Neuroscience major and cross-country team alum Mia Bates ’18 is studying at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in Bronx, New York. She reflects on her time at Oberlin, and how the liberal arts model allowed her to become a well-rounded student and explore her passions.
What inspired your interest in the medical field?
I grew up in a small town called Corning, New York, in a restaurant family—my parents own restaurants and I'm the second youngest of six kids. I was raised in the service industry and didn't want to do that, but really liked public service. I also really liked science, so when I started developing an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, medicine seemed like an interesting option to combine science with being a public servant, activism, and humanitarianism. It also involves problem solving which frankly ended up being what I was good at.
How did your time at Oberlin impact your post-grad experiences?
Oberlin was very important in the path I chose to take. I majored in neuroscience and did honors in psychology. The small, liberal arts atmosphere was fantastic for me. I like to talk and am not a big fan of lectures, so the smaller class sizes allowed me to get into the sciences and complete my pre-med track, but I wasn’t interested in only doing that. I think the best physicians are well-rounded people and Oberlin really supports that. Also, the faculty were phenomenal—Lynne Bianchi, Gunnar Kwakye, and Al Porterfield were big mentors for me. Because it’s such a small school, the faculty really want you to succeed. Professor Kwakye got a research job for me during my gap year after I graduated. I also ran cross country and track, which I loved. At Oberlin, I got to be a well-rounded individual and see new things. Meeting people with different viewpoints and different backgrounds from myself was really important. I had a lot of success in my application process to med school and I attribute that to Oberlin.
What has your experience in med school been like so far?
After a long application process, I ended up at Albert Einstein in the Bronx. The Bronx has the worst access to healthcare of any New York state counties. It’s a very in-need and diverse population. It’s been a tough experience because of the pandemic. My first year, I got six months of a “normal” semester, getting to meet new people. The first two years at Einstein are mostly in-class work in basic sciences and medicine. When the pandemic hit, we had to go home, and learning at home is tough, especially in medicine. My third year started this past June, and I’m now in the hospital treating patients. I’ve always been a very hands-on learner, so it’s been really great. I’ve done my obstetrics/gynecology services and pediatrics rotations, and I’m on family medicine now.
Do you have a particular area of interest?
I’m starting to settle on adolescent medicine. I like reproductive health, abortion care, and teaching people about their bodies. That’s a big part of it: teaching about consent, asking them about their sex practices, and making sure they’re being safe. I like the idea of being a trusted adult for kids in that age group to ask questions. I really love the stimulation of in-patient work.
What advice would you give to students planning to attend med school and pursue a career in the medical field?
I think connections are really important. Oberlin professors are at a small liberal arts school to connect with students, they're not there to teach 500-person lectures. If you’re interested in medicine, get as involved as you can. It’s difficult in COVID times, but you have to enjoy it, too. You don’t want to just be checking off boxes because you might get to medical school and realize you don’t actually like this career. Keep doing the things you love because those will be the things that get you through med school, prevent burnout, and ultimately become a better doctor.
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