More On Shadowing

I wrote about shadowing and volunteering a while ago (GUIDE: Shadowing and Volunteering) and found some more material to add.

Recently there was a student who posted a question on the forums. The student asked for advice on writing about his/her (gender is so hard to tell online) shadowing experience. Some answered that they did not write much on their application while others described how they elaborated about the details of their experience.

I am posting a reply that caught my eye. It was written by Panda Bear (online name) and is reprinted with his permission.

His blog can be found at


Shadowing is very important. I had a lot of shadowing experience. Well, I called it shadowing but as the physicians I shadowed had no idea who I was or what I was doing I guess some might call it stalking. Nobody ever called security though so it was all right. If anybody asked me what I was doing I just got a sad look and said, “Breast cancer….mother…not doing well,“ and then slowly retreated under the cover of reverential silence.

I actually spent most of my time hanging out in waiting rooms or the hospital gift shop eating peanut M&Ms. Except when I was trying not to vomit because sick people give me the gags, especially the ones with digusting skin thingies. People with skin cancer are the worst and they are very inconsiderate. “Ooooh, look at me everybody! I’ve got skin cancer!”

I really tried to minimize my contact with patients and doctors. Still, I had to put something down for extracurricular activities so I figured this was the least difficult way to go about it. I just made up names for hospitals which sounded good but which don’t really exist. You know, like “Mercy Hospital North” or “Johns Hopkins.” I also searched through the obituaries for physicans who had recently passed away and listed them as my sponsors.

My medical school’s registrars office has an AMCAS verification department and I wanted to cover all of my bases. When they called me in after first semester to say that they had been unable to contact a physician who I shadowed I got an incredibly tragic look on my face and said, “I’m sorry to report that Dr. Wondalaski passed away several weeks after I shadowed him.”

“Fine, fine man. Did you know he won the Nobel Prize?”

That usually put them off the scent for a semester or two. Eventually they must have discovered that all six doctors I shadowed as well as my mentor from the the NIH and all of the authors of my letters of recommendation were deceased but I never heard anything about it. Just to cover myself whenever I went into the registrars office I always adopted a wistful, care-worn expression and muttered thngs like, “So much death….how can I bear it?”

Medical school admission is a difficult process. You have to be smart about it.

Glad I could help.

On a side note, the whole application process can be a stressful experience. Studying for the MCAT, paying exorbitant fees to apply, and running to meet the mailman each day hoping for that acceptance packet (yes I said packet, its not some thin letter like you see on TV) wears on you.

So if you really want to be a physician, relax, do your best, and be persistent.