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Her Career: The Future Doctor

Her Career is a series of articles dedicated to the career development of Northwestern women. We talk to recent graduates or current students to get the best advice for those who have interests in similar fields.

Meet Sarah Smith, a recent graduate of Northwestern, who has a passion for medicine and women’s health issues. While at school, Sarah was involved in numerous organizations and leadership positions. She spoke to us about how Northwestern helped prepare her for where she is today and provided advice for women looking for the same opportunities. 

1.     What did you study at Northwestern?

I studied Bioethics at Northwestern and completed a pre-medical track. The Bioethics major was an ad-hoc major I created my sophomore year, because I was really drawn to the subject matter. I got to hand select courses that I thought would depend my understanding of the complexities of the medical field and its ethical dilemmas.

2.     What clubs and organizations were you involved in?

I was involved in a few different organizations. I was involved with Hillel as an underclassman, and I did an internship with them called the Campus Engagement Corps. I was also a member of the pre-medical fraternity PhiDE and recruitment chair of Kappa Kappa Gamma my junior/senior year. I did clinical and hard science research, both at Northwestern and at other universities.

3.     How did you create The Medical Decoder, Northwestern’s undergraduate medical journal?

I co-founded The Medical Decoder my sophomore year alongside two other members of PhiDE, the pre-med fraternity. We realized that as much as we were learning about the hard sciences, we were having trouble keeping up with and understanding trends in the world of medicine and health care. In addition, there was not really a space for us to share our interests, concerns and passions in regards to the medical field. We had this idea to create a journal that would empower pre-medical students by providing a space to teach and to learn.

4.     How did you find opportunities that would help you develop your career?

I feel lucky to have found an advisor at Northwestern who encouraged me to pursue my passions and interests, regardless of whether they fit the mold of the typical pre-medical student. I found opportunities by thinking about what I wanted to learn, how I wanted to grow and what would make me a well-rounded doctor and person. These days, I think what medical schools like to see in an applicant isn’t so much about fitting a checklist, but rather having authentic interests and passions. I’ve always been drawn to women’s health, so I looked for opportunities in that field. I also love to travel, so I took the opportunity to study abroad and learn about health in Chile.

5.     What are you involved in today?

Today, I’m an AmeriCorps member. I’m doing an AmeriCorps program called City Year in Seattle. City Year is a national service organization that works to bridge the gap in high-poverty communities between the support that students need and what their schools are designed and resourced to provide. We are trying to bridge the gap that stands between students and their full potential. I’m currently working in a third grade classroom in south Seattle. Also, I’m applying to medical school. I’ve been accepted to the University of Michigan, but I’m still interviewing at a bunch of other schools.

6.     What is the best advice you can give to women who are interested in the medical field?

I would encourage women pursuing careers in health care to pursue their passions and take risks. There have been a lot of moments when I’ve gotten hung up on being the perfect applicant and thinking about what I need to check off a checklist to be a good applicant on paper. I made choices that I felt were risky– choosing not to do a full year of research, choosing a women’s health advocacy volunteer position over the typical clinical one and choosing to do a non medical service year. But these choices have made me happy because they were what I wanted for myself.  I feel like I’ve learned so much and become a stronger person–and probably a stronger applicant. Don’t get too hung up on checking off requirements off a checklist if they aren’t what you’re genuinely excited about!

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Ana Cordera


Ana is a sophomore at Northwestern University pursuing a Journalism degree and a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications.
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