We’ve been in pandemic mode for months now, and it’s becoming clear that things are not going back to “normal” anytime soon. So, what’s a premed to do? You still need research, volunteering, and clinical experience even though your meticulous plans have been entirely disrupted. But just because you need to stay at home does not mean there’s nothing you can do. In fact, think of it as an opportunity to let your creativity and genuine passion for healthcare shine.
In this post, we will go through several ways to get experience in research, volunteering, leadership, and even clinical exposure despite the circumstances – and you’ll be a better applicant, and eventual doctor for persevering through this moment with grace and a little creativity.
#1. Serve your community virtually
Pick an area or population that you are truly passionate about and think about what you can do to aid in efforts to help.
Popular community activities premeds are doing:
- Health education, including COVID-19 healthy habits information dissemination
- Mental health outreach. You can apply to staff a virtual crisis text line.
- Sew masks for senior shelters or homeless shelters.
- Create virtual, fun activities and lessons geared towards children in afterschool programs and summer camps.
- Be a buddy for senior citizens or a pen pal for residents at senior citizen homes.
#2. Telehealth shadowing
Many people think the coronavirus pandemic will usher in a new era of telehealth. Shadowing telehealth visits right now might be a great way to learn about what the future of medicine holds and to experience patient care. Many physicians are conducting medical visits via telephone – you could join in on these calls, get some clinical exposure, and learn about what medicine might increasingly look like in the coming years. How do you find virtual shadowing opportunities? Approach this like you might any other shadowing – reach out to doctors via email, and let them know how eager you are to learn.
Read our helpful blog post, “How to Shadow a Doctor.” We give tips on the two main questions we get from our premed mentees: 1) “How do I find shadowing opportunities” and 2) “What do I do when I shadow physicians?”
#3. COVID-19 research and volunteering
Although many opportunities have been canceled, the Cracking Med School Admissiosn team has seen many other opportunities spring up, especially around the coronavirus pandemic.
Popular COVID-19 premed opportunities include:
- COVID-19 research – We’ve seen research opportunities in all aspects related to the pandemic: bench research; epidemiology research; clinical trials; attitudes towards COVID-19; and effects on mental health and stress
- COVID-19 volunteer work – Many volunteer opportunities include outreach to vulnerable populations
- Contact tracers
- COVID-19 testing site volunteers
The best way to find opportunities is by looking at opportunities linked to universities and local health departments.
#4. Literature reviews and chart reviews
Lab work at universities are limited during COVID-19. That’s okay because there is plenty of research you can do while staying at home. Try partnering with a professor you’ve gotten close to, or want to form a relationship with, on a literature review on a topic you’re really interested in. You’ll learn something, hone your research and writing skills, and maybe even come out with a publication.
Other research you can do easily from remote locations is chart review research. With the electronic medical record, researchers and doctors are overwhelmed with data they never have the time to go through. These data sets can provide crucial clinical insights. Partner with a doctor on a chart review study and perform a retrospective analysis of patients they’ve already seen.
#5. Be a leader in your community
What areas of medicine, social justice, public policy, or current events are you most passionate about? Whatever it is, you have the time, energy, and voice right now to move that cause forward in your local community. Write op-eds in your local newspaper about issues close to home that concern you, and partner with community organizations and fellow students to do meaningful work in areas you’re passionate about – local politics, homelessness, food insecurity, the local education system – whatever it is, now is the time to make your voice heard. You can make a difference and gain valuable leadership experience.
If you are applying to medical school this year or next year, be sure to check out our other blogs with important information: