Mr. Tilley participated in SMDEP at University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2011.

Today, he is a 2nd year medical student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What led to your interest in dentistry, medicine, another health profession or other career?

I became interested in the health professions in high school. I took a few Medical Science courses and was immediately hooked on learning the anatomy, physiology, and patient care aspects of health science. I also really enjoyed science and honestly didn’t realize I was good at it until high school. I entered college dead-set on becoming a dentist – I had shadowed and done research projects on the profession before college and felt like that was the right career for me. My University had a HUGE pre-health club/professions advisory board that was dedicated to preparing students for admission into all health professions programs, so I naturally got involved with the pre-dental club to match my current interest. I applied to SMDEP at Nebraska to get experience with the dental program and interestingly enough ended up falling in love with medicine while there. I had wonderful experiences at the dental school that summer, but I found myself becoming more interested in what my colleagues were doing in the medicine program. SMDEP was the turning point that had me changing my desired career path towards that of becoming a physician, and I haven’t looked back since. I am so thankful to SMDEP for affording me wonderful opportunities to explore both medicine and dentistry, and to ultimately allowing me the chance to find my passion.

What makes your story unique?

My story is unique! I completely changed trajectories halfway through college (which ultimately wasn’t too difficult since my major (Biological Sciences!) required me to take the exact same pre-reqs for either dental or medical school. Again, I began college set on becoming a dentist, and I graduated with an even stronger desire to become a physician. In addition to my change of heart, I took two years off after college to gain more experience in the medical field before applying. I wanted to do the application process right the first time (it is SO expensive and incredibly intensive; it really requires a lot from you). I was afforded wonderful opportunities to work in genetics research during my time off and gained skill sets consisting of research and lab-managing that I would not have received anywhere else. I applied and was fortunate to gain multiple acceptances into medical school, including an acceptance to my dream school where I currently attend. None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for my unique path throughout undergrad and the few years after.

What surprised you the most about professional school?

Medical school is HARD. It is so rewarding, but so challenging! It requires you to give all that you possibly can in terms of energy, brain power, motivation, excitement; it is draining but completely worth it every single day. The material in medical school is surprisingly nothing more complex than anything that was taught in undergrad, it is just given at 10x the volume and speed! They say that medical school courses are like drinking from a fire hydrant; whoever coined the phrase is a genius because it is so accurate. Not to scare anyone though because if you keep up with your work, it is completely doable.

Do you remember your first day of graduate studies? What memory stands out the most?

My first day of medical school was so surreal. I was sitting in a large lecture hall auditorium with my 180 classmates! The lectures began and we hit the ground running – it was so fun, scary, exciting, terrifying, enlightening all at the same time!