Pre-medical undergrads are in the middle of a crisis — depression and anxiety threaten the present and future mental health of pre-med students.
The establishment of a mentorship program between undergraduates and students at Dell Medical School would help curb the anxiety that plagues the pre-med community at UT.
Throughout their time as undergrads, pre-med students have to do a lot to build their medical school applications. They must satisfy prerequisites required by med schools, in addition to classes required by their majors. They must maintain near-perfect grades in all of these classes — 31 percent of accepted applicants to Texas medical and dental schools had GPAs in the 3.91–4.00 range, with the average accepted GPA at 3.69. They must accomplish all of this while studying for the MCAT, working on research, volunteering around the community, shadowing doctors and seeking out leadership positions on campus.
With all of these responsibilities demanding most, if not all of their time, it’s no wonder pre-med students report some of the highest rates of major depressive disorders in undergraduates. Nicole Delgado, a pre-physician’s assistant student, recounts her struggle to find balance within such a rigorous academic culture.
“You need to shadow, you need to get perfect grades,” biology junior Delgado said. “I think it’s really hard for the average or even above-average student to do all these things and maintain a good, healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally.”
While resources such as the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center and the Health Professions Office are widely available to pre-med students, Delgado cites her peers as the most valuable resource. In the same vein, she thinks a partnership with students from Dell Medical School would be a tremendous asset to all pre-health students on campus.
“For pre-med students, having a mentor who has been through the process … and achieved the goal you’re trying to achieve is helpful in so many ways,” said Zaara Qasim, a Dell Medical freshman.
Talking to medical students could also alleviate some of the insecurities and anxieties pre-med students harbor about their prospects and potentially give them a roadmap to follow as they navigate the complicated med school admissions process.
Qasim, who is involved in existing mentorship programs at Dell, believes medical students could benefit from the mentorship as well. “Personally, I do it because it reminds me why I got into medicine … At the core of it, you’re helping people and that is why we go into medicine — to help people succeed.”
Qasim co-chairs the mentorship committee of Making Equity Standard in Healthcare (MESH), an organization that aims to support underrepresented students in medicine. They host open houses that allow pre-med organizations to tour Dell Medical’s facilities and have conversations with medical students about the medical school admissions process.
Such a program undoubtedly supports pre-med students, but a one-on-one mentorship would be an even greater asset.
The administrations at both Dell Medical and the University would need to demonstrate a significant commitment to a project like this for it to work. More importantly, med and pre-med students would have to maintain consistent meeting times in order to foster a meaningful mentorship experience. As Qasim says, “the sense of fulfillment” that both sides would feel as a result of the mentorship should be enough to get the ball rolling.
Dasgupta is a neuroscience freshman from Plano.