August 20th, 2018
The journey to becoming a physician with a prestigious capital MD next to your name is not an easy feat, and Alana Zeitany has big shoes to fill. As Alana is half way through medical school, her sister is half way through her residency program. The two sisters are four years apart with many similarities. Both Zeitany sisters graduated as valedictorians from their high schools, were involved in cheerleading and Greek life while earning their undergraduate degrees, and are attending UNC Chapel Hill School of Medicine. Alex Zeitany, MD, Alana’s older sister, is currently a UNC dermatology resident.
Though the Zeitany sisters attended different North Carolina high schools and Universities for their undergraduate career, they have been lucky to attend the Chapel Hill School of Medicine at the same time. As Alana began her undergraduate career, Alex began medical school as a Tar Heel. Along with a having a great support system during the tough road to MD, Alana and Alex have even been able to decrease living costs for a year, by living together in Chapel Hill.
The photo to the left is from Alana's white coat ceremony that commemorated the beginning of her four years of medical school. Alana is now in her third year of medical school, which largely includes clinical rotations. I sat down with her to ask her a few questions about her journey to medical school. Read more to learn about the medical school application process, dealing with stresses of medical school, and staying sane while living on student loans.
What’s a fun fact about yourself that people may not know?
I have a toy poodle named Dean that I got my first year of medical school. He has been such a great companion during some really tough experiences and I’m so glad I was brave enough to get a puppy as a first year medical student.
Why and when did you choose to become a Physician?
I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be a physician because, like most things, I was just copying my sister. That’s honestly what directed me to my original major in chemistry and my pre-med courses. Then as I shadowed doctors, volunteered abroad, took anatomy classes, and got involved in research I fell in love with medicine and started exploring my own path toward a career in healthcare. I decided to major in public health and really get a well rounded idea about how the health system works and how to best care for people in many different contexts while also taking biochemistry courses to understand the basic science behind our treatment choices. Every step of the way my curiosity was never quenched and that’s what I love about the career that I’ve chosen.
Tell me about your experience through applying and interviewing for medical school…
Applying to medical school is very stressful. You basically have to document all the “activities” you’ve participated in for the last four years and justify why they were important in your path to medicine. While doing that, you are tasked with painting an interesting and unique picture of that path in order to gain an interview. For me, the interview process was much less stressful. I love talking to people about things I’m passionate about and medicine and healthcare are definitely some of those things.
What has been the most stressful part of medical school?
Medical school is stressful because you are constantly expected to do new things, in new places, with new supervisors. For example, I am on a rotation now where I work with a different physician in a different specialty and at a different clinic every day of the week. In addition, the computer systems and documentation is slightly different at each of those sites. Everyone has different expectations for you as a student and will evaluate your performance based on those expectations. For someone that considers themselves a people pleaser, I hate to feel like I can’t always live up to those expectations. Once you accept that you are there first as a learner and second as a caregiver, it makes things much easier.
What advice would you give to someone applying to medical school?
On your applications, just try to show who you are as a person. Everyone applying has done the same standard things like volunteer at a hospital, done basic science research, and shadowed physicians, on top of having great grades and scores, so it’s really important to paint a deeper picture than just those activities and numbers. For interviews, just be yourself. Loosen up and show them that you’re someone they would want to work with. Finally, don’t get discouraged. So many people have to apply two and three times and if this is something you really want to do, you can do it.
What are your top financial concerns you have faced through your journey to medical school?
I can’t really come up with a top financial concern because in general finances are just a big concern for me. I have never had any kind of income because I have always been a student. I participated in so many activities and jobs in college but because so many people want to go to medical school and want these positions to build their resumes, they are unpaid. Last summer I worked a full time job on a research project and received zero compensation besides the great connections that I made and the journal publication that I authored. It’s certainly stressful to spend money that you are borrowing, especially on social activities, but honestly it’s so necessary to stay sane and stay motivated.
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White Coat Wellness podcast producer and Marketing Director of Spaugh Dameron Tenny. Molly is passionate about connecting with people, digital marketing, and serving her community. Reach out to her if you have blog topic or podcast ideas.
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