SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Every year a handful of students are accepted to the George Washington University’s Seven-Year B.A./M.D. Program. What that means is that seniors in high school who know that they want to attend medical school after earning their undergraduate degrees apply to this highly selective program and earn both degrees in a shortened period of time. We know, it’s pretty crazy-impressive. We had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Payette, a member of this program, recent GWU undergrad alum, and current first year GWU Medical School student. He gave us the low-down on what it takes to get academic work done while balancing work responsibilities and personal time. While it’s no easy feat, Chris somehow manages it all and does it with a genuine smile on his face. From sharing his successful-study-secrets to details about his semester abroad in South Africa, Chris is without a doubt seizing his youth and making the most of every opportunity.

Name: Chris Payette
Age: 21
Education: B.S. from the George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences | The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
Follow: LinkedIn

Carpe Juvenis: How would you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Chris Payette: Doing whatever you need to do right now that will set you up to be doing what you want to be doing later, whether it’s in the immediate now or in the future. So for me I think it’s much more for the future. Obviously right now I don’t necessarily want to be spending all of my time in the library studying, but – and I know this might sound slightly morbid – it’s a means to an end.

And also to make time for yourself and your friends and family. When you’re trying to make things the best for you, sometimes you don’t necessarily think about the whole picture, and other people’s happiness. But I think that it’s important to make time for the people you care about.

CJ: You knew from a young age that you wanted to study medicine, but what would you say to someone who doesn’t know what his or her passion is yet?

CP: Do everything. I do everything and it’s interesting because even though I’m in medical school I feel like there are so many other things I could do and be totally happy with. And it’s nice to know that even though I have a set path, there are so many other things I would be super happy to do. I’ve worked at restaurants for a while now, and I know that if anything ever happened with the medical stuff I would be happy waiting tables. I think that not having a diverse experience limits you. By trying a little bit of everything you can find what you like, and if you don’t know yet then you should keep trying everything.

CJ: What tools do you use to keep yourself organized and on track?

CP: Notability. iCalendar. Honestly so many. I try to reevaluate where I’m at and where I need to be at the end of every day, just so I can know where I am for the week, where I am for the month, where I am for my next exam, where I am for the next social event I want to go to. For example if I have a lot of friends in town and I know that I’ll want to set aside Saturday and Sunday to just see people, I’ll do extra schoolwork during the week based on how my overall schedule looks.

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CJ: How do you prepare for medical school exams?

CP: First I go through all of my lecture notes individually. I compile all of the “learning objectives” from each lecture and sort them into files based on what I think would be best to study together. Then I go through each learning objective and I add in everything pertinent from the lecture into one lengthy document. I include images as well. I go back to that document about two weeks before an exam and transcribe that onto one hand-written page. That page is what I use up until the exam to study – I really condense the information.

I use so many tools for this process – my suite of Microsoft tools, my Apple tools, my favorite Sharpie fine point pens and white printer paper. I just started using this system in med school and it’s been going really well. It’s good because it makes me first synthesize the data, and then condense it and get the most important pieces from it. That study sheet is when I really have to master the material, because one sheet can take one to two hours to make. A lot of it is just planning.

CJ: You went into college knowing that you would also be going to medical school – did you ever have moments of panic/anxiety about that decision? How did you overcome that?

CP: I get really excited about things. So there will be times when I get excited about one thing and think “I want to pursue that! That should be my job!” And knowing that it wouldn’t be, since I was already accepted into medical school, was weird sometimes. I went into high school in a magnet science program, so basically by eighth grade I was already committing to medicine. Which is good because I’ve always known that this would be my path, but it’s also challenging to think that in undergrad had I not already been accepted to medical school, might my path have totally changed?

I think for me personally it’s good that I have that structure, and I think that at the same time it gave me the freedom to have those moments of exploring other things because I knew that once I was in medical school I would have required responsibilities. So for example my research in undergrad was totally unrelated to medicine, my jobs were unrelated to medicine, volunteering was not clinical at all. I didn’t do one clinical thing at all in undergrad. So I had that time and ability to purposefully explore while I had the opportunity.

CJ: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

CP: Wow, I don’t know. That’s tough. One big thing that has always stuck with me is that my dad always tells me that regardless of being on the medical track, I can still do whatever I want. I think that a lot of people are pushed in one way by their parents, but my parents’ professions are not medically related at all. So it’s nice knowing that if at any time I don’t want to do what I’m doing anymore, hearing that out loud from my parents has helped me feel a little bit freer. Just knowing that I can pursue whatever I want in my career has been very comforting.

CJ: What advice would you give to a freshman starting the same 7-year program you are part of?

CP: Do everything that you want to do. You’re already accepted to medical school, you have your future laid out, so right now is your time to travel and see your friends and family. It’s your time to make art, go outside, be able to do stupid things and ask for guidance. That’s another thing – not that there’s no guidance when you graduate, but when you’re in undergrad there are built-in systems of support to hold your hand and help you get through college. So seek help, get mentors. There are no office hours when you graduate. The only office you’ll get to go to once you graduate is your boss’.

CJ: How did you get involved with Street Sense as in intern?

CP: I took a lot of service learning course at GWU because one of the things that’s expected of you going into the medical field is to always have volunteer experience. I like doing service learning because it’s was a really easy way to integrate that into my life and schedule. During my last year of undergrad I took an urban sociology class and that’s how I got connected with Street Sense. From there we created a role where I was in charge of social media. So I worked not only with the people who sell the newspaper, but also with the administrative back end. I really liked it so I stayed a little bit longer after the semester ended and worked with them in a larger capacity. It was an amazing experience – you get to meet a lot of really interesting people when you’re working with the homeless community.

CJ: What is your favorite book?

CP: Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk.

CJ: Despite being in a shortened 3 year undergraduate program, you still made the time to study abroad in South Africa – what compelled you to make the choice and how has it influenced you?

CP: I went to South Africa the summer after I did a GWU orientation program. The summer had been a lot of DC and a lot of GWU. It just felt like too much. I needed to spend the semester away, so I applied to go abroad. And I decided very last minute – my parents mailed me my passport the week before applications were due. I really just needed a semester away to experience somewhere different and travel without doing it during the summer. I followed my instinct to go somewhere. I would go back in a heartbeat – I’m already trying. Certain programs at my school require you to travel and work abroad, so I definitely think ill go back at some point.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

CP: It depends. My schedule varies day to day because of classes. Some days I’ll go to class at 8AM and end around 6PM, even 8PM. Other days I have independent study so I’ll wake up, make a cup of coffee, sit in my living rom and study. I’ll usually stay after class in the library most days just to do a little extra. I also work at Cove because I can get work done, and at a restaurant some nights. I try to have most of what I’m doing planned out a few weeks in advanced.

CJ: What advice would you give your 17-year-old self?

CP: Start exercising now, because when you’re 21 your metabolism will stop. And also do whatever you want. But seriously, exercise. I took a health class freshman year and one of our assignments was to make a behavior change. Mine was to start running, and I’ve been running ever since.

Chris Payette Qs

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

It’s difficult to not think of Max Levine when we consider what it means to Seize Your Youth. Not too long ago we ran into Max at four in the afternoon on a Saturday, having just got off of his 24 hour shift as an EMT for the George Washington University Hospital. Despite his sleepless day, he was vibrant and excited to share what he had just spent the last 24 hours doing. It goes without saying that this is a person whose passion is contagious, and we are excited to share his experiences and advice with you. As a pre-med student at GWU, Max knows what it means to commit blood (literally), sweat, and tears into achieving his dreams.

Name: Max Levine
Age: 21
Education: B.S. in Biology and Spanish from the George Washington University
Discover: EMeRG

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Max Levine: I would define seizing your youth as recognizing the times when it’s okay to not care about the future or really anything in general and just do what you want to do.

CJ: What has been the most unexpected aspect of college?

ML: The most surprising part of college has been working as an EMT as a student. I never would have thought that this was even a possibility never mind something that I would take up as a hobby.

CJ: What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

ML: Mostly class and an urgent need to urinate. That and morning breath that even offends me.

CJ: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

ML: Do what needs to be done, but do whatever makes you happy.

CJ: What has been your favorite college class so far? Why?

ML: My freshman University Writing course called “American Myth Through Western Film.” This class was awesome. All we did was watch sweet old western movies and then write papers about them. Our final project was to make up our own plot for a film and then write a brief summary of what the movie would be. It was fantastic.

CJ: What does a day in your life look like?

ML: It starts with four scrambled eggs and some cold water ( I can’t stand room temperature water.) Shower, dress myself with pretty little thought regarding color/pattern coordination. I’ll usually go to class and end up skipping lunch. Then I’ll either go to EMeRG shift, the parasite lab, or then go do homework and end up going to sleep around 12.

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CJ: How did you get involved in parasitology? What are the benefits and difficulties with that work?

ML: The parasitology class is offered to undergrads and I took it for my major. I ended up volunteering in the lab because I needed some lab experience for medical school and ended up loving the people I met there. The benefits are incredible. I have been given many projects to work on that are getting me invaluable experience in research methods and lab work in general. I am getting published by the end of this semester and will be looking to get a phenomenal recommendation from my professor as well. The difficulties of the lab include the time commitment and the general frustration of failing science experiments however I would hardly say that these are difficulties. The pros outweigh the cons by a long shot.

CJ: What advice would you give to incoming freshman who want to be pre-med in college?

I would say to not worry about the other pre-med kids because they’re usually pretty obnoxious and will do anything to let you know when they’ve succeeded and you’ve failed. Get out and do other things and learn how to be a social human being. Although grades are important, you won’t be a good doctor unless you genuinely know how to talk to and relate to people in a sincere manner. Also be open to other options, there are plenty of other things to do for jobs in the BIO field, not just medicine.

CJ: You spent a summer working at hospitals in Chile. Could you please tell us more about that experience and how it influenced you?

ML: I worked in both a public and private hospital in Santiago, Chile for 3 months. The private hospital was much like any modernized hospital you would find in the US, just in Spanish. Working here, I had the privilege of observing numerous operations that ranged from gastrointestinal procedures to vascular complications. These were the best surgeons and doctors in the country (possibly the continent) operating in this hospital.

The public hospital was in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of Santiago that treated about 1.5 million patients a year and was named the busiest public hospital in Chile. The building itself was an old tuberculosis asylum that was converted into a hospital and the majority of people that come are pretty short on cash. I had met a younger doctor at the private hospital that was also doing rotations at the public hospital so I would go with him to and from shift. Here I was able to get my hands dirty, so to speak, and I learned how to give stitches and was fortunately able to participate/assist in a range of surgical procedures. This included appendectomies, cholecystectomies (gallbladder removal), one leg amputation, and a handful of other procedures. The leg amputation was the most memorable by far simply due to the gravity of what was going on. A woman with severe diabetes had neglected an infection in her leg, which had led to the necrosis of the majority of her lower limb. We amputated the leg from just above the knee in order to saver her life. It was a powerful and surreal experience that I will never forget. I won’t get too graphic with this but the most profound moment was the moment the leg was cut free. I had been holding the leg in a fixed position from the start of the operation and as it detached, I remember holding the leg and just looking at it and taking in what was in my hands and what this meant for the woman who had lost this limb. It’s hard to say how this has affected me, however I know for sure that this will be a lasting memory.

CJ: You are double majoring with Biology and Spanish. Can you explain why and if it’s been worth it?

ML: I have been taking Spanish since the 6th grade. I can’t imagine my life without the ability to use Spanish in some way shape or form. Additionally, Spanish is a really useful language to know in this country and has helped me in the medical setting, being able to communicate with Spanish speaking patients. On more than one occasion I have had to use Spanish on a call with EMeRG and even more so in Chile. Learning Spanish has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and the Spanish/ South American culture is definitely a prominent part of who I am today.

CJ: Between academics, working in the research lab, working as an EMT, and spending time on yourself, how do you juggle it all?

ML: There are three categories in college and everyone can only choose two. They are: Social life, Sleep, Good Grades. I have chosen to have a social life and “good grades” (in my case just study a lot and get okay grades) and I don’t really sleep a ton. I take medication for ADHD every day and it’s an amphetamine, which helps to keep me awake during the days (don’t worry it’s prescribed). I’m also just used to being tired all the time so little sleep isn’t a huge deal.

CJ: What is your favorite city?

ML: Boston. Hands down the best city on the planet. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and it’s a city with a great personality and is more personal that New York.

CJ: What’s your favorite book?

ML: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

CJ: What advice would you give to your 15-year-old self?

ML: Don’t let high school get you down and don’t worry about your social status. The kids who peak in high school get what’s coming to them in college and don’t really amount to a whole lot. Don’t worry about what’s ahead; go run around without a wallet, cell phone or keys while you can because those days are long gone now.

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EducationSkills

We all know (and fear) the mass of college loans that await us at the end of our four years, so why not save a little money when it comes to shopping for your dorm? What do you really need to survive your four years? It can be tricky to narrow it down when it feels like you need everything and anything for being on your own for the first time. Here’s a generic list of things I believe are worth having when staying on campus:

  1. Bed Products: Two words: Twin XL. Make sure your sheets fit the bed that your school is providing you with! You can get away with full sheets if you tuck them in or a twin comforter since they’re made longer in order to hang over the edge of your bed. I also recommend getting a mattress pad and bed bug protector. No matter where you go, those beds aren’t going to be as comfortable as the one in your room at home, and it’s always better to take precautions rather than not. Also, bed risers can be a life saver when it comes to under bed storage. Don’t forget to load your bed up with some comfy (and cute) pillows!
  1. Desk Products: Putting aside your standard school supplies, there are some items you’re going to need to have in and on your desk at school. One of the most important things is a lamp. You’re going to want to have proper lighting for all your studying and late night surfing the web endeavors! Which comes to my next necessity; a laptop. It’s an unavoidable need to have to get you through all you classes whether to help you with cramming for that big exam or writing that research paper due at the end of the term. Also, remember to have lots of containers and bins to organize your supplies in your desk draws! As for personalizing your desk, consider having a few nicely framed pictures and a mirror so that you can avoid trying to do your makeup in the bathroom in the morning; it’ll truly be a life saver!
  1. Medicine/First-Aid: I highly recommend having a homemade first aid kit handy somewhere in your dorm. You can keep Band-Aids, Neosporin, Advil, Tums, sterilizing wipes, and any other medical items you may need as the year goes on.
  1. Beauty Products: All things under the categories of makeup and hygiene come into play in this category!
  1. Bathroom Products: Whether you’re sharing a suite or using a communal bathroom, it’s always a smart idea to have a shower caddy. It makes bringing all your bathroom necessities from your room to the bathroom so much easier. Some other generic necessities include towels, shampoo and conditioner, and all your mouth hygiene needs!
  1. Miscellaneous: There is a list of items that I recommend that don’t necessarily fit under one particular category, but come in handy nonetheless:
  • Batteries: There’s always going to be something you have that needs batteries and having them hidden in a draw somewhere will save you lots of time when you do!
  • Full Length Mirror: You have to be able to check your outfit before going out in public, right?
  • Trash Can: Self-explanatory.
  • Laundry Bag: Save yourself the trouble of attempting to lug all your dirty clothes with the stereotypical overflowing pile in your arms.
  • Umbrella: Rain or shine, you’ll be stuck walking to class.
  • Tissues: Commonly forgotten and always needed whether it’s to fend off that common cold or clean up a quick spill!
  • Backpack: A life saver when it comes to lugging your books from class to class.
  • Paper Plates: Easily disposable and a great way to keep your room from being littered with crumbs!
  • Sewing Kit: Usually overlooked, but you really never know when a sewing kit can save the day!
  • Flashlight: If there’s a power outage, you’re not going to want to waste your cell phone battery to guide your way around.
  • Garbage Bags: These will make your life so much easier when it comes to emptying out your trash can!
  • Mini Fridge: There is going to be food that you’ll want to have that need to be refrigerated (or those leftovers from dinner last night).

Happy dorm shopping!