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Portrait of a UW Honors Pre-Med: Alumna Sibani Das Q&A

Mar 15, 2017

Sibani as an Honors Husky, 2014 (courtesy of Sibani Das)
Sibani Das in 2014 - playing in the snow like a true Husky! (photo courtesy of Sibani Das)


Honors alumna Sibani Das (Biochemistry, 2014) is well on her way to an advanced degree in medicine, but says she sometimes misses the cross-disciplinary intellectual stimulation (and straight up fun) found in the Honors community. We caught up with her recently to see if she would share some of her experiences, especially with current students who are considering graduate school in medicine. 

HONORS: What did you major in? How did you choose that major? 

SIBANI: I did my B.S. in Biochemistry, which had been the one major I had said coming in as a freshman I would not do, because I had heard it was hard with many credits and there was Physical Chemistry! Though as I started to become interested in studying medicine and taking the pre-med sciences, I knew that I wanted to study the disciplines of science not as separate entities, but learn how each science, be it biology, chemistry, or physics worked together via one of the greatest examples of this connection: the Human Body. I turned out to enjoy the Biochemistry major and found it to be very applicable and useful in the real world of science.

HONORS: How did you decide to pursue Honors? What did Honors add to your undergraduate experience?

SIBANI: I wanted to do Honors when I had first applied to the UW undergraduate program but wasn't initially accepted. I re-applied and was accepted as an incoming 2nd year. It gave me time to reflect on my reasons in going to Honors where I realized that Honors would give me the platform to really challenge myself to take the information I learned through textbooks and lectures and understand its applicability to our dynamic world. Be it social sciences, natural sciences, English, Honors would give me the tools and community to have reflective discussions, work on projects in ways I could interact with the community outside the classroom, and learn about topics that are unique and can only be found in Honors.

HONORS: Can you share a bit about your pre-med pathway? Did you know you wanted to go to medical school when you came to UW? What kinds of classes, opportunities, experiences did you use to explore the field of medicine and ensure it was a good fit for you?

SIBANI: Going into medicine was something on my mind when coming to UW but determining how fitting pursuing a medical career would be was a journey of discovery throughout my undergraduate years. I took pre-med reqs and chose a science major that combined my interests with prep for a medical curriculum, that was not a surprise. But I also did scientific research for my last three years of undergrad at the Center of Infectious Disease Research, which led to my Honors Senior thesis. I undertook experiential learning as a volunteer with Seattle Children's Hospital (I was very much interested in Pediatrics) and also taught as a mentor at the Kumon Learning Center. I shadowed a variety of doctors in the US and India to get a widespread understanding of the nature of practicing medicine to better understand the needed skills and working environment of a medical career.

Since my family is passionate about cultural education and community service, particularly due to their experiences of coming to America as immigrants from the rural state of Odisha, India, I became involved in several community outreach projects serving our communities here and in India. Now all these experiences and preparation gave me opportunities to reflect on how what I enjoyed and the skills I had built strongly complemented the focus and efforts of medicine.

HONORS: Tell us a bit about the medical school application process: how did you choose which schools to apply to? How many apps did you send off? How was studying for the MCAT? 

SIBANI: The MSAR online tool really helped me to find schools in which their admission statistics matched my academic grades and scores as well as had goals similar to what I wanted from my medical school education. I had applied to 20 allopathic medical schools and 5 osteopathic medical schools.

HONORS: How was studying for the MCAT?

SIBANI: To study for the MCAT was challenging because it requires quite a bit of time to review and practice while keeping up with school and other activities. I took a Kaplan MCAT (old test version) review course which provided an endless number of practice questions and plenty of AAMC MCAT practice tests, which I think are the strongest tools of preparation. I took the summer before the September MCAT test date to study.

HONORS: What is a typical day in your med school life like now? What's your favorite part of being in med school? What's the biggest challenge?

SIBANI: We mostly have class from 1:30 to 5:30pm every day and there is prep work assigned for each day to complete before the class session begins. This prep work usually happens in the morning with review of the material in the evening. There are various activities, clinical workshops, and medical talks that are given throughout the week which we sign up for and attend as well as shadowing opportunities we fit in thru the week. We also have clinical skills classes once every week where we interact with patients and practice clinical interviewing. My favorite part is working with the patients and applying the material we learn in class to the health-care setting where you can see the action and the biggest challenge is keeping up with the fast pace of learning, especially retaining the information after it has been taught and tested.

HONORS: What advice would you give to pre-med students? To students who may be pre-med but aren't quite certain yet?

SIBANI: To pre-med students: keep reflecting and asking yourself why medicine interests you and what in your experiences has made you more confident about pursuing medicine. Those activities, classes, and endeavors that make you passionate about this career, whether or not they are related to medicine, is what will foster the passion in your application and interview and that is what medical schools are looking for. For those who are still determining whether they are pre-med: keep collecting info about the medical world and the preparation that goes into it. No one source can give you the complete picture of the diverse world of medicine but the more you talk to individuals who are healthcare professionals, medical students, and pre-med, the more insight you will get about this career path.

HONORS: What do you do to relax/what does your self-care look like?

SIBANI: I love to dance, it really helps me to relax and shake a leg when things get stressful or tough and I am really obsessed with watching comedy and mystery shows! For my self-care, I try really hard to always set an end-time to the day where I stop studying and working and relax and I also consciously plan some social activity every week so that I don’t forget to enjoy time off before I get carried away stressing myself of all the work I need to do.


Weds, 4/5 from 12:30-1:30 in MGH 206.