HMX Moderator Profile
Michael Chang chose to go to medical school to apply his interest in science to make connections and build relationships with others. He appreciates the opportunity to interact with the global HMX community online as an intern and course moderator, learning from participants’ diverse perspectives as well as sharing his own knowledge as a medical student.
What made you want to pursue a career in medicine?
I studied molecular biology at Princeton University, and my undergraduate experience centered on civic engagement and community service, in addition to a number of molecular biology research experiences. I was also fascinated by oncology and infectious disease, and spent a lot of time in the lab, as well as in the clinical research setting. This translation of bench-to-bedside medicine was always appealing to me. But often even just as exciting was the ability to talk to people in clinic, and get to know the patients and their lives and stories, both their medical journeys as well as their more personal narratives. That was what convinced me to pursue a career in medicine – I enjoy the research and science, but I especially liked how I could really make this knowledge personal and meaningful in a clinical context.
What did you do prior to medical school?
I took one year in between undergrad and medical school to pursue doing research as an assistant at the Rockefeller University in New York City. In terms of deciding on doing a research year, my undergraduate thesis was pretty involved in terms of being a lab project but also requiring me to collaborate with people who focused on malaria and mosquito work in Maryland as well as in Peru, so I had to do a lot of field work as well. I wanted to take an extra year instead of applying at the end of my junior year, so my application would reflect that project, in addition to having real life experience under my belt. While in New York, I was also volunteering at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, helping cancer patients write stories or poems or essays, and tutoring local high school students on biology. So it was a wonderful year to further develop my interest in medicine and patient narratives, scientific research, and tutoring/mentoring students.
What made you want to work as an HMX intern?
I’ve always enjoyed teaching and mentoring. When I first heard of HMX, I thought that it was this new, innovative platform that is trying to bring medical and scientific education to a broader audience. I wanted to help students who were trying to go to medical school, or professionals in other fields, like business, law or engineering, who were planning on a career change or simply wanted a more robust understanding of medicine and science.
Just for my own learning, teaching helps me better understand topics and forces me to really think critically about my class and my hospital experiences that I’ve had in medical school, and how I can use that first-hand information for students in HMX. Also, as a future physician, my patients will have similar types of questions about what the disease processes are affecting their health, so practicing having a teaching-focused mindset is always helpful.
Has there been anything surprising about the experience?
Students have been asking a lot of really interesting questions; some have said they’re not from medical backgrounds, and it’s been really interesting to see how people from other fields think. They’ll ask questions about certain molecules or processes in the body that we kind of just take for granted in terms of what they do or how they are. And then they’ll ask, for example, ‘How long does this cytokine last in the bloodstream?’ or ‘How effective are immune cells once they’ve already done part of their job?’. These are questions that we don’t really ask often in a classroom or clinical setting that I think are really interesting. We don’t always have a great answer for them, but it’s really nice to see students thinking outside of the box and furthering our understanding.
Do you have any advice for participants who want to get the most out of the courses?
Ask questions in the discussion forums. Something that works well for students is trying to answer each others’ questions too, or coming up with follow up questions to build a conversation. When the discussion forum is used not just for Q&A, if there’s a question a lot of people have different takes on, it’s always valuable to have that kind of insight and dialogue.