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Education Pathway for wanna be Surgeon


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Interested in other homeschool graduates pathways into medicine

My 12 yo wants to be a surgeon, has had her heart set on this since before she started school, so this isn't just a phase. I'm mapping out her education for the next few years and wanting to be sure we are covering everything we need to so she is prepared to go to University and be accepted in Medicine as soon as she is ready. What skills are good to be focusing on for this year and the rest of high school? What curriculum and levels should we be working through?

Currently she is using:

  • Saxon math 8/7
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Visual Latin 1
  • Essentials in Writing 7
  • Sonlight Core F history and literature.

Don't want to get to the end of high school and find out there were skills we could have been developing all this time and therefore it will now take several years of catch up work before she can even get into medicine.

I would love to hear of any skills we can begin focusing on now.

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My dd is currently in med school. Though she was homeschooled through 8th grade, she graduated from public school.  She didn't take any specific high school classes to help her get into med school, but she did take all the upper level math and science classes her high school offered, and scored very well on the SAT. She also had opportunities to shadow some friends who were in the medical field.  

Your goal will be to help her get into a solid university that will be able to help  her get into the medical field. Having a solid understanding of science and math will help her in her undergrad classes. If possible, she should also have something to distinguish herself from other grads, something academic, athletic, or community service oriented. In my dd's case, she excelled at debate.

I can't speak specifically to homeschool grades because I don't have experience there, but I believe  scores or grades from outside sources will make acceptance into undergrad easier. So maybe she can take some community college or university classes while still in high school. (Be aware if you do this that those grades will be included in her university level gpa.) 

Don't overthink this. It's good to have a focus, but what she does as an undergrad will have a greater impact on her ability to get into med school than what she does in high school. 

Good luck to you and your dd!

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I also wonder if there are opportunities to work on fine motor and spatial skills?  Those seem like they'd be pretty crucial for a surgeon, as well as generally high academics and being particularly strong in math and science?

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34 minutes ago, Terabith said:

I also wonder if there are opportunities to work on fine motor and spatial skills?  Those seem like they'd be pretty crucial for a surgeon, as well as generally high academics and being particularly strong in math and science?

I didn't think about that as my dd won't be a surgeon, though she did have to learn how to make and tie knots. But my dh's niece went through dental school and one of her big tests was using spatial skills. I think she played Tetris and another game to practice.

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5 hours ago, Flowergirl159 said:

Interested in other homeschool graduates pathways into medicine

My 12 yo wants to be a surgeon, has had her heart set on this since before she started school, so this isn't just a phase. I'm mapping out her education for the next few years and wanting to be sure we are covering everything we need to so she is prepared to go to University and be accepted in Medicine as soon as she is ready. What skills are good to be focusing on for this year and the rest of high school? What curriculum and levels should we be working through?

Currently she is using:

  • Saxon math 8/7
  • Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Visual Latin 1
  • Essentials in Writing 7
  • Sonlight Core F history and literature.

Don't want to get to the end of high school and find out there were skills we could have been developing all this time and therefore it will now take several years of catch up work before she can even get into medicine.

I would love to hear of any skills we can begin focusing on now.

First, explore and love the world of academia, the intellectual life, research.  

Medical school admissions requirements have changed and may change again, so like a PP said, don't over think this.  I want to say she should take AP chemistry, but I'm not even sure if chemistry will continue to be a requirement.   Take challenging courses all through high school and learn to study.   

Build strong skills in:

  • mathematics
  • science
  • communications: writing and speaking
  • reading and self-study
  • foreign language (any foreign language is fine, but preferably a living language...you're going to speaking to actual alive patients, not dead Romans)
  • computer science and AI

Finally, do a deep dive into an area of interest.  Maybe it's fiction-writing or robotics or computer science (especially computer science) or sociology.  Medicine has room for all types and needs all types.  Latin is fine too, if that's what she loves.  (I was sorta kidding before, but not really.)  

There is no physical test for surgeons.   I would argue they aren't necessarily any more dextrous than a regular person.   You learn the techniques during residency, a long time from now.  For all we know your student will be operating a robot rather than doing her own surgery.  

Surgeons are more ambitious and work harder than regular people.  They study harder, work harder, and are just more willing to give what it takes to reach their goals.  

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4 hours ago, wilrunner said:

Don't overthink this. It's good to have a focus, but what she does as an undergrad will have a greater impact on her ability to get into med school than what she does in high school. 

I agree about the overthinking.  😉  I don't know what things will be like when your daughter is an undergraduate, but these days medicine is fairly competitive.   Colleges often have weed out classes, like chemistry, to discourage students from continuing on the premed track.  Your student needs to hit the ground running freshman year.  Good luck!  My dd is also planning to apply to med school.  I'm hoping she'll get an MPH or something.   

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I don’t have experience with a child graduating yet, but I do have two friends who were homeschooled themselves and are now doctors. One did a very rigorous math and science curriculum. I don’t know the specifics of what she did, but I know she was working at advanced levels far beyond what her public school peers were doing. The other just did a pretty standard Christian curriculum, like Abeka. 

One out of the box idea...besides focusing on all the STEM stuff, maybe really focus on character traits, too. I say that as someone who had a couple surgeries several years ago. The first doctor had a horrible bedside manner and was honestly not a good or kind person. (It was an emergency surgery and I had no say in who did the procedure.) Besides messing up the surgery and causing me all sorts of problems, she also traumatized me with her behavior. When I had to have a second surgery to fix her mistakes, the second surgeon was kind, considerate, and reassuring. He made special accommodations for me and made me feel like he cared about me as a person. It made all the difference in the world.

Of course, I’m sure your daughter is a wonderful person, and I’m projecting my own experience here. But I feel like volunteering, empathy building, strengthening social-emotional intelligence, etc. will never hurt anyone! 

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I’m not a dr, but I did marry one during his med school, so got to know a number of different MDs in training. They all had very different HS experiences (all the AP sciences for some, none for others from rural areas), and undergraduate majors (zoology to engineering to humanities, they all obviously took the same pre med requirements, but there was diversity in their actual majors).  

The important thing for all of them was getting into competitive colleges and making top grades there, which got them into a top med school, which in turn opened up top fellowships. HS was really just a vehicle to get into college—actual coursework wasn’t that important...that was all done in college. 
 

So demonstrating rigor in HS and really working on study skills is very important. There will be many many hours of studying—she will have to figure out the techniques that work for her to assimilate vast amounts of information efficiently. Also writing skills, especially technical writing. I edited many journal articles during my husband’s fellowship and....the fellows could have used a few good writing classes in HS or undergrad. 
 

It would be useful, perhaps, to speak with some surgeons, if possible (especially female surgeons) to get a taste for what the lifestyle is like. 

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How about providing opportunities for her to grow her understanding of what being a surgeon means and feels like?  I'm thinking non-academic things like doing a first aid course, volunteering at an animal shelter (potential opportunities to be in the room and assist in small ways with c-sections, desexing, euthanizing), reading bios of medical folks (that very old Ben Carson one, Gifted Hands, is the only one that comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others!).  I'm not in the States, but in my country the interview is as important as your test results for getting in, and they want to see that you understand what you're signing up for, have a clear and compelling reason that will help you stick it out when the training gets really tough, and relate well to people (because you're an MD first and only later decide whether to be a surgeon or GP or whatever other specialty).

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I was not homeschooled so I can’t speak to that piece, but I have a lot of medical education so I can speak to that. 

When I saw Latin on your list, I was thinking it would be one of the most helpful things you could do. It would make the medical vocabulary easier. Although just root study may be good enough. I did not have Latin or root study and was fine during premed and a Medical Technology program and chiropractic school, but it would have helped.

Both dentistry and surgery require extremely good fine motor skills. If she isn’t good in that I’m sure it could be improved, but there are people who are so bad they probably shouldn’t consider those professions. As a medical technologist, I had a coworker who had to drop out of dental school because he just didn’t have the fine motor skills.

There are lots of specialties that don’t require that and medical school will still be appropriate for them.

When I was in high school I joined a group that was for students interested in going to medical school. I thought that was both helpful and intimidating. I remember a med school student telling us that she had to study for 8 hours for a single test. In high school, I didn’t study much and that seemed impossible. By the time I actually got to chiropractic school, it was not unusual to have to study for 24 hours for a single test. By then I was used to it and it was totally doable.

In premed, organic chemistry is considered the largest roadblock or failure point. It was the hardest undergraduate course for me too. I got through it, but in retrospect, I’m not sure now what would have helped. Calculus in undergrad was another class that was challenging for me.

Being good at rote memorization was a major plus for it all and being a good test taker. Practicing recall is a major key to being a good test taker. I can not stress the importance of that last point enough.

I am completely awesome at test taking and practicing recall is mostly why.  My formula was to read a paragraph, close my eyes and see if I could recall it, doing that through every paragraph of assigned reading and reading the material that way three times.

 

 

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Just because my recall methods worked for me, doesn’t mean they are a necessity. My husband was in chiropractic school with me, although a year ahead of me, and he studied with friends a lot. I could never do that, but that was what worked for him. He is much more social than I am. He and his friends studied from notes from class rather than assigned reading material. He graduated with honors.

An undergraduate degree in medical technology was a huge advantage for me, partly because med tech school is a little like “miniature medical school.” 

When I was in med tech school I worked in the hospital lab and medical students would rotate through. I remember one who had been through the med tech program first and she had a 4.0 so far in medical school. Both the salutatorian and the valedictorian of my chiropractic college class, which was me, had an undergraduate degree in medical technology.

My first semester of premed, I remember my biology professor telling us it was a weed out class. I remember thinking, “I wonder if I am a weed?” That actually might have been the first day of that class. When I got an A in it, I figured   I wasn’t a weed. Haha.

I actually got an A in every undergrad class except for calculus and organic chemistry, and I got a C in both of them. I think that speaks to the relative difficulty of them compared to other classes, at least for me.

Sorry I jumped around a lot. This stuff was 30+ years ago.

 

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17 hours ago, drjuliadc said:

When I saw Latin on your list, I was thinking it would be one of the most helpful things you could do. It would make the medical vocabulary easier. Although just root study may be good enough. I did not have Latin or root study and was fine during premed and a Medical Technology program and chiropractic school, but it would have helped.

 

I hear this a lot, but it wasn't my personal experience.  If you don't already know the difference between superior and inferior, proximal and distal, renal and pulmonary just from every day experience and reading, then med school probably isn't a good choice.  

I found vocabulary and nomenclature to be such a small part of medical school, I don't think Latin is worth your time.  OTOH, we have many patients in the US who do not speak English, so having fluency, especially in a language in your local area (Spanish, Cantonese?) will be very helpful.   

Although maybe I should ask, how did Latin give you an advantage that other med students lacked?  

If you want to get a head start on something, learn how a kidney works.  Yikes.  

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3 hours ago, daijobu said:

I hear this a lot, but it wasn't my personal experience.  If you don't already know the difference between superior and inferior, proximal and distal, renal and pulmonary just from every day experience and reading, then med school probably isn't a good choice.  

I found vocabulary and nomenclature to be such a small part of medical school, I don't think Latin is worth your time.  OTOH, we have many patients in the US who do not speak English, so having fluency, especially in a language in your local area (Spanish, Cantonese?) will be very helpful.   

Although maybe I should ask, how did Latin give you an advantage that other med students lacked?  

If you want to get a head start on something, learn how a kidney works.  Yikes.  

Mine either, and me too. 

(Though, I did have a little pleasurable a-ha! moment with certain drug names (epinephrine and adrenaline) while studying word roots with my kids as a homeschool mom.  Epi-nephron and ad-renal  =  on the kidney.  Epinephrine/adrenaline = a hormone made by the adrenal gland, which sits, wait for it, on the kidney.  Ah!  I knew this, of course, but hadn't previously consciously connected epinephrine and adrenaline with their root words for some reason.  Didn't hurt me any in med school or in practice)

OP, medical schools want high-performing, well-rounded candidates.  Specific "pre-med" academic tracks aren't necessary.  It doesn't really matter what you major in for university, as long as you are a very competitive student, and have extra-curriculars/life-experience/leadership.community engagement that will help you stand out.  Pre-requisites vary by school.  Some schools have traditional pre-req requirements (biology, chemistry, physics), and some have no specific pre-recs at all.  The trend has been to move away from traditional pre-recs, and I don't have any reason to believe that that trend won't continue (ETA true both in Canada and USA).

For middle school and high school, I'd suggest that you put your energy into fostering rigorous academics and meaningful community engagement/leadership experiences.  The details of which subjects or what specific extra-curriculars don't really matter much, I don't think.  In fact, an unusual path might help her to stand out.

ETA - I'm not a surgeon; the lifestyle didn't appeal to me.  My post is focused on med school.  Also, I'm Canadian.  The medical training systems and admission processes are much the same here as in USA.

 

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She’ll want fluency in a foreign language. In the USA that likely means Spanish. 

You could get her one of those placemats with the human bones now.  It seems like half of anatomy & physiology is learning the bones.

She also needs to be really good at chemistry.

She’ll want to take as many AP exams in non-science subjects as you can give her.  This will give her time for a college semester abroad to solidify Spamish, and time for research jobs in college while simultaneously getting straight A’s.

Check into her taking EMT/paramedic programs in high school.  In some areas you can start this at 16, in others you must be 18.

You might consider having her apply for universities with medical schools in your area, if she can get into an honors program she may be guaranteed a job helping with research. That’s very important for med school applications.  

There are a fair amount of doctors with Youtube channels now. She might enjoy watching them for fun. 

ETA:  I’m not a doctor, I went back to school for nursing. I do have three doctors in my family, one of whom is a professor of medicine.

Edited by Katy
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10 hours ago, wathe said:

 

(Though, I did have a little pleasurable a-ha! moment with certain drug names (epinephrine and adrenaline) while studying word roots with my kids as a homeschool mom.  Epi-nephron and ad-renal  =  on the kidney.  Epinephrine/adrenaline = a hormone made by the adrenal gland, which sits, wait for it, on the kidney.  Ah!  I knew this, of course, but hadn't previously consciously connected epinephrine and adrenaline with their root words for some reason.  Didn't hurt me any in med school or in practice)

So true!  I also remember having this epiphany!  But it's not like your lack of etymology interfered with remembering the location of the adrenal gland.  "Now where is the adrenal again?  Left ankle?  Nape of neck?"

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