Medical Master's Student

in the Spotlight

April 2014




Shea Sullivan

26 - Los Angeles, CA



Quite a few “special master’s programs” have sprouted up around the country, all promising to enhance an applicant’s ability to gain admittance to medical school. EVMS quickly distinguished itself and consequently rose to the top of my list after the wonderful first impression made by the Medical Master’s administrative team. My questions were promptly answered with thoughtful insight and suggestions for strengthening certain areas of my application. It was clear to me that if I chose to attend, I would be immersed in a supportive and nurturing environment. The staff that helps make this program thrive advocates for each of the students in the program. They want us to succeed, and in turn we do.


What is the best course you have taken?

This is a difficult question to answer because all the courses are taught so well! I have learned more than I ever thought I could from each of the classes. What’s great about all the core science courses that we take with the M1s is that we get revolving lecturers and clinicians, who provide us with great breadth and depth. We are exposed to the latest literature on disease processes and participate in interactive sessions where we are asked, “Given the current standards of care, how should we proceed?” It’s thrilling to practice taking on this role.

The course that has perhaps resonated with me the most is Medical Neuroscience. We tackle an immense amount of information regarding neurological disorders and the brain’s complex processing, but then we are also granted a glimpse into the lives of patients who suffer from these diseases. The panels that host individuals from Hampton Roads highlight triumphs and shortcomings in the system of neurological care. We are encouraged to reflect and propose ways to better the system. As future doctors, we will have the power to right many current injustices and be active agents of change. The Medical Neuroscience course reinforces this potential and helps us begin to see how we might realize it.


What has been your favorite volunteer activity while in the Program?

At EVMS, the focus on serving the surrounding community is inspiring and rewarding. In addition to volunteering as a B.E.A.C.H. Buddy for a child with neuroblastoma, I have enjoyed working with my classmates to help the current M1s design a program that they could develop and expand over their four years at EVMS. The blossoming new project called “Young at Heart” is a partnership with PB Young Elementary School. For three hours every Saturday, workshops are held to address writing and composition challenges facing students, along with extracurricular enrichment activities, such as art and soccer, that are not otherwise available at the school. As part of this initiative, I led a Children’s Zumba class and witnessed kids’ self confidence levels grow as they mastered Bachata and Reggaeton dance moves. It is important to step outside of the stacks of the library and interact with the community around us, and I am grateful for the opportunity to so during my time at EVMS.  


What study habits have helped you the most?

One of the most important study habits I have developed involves revisiting material as often as possible. Also, given that we all juggle a great deal in this program, I find that my ability to recall minutia during exams is strengthened by previewing the material before each lecture and reviewing each day’s lectures in the evenings. I have embraced the fact that my schedule changes each week; the core science courses do not generally follow a repeating pattern, so I make sure to stay current in the interim, which helps maintain my momentum.

Fortunately, the most valuable study tool has been the collaborative environment that formed naturally among M1 and Med Master's students. Between study groups and tutors, we gain so much by learning and teaching together. A few days before an exam, our class Facebook pages become peppered with beautifully illustrated study guides, clever mnemonics, and words of encouragement. Our colleagues are our greatest supporters, and everyone seems to realize that we all benefit most when we lift each other up.


What are your goals for the future?

As I reflect back on the year spent studying alongside first year medical students, I am proud of what this program has helped me accomplish. Having a chance to sample the rigors of medical school, while serving the community through volunteer opportunities, has reinforced my drive to pursue medicine. I feel capable and prepared to take on medical school courses in the future and one day practice medicine with the clinical knowledge I have acquired.


Wise words for incoming MM Students...

Learn to be adaptable, because there are times when this program can be overwhelming. The schedule constantly changes, you are given an immense amount of information to process, you will be challenged to navigate scenarios you may have no experience with, and many people will have tips and advice for you that may completely contradict what you are used to. A bit of guidance that kept me level-headed throughout the year was to “make sure you do what is best for you.” I think it is important to try new study approaches because this academic environment is very accelerated. However, it is easy to lose your way when experimenting, so be sure not to completely abandon habits that have worked well for you in the past.

Most importantly, make sure to reserve time for yourself. Whether it’s through Mind and Meditation yoga every week, catching the game on Sunday, or thrifting—my personal vice—doing what helps you decompress is crucial for maintaining your stamina through this year.

Lastly, finish your primary AMCAS application and secondaries before school starts. If you are like me, and this is the first year you are applying to medical school, you may not be used to the pacing of the application process. Submitting applications early is beneficial on all fronts, most importantly in that it allows you to fully acclimate into the program without distraction.