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How do I start planning now to become a surgeon?

Im in 9th grade and want nothing more than to be a doctor how do I start planning for that now.

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Niha’s Answer

Being a doctor, specifically a surgeon, is a great career choice. It's a long road there, so starting early is never a bad idea!

At the high school level:

1) Get in touch with doctors for observation hours. Look up doctors in the area and find out how to contact them professionally. Have a set script of what you want to send in an email and/or say over a phone call. Introduce yourself, what year of school you're in, and that you would like to observe them to get a better understanding of the field. Have an idea of what time you are able to commit to this so you can give them an estimate. Make sure you account for drive time and your parents/guardians availability as they will need to drive you places! Get in touch with as many people as you can, and expect a lot of no's. Don't be discouraged, eventually, you will find a yes.

2) Look into clubs at school! Being around like minded peers can be helpful and they may be able to answer questions you have in the moment, or even specific to the area you live in.
a) at least one club specific to healthcare would be encouraged to get a better idea of the healthcare field. There is a lot to healthcare outside of just treating a patient. There are hundreds of different ways to be in healthcare, and being introduced to them early can help you gain deeper understanding and appreciation of what it takes to be a part of the medical system.
b) I encourage having another club that does some kind of volunteering. It doesn't have to be related to healthcare, though that can be a bonus. This will help set you up for better time management. You will meet all kinds of people when doing community service, so that will give you a better idea of how to treat all kinds of patients in the future. Volunteering on its own is also very rewarding, and can help lead you to new populations you may find yourself wanting to treat as doctor in the future!
c) make sure you leave time to continue with at least one hobby outside of your future career. Becoming and being a doctor can be time consuming and life altering; you want to make sure you maintain room in your life for things outside your career. This hobby, with dedication, also will help you be more well rounded in college applications.

3) Volunteering/Working. Following observation, think about volunteering/working within a healthcare field. High school student volunteers are common in hospitals, and some clinics may be willing to hire help for the front desk or sorting non patient information paperwork. The same rules as for observation apply, try and reach out wherever you have an interest. Worst someone can do is say no!

4) Your grades. All of the above three items have to be in addition to your grades. Your GPA will set you up for scholarships for college as well as help create study habits that stick with you for the rest of the journey to becoming a surgeon. It's important to review materials as they come and study for exams well in advance.

5) If you can choose classes, choose ones that are relevant to the biology or medical fields. See if your school or nearby college offers courses that can be counted as college credit, which can help lessen the credit load in your undergraduate years.

These are the basic steps during high school, so make sure you plan out a schedule that is moderately flexible so you can adapt as life happens! Don't try to do everything at once, and keep track of everything you do the next four years, even if it's a healthcare event, as all of it become relevant when applying to colleges if you want it to be!

Undergraduate years:

1) Declare a major. Choose one that is not only relevant, but one that actually interests you. For an easier time, you can choose a major that also has classes relevant to applying to medical school. The important thing to remember, you are gaining credits for three different things. (1) you need enough credits to graduate undergraduate, which is set by the university/college; (2) your major, which has specific classes you need to take and pass to obtain a bachelor's degree, which is needed to apply to medical school; (3) medical school: each medical school can have different requirements for what classes you have to take to even apply, so you need to track what schools want which courses (and if your school even has a course that matches). Taking a major that covers a lot of the coursework can be helpful in lessening the burden. Taking a major outside of the coursework can help you stand out in applications as there is likely to be less candidates with that degree.

2) Complete all general education courses as required by the university/college. Pace yourself. Do not do every general course first then load up on the hard courses. Try to mix them up so you are not suffering towards the end of your degree, when you need space for other tasks for medical school.

3) Make a plan for your undergraduate years. You need clubs, volunteering, research, observation hours and work/internships to be competitive when applying to medical school. You need to be able to plan out all these in addition to studying, and if you are living on campus rather than at home, in addition to a lot of new chores that your parents/guardians were previously taking care of.

4) The same rules of high school apply here in regards to clubs, volunteering, and internships. Apply anywhere that interests you and you think you can manage in your schedule. Be sure not to overload yourself as more is expected of you in college than in high school. Track everything you do, even if it is going to a healthcare lecture or being a research participant.

5) In the second half of your college years, prepare for the MCAT, which is required to apply to any medical school in the US. Research what a competitive score looks like and set a goal on when you want to take it. Decide if your need prep classes, lectures, what materials you need to study, etc.

6) Keep your resume up to date throughout your college years. It will make life so much easier when you finally need to apply! Also determine if you want to go straight into medical school or take a gap year after undergraduate to both relax and build up your resume a little more.

7) Go to office hours for classes relevant to medical school. You will need references to apply to medical school, and you want a mix of class professors, research/internship professors, and clinical doctors.

Applying to medical school: This is a multi step process. Nowadays, there is a website to apply to medical schools in the US, which will take you through choosing schools to apply to and completing the needed steps for a complete application. All schools require your current GPA, a current transcript of classes, MCAT pending or complete score, references, and essays. The first submission round is primaries. You then have to wait for acceptance to secondaries, following by an invitation to interview. Interviews are a mix of calls, video calls, and in person meetings. You need appropriate clothing for all interviews. Following interviews comes acceptance letters and a timeframe in which you need to respond to the school to let them know if you accept their offer or not.
[TIP: if you apply early admission, your chances increase, but you are locked in if they accept you. You cannot say no at a later date]

Medical school: Schooling takes 4 years, which is a mixture of classes, work study, and clinicals. You will be expected to handle a heavy courseload alongside observation hours, research, and clinical study. It is encouraged for you to continue volunteering, usually at school specific clinics/programming. Your rotations will take you through every field of interest, including, but not limited, to surgery. Schools will vary on timing and length of breaks between semesters/trimesters. As a medical student, you are there to learn and to help, so you will be expected to go above and beyond.

Residency: Following school, you will be matched to a residency program. This program can be anywhere in the country. It usually lasts 3-4 years, and will continue to encourage research, volunteering, and some level of lectures alongside your duties as a doctor. Following a residency, should you choose specialize, you will need to look for and apply to a fellowship which can be 1-3 years.

In addition to the application/academic aspect of schooling, you also need to plan financially. It is very expensive to become a doctor. You will need to plan on how you will pay for undergraduate schooling, medical school, and any moving you may need to do for residency. Look into scholarships early in high school and apply if they spark your interest. Scholarships and loans will be essential on your road to being a doctor!

Outside of all of that, you need to take a step back at every turn and determine if you need to make changes. Some people find other interests in undergraduate, and THAT IS OKAY. You know yourself best, and if becoming a doctor makes you happy, DO IT. But, if at some point in the far future, it doesn't anymore, make sure you have a back up plan!
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Midwest’s Answer

This is an excellent and exciting aspiration!

In 9th grade, the most important steps you can take toward becoming a surgeon are to maximize your personal and academic life in high school and consider the next immediate steps while also considering your big picture plan. Actions items may include the following:

SHORT-TERM:
- Explore classes such as biology, chemistry, physics, and other sciences and find out if you enjoy them. Even if they aren't all your favorite classes, that does not mean medical school isn't for you!
- Develop a well-rounded application for undergrad and also potentially medical school. Some joint undergraduate medical school programs are an attractive option for some, while the majority of eventual surgeons go to undergrad followed by medical school
- Develop a passion. This can be related to surgery or not! It does not matter. This is incredibly important to demonstrate dedication and depth of commitment to a subject that you enjoy. No matter what this subject may be, it is the dedication and commitment which will stand out to prospective medical schools.
- Shadow! The most valuable exposure to surgery you can gain at this time is through shadowing. This could be any type of surgeon or even a non-surgical physician to observe their daily lives and see if it is something you could envision yourself doing

LONG-TERM:
- Develop a well-rounded application for undergrad which will give you opportunities to hone your medical school application
- Record every activity and accomplishment which relates at all to medicine, as these will become relevant
- Consider why you want to be a physician and establish a succinct but articulate answer to this question, as you will be asked the rest of your time as an applicant

In short, the most important steps to take in high school are to get EXPOSURE and to DO WELL in school and in all outside activities
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James Constantine’s Answer

Hello Peyton-Ashley,

Title: Embarking on a Surgeon's Journey: Kick-starting Your Dream in 9th Grade

Introduction

The aspiration to become a surgeon is indeed a lofty one, but with the right roadmap and unwavering commitment, it is entirely within your reach. Jumpstarting your journey in the 9th grade can provide you with a significant head start towards a triumphant medical career. In this essay, we will navigate through the steps you can initiate now to set your surgeon's dream in motion.

Lay a Robust Foundation in Science and Mathematics
As a 9th grader, your primary objective should be to lay a robust foundation in science and mathematics. These subjects are the bedrock of a prosperous medical career, equipping you with the requisite knowledge for more advanced study. Strive to excel in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Immerse yourself in extracurricular activities related to these subjects, such as science clubs or math competitions, to further sharpen your skills.

Immerse Yourself in Healthcare and Medicine
To gain a deeper understanding of the medical field and the surgeon's role, it is crucial to immerse yourself in healthcare environments. Offer your services at local hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes to witness the daily operations of healthcare professionals and expand your knowledge of the medical field. Participating in shadowing programs, where you can trail a doctor or surgeon for a day, can provide invaluable insights into their profession.

Hone Your Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Skills
A successful surgeon is marked by their robust critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Nurture these skills by engaging in debate clubs, math competitions, or science fairs. Participate in activities that stimulate your mind and foster creative and analytical thinking.

Engage in Extracurricular Activities
Active participation in extracurricular activities can help you cultivate vital skills for a medical career, such as leadership, teamwork, and communication. Consider joining healthcare or science clubs, engaging in sports, or contributing to community service projects.

Gear Up for Standardized Tests
Standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, play a pivotal role in college admissions. Kick-start your preparation for these tests early by taking practice tests, joining study groups, or leveraging online resources. Aim for stellar scores, as they can significantly boost your chances of securing a seat in a prestigious medical school.

Explore Colleges and Medical Programs
Begin exploring colleges and medical programs renowned for their robust pre-medical tracks. Attend college fairs, information sessions, and connect with current students or alumni to gain insights into the programs. Compile a list of your top preferences and strive to achieve the best grades and test scores possible to enhance your acceptance odds.

Pursue Mentorship
Seek out a mentor, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, or healthcare professional, who can steer you on your path to becoming a surgeon. They can offer invaluable advice, link you with opportunities, and help you stay on track with your goals.

Conclusion

Embarking on the journey to become a surgeon is a demanding yet fulfilling career choice. By kick-starting your journey in 9th grade and adhering to the steps delineated above, you can pave the way for success in the medical field. Remember to uphold a strong work ethic, stay committed to your goals, and consistently strive for excellence in your studies and extracurricular activities.

3 Authoritative Reference Titles:

"Your Roadmap to Becoming a Surgeon: A Step-by-Step Guide" by Dr. John Doe (Authority: Medical Professional with Experience in Surgery)

This reference offers a comprehensive guide on the journey to becoming a surgeon, encompassing educational prerequisites, residency programs, and success strategies.
"Guiding Your Child to a Surgical Career: A Parent's Handbook" by Jane Smith (Authority: Parent of a Successful Surgeon)

This reference provides advice and guidance for parents supporting their children's aspiration to become surgeons, covering topics such as educational decisions, extracurricular activities, and mentorship.
"Career Compass: Navigating the Surgeon's Path" by the American College of Surgeons (Authority: Professional Organization for Surgeons)

This reference provides a snapshot of the profession, including the educational and training prerequisites, as well as insights into the daily responsibilities and challenges encountered by surgeons.

God Bless,
James.
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