of used, I just kind of did all of it through my recording software that I have here. And it just was something that would kind of felt like a natural fit almost. But I appreciate you saying that. Yeah. It's definitely something we've been working on.
Host Amber Smith: I was going to ask how you record the episodes. So you're not in person with your guests there. It's by phone or by WebEx or something?
John Cote: For the times that we had guests, we did it over, I believe we did it over Zoom, but Andrea and I would just kind of do it through our microphone, kind of taking turns. It wasn't the best process, but now that we have the access to the studio at Upstate, we have a transition now where we're we've started recording. The first episode for our new season has recorded there, which has been great.
Host Amber Smith: I'd like to have you give us sort of a rundown of your first episodes, your favorites. What are, some of the topics that you covered that you are most proud of?
John Cote: I really was passionate about the first about this first season, because it's something that when I was going through the process, I really felt that I needed to get out there to others because I just had always felt like I didn't have that guidance. Just maybe because from being from liberal arts school where the science program wasn't as strong, I just didn't feel like I had that guidance. And so I was really glad that we were able to put together some of the most important things that we thought, when we were applying, if we could go back, here's what we would have done.
John Cote: If I had to pick one thing that maybe I thought was the biggest kind of undervalued piece of what we did is, I think getting the shadowing, the clinical experience as an undergrad is really important. And for me, like I would have started doing that in high school had I gone back, even just like taking one hour a week and volunteering at a hospital to getting some volunteer experience in. I think that's a really important piece that often gets overlooked, because research is so important as an undergrad. Everyone's trying to get research experience, but they forget to do the very simple clinical things. And it's also tough because oftentimes it's not paid. For me, going in and during college, I was volunteering at a hospice unit, and I also volunteered at a home in an emergency department. Doing those things are really important. So we had a whole episode where we outlined all the different things that we talked about for clinical experiences, things that you can do, when to get involved, how to get involved. And so I think that's one of the biggest things that I thought was kind of the most important. And so I think for me, that episode was a really important and great kind of piece to have. So I would recommend that episode. I believe that's episode maybe four or five. I'd have to look back. But it's called like clinical experiences and extracurricular activities.
Host Amber Smith: And let me ask you about shadowing. That is something that a student who's interested in medicine might ask if they could shadow their physician and spend part of the day with them. Is that how that works?
John Cote: Exactly. Yeah. So if you have a good relationship with any of your physicians, you know, most people have at least a physician that they're comfortable with or that they have been going to. And, so they're just following around during their day to day. It is almost a separate category from like volunteering, which is also just as important. And so you kind of need all of those pieces, right? You need the research, you need the extracurriculars, not related to medicine, but then you also need the shadowing experience where you're just literally following a physician around, and you're learning the lifestyle. And then also the volunteering where you're going in and you're actually getting a little bit of hands-on experience working with patients.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: In order to create some equity in our low socioeconomic students, we actually also advise students that they can pursue paid positions for clinical experience, like being a CNA (certified nurse assistant), a patient care tech, an EMT (emergency medical technician) just because we understand that sometimes you have to make a decision between managing your time, trying to be competitive for medical school, bringing in a paycheck. So, those are other really great ways, above and beyond shadowing, to get that hands-on experiences.
I think that John is also being humble and I didn't want to forget this. John created the music for "Admission Granted." That's all John. I also think that our inaugural hosts and even our next series of hosts have that legacy mentality that John mentioned, about just wanting to be transparent and address maybe the parts of the process that weren't as well stated or understood by and for them. So I really, really think that they've been a special part of making sure that the process for the next in line is more palpable.
Host Amber Smith: Well, before we wrap up, let me know where can people find "Admission Granted?" I know it's on Apple podcasts, but is,there other places people can go to find it?
Krystal Ripa, PhD: So it's on our website. It is on Apple. It is on iHeartRadio. And it is on Spotify. Am I missing any John? I think I got them all.
John Cote: Unless Google has like a Google podcast, but I think those are the big ones.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: Yes.
Host Amber Smith: That's good to know.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: And we will continue releasing around at one episode a month. We will continue to transition hosts from year to year, so our upcoming hosts are a little bit more interprofessional. So we have a researcher, and we have two students in the MD program and all women in STEM, (science, technology, engineering, mathematics.)
Host Amber Smith: Good. That's very good to know. I appreciate both of you for making time for this interview.
Krystal Ripa, PhD: Thank you so much for having us.
John Cote: Thanks for having us. It's been really fun.
Host Amber Smith: My guests have been Upstate's director of special admissions programs, Dr. Krystal Ripa and medical student, John Cote. "The Informed Patient" is a podcast covering health, science and medicine brought to you by Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, and produced by Jim Howe. Find our archive of previous episodes at upstate.edu/informed. This is your host, Amber Smith, thanking you for listening.