NSHSS Member Ton La, Jr. has known from an early age that his purpose in life is to help people. Volunteering at his local hospital led him to pursue a career in medicine. He is currently a second-year MD/JD student at Baylor College of Medicine, and he shares his insight into what medical school is really like. It’s just as demanding as you would expect, but it’s also just as rewarding.
Q: What is the first year of medical school like? What can new students expect?
Medicine is lifelong learning and the marathon starts from day 1 of medical school. On a typical day, lectures are from morning to afternoon with occasional labs (anatomy). Now, I see patients every day with lecture one afternoon a week.
Q: What has been your favorite medical school experience so far?
Seeing patients is the most gratifying part of medical school. As a student, you get to know your patients literally inside and out by taking their history and conducting the physical exam. I am making a difference in their care and that alone is what makes this journey worth all of the blood, sweat, and tears. I am not just studying to pass a test, I am studying to excel and to gain knowledge that I will apply to the care of my patients.
Q: What has been your most challenging medical school moment so far? What did it teach you?
I wouldn't say it is a challenging aspect for me personally, but being a medical student equates to you being a professional 24/7. You must be weary of how you conduct yourself off campus grounds, what you post on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and how you present yourself to people not in the medical field.
This is a small world and everyone knows someone that could be related to you in some form or fashion. In short, don't say or do anything online or in person that you would not want your parents to find out about it. Perhaps none of this makes sense right now, but once you are in professional school it will.
Q: Do you have any tips or advice for students applying for medical school?
A science major has as much of a chance of being accepted to medical school as a music major. In fact, schools are looking for students who stand apart from the crowd. Yes, this can be accomplished by high numbers (MCAT, GPA, honors, etc.), but nowadays everyone has checked off that box.
You need to show your genuine interest in medicine by volunteering, becoming involved in leadership organizations such as the American Medical Student Association (which I have been involved since freshman year of college and I'm now a national officer), NSHSS, apply for the Youth Assembly at the United Nations, do something innovative, etc.
And most importantly, write your personal statement, revise it, write it again, and repeat. The personal statement is your interview on paper and schools place a heavy emphasis on this component of the application. Finally, apply to medical school if and only if this is your dream and aspiration.
NSHSS Member Ton La, Jr. (T.J.) is a second-year MD/JD student at Baylor College of Medicine and a Summa cum laude and Collegiate Honors graduate of the University of Houston. Since high school, he has volunteered over 1000 hours at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Currently, he is an Editorial Advisory Board member of the American Medical Student Association The New Physician magazine since May 2015.
Outside of school, Ton is a pianist and a 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo and Hapkido. Previously at the University of Houston, he represented the U.S. during the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Caen, France and most of all helped lay the groundwork for the first Texas public Campus Kitchen chapter as an affiliate of the Bonner Leaders Program.
As part of NSHSS, he spoke at Rice University to members and their families, was a scholarship recipient, and also a student council member. More about Ton can be found at his University of Houston profile and his YouTube channel