DR. RACHEL SHENKER
Undergrad: Duke University
Med School: Wake Forest SOM
Internship: NYU Winthrop Hospital
Residency: Duke University Hospital
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
National Pre-Med Association: Tell us a little about yourself!
Dr. Rachel Shenker: I was born and raised on Long Island, NY. I graduated Duke in 2015, and went straight to medical school. I graduated from Wake Forest School of Medicine in 2019. I just finished my intern year at NYU Winthrop hospital and will be starting Radiation Oncology residency at Duke in July, 2020.
NPMA: What was the hardest part of your pre-med experience? How did you get through it?
RS: There is a lot of growing up and humility that develops during the undergraduate experience, and learning to appreciate that was difficult. I started my undergraduate career by taking a few hard classes that could have been taken at a different time, perhaps after adjusting to college (I underestimated the transition from high school!). Additionally, there was some difficulty in finding a balance between building my medical school resume vs. exploring other interests. Thankfully, I had valuable upperclassmen as mentors; they were a huge part in getting through it all and finding my path.
NPMA: What was your outlet during pre-med? How do you do it now?
RS: My family and friends had always kept me grounded. Spending time outside and appreciating nature was also important to me.
NPMA: What’s your favorite pre-med experience?
RS: I was the student volunteer for the pet therapy program at Duke in undergrad. I had so much fun playing with the kids and therapy dogs. It was therapeutic for both the patients and me.
NPMA: Where did you find resume building opportunities?
RS: Personally, I sent out emails to professors who I thought did interesting research and asked if they had any lab positions available. I also got some direction from upperclassmen in my sorority. My university also had a pre-health email-list that they would use to send out opportunity information. Just asking the pre-med counselors at your university is a great option, as well; they usually have a lot of resources. Google works, too.
NPMA: What was your experience like studying for the MCAT?
RS: I intentionally studied for the MCAT during a lighter semester in college and took a prep course. The MCAT was a very different format when I took it in 2013, but standardized testing is, overall, a skill that is learned. The most important thing is to focus on the material you don't know. Allow yourself to be wrong and get over that frustration, rather than focus comfortably on the stuff you already know.
NPMA: What piece of advice would you have wanted while you were in undergrad?
RS: It is so important to do extracurriculars and major in what you think is interesting and let the rest fall into place! You have to take certain core classes, but medical schools actually really like seeing students who are well rounded, have interesting things to say, and have unique experiences. But don't go crazy trying to find something "unique.” Just be the most passionate version of you! I honestly wish I took more classes in history or even economics, something totally out of the realm of biology.
NPMA: What’s your best advice for medical school?
RS: Medical school is difficult, but once you get there, it is in everyone's best interest to keep you there and help you succeed. As opposed to the pre-med experience in some undergraduate schools, where it could feel like a "weed out,” medical schools have already invested their resources into preparing you to be a doctor. Spend your time finding mentors and building connections, because these professional relationships last for the rest of your career and prepare you for the most successful Match.
NPMA: What’s the best part of your job now?
RS: I feel like my degree has given me a voice that the public and my patients take seriously, which is very cool. As a doctor, people turn to you with life or death situations and you have the responsibility to make crucial clinical decisions. It is a humbling and continuous learning experience. I am excited to keep learning through residency and produce research to make an impact in cancer care.
Dr. Shenker is a new medical resident at Duke University Hospital and is practicing Radiation Oncology. She is from Long Island, NY and enjoys running, exploring nature, indulging in Reality TV, and discovering new ice cream shops.