Raquel Belforti, DO, MS graduated from Assumption College in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Psychology. Raquel earned her Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine and later earned her Master’s in Medical Education Leadership from the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine. She now holds numerous positions in her field, including Academic Hospitalist and Assistant Professor at UMass Medical School – Baystate Medical Center. Below, Raquel shares the steps she took during college to set herself up for success in her career, as well as tips for current students wishing to pursue careers in medicine.
Step 1: Have a Dream
As a child, teenager, and college student I could not imagine being anything other than a doctor. I have no idea where this dream came from. There were no doctors in my family and I was the first one in my family to go to college, never mind medical school. At first, the excitement of being a doctor was primarily based on the phenomenon of having the medical knowledge to help people and life long learning. However, as I embarked on this path, I came to realize it is so much more. As a doctor I have the amazing privilege of stepping into someone’s world instantly and making a difference with my kindness, compassion, and empathy. In my profession as a doctor caring for sick patients in the hospital, I find that I may not always be able cure disease. Although that may seem sad and make young people with dreams of becoming a doctor run for the hills, it is in these moments that I can truly have the greatest impact. For me, there is no greater honor than when a patient and their family thank me for being there for them in their times of most need. Everyday when I go to work to see patients brings on excitement and new challenges. It may not always be easy but it is always fulfilling because this has become my calling, it is my gift and I would not have it any other way.
If this message speaks to you, if you have this feeling deep down inside telling you that you need to become a doctor, OWN IT. The beauty of touching so many lives and the ability to diagnose, heal and stand by patients at their weakest time is a truly noble profession. Do not let anyone sway you, do not let the threats of extra schooling, long hours, and debt, sway this dream. If you have this feeling, this IS who you are meant to be, this is your calling. We need you. Patients need you. Now let me help you get there.
Step 2: Create a Vision
You need to think ahead and have a clear understanding of the steps necessary to accomplish this dream. This isn’t an easy road, but you and I both know it’s a small price to pay to achieve your dream. The sooner you embrace it, the sooner you can start discussing the necessary steps and requirements with your advisor:
- Identify required classes for medical school
- When will you take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)?
- When will you apply for medical school? Will you take a gap year?
- What will you do during that gap year to make your self more competitive for applying to medical school?
Step 3: Embrace Opportunities
The great news is that once you have established the vision, you are in the right place — A.K.A. Assumption College — to take advantage of any opportunities to make this vision a reality.
Your Education. Assumption has an outstanding science department. Take advantage of all the opportunities you have to take classes that will prepare you for medical school. I was thankful for taking Immunology and Histology as an undergrad, for it made these courses much easier in medical school. Also, remember that we want physicians to be well-rounded people. You do not necessarily need to be a science major as long as you meet your pre-requisites for medical school.
Get Involved. Skills of teamwork and leadership are crucial to be successful in any field and can easily be obtained and showcased through involvement in organizations, clubs, and sports. For me, it was the Student Government Association. No matter what career you are going into, I STRONGLY encourage you to get involved and get involved early.
Know the Community. When it comes to a career in medicine take advantage of where you are. Worcester, MA has an outstanding medical community and a variety of different hospitals in the area for you to volunteer at. During your summer breaks or gap year, consider taking an EMT course, becoming a scribe, or being a research assistant. You can even call a local physician and ask if you can shadow them in the office to gain some exposure to the practice of medicine.
Networking. Lastly, take full advantage of the Career Development & Internship Center at Assumption and the networking opportunities. Get connected to alumni, listen to their stories and shadow them. As alumni, we understand how hard this road can be and we want to help you get there.
At the end of the day, you know this is who you are meant to be. The amazing thing about a career in medicine is that the opportunities to make a difference are endless. You can become an obstetrician and celebrate in the wonders and joys of delivering babies, a pediatrician who watches children grow, a radiologist or pathologist and diagnose patients with your mind from afar, using your knowledge to interpret a film or look under a microscope, or a surgeon who heals patients with the power of skilled hands. No matter which path you choose, right now you know that you are meant to be a doctor. Don’t let the naysayers get you down, never mind the debt of money and hours. In the end if it is truly your calling, it will all work out, it is meant to be, and even on your hardest day you won’t regret it.