Name: Dara U. Otu
Specialty: Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
Fellowship: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
Residency: Rush University Medical Center
Medical School: University of Texas at Houston Medical School
Undergraduate: Rice University
1) When did you decide you wanted to become a Medical Doctor and what led to this decision?
I decided when I was still in elementary school because I had bad asthma and really respected our family physician. I started doing volunteer work in middle school that furthered my interests in medicine. By the time I got to college, I was 100% sure that medicine was the career for me.
2) What was the most difficult part of getting into Medical School for you?
Studying for the MCAT was my least favorite part.
3) How did you study for the MCAT? How do you recommend students study for the MCAT?
I spent the first half of the summer at SMDEP (Summer Medical Dental Education Program) in New Jersey where they had an intensive MCAT track. I made some great friends that summer and we bonded over MCAT studying. When I got back I continued to study like it was a full time job until the exam was done. I don’t know if SMDEP still has MCAT tracks but it was helpful because the program gives a stipend for the students and provided a free MCAT course. I think the most important part of studying is doing practice questions and exams. This is advice that will continue throughout your medical career. It doesn’t matter how well you know the material, you must do a ton of practice questions for all the standardized tests.
4) What did you do during your undergraduate summers?
Freshman Summer: I took an accelerated CNA (certified nursing assistant) course and worked for my dad. I never took a job as a CNA because it wasn’t what I was expecting. Sophomore Summer: SMDEP and MCAT studying. I took the MCAT that August before my junior year of college. Junior Summer: Nutrition research at CNRC (Children’s Nutrition Research Center) and served as a Rice University Orientation week coordinator. Senior Summer: Worked as a mentor/leader for an inner city high school summer program. I had a few weeks off before starting medical school.
5) What is one thing you wish someone told you while you were in college?
I probably should have listened when I was advised to study abroad at some point in college.
6) What led you to choose your current specialty?
I always liked pulmonary medicine because of my childhood asthma and was intimidated by critical care initially. I ended up falling in love with critical care during my fourth year ICU rotation in medical school. That love continued on in residency with each ICU month.
7) Briefly describe your average work day.
The work day depends on the rotation. On a typical consult month, I try to get to the hospital by 7 and see all the follow up patients and new consults by rounds at 9. Some days we have bronchoscopies or other procedures that have to be scheduled around seeing patients. The ICU is a little less predictable but I get there around the same time and stay until 5PM unless there are unstable patients.
8) What do you enjoy most about your profession? What do you enjoy least?
I love figuring out what is wrong with my patients and how to fix it. I also enjoy doing procedures. I don’t enjoy the fact that it takes many years to finish training (4 years of med school, 3 years of residency, 3 years of fellowship) but it will all be worth it.
9) What words of advice would you like to leave with pre-medical students?
Learn how to correctly study in college. It will not only help you get into medical school but it will also help for the many tests you take through medical school and residency. Studying is definitely number one but don’t forget to enjoy college. Take interesting classes that you will never take again, join clubs/activities and make the most of the city that you are living in.
10) If you had to start over and choose a career again, would you pick medicine? Why or why not?
I would still choose medicine. Even if it is a challenging and long road, the job is fun and rewarding. You also cannot beat having job security in a field that you actually enjoy.