We had a chance to talk with Patrick Dowling on August 9, 2019, who graduated with a degree in history in 2016 and took a couple of gap years.   Patrick is in his second year of medical school at VCU and is still contemplating specialties.

So how was the first year?  Patrick says that it was very challenging, but he had expected it to be so and said that “if you put your head down and do your work” it’s very doable.  It probably helped that he’d been very active in college and he worked hard.  He held several leadership positions, including as president of his fraternity, and was an EMT for seven years and did some research.  He also scribed during his gap years.  And he spent a summer teaching English in China and embraced the cultural experiences that came with it.

We asked about how the history major contributed to his success in applying to medical school and in medical school itself.  In many ways! First, his application stood out from the majority of those submitted by hard science majors…and he mentioned having classmates who also majored in non-science fields involving study of religion and study of music.   He was very clear that at least at VCU, non-science majors who met the criteria are welcome.  He also mentioned that there is a lot of writing in history and that helped quite a bit in preparing his personal statement and other written aspects of the application.  He also learned skills and a way of thinking that worked well for him.

Any advice for students who want to go to medical school?  He encourages you to “Get involved” so as to do something different that will make you stand out and give you an interesting topic in interviews.  His major in history and summer in China were moves in that direction.  And he emphasized applying as early as possible.

Patrick believes that he wouldn’t have gotten into medical school if he hadn’t gone to Roanoke College.  The guidance and support of the faculty, the experiences, the connections he made were all a big part of getting him to the point where he could be a successful applicant and student, and in a few years a successful physician.  He especially credited Dr. Bucher in the History department for guiding him to a love of history, helping him find opportunities, and ultimately learning all the skills that worked not only in a history major but afterwards.

Good luck and best wishes to soon-to-be Dr. Dowling!