How He Got There: Stefano Leitner - Dedicated Med Student

Name: Stefano Leitner

Hometown: Miami, FL

Major: Exercise Science

Year in School: Alumni, Medical School Student

Her Campus (HC): Did you know right away that you wanted to go into the medical field?

Stefano Leitner (SL): I came to FSU as a business major, switched to statistics, math, biology, psychology and finally exercise science. I was never a science kid growing up. I was the funny kid, always in trouble. I changed my major six times before I found something that I wanted to study. It was kind of a confusing time.

HC: So how did you transition from those majors into where you are now?

SL: I have friends in medical school that are religion and art majors. So my big thing is just to study what you find interesting. Taking courses within those specific majors were helpful for more exposure to in-depth concepts. It’s important to study what you love. Undergrad helped me develop a sense of time management so you can live a happy life outside of school and still accomplish a lot in research and academics.

HC: What do you feel was the most important experience for you getting accepted into medical school?

SL: As a pre-med early on, what I was able to do was find an organization where I felt I fit in and belonged. I went to MAPS (Minority Association of Premedical Students) and at the first meeting I felt like this is exactly the organization that I want to be a part of.  I ended up becoming the vice president and then the president of the organization. The earlier you get involved, the more you are able to accomplish and grow with them.

HC: In your opinion, what do medical schools want to see in a student?

SL: 1 or 2 organizations max. The most important thing to medical schools is to show commitment. I was highly active, and I was the volunteer coordinator so I would schedule community service events to work with kids. I was very involved.


Courtesy: Stefano Leitner

HC: What can you tell me about some of the other activities you participated in that really made a difference for you?

SL: I also shadowed surgeons and became a medical assistant. I was chosen to represent FSU at the ACC Meeting of the Minds. It was very eye-opening to see that there were students at other universities that were accomplishing great things. It wasn’t as much of a competition as it was showing others what we got. Undergraduate Science Students Together Reaching Instructional Diversity and Excellence is an organization that is part of a pipeline program, the college of medication’s undergraduate club.  It has so many opportunities for community service. I was able to become a medical assistant phlebotomist and EKG technician; That experience led me to working in a physician’s office where I was first exposed to primary care.  This was the first time I’ve seen a doctor who has had patients for 30 years. A continuity of care was the biggest eye opener for me. You really get to know and understand your patients and see how they grow. It’s just a beautiful concept.

HC: How do you feel your experience compares to that of other graduate medical students?

SL:  People have done more and done less to get into medical school. I took a year off between undergrad and starting medical school, but I call it a year on. I studied abroad, worked for a doctor, went on a mission trip to Guyana with HERO and I went to Israel.

HC: Between being an active student both academically and in the community, how do you manage to find time for fun?

SL: When you become a grad student, you are a professional student, so so much of my days are dedicated to studying. I’ll study about five hours a day because they expect us to be familiar with the material very quickly. One of the good ways I balance this is getting 6-7 hours of sleep, getting exercise and I’m a spiritual person so I pray and meditate daily. An hour and a half of these practices make the day so much better, helps clear my mind and makes me feel physically well. It helps me stay emotionally grounded.

HC: Is there anything in particular that you do in your down time?

SL: I play a lot of music. My roommate and I jam every day for at least 30 minutes. It’s almost cathartic. Its important to not forget what makes you happy in medical school cause you can get swallowed very easily. I go to a lot of jazz performances around town as well. I sing, play the guitar and percussion and the mouth trumpet. It’s a sweet change of pace.

Courtesy: Stefano Leitner

HC: What are your greatest tips for those who have want to attend medical school?

SL: One thing I can’t stress enough is community service as a pre-medical student. When you’re applying, the main statement asks why you want to be a doctor. The main reason is because you want to help people. By doing community service, you’re helping people before you have any medical knowledge. I developed a sense of gratitude for the things I have as I was working with children that had a lot less than I had growing up. If I was able to make them laugh or smile, I felt it added something to their life, and then my life. I developed altruism. I also took as many practice tests as possible. I would recommend studying abroad; it gives you a larger perspective as a human being. Learn to have good habits. Become a slave to good habits right away. Surround yourself with positive like-minded people. When you give off positive energy to the universe, those are the kind of energies you get back.

HC: Overall, how would you describe yourself and your experience thus far?

SL: Above all, I’m a servant to God, a big brother, a son, a friend and then a medical student.  Everyone’s journey into medicine is different. This is just my journey. There’s no blueprint except for good grades and good MCAT scores.

Despite the time consuming and demanding lifestyle of a medical student, Stefano serves as a prime example of how there is no right or wrong way to get there and to enjoy the process. Good luck on your applications, Collegiettes!