My Journey to Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine
This is the eighth in a series of blog posts that feature stories of students' journeys to medical school. Last time, we heard from Thomas. Today, current medical student Ryan Nguyen shares his story and tips with us.
Ryan, tell us a bit about yourself. What initially drew you to medicine?
I come from a middle-sized suburb of the Dallas-Forth Worth area called Keller. I grew up and lived there my entire life before college, surrounding myself with great friends and also my favorite hobby—soccer.
It was during high school that I was first exposed—and instantly attracted—to medicine. During the summer of sophomore year, my best friend and I decided to help at a local hospital. What was initially a means to gather volunteer hours and serve the community quickly developed into a curiosity towards the field of medicine. We only needed 100 hours that summer, yet I walked away logging over 200 in the operating rooms.
Talk about your college experience.
My experience in the OR enabled me to see the impact a doctor could have on someone’s life. After that, I decided that medicine was a career that was worth exploring.
When it came time to choose where I wanted to attend, I decided to pack my bags and leave my comfort zone. I chose the University of Houston, conveniently located right in the middle of the fourth largest city in the U.S. and next to the largest medical center in the world.
“When it came time to choose where I wanted to attend, I decided to pack my bags and leave my comfort zone.”
I was pretty much the typical pre-med—an Honors college student with a major in Biology and double minors in Chemistry and Medicine & Society.
However, I also made an effort to get involved outside of the classroom. As a member of Friends of Haiti, I helped to organize and plan mission trips to provide medical assistance to Haitian communities in need. I participated in two such trips during my sophomore and junior years. My passion for medicine kept growing through these opportunities and through shadowing physicians and volunteering at Memorial Herman in the medical center.
I also continued to play soccer and joined the Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and the Filipino Student Association. Through those organizations and my classes, I met incredible people with whom I formed life-long friendships.
When and why did you apply to your current medical school?
After my two trips to Haiti, my high-school experience in the operating rooms, and the plethora of shadowing experiences I obtained through high school and college, I knew medicine was the career for me. I wanted to do everything I could to get this exciting journey underway.
After my two trips to Haiti, my high-school experience in the operating rooms, and the plethora of shadowing experiences I had obtained through high school and college, I knew medicine was the career for me.
So, following the traditional route, I began my medical school application process at the end of my junior year of undergrad. After shadowing both osteopathic and allopathic physicians and seeing both work diligently and effectively, I decided to apply to both types of medical schools. At the end of the day, I just wanted to get into a medical school and become a doctor, so I made sure to apply far and wide in hopes that I could get accepted somewhere.
Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) particularly caught my eye. It was a great school located in a great city—Fort Worth—and most importantly, it was 20 minutes from Keller and close to many friends. I knew at that moment that TCOM would give me the opportunity to pursue my dreams and to do so right next to my number one support group.
Give us three reasons you think you were accepted.
Initially, I did not think I was going to get into medical school. I had to take the MCAT twice and scored exactly the same both times.
I think that TCOM decided to take a chance on me because of my passion and commitment toward learning and medicine, in addition to my overall life experiences. As I mentioned earlier, my exposure and interest towards medicine began very early in high school. When interviewers asked me “Why do you want to become a doctor?” I was able to answer passionately.
Another reason might be my commitment. Entering the field of medicine means being a life-long student. Medicine is always changing, and you have to keep learning to stay up-to-date. Through my academics and my involvement in the medical field (volunteering and shadowing), I showed the admissions committee that I knew what I was getting into. I made it clear that I was willing to accept the responsibilities of eventually becoming a doctor.
Lastly, I believe my overall life experiences helped to reveal that outside of school and studying, I still had my hobbies and interests. Finding enjoyment in things outside of school can be extremely beneficial, because burnout is real. I was able to show the committee that one can have a passion for medicine while still appreciating the other joys of life.
I mentioned earlier, my exposure and interest towards medicine began very early in high school. When interviewers asked me “Why do you want to become a doctor?” I was able to answer passionately.
How did you feel after the interview?
It was my first interview of the cycle, and I was extremely nervous. Prior to the application process, I had not had much interviewing experience. I had two one-on-one interviews with TCOM faculty members and I vividly remember leaving my first interview of the morning thinking I had completely botched it. After the initial nerves from the first interview had worn off, I felt my second interview had gone much smoother. After finishing both, I briefly reflected and just hoped that it was going to be okay. Only time would tell at that point.
Walk us through the moment you were accepted.
My acceptance to TCOM was very unique. Prior to the official Texas match day, I had already received acceptances to a few out of state osteopathic medical schools. I was strongly considering attending Kansas City University if I did not match into TCOM (this was my only Texas school interview). When match day came on February 1, I remember my heart sinking when I saw I did not get into TCOM. I immediately shifted my attention towards Kansas City and eventually came to terms with attending there. I was still holding onto a sliver of hope that TCOM would accept me off their waitlist.
Then, one day during the middle of June, I was touring the JFK museum in downtown Dallas with one of my best friends when I received a call from an unknown number. I remember asking myself: Could this be the call?! And as I answered the phone, I remember the admissions director extending me an acceptance to TCOM.
To say I was excited would be a complete understatement. I immediately called my parents and told them the news. Then I told my best friend who had roamed off to the next section of the museum while I was on the phone. I don’t remember the rest of the exhibit, because the only thing I could think about was my acceptance. My life had taken a complete 180 degree turn! Before that call, I was set on starting a new life in a new city. Afterwards, I looked forward to beginning a new journey in a familiar city.
How can others imitate your success?
If at first you don’t succeed, do not be discouraged. Keep on trying. If you have a true passion for medicine, keep on working hard toward it. There will be plenty of speed bumps, so don’t give up at the first that slows you down.
Once I got into TCOM and listened to the stories of my classmates, I was amazed at all of the unique paths they took to arrive at medical school. There were fathers, mothers, teachers, paramedics, and even a nurse practitioner in my class. Irrespective of how they all got there, they were bound to become incredible doctors in my eyes. Sometimes, that year off or gap year might even be a blessing in disguise. Four years of undergraduate school can be very rigorous, and going straight into medical school won’t make life any easier.
“Create your own path for success; the journey towards medical school is unique for everyone.”
In terms of imitating my success, I wouldn’t suggest following my path or anyone else’s particular path. Create your own path for success; the journey towards medical school is unique for everyone. However, I will stress the importance of determination. I attribute all my success to my hard work ethic. If I set a goal for myself, I try my hardest to achieve it, and you should too.
There isn’t a clear-cut track for gaining successful admission into medical school and succeeding once you're in. However, hard work and passion can take you far on this journey. Go out and shadow, volunteer, or work in a medical environment and expose yourself to the field not only for the experience and resume, but for you. You want to see if this is a career to which you can dedicate your entire life. Once you discover that desire and determination to become a doctor, latch onto it and use it as your fuel.
Ryan Nguyen was born and raised in Keller, TX, a suburb of the Dallas - Fort Worth area. He is currently a second year medical student at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and graduated with a BS in Biology and double minor in Chemistry and Medicine & Society from the University of Houston.
Check out more of our stories and resources for pre-meds below: