Amy Kwok '06: From Simmons to Medical School

August 10, 2016

Amy Kwok

Amy filled us in on her path to medical school!

What was your major at Simmons and what's your current field of study? 

I majored in biochemistry. I graduated from medical school in June and I’m currently going to Brown for Family Medicine Residency!

Tell us about your path to medical school.

After I graduated from Simmons in 2006, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be in medicine or go into basic science research. I took time off from school and worked as a Research Assistant in molecular biology research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I was involved in many interesting research projects and had opportunities to publish in Cell and Nature

After spending 4 years working in research, I attended Tufts for my MA in biomedical science. During my program, I took some medical student classes and volunteered in a hospital in Boston. Although I liked research, I loved patient interaction which compelled me to apply to medical school. In 2012, I started at UMass Medical School and realized I loved caring for patients of all ages. I matched at Brown for Family Medicine and will be starting my residency soon!

What's a typical day like as a medical student?

The first and second year of medical school were like drinking out of a fire hose. The sheer volume of information to learn was daunting and I spent most of my days studying my lecture notes and preparing for exams. Classes were all day every day with some sprinkled in lab time in the computer lab for histology and in the anatomy lab for human anatomy. After 2 years of medical school, there's the board exam called Step 1 — an 8-hour computer-based exam based on everything you learned in medical school. 

The third and fourth years of medical school are called the clinical years. The third year is full of rotations in the inpatient hospital setting and outpatient clinical setting: surgery, ob/gyn, family medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, internal medicine and neurology. By the end of third year, you take the next board exam called Step 2, another 8-hour computer and clinical exam with standardized patients. In fourth year, you decide which specialty to pursue and apply for residency programs in that specialty. There's more flexibility in the fourth year because of travel and interviewing at different residency sites.

How did Simmons help prepare you for medical school?

The faculty in the biology and chemistry departments are very much invested in their students and I felt prepared to take medical school courses through the coursework I had completed at Simmons. The pre-med advisor at the time was Dr. Owen and she was so helpful in the whole medical school application process. I remember being extremely stressed about taking the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) and calling her about my anxiety. Simmons faculty care so much for their students and I wouldn't be able to reach my goals in life and career without them.

I stayed in touch with most of my professors after graduating Simmons and having that steady support as an alumna has been invaluable. I think this is unique to Simmons and something that I wouldn’t have gotten at a larger school where I would have been just a face in the crowd.

What advice would you give to students at Simmons considering medical school?

  • Find mentors and keep in touch with your Simmons faculty! I wanted more experience in research after graduating but didn’t know where to start. I learned to reach out to people in the field that I was interested in and ask if we could talk about their day-to-day as a researcher. By the time I graduated, I received emails from these individuals asking me if I was interested in a job in their lab.
  • Network with Simmons alumnae! I recently connected a Simmons student with a Simmons alumna to shadow her at her clinic and mentored another Simmons student throughout her senior year. I told myself when I was a student that if I were in the position to help Simmons students find mentors in medicine I would. 

What's your Simmons moment?

I have a series of little moments that really showed me that I belonged at Simmons. I made lifelong friends who supported me through the rough patches and pulled all-nighters with me in the name of solidarity. 

Moreover, my ideas were taken seriously. While a student in organic chemistry II, Professor Gurney let me attempt to extract essential oils from an herbal medicine in his lab because I was curious about what the active ingredient or compound was in a traditional herbal medicine. Those are the memories that stick out in my mind when I think of Simmons!

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