Take the leap: What it’s like to take a gap year before med school

Emily Brown graduated from MIT in June 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Engineering and Biology. She spent the year after graduation doing clinical work in a private dermatology practice in Boston and started medical school in the fall of 2014. Learn about Emily’s experience in her own words.

When I originally decided to take a gap year before medical school, I thought, like many MIT pre-med students, that I should engage in an in-depth research project during the year. As I thought about it more, however, I realized that I already had several research experiences and was ready for something new. What I really wanted was more clinical experience, as my previous experience was limited to shadowing doctors in the hospital. Through the MIT Prehealth Office, I learned that an MIT alum, Dr. Louis Kuchnir, was looking for gap year students to work as medical assistants in his private practice dermatology clinic in the suburbs of Boston. Although I had no experience in dermatology, I jumped at the chance to work in a clinic for my gap year.

After interviewing for and receiving the position, I started working as a medical assistant in June 2013. The job offers exactly the kind of clinical experience I was looking for: I spend every day interacting with patients. I have learned to take patient histories, to scribe for the physicians, to assist in skin biopsies and surgeries, and to educate patients about various topics, including sun protection, wound care, and medication usage. In addition, I have learned how it feels to be a member of a health care team, the satisfaction that comes from an excellent surgical result or a resolved disease, and the guilt and sadness that arise when my patients do not get better.

By working in a private practice, I have also gained a much better understanding of the real issues that affect health care today, such as the convoluted world of insurance and the difficulties that stem from the shortage of health care providers. This experience was incredibly valuable during medical school interviews, as I had many realistic clinical experiences to draw upon while answering the interviewers’ questions.

My gap year has taught me much about medicine that I did not know before. I plan to attend medical school next year either at UPenn or UCLA, and I know that my experiences in my gap year will help me become a better and more knowledgeable clinician. In addition, witnessing first-hand the problems that the medical field currently faces has inspired me to work to change these problems during my future medical education.

Wondering if a gap year is for you? Speak to Prehealth Advising staff. Determine how to make the most of your gap year and explore your opportunities. Check out the MIT Prehealth Advising Facebook group which regularly posts job openings, internships, and volunteer positions.

By Lydia Huth
Lydia Huth Communications Specialist