20 Questions: Brian Walcott, MD, Neurosurgery

Dr. Brian Walcott, MD is a chief resident in neurosurgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he specializes in the care of patients suffering from diseases of the brain, cerebral blood vessels, skull base, and spine.  He is training to become a subspecialist in neurovascular disease, with an active research interest in vascular biology.  He obtained his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and biology from Seton Hall University where he was also a Division I NCAA track athlete.  Afterwards, he went on to medical school at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and was admitted into Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
​During residency, he has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and is an ad hoc reviewer for JAMA Surgery, Neurology, and the Journal of Neurointerventional Surgery, among others. His research is supported by grants from the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, the American Medical Association, and the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies.  He was awarded the resident teacher of the year award from the Harvard Medical School class of 2012.  He is also the co-founder of AdmissionsMentor.com, a consulting service for graduate school and medical residency applicants.

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Academic Medicine? No way! (But are you so sure?)

The doctor business is win-win: doctor wins, patient wins. In sharp contrast, the legal profession is a win-lose dichotomy. That is one reason why we choose medicine. It is a huge difference in psychology that gets into our very bones. Becoming a doctor is a highly noble pursuit. Being a doctor is fun, exciting, worthwhile, productive and assuredly positive. Doctors create wealth in the world by increasing the ability of people to pursue their happiness. What in the physical realm could be more worthwhile than that?
But medicine can be an all-consuming life choice. Before embarking on it, ask yourself if you can tolerate sacrificing a large percentage of everything else you enjoy to do, and everyone you like to be with, for a long time. The job is great. No doubt about it. But don’t naively minimize the sacrifices. Is it worth the sacrifice? Don’t let anyone other than you decide that.

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How to: Get into Undergraduate Research

 
Regardless of the health profession you are hoping to enter, you’ll find that grades alone are not enough to assure admission. Depending on your desired program and the schools you apply to, you may be expected to show experience in diverse areas such as community service, clinical experience, and leadership.
An additional area sometimes overlooked by students is conducting lab research during undergraduate studies. Several counselors we talked to mentioned that a good number of students still apply to health professions schools with little to no research experience, although this is quickly changing.

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