Patient to Physician – a DO student shares her journey

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This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with medical school applicants and students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top medical schools and the med school application process. And now, introducing Hannah Hamlin…

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? When did you graduate?

Hannah: I lived in Aberdeenshire, Scotland until I was about 12 years old and then in Stavanger, Norway for a year before moving to Houston, TX. After completing high school in Houston, I attended Texas A&M University where I completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutritional Sciences. I graduated in 2014 and took a year off before beginning medical school in 2015.

Accepted: If you could meet any famous person – past or present – who would it be and why?

Hannah: I would like to meet Dominic D’Agostino, one of the leading research scientists for the ketogenic diet. I have been following his work since I was in undergrad when I wrote my senior thesis on the role of a ketogenic diet in cancer therapy, where I referenced much of his work. His knowledge on effective research protocols, as well as his experience with effectively sharing research findings with the public, would be truly valued. There is a huge need for research on the therapeutic benefit of a ketogenic diet for people with Type 1 Diabetes. I believe that he would be an excellent pool of knowledge to learn from.

Accepted: If you could describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?

Hannah: This is a tough one. I would say that I am resilient, motivated, and loving.

Accepted: Where are you currently attending med school? What year are you?

Hannah: I am a second-year student at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. It is one of the newer DO schools in the nation and is located in Hattiesburg, MS. I really enjoy going to a smaller school because it has allowed for our class to become very close. I strongly feel that having supportive friends makes the experience much more enjoyable. I am very glad I chose this school.

Accepted: You have a blog, where you chronicle your journey through med school and life with Type 1 Diabetes. What made you want to start sharing your story with others?

Hannah: I began blogging my journey with Type 1 Diabetes because it was a requirement for an internship that I did through Students with Diabetes, an organization that helps young adults living with Type 1. I really enjoyed sharing my experiences with others, the feedback I received about how I had helped others gave me motivation to keep going. One of my favorite endocrinologists says, “Type 1 diabetes is as much a psychological disease as it is a physical one.” Diabetes can be scary and lonely at times, and I’ve found that connecting with others going through similar struggles can be truly healing.

I continued blogging after completing the internship when I radically changed my diet from a standard American diet to a ketogenic one that focuses on food quality. It completely changed my health and blood sugar control for the better. I received a lot of questions from others and was inspired to share my experience.

Accepted: You’ve had such diverse experiences in your life. Can you tell us about some of the experiences you’ve had that have motivated you to pursue medicine?

Hannah: I became interested in becoming a physician after working as a medical staff member at Texas Lions Camp, a summer camp for children with Type 1 Diabetes that I had attended as a camper. Helping others through struggles that I had personally experienced, whether it be rotating injection sites or school bullying, gave me an incredible feeling. Not only did I truly feel that I was making a positive impact on their lives, I felt that all the troubles I had been through growing up with diabetes could be used for the better. This feeling made the horrors of diabetes feel purposeful and this convinced me that healthcare was the direction that I wanted to pursue in life.

Throughout the past decade, I have struggled to find an endocrinologist who has supported my health in a way that positively impacted my quality of life. My doctors were excellent at keeping me out of the emergency room, but they didn’t seem to have answers when I asked them what was best for me to eat, how to exercise, or how to feel about living with a chronic disease. Thus my journey to learn these answers for myself began. I went to university to learn about nutrition, became a certified yoga teacher, and got a job as a personal trainer.

At this point in my career, I have been a patient for far longer than I have been in training to become a provider. Medical school is challenging in a variety of ways. On days that I find myself down because of academic performance, I try to use my perspective to remind myself what I believe makes a good physician. Is it that I have every side effect of a drug memorized and have to take twenty seconds to check it on my phone, or is it that I’ll be able to have a conversation with my patients that makes them feel inspired towards their own health? I am determined to become the type of physician who can empower their patients to seek optimal health and have the experience and knowledge needed to provide answers for them along the way.

Accepted: Can you share your top three MCAT tips?

Hannah: Practice tests, practice tests, practice tests! Do as many as you can get your hands on. I don’t recommend taking them all timed, do some and study as you go. Getting used to the question type and question formatting can be very beneficial. I didn’t spend enough time studying for the MCAT, a little under two months, and I truly think it was the practice tests that helped me pull it together so quickly. That being said I recommend taking more than two months to study for it if possible. Mentally prepare yourself to walk in on test day with confidence of succeeding. Above all else, believe in yourself.

Accepted: Lastly, what advice would you give to a student on how to get accepted to medical school?

Hannah: Applying to medical school can be a stressful and even scary experience. We hold a lot on the line as we detail our dreams and entire life’s work into a single application to send to a school. Writing a personal statement takes an incredible amount of self-reflection and can be gut wrenching. My main advice is simply don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. If it’s something you truly want and you’re sure of it, then it is possible, you just have to work for it. I believe that medical school is not about being smart enough, it’s about being motivated enough. I recommend a logical approach: look at schools’ acceptance statistics and apply to schools that your GPA and MCAT scores most closely match with. Research the difference between MDs and DOs and apply to a program that best fits your philosophy of practice. Additionally, I think it’s a great idea to have someone trustworthy read and edit all that you submit. Applications are far too much work to have a typo halt your acceptance. Lastly, be confident in your ability to make your dreams happen. I’ve learned that medical school is only possible with confidence and a strong belief in yourself. That has been one of the biggest lessons for me along this journey.

You can follow Hannah’s journey by checking out her blog The Keto Life, or by following her Facebook group T1D Pre-Med Students or T1D Med Students. Thank you Hannah for sharing your fascinating story with us – we wish you much success!

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