Former Summer Scholar reflects on first year of medical school

Finding the right balance is the key to success

As the summer of 2008 approached, North Kansas City High School junior Alexandra Alpough was already thinking seriously about her senior year and even more seriously about life after high school. The honor student had always excelled in science and was considering a career in health care. She was leaning toward dentistry, but an experience that summer pointed her in another direction — the UMKC School of Medicine.

“The summer after my junior year in high school, I got the opportunity to participate in the Summer Scholars program at the medical school,” Alpough said. “That experience definitely played a role in my career and school choice.”

The UMKC School of Medicine Summer Scholars Program is a four-week educational program that introduces selected high school juniors and seniors to career opportunities in the health care field. The program is held each summer, beginning on the first Monday following the Fourth of July holiday.

“Before going to Summer Scholars, I was pretty sure I wanted to be an orthodontist, but after completing the program, I knew I wanted to go into medicine and I knew UMKC was a perfect fit for me,” Alpough said.

Primarily a classroom-based program, the Summer Scholars curriculum is made up of a variety of experiences ranging from didactic lectures to critical-skills-building exercises. Participants in the program also have an opportunity to accompany physicians on clinical rotations at Truman Medical Center, the UMKC School of Medicine’s primary teaching hospital.

Surprises and challenges

Alexandra Alpough

Alexandra Alpough

During her senior year in high school, Alpough applied for admission and was accepted into the UMKC School of Medicine for the fall 2009 semester. Now, with her first year of medical school completed, she is even more convinced that she made the right decision.

“It’s been tough, but I have really enjoyed my first year at UMKC,” Alpough said. “I love the combined degree aspect of the program and that I get to work on my bachelor’s and medical degrees at the same time. One day, for example, I’m taking an elective acting class on the Volker campus, and the next day I’m at Hospital Hill going on clinical rounds at Truman Medical Center. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Alpough said one of the more pleasant surprises is the strong sense of camaraderie that exists between students at the medical school.

“The year-one students all live at the Oak Street residence hall where we study together, eat together, relax together and, most important, we help each other get through the rough spots,” she said.

So, as Alpough heads into year two of her medical education, what advice would she give to incoming year-one medical school students?

“One of the biggest challenges you should be prepared for is learning how to manage your new freedom and balance that with the amount of studying this program requires,” she said. “If you can learn to manage your time well, you can still study as much as necessary and you can still have fun.”

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