Medical Schools are most interested in applicants who are well-rounded and have a good sense of the demanding life of medical students and doctors. Students often demonstrate their commitment to pursuing a health care career by volunteering in their community, shadowing professionals, working in a research lab and joining the Pre-Med Club. Please click on the links below to navigate to the part of the page you are interested in.
Volunteering is a key component of preparation for medical school. As a pre-med student, it is important you demonstrate your devotion to helping others, and it is important you start early. By volunteering in the community you are able to show, not just tell, that you are committed to caring for and aiding those in need. Although there are always individual events needing volunteers that might have a health component, what matters more to admissions committees is a demonstration that applicants have been part of the volunteer community over the long haul.
Non-Profits with Volunteer Opportunities in Missoula
Helpful Links and Contacts
A good way to learn about our health care system is to do hands-on work in a health field. A few UM students work as Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) or Certified Nurse Assistants (CNA's) both of which require formal training. It is also possible to volunteer and job shadow at a local medical facility (Community Medical Center or St. Patrick Hospital). Both facilities have individuals that coordinate and supervise volunteers and students who are looking for job shadowing opportunities.
Why is there sometimes so much of a hurdle to shadow a doctor?
It is important that you not add unnecessary risk to the patients that you will see.
It is important that you be professional and ethical.
It is important that you not be put at-risk.
In order to accomplish these aspects of shadowing it is important that you:
be up to date on vaccinations for Hepatitis B and have a clean TB test,
be aware of all HIPAA regulations,
work with hospital-based job shadowing coordinators for scheduling, and
have a working knowledge of medical ethics.
Remember, there will be hundreds of students that will follow you in attempting to shadow; it is important that you make a good impression and keep a good relationship with the doctors.
Please note that shadowing at the local hospitals is typically limited to 4-8 hours. Because so many students are interested in job shadowing in and around Missoula, if you are not local to the area, we highly encourage you to seek out a shadowing opportunity near your hometown.
For more information about job shadowing, please contact Liz Kelsey, Program Coordinator, WWAMI Missoula at firstname.lastname@example.org or (406) 243-4763.
While most medical schools do not require that you have research experience, such experience is highly valued in the admission process and will be helpful at schools that still have a research requirement for medical students (e.g., University of Washington School of Medicine). Further, there are several benefits associated with participating in a research lab. Those students who do have research experience report
getting a good (better) letter of evaluation
getting experience discerning anecdotal data from significant data (a valuable skill for any career)
most admissions officers are scientists as well
any connection during interviews is a good thing – common ground, conversation starters
the practice of medicine has elements of the scientific method embedded in it
Still, getting involved in research will be a challenge and will only be possible if you are extremely proactive. Find out what faculty members are doing as part of their scholarly activities and then make an appointment with these individuals to inquire about working in their lab or under their direction. You may have to approach a number of faculty members before finding one that has an opening in their lab. Consider faculty members outside your major department. Most faculty at UM welcome this opportunity, but have limited time so don't be surprised if you are not successful with the first person you approach. Perseverance pays off - keep trying. For a list of faculty members who often accept student researchers in their lab, please click here.
For further information on undergraduate research at UM, please click here.
Want to be more involved? Consider joining the Pre-Professional Health Sciences/Pre-Med Club! This group provides mutual peer support and community access for students pursuing an interest in medicine, no matter what field you plan to enter. Meet medical professionals and admissions representatives, get involved in volunteer activities, practice the MCAT and much more!
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It is incredibly important to keep accurate records of the dates of extracurricular activities and the materials that are sent and received through the application service you are using. Keeping accurate records throughout your time as a Pre-Medical Sciences student will make the application process easier.