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Interview With a Canadian OMS: From UTM to AZCOM

Welcome to our new series: Interview with a Canadian Osteopathic Medical Student! Volunteer writers will be sharing their paths to osteopathic medical school and their current experiences as a medical student. We hope this helps you in your journey to becoming a DO!

1. Please introduce yourself (name, undergrad/grad school, medical school, graduation year, etc).

My name is Ramis Nazir. I am a graduate of the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM), where I earned my Bachelor’s in Biology and Master’s in Biotechnology. I am currently a 2nd-year student at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM) at Midwestern University, set to graduate in 2024.

2. What were some of the factors that led you to choose an osteopathic medical school?

I believe that there is a benefit to knowing how to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal misalignments and other related ailments, and this essentially forms the basis of my interest in the osteopathic philosophy. That being said, I applied to both allopathic and osteopathic medical schools knowing that I would be thrilled to attend either. While going through my training, I have come to learn that pharmacological and surgical interventions come with their own drawbacks. As a result, I am beginning to understand and appreciate the fact that the techniques which comprise osteopathic medicine have their place in the physician’s toolbox, especially as complementary devices in areas where traditional approaches may be limited in their benefit.

3. Were there elements of your AACOMAS application that you felt made you stand out as an applicant?

I completed my Organic Chemistry coursework in my third year as an undergraduate and found that I really enjoyed the subject. As a senior, I created an Instagram page where I created and published educational infographics about various chemical compounds. The page was successful and I garnered approximately 30K followers in a short period of time. From there, I pivoted to designing and building notebooks specifically for organic chemistry students. I created an online store where I sold these notebooks as my primary product. I included this project on my medical school applications and it ultimately came up in conversation during my medical school interview at AZCOM. On the academic front, I had a high MCAT score that I think helped me get my foot in the door.

4. Did you shadow an osteopathic physician or had a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician when you were applying to med school?

Yes, I shadowed an osteopathic PM&R physician in the US, but did not have a letter of recommendation from an osteopathic physician.

5. Was there anything you wish you had done differently in the application process?

Yes, I wish that I had shortened my list of schools that I applied to so that completing the secondary applications could have been more manageable. I applied to dozens of schools, thinking that a certain percentage of them would invite me to complete a secondary application based upon their initial interest in me. While some medical schools do operate in this manner, a lot of them automatically invite applicants to complete a secondary application. Consequently, I had far too many secondaries to write and the situation quickly became overwhelming and out of control. Ironically, if I had applied to fewer schools and had a more reasonable number of secondary applications to complete, I would have actually submitted more applications than I had.

6. If you were accepted to multiple medical schools, what factors did you consider in choosing which one to go to?

AZCOM was the only medical school where I was accepted. However, I advise students to carefully consider whether they can imagine themselves at the school/locale for multiple years. There were some medical schools I interviewed at where I can say with certainty that I would have become deeply unhappy. Ideally, you want to be in an environment that can help balance out the stress that comes with the curriculum. Get a vibe check on the current students, staff, and faculty and go with your gut.

7. Did you experience any challenges in securing a loan or the student exchange status/visa process? If so, do you have any advice for matriculating students?

I did not have any trouble with the visa process – it was fairly straightforward and the staff at AZCOM were very helpful in walking me through the process. On the other hand, securing a student loan can be quite tricky and arduous if your co-signers have complicated finances (i.e. if they have multiple investments, work for themselves, or write off expenses, etc.).

8. How has your experience been so far in medical school?

Time flies! I am writing these responses on a plane back to Toronto for spring break, and I can vividly remember my first flight to Arizona the weekend before starting medical school. It really only feels like it was a few weeks ago. My time at AZCOM so far has been good; I have learned a lot very quickly. My classmates, helpful faculty, and pleasant Arizona weather have helped me succeed in my first two years. The very beginning of first year can be difficult, but within a few months, you’ll find yourself in a groove that works for you, which will take you all the way to the end of second year.

9. Do you plan to or have you taken both the COMLEX and USMLE exams?

I will be writing both Level 1 and Step 1 in a few months. I decided to register for both because I am still undecided about my specialty interests and since both exams are pass-fail, there’s less of a risk associated with adding Step 1 to my board schedule. I hope that by passing Step 1, it will also give me some additional confidence going into Step 2 the following year, which will be a scored exam.

10. What specialties are you considering?

I am not sure! I found that my interests changed multiple times over the last 18 months. I entered medical school wanting to do Anesthesiology, but then switched to Surgery, followed by Neurology, Family Medicine, Ophthalmology, and now Internal Medicine. If you ask me in two months my answer might change again! I am hoping that next year’s rotations will help me narrow down my options.

11. As of now, where do you hope to practice in the future? United States? Canada?

I will complete my residency in the States and will likely practise there for a little bit afterwards. I would not mind returning to Canada either, though. At this point in my career, there is a lot of uncertainty about what life will look like after graduation/residency, so I am going to go with the flow and make the decision when the time comes. If you are going to the US for medical school, you should be comfortable with the idea of completing your residency in the US, since returning to Canada is a much simpler process once you’ve completed your residency (as far as I have heard from others).

12. Any other tips for Canadian pre-meds considering osteopathic medical school?

I have a lot of fragmented pieces of advice that I will share here: Continue working hard. Have faith in the process. Get help from people around you – you would be surprised at how willing people are to help those that come after them. Don’t become narrow-minded – there are career options outside of medicine, too, in case you decide to pivot. Don’t be afraid to leave Canada to pursue your goals. The thought of moving to Arizona was daunting, but looking back, I am glad to have had the opportunity to embark on this adventure. It really is an adventure. You will get to learn, see and do things that are unique experiences to those in training and working in healthcare. The path ahead will change you and your perception of the world. I think it is something that you should be excited for! Things are a lot better on the other side of the application process. Don’t let the pressure get to you, keep moving forward! Lastly, once you are accepted and getting ready to make the transition, I would recommend taking two to three weeks off to relax and get settled in your new home before starting medical school. This will help you start this new chapter of your career with a fresh mind.

Ramis Nazir can be reached at ramisnazir@gmail.com to answer questions from undergraduate and graduate students who are looking into medical school and/or working in the pharmaceutical/biotechnology industries.

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