Dr. Benji Ho, recent graduate of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine, and author of the widely read blog, “Diary of a Caribbean Med Student,” answers a few questions about his journey to medical school; experience at AUC, including clinical rotations in the United Kingdom; and long-term career goals. Dr. Ho entered the 2014 National Resident Matching Program, successfully securing a Family Medicine residency position at The Mercer University School of Medicine's Medical Center of Central Georgia.
AUC: At what point in your life did you decide to become a doctor?
HO: I did not decide to pursue medicine until the end of college, later than many of my classmates. At the time, I was finishing my undergraduate degrees in architecture and linguistics at Washington University in St. Louis and had lots of interests and potential career paths: music, architecture, linguistics – but it was my interest in medicine that I ultimately chose to pursue as a profession. Some wonderful experiences volunteering at a clinic made me realize how much I enjoyed working with others and valued the quest for knowledge and science.
AUC: Describe your path to attending AUC.
HO: After earning my bachelor’s degree, I headed to the University of Georgia where I studied pre-medicine as a post-baccalaureate student, conducted cell biology research, and volunteered for several medical and non-medical organizations. Although I didn’t get into the medical schools to which I applied, I wasn’t discouraged. Rather, I was even more determined and researched options abroad. A major deciding factor in my choice to attend AUC was the feedback from students and alumni on various blogs and forums. Consistently, students and alumni commented on the same benefits: AUC’s close-knit community, relatively smaller class size, dedicated faculty, beautiful and developed location, good communication with the administration, and the success of graduates. I felt AUC was the right place for me to learn medicine.
AUC: What aspects of your experience at AUC stand out to you, particularly as it relates to preparing you for your future?
HO: I felt there was a very friendly, supportive environment at AUC. Because most of us had left our homes and families to come thousands of miles away to a very different place to study such a demanding discipline, we felt a bond, giving each other support and helping each other out so that we can all succeed together. The people I met at AUC were my family away from home and I learned the value of teamwork and camaraderie from them. I believe these values are particularly vital for successful patient care during residency and beyond.
AUC: Can you tell us about your rotations in the UK?
HO: During my clinical years, I took advantage of the opportunity to complete rotations in the UK. This was one of the best experiences I've had during medical school. The doctors there were friendly and loved to teach, and I found the curriculum in the UK rotations to be much more flexible than that in rotations in the US. This gave me the opportunity to see more and do more, and tailor my education the way I wanted. It was quite an eye-opener to experience medicine practiced in a health care system much different from our own, but also great to see the universality of medicine in the context of different cultures. My wife and I also had the opportunity to travel and see the UK and Europe on the weekends. Rotating in the UK is an option that not many other medical students in other schools may get, and my decision to take advantage of these experiences definitely enriched my medical education and training, and even impressed some of the residency programs with whom I interviewed.
AUC: The desire to become a family practitioner is something you’ve spoken about early on and have characterized it as your “true dream.” What does family medicine mean to you?
HO: Family medicine means providing a continuum of care - from childhood to adulthood. It’s the community-centered role of family medicine that best fits my personality. I have always pictured myself as the “go to” person in the community that others can come to for help. The desire to help others is what drew me to become a class representative, senior anatomy teaching assistant, an executive board member of the Student Governing Association and an orientation advisor. Also, my blog is another way to fulfill my need to help others. During clinical rotations, I enjoyed working with kids and adults, and treating the whole family as a unit.
AUC: What advice do you have for current AUC students who are either in medical sciences or completing their clinical rotations? Any other thoughts about your medical school experience?
HO: While coming to the Caribbean for medical school was not something I had originally envisioned or planned, it was the path that ultimately helped me reach my dream, and for this I am thankful. My advice to others would be to take advantage of every opportunity you have to the fullest. It's a competitive world out there, especially as an IMG, so equip yourself with the highest scores you can attain, the most contributions you can give to your community, and the best character qualities you can impress on anyone with whom you cross paths. All of this would be reflected in not just your grades, MSPE, CV, and letter of recommendations, but also your personal growth as an aspiring physician.
Every moment at AUC was an opportunity to learn and improve myself, and looking back, I am glad that I went through them all and came out a better person with a story to tell.
AUC: Now that you’ve secured your Family Medicine residency at The Mercer University School of Medicine's Medical Center of Central Georgia, what are your thoughts on your long-term career goals?
HO: My ultimate dream after residency is to open up an outpatient family medicine clinic with my wife Irene, who is a physician assistant. Working together, it would make us happy to see the lives and long-term health in our community improve, one patient at a time.
Posted March 21, 2014 02:58 PM