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From Hunter to Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

I received this message recently from one of my amazing students, and I could not be more proud of him! I know Shaheen will be an incredible doctor!

"Dear Mayya,

How are you? I am so thankful for your help with General Chemistry in the Spring of 2012. Now I am starting medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and I could not have done this without your help! I just wanted to write to you because I really appreciate the time you took to help me. Best, Shaheen Malick"

Here is some advice to current and future premed students:

1. What inspired you to be a doctor?

I gained quite a bit of exposure to patient populations, the elderly, disadvantaged youth, the homeless and children with various developmental illnesses performing classical music for them. Playing music for all of these people over several years gave me the chance to reflect on health and socio-economic issues. I simultaneously became more fascinated with biology and began to realize, through research, that physicians play a wide variety of roles in society. A physician deals with all of the factors involved in human health from the societal causes to the genetic causes. Moreover, through readings on current events such as the healthcare insurance landscape in the U.S., I found that the role of a physician is also being redefined. All of this excited me and drove me to do whatever it took to become a doctor. Once I knew, I was certain that I would be a physician.

2. What did you think of Hunter college as a choice for pre-med path?

For pre-med students, Hunter is an excellent place to explore opportunities in research, to undertake a challenging curriculum and to explore your interests. To succeed at Hunter, one needs to be industrious. Take advantage of all of your professors office hours, regardless of how large or small the class is. Hunter is not the place to remain within your comfort zone. If you are shy you must overcome this and form strong relationships with your peers and your professors. This is essential to anyone who wants to be involved in healthcare, because caring for patients is a collaborative process. Since the path towards medical school is becoming more competitive, it is important to recognize very early if you have an interest in medicine. When you realize this, commit wholeheartedly. Embrace the challenge, reach out to professors, to research labs, to doctors for shadowing experience and to your pre-health advisor!

3. What struggles did you face during your studies and how did you overcome them?

In New York City, there is a significant density of basic science research, hospitals, clinics, homeless shelters orphanages and the list goes on. Therefore, any pre-med who studies in NYC should have no problem gaining any of the requisite experience for medical school. The struggle is that you might have to reach out to many people before getting some opportunities that are both interesting to you and feasible. I sometimes struggled to find time to balance my volunteer work with my studying for the hard sciences, however, you will find that your mentors are often willing to help you navigate this and are flexible with their schedules. Whenever you have a mentor that is this flexible, you should express sincere appreciation for their willingness to help you succeed.

4. Any advice for students on the pre-med track?

Some qualities that make a successful student and ultimately doctor are, I believe, diligence, curiosity and grit. The diligence is manifested in the student who before every lecture reads up on the material being discussed, jots down some notes and questions, and later asks those questions in recitation/office hours. Curiosity is demonstrated in the student who learns about something interesting in lecture, like the gut micriobiota and its role in immunity, and does a literature search on this topic and later continues the discussion with his or her professor. Grit is shown in the student who day in and day out works and struggles with difficult course material, with a hectic volunteer schedule, going long hours without eating, but never losing sight of his or her ultimate goal. A student who encompasses these traits will make a very good student and physician.

5. How did you succeed on the MCAT?

I did not take the MCAT2015, however, my general strategy for the old MCAT might still help you.

The AAMC is one's best resource for studying for the MCAT. This prepares you for the question format, style and topics of focus on the MCAT. One can spend a significant amount of time studying from test prep company books that focus on many details that the MCAT is not interested in testing. However, if you study mainly from actual AAMC official passages, you will understand how the MCAT tests your content knowledge. Therefore here are some steps:

a. Your very first MCAT reading should be the The Official Guide to the MCAT Exam (MCAT2015), Fourth Edition.

For an in-depth review of the Psych/Soc component:

b. From the Official Guide, identify the topics you are weak in and those you are confident in

c. is an excellent resource for content. The website has outlines based on the MCAT official topic list, and contains information in a concise format, and which is also high-yield for the MCAT.

You could first review the topics from the Official Guide that you are weak in at this website. For example, if you are confused about DNA replication go to Biology, and then DNA Structure and Function. !!!!!

d. Khan Academy videos:

These are a wonderful free-resource, but bear in mind, that the passages accompanying the videos are not written by the AAMC. They are written by other people, who submitted them to Khan Academy for review. If you are well experienced with the AAMC official passages you will able to tell the difference between an authentic AAMC passage, and one written by a third party.


When you are ready to tackle real AAMC questions, after you know exactly what topics will be tested I strongly suggest you invest in the Complete Official MCAT Prep Bundle. It is about 200$, but worth it, in my opinion.

I would save the two practice exams for the end, because there are only two full-length ones!! But take advantage of the 1,750 official practice questions.


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