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AU: The Stem Cell of Pre-Med Programs

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American University’s premedical program, though small, has had great success. One example is Duaa AbdelHameid, an AU alum who graduated in May 2015 as a biology major. Duaa currently attends Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. During her time at American University, Duaa made many lasting impacts, including helping to found the DC Beta chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon (PhiDE), an international medical fraternity with pre-medical chapters at undergraduate universities around the world. PhiDE helps foster an environment where pre-med students can learn and help each other with the goal of creating physicians of integrity.

Duaa is one such of these future physicians, and as a first year medical student, she is now on her way to becoming a doctor. When asked about how she was enjoying medical school, Duaa said, “Medical school is probably the most exhilarating, tiring, amazing, and stressful experience of my life so far. It is incredible how much I’m learning and how much I love being here, pursuing what I’ve dreamt about for so long.”

I know many of us in the premedical program share this dream. However, the question often floats in our minds: Is this worth it? The countless hours studying, the sleepless nights, the weekends spent with our books?

Duaa says, “It is such a rigorous process— you are essentially learning everything you need to know to heal a person after speaking to them for 15 minutes and running a few tests,” and that it is “an intense task, and the academic road to such a position reflects that.” The path ahead may be hard, but Duaa says she “wouldn’t trade this for anything.”

Still, for some of us, medical school itself is years off. So how can American University help us with the premedical process? Duaa says, “The location of AU, coupled with the opportunity to create my own path, really benefited me in the long run.” She offers a scientifically appropriate analogy: “AU is like a stem cell—it can literally ‘grow up’ to be anything—you can make what you want of it.”

When asked if she had any advice for us pre-meds, Duaa said we needed to trust the process. It’s a saying we have all heard multiple times, but Duaa says, “The application process is crazy and stressful, but trust it and trust your- self—you will get to where you are meant to be.” She also stresses that we should all enjoy the process. “The most important thing is to make sure you’re enjoying this: pre-med, MCAT, medical school. Enjoy all of it,” she says. “You have to get yourself into a state where these stages are rewarding and fun for you. If you don’t get satisfaction out of learning something amazing about the human body, then reflect on those feelings. This is a long, hard road—if you don’t get satisfaction out of learning and getting closer to your goal, this will be miserable for you. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around the concept of enjoying organic chemistry (does anyone remember what nucleophiles are after leaving O chem?) but try and find the cool facts that make you go ‘Ahhhhhh’ and remind yourself of why you’re here. Have faith in yourself—everyone around you is smart in undergrad and in medical school but so are you—be confident and enjoy the ride.”

And with that, I’ll leave you with two memorable quotes by Duaa about medical school:

“Warning: there are lots of sacrificed hours of sleep, weekends, and Netflix sessions.”

“People say medical school is like trying to drink out of a fire hose, and that is the truest thing I’ve heard all year.”