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Ravali Reddy’s Medical School Journey – from Dublin High School to Stanford to USC

June 9, 2017

Dublin High School Class of 2010 and Stanford Class of 2014 alum Ravali Reddy has contributed multiple stories to OneDublin.org, going right back to our founding in late 2009. She wrote about her first semester at Stanford in one of our very first Life in College articles (there are over 70 now!). After graduating from Stanford she shared her story again, in a Life After College profile. Three years later Ravali has completed her first year at the Keck School of Medicine of USC so once again we (virtually) sat down with Ravali to learn about what it takes to get into medical school – and thrive once you get there.

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OneDublin.org: Medical school is a multi-year commitment; at what point did you know it was the right path for you?

Ravali Reddy: “I first started thinking about attending medical school when I was pretty young. Anyone who knew me while I was at Dublin High School knows that I took a lot of AP science classes. One of the natural options to think about when you have an interest in science is medical school. I remember people asking when I was young what my favorite subject was and I’d say biology, and they’d say ‘are you planning to be a doctor’? The seed for medical school was planted pretty young. While my parents aren’t physicians I do have aunts, uncles and cousins who are so I had the opportunity to gain some exposure to the field while young as well.

“When I attended Stanford I knew that the path to medical school came with a lot of prerequisites so I completed all my pre-med classes while at Stanford. As I mentioned in my article about life at Stanford, there is no such thing as ‘majoring in pre-med’; rather there are requirements for this a certain amount of bio, this much chem, and so on in order to apply to medical school. I ended up majoring in communication and exploring the field of journalism, focusing on healthcare and scientific writing, while obtaining a minor in biology and completing all the prerequisites.

“It was near the end of my time at Stanford that the interest really solidified and I made the decision to attend medical school. I took a couple of gaps years after Stanford to explore different aspects of medicine so I could make sure I knew what I wanted my career in healthcare to look like before delving right back into more school.”

OneDublin.org: Walk me through the med school application process.

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Reddy: “Some people are surprised at how lengthy the process is for applying to medical school: it takes over a year. I began medical school in August 2016 and began the formal application process online in June 2015. Not to mention, I began prepping even before that by drafting application essays, asking for letters of recommendation, etc.

“One way that medical school is very different from law school or business school is that you have a set curriculum of pre-requisites that most schools require you to have completed before you can matriculate to medical school. That includes basic biology, basic chemistry, bio-chem, physics, math as well as humanities components. You need to have a foundation in science so that when you arrive in med school you can hit the ground running. Many people complete the prerequisites during their time in college, but I do have some friends that did a post-baccalaureate to complete additional pre-reqs because they decided on medical school after completing their undergraduate degree.

“Once you have completed all the pre-reqs there is a common application – a centralized process – for applying to med school. You enter all of your grades, write one major essay about why you want to go to medical school, collect letters of recommendation and list extracurricular activities – it feels a lot like applying to college all over again, but a little more focused. You have to really specify why you want to attend medical school.

“After the first round of applications you write school-specific essays in a secondary application. Those questions can range from general essays about a challenge you may have faced in the past or what you like to do for fun, to elaborating on specific programs offered by that school and why you would be a good fit.

“Next is a waiting game that leads to mandatory interviews. The primary and secondary application process takes you through the summer and into the fall, and then most of the fall and early winter is spent doing interviews. I flew all over the country to visit medical schools and attend interviews, some were traditional one on ones and others were MMIs (multiple mini interviews). MMIs were a lot of fun and different from traditional interviews – you go from room to room through a series of short interviews and scenarios. There were some rooms where you’d walk in and instead of a traditional interview question there was a puzzle to solve, or a scenario that tested how you react under pressure. For example, I had one mini-interview where the scenario was a mom who was really upset about the treatment that her son had received. I played the role of the doctor and the interviewer played the role of the angry mom! The interviewer in this scenario tried to push my buttons and see if I could keep my cool in the situation. It’s a new method of interviewing that’s gaining a lot of traction amongst medical schools because it’s supposed to be more representative of what you might face in the real world.

“Most medical schools offer rolling acceptances beginning in October, which is why it’s in your best interest to apply early. You have to make a decision on where you want to go by the end of April, just like you did for undergrad, and then you typically start school a bit earlier than usual and run on a longer school year. I moved to Los Angeles towards the end of July and started med school at USC at the beginning of August 2016!”

OneDublin.org: How did you settle on USC as your choice for medical school?

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Reddy: “A big contributing factor towards my decision was having the opportunity to stay in California for medical school. My entire family is here so that was really important to me. That having been said, going into the application process I knew that I would have to apply broadly and be flexible so that I would have options to choose from, since getting into medical school at all can be difficult. I was fortunate that it worked out for me and that I was able to stick around! On another note, something that I realized as I went through the application process was that, generally speaking, schools fell into one of two categories – clinically-focused or research-focused. During my gap years I realized that direct patient interaction was the part of medicine that I enjoyed the most, so I wanted to go to a school that really emphasized strong clinical training. USC does just that. The Keck School of Medicine campus is not on the undergrad campus. We’re over at the Health Sciences Campus, which is right next to the LAC+USC Medical Center. We do a lot of our training and rotations there. As a medical student at USC working at County, you have hands-on opportunities to help out and feel like you are making a meaningful impact.

“Finally, women’s healthcare, which is what I’m interested in, is highly politicized so having an opportunity to work with underserved populations is really important to me. Being at USC provides opportunities to support both a County and a private hospital, which is giving me a chance to see how both sides of the healthcare system work. Having the opportunity to serve at the County hospital is a benefit you’ll hear from many USC students.”

OneDublin.org: At one point do you specialize in a particular branch of medicine?

Reddy: “In medical school, you don’t have to make a formal decision about your specialty until the end of third year. Med school is four years long, and is typically split into pre-clinical and clinical years. You spend your first two years in the classroom and in labs, learning from textbooks, and covering all the disciplines. This year for example we’ve learned about GI, neuro, reproductive; we’re dissecting cadavers, spending time in the anatomy lab and the pathology lab; and learning about different diseases. At the end of second year you take a national exam, United States Medical Licensing Examination – Step 1, and then move on to your clinical years where you are no longer in the classroom and are rotating into hospitals. You get the chance to experience what different specialties such as internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and gynecology look like, and you can even request specific disciplines to further explore what you think you might be interested in.

“At the end of third year you start another application process for residency in a specific field, and then you spent your fourth year going on interviews once again, this time through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). You submit a ranked list of the places you’d like to be, the residency programs and hospitals submit their ranked lists, and a central system finalizes the match, and on Match Day you find out where you’re headed!”

OneDublin.org: In your first year of med school is it more about getting everyone on the same page or are you diving right into core courses?

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Reddy: “It varies from school to school. At USC the first semester is focused on foundations of medical sciences (FMS), which is in part bringing everyone up-to-speed. FMS acknowledges that while everyone took the pre-requisites, not everyone did so in the same way. FMS is kind of like med school boot camp. The demographics of med school students is changing – while many students still do start right out of college, there are more and more students like me who took gap years and even students going through a career change, who took five, ten or even fifteen years before starting med school.

“Nowadays, a lot of medical schools take a systems-based approach, so instead of just learning all of anatomy and then moving on to pathology or physiology, etc., what USC does is teach organ systems. For example in January we were focused on the gastrointestinal system and spent six weeks learning every aspect of it. This approach helps you think holistically and tie everything together in a way that will be helpful in practice.”

OneDublin.org: Medical school is a long road to travel – you’ve described multiple rounds of applications and decisions. How do you recommend younger students approach a multi-year journey?

Reddy: “While it’s a different journey for every individual, one thing that helped me was not only being conscious of what I wanted to do, but learning what I didn’t want to do. I knew early on that I was interested in science and healthcare, but I made sure to take some time to explore different avenues of pursuing a career in healthcare during undergrad.

“Broad assumptions can be made for you when you are young, for example, you’ll hear people say: ‘Oh! you are good at math, therefore you’ll want to be an engineer’ or ‘you like English, so you’ll want to be a teacher’. Similarly people say ‘you like science therefore you’ll want to be a doctor’. It’s important to take the time to explore what else you can do with an interest in science. Depending on what path I choose it could be six to ten years of learning in front of me, so to keep myself motivated I already know what other options I could have taken and have more confidence in the path ahead. I have already looked at what a pure research route would look like, or what a masters in public health policy or administration would like. I explored multiple avenues and spoke with professionals in different aspects of healthcare to learn what I liked and didn’t like. I also spoke to people who aren’t doctors to understand their professions.

“Ultimately I was able to learn what was most important to me so that I could make an informed decision, and eliminate the ‘what if’s’ that people tend to fall back on when the going gets tough.”

OneDublin.org: Do you have an idea of where you want to specialize?

Reddy: “I volunteered as a health educator at a women’s community clinic during my two gap years and found that to be a very meaningful experience. As a result I am very interested in being a women’s health practitioner. I’m fully aware that my interests could completely change once I’m actually on my third year rotation, but as of now my focus is on obstetrics and gynecology.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Karen Chamberlain permalink
    June 9, 2017 9:22 am

    Ravali on behalf of myself and women… I am grateful you are focused, articulate, and excited to provide meaningful, professional health care for women! I enjoyed reading about your journey I can hear and see that serving in the health field is your passion and will be a blessing to many. Much happiness to you!! Ms. K

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