With the advent of the fall semester, deadlines for medical school applications are quickly approaching. Nearly every soon-to-be-graduate pre-med student has been frantically doting upon the bevy of qualifications needed to prove to admissions committees that they are worth the investment of an education. While the coming months may prove stressful and trying, it is no doubt encouraging knowing that other students who have previously faced the same struggles managed to rise to the occasion and are now well on their way to being able to someday say, “I practice medicine.” One such former student is William Sessions, a former Chief of Operations for the Pioneer and a ’13 graduate of the BME program, who is currently enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.
When William first came to Tech, his decision to join the biomedical engineering program was influenced by his father being a mechanical engineer by trade and also by the positive influence that doctors and practitioners had upon him throughout his life. According to him, completion of the program imparted upon him a problem-solving mindset that was highly applicable to solving issues in clinical settings and also sharpened his critical thinking skills. However, the substance of the coursework at medical school did catch him by surprise. When he first started attending classes, he expected quite a bit of integration of mathematical tools and engineering concepts, saying that “BME is a lot of problem solving, a lot of learning concepts, and then applying them. Medical school on the other hand, it’s a lot of memorization of facts that you just need to know.” William admitted that he did find it a little odd at first not being able to apply his strength in mathematics and engineering and expected it to actually be easier. On the contrary, he ended up having to go through the material many times over to be able to absorb everything. To further accentuate the difference, William recalled the following: “The first week of class, everyone showed up to class with a spiral notebook. By the third week, everyone had brought tablets and laptops to type on because of the sheer amount of information. What might have worked in undergrad just doesn’t work here.”
In spite of the differences in course material, William does credit his undergraduate education quite a bit in helping him to succeed at medical school. Topics such as physiology and cell biology which he underestimated in his undergraduate career turned out to be a major boon for him in absorbing the more in-depth physiology knowledge. He also credits the workload at Tech to helping him adjust to the volume of work presented at medical school. To any aspiring medical school students, he offers the following advice: “Be wise with your time management and your study schedule. Make sure to read before class and take notes on the power-points themselves. What really helped me out was shifting my study time to before and after class – it was a huge adjustment but it made a big difference.”
In the end, while William appreciates how Tech prepared him for the busy life at medical school, he does wish that he had done a few things differently in his undergraduate career – namely, appreciating the free time that the undergraduate experience had to offer. “We are all doing what we love”, he says “and I was enjoying what I was doing but in the end it was just another step that I took to get somewhere else.” Regardless, he is still glad he was able to experience so many things while at Tech such as storming the field after the homecoming game against Clemson in 2012. Even with his busy schedule at medical school, he still finds time to do other things: “I live next to a golf course and there’s always Ultimate Frisbee on Saturdays. I also enjoy reading fiction or interesting nonfiction and, of course, there’s Tech football!”
At the end of the day, while medical school is challenging, William still relishes how rewarding the experience has been and undoubtedly will be. For all those close to embarking on the next chapter of their journey towards a career in medicine, William’s experience should no doubt serve as motivation and a reminder for how the hard work put in now will someday pay off.