This post was updated Feb. 7 at 12:55 a.m.
Sohini Halder is making her medical school journey full screen.
The alumnus and first-year medical student at UC San Francisco started her YouTube channel – which now has more than 1,700 subscribers – in June 2020 to document her pre-med experience. As a former UCLA student, Halder said she understands the difficulties of navigating the medical school application process and aims to use her channel to help aspiring medical students prepare by sharing her own experiences. Inspired by her own memories of scouring the internet as a lost pre-med student, Halder said she hopes to provide free crowdsourced resources like the ones she used to rely on.
“What I realized, going through the application process myself, was just how convoluted and inaccessible medicine is,” Halder said. “Even with all the resources that I was able to access, I still felt really lost, … so I imagine that others must feel similarly.“
Halder said she decided to place themes of accessibility and transparency at the forefront of her channel. Resources for medical school applications can be hard to come by, she said, especially for those who don’t have the means to pay for them. It’s easy for those with wealth to come by medical school opportunities or afford the materials to achieve high MCAT scores, but cheaper resources are not as readily available, she said. Additionally, many applicants have to balance work and family responsibilities alongside preparing for medical school, which makes accessible resources especially important, Halder said.
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One such resource on her channel is a video discussing her previous MCAT studying schedule. Composed of a blank template for students to make their own schedule, it includes additional tabs to track MCAT score progress as well as other test details, Halder said. One of Halder’s subscribers, Shinjini Das, said she has found Halder’s resources especially useful for planning applications and studying for standardized tests, which she could use to prepare for her own medical school application.
“(Halder’s) video of her sharing her entire MCAT study schedule was really helpful,” Das said. “She broke down everything that (I) would need to do.”
Additionally, Das said Halder’s videos helped her structure her time at college during the COVID-19 pandemic. With her first year of school at home because of COVID-19, she said it was helpful to watch the channel for advice on what organizations to join so that she didn’t fall behind despite being away from campus. Though it is still early in her pre-med journey, Das said she was able to try out different clubs her first year and focus on research and volunteering after Halder’s advice.
Mansi Kalra, a friend of Halder’s, said she has seen the work it takes behind the scenes to plan, film and edit videos while working toward a medical degree. However, Kalra said she has seen Halder come into herself more as a person since she started to create content, as she acts cheerful and upbeat instead of putting up a front. Without having the right passion for content creation, the time it takes can start to take a toll on a person, Kalra said.
“(Creators have to get) a message across well and creatively in a way that (makes) people actually want to consume the information,” Kalra said. “The best content creators are the ones who can make sure they’re getting their work across, but they’re also making sure that it lands well with their audience.”
While she is not in medical school herself, Kalra said watching Halder’s channel has revealed the lesser-known intricacies and difficulties of being a medical student. Specifically, the channel addresses the gatekeeping of information, which is why the wide accessibility of Halder’s platform is so important, Kalra said.
Although Halder said she comes from a privileged background, she acknowledges that not everyone has the same opportunities. She said there are numerous barriers that exist in the medical world, from the financial burdens of education to the availability of shadowing opportunities for less affluent students. Those who have the right resources are the ones who are able to excel, she said, which, unfortunately, creates an uneven playing field. Her goal is to provide people with options that don’t cost an overwhelming amount of money.
“The demographic that makes up physicians, and honestly, most medical school candidates right now, too, is not representative of the U.S. population at all,” Halder said.
[Related: UCLA student’s pre-med journey goes beyond pen and paper]
To advocate for making the health care field more accessible, Halder takes a series of steps to create her content. Before filming, she said her video-creating process takes significant research and scripting, but the most time-consuming part is editing during postproduction. Halder said she wants to piece together clips in a way that grabs viewers’ attention and keeps them watching but still showcases her off-screen personality through angle cuts and other editing tricks.
For now, Halder intends to keep the focus of her channel on academics and life in medical school, potentially through “study with me” videos and vlogs documenting her academic experiences, she said. That way, her viewers can continue to learn from her experiences and understand what to expect for their own medical school aspirations.
“After all the patient encounters that I’ve had, I realized that there’s a much bigger responsibility,” Halder said. “I’m really trying to take care to have what I put out into the world through my channel be representative of me.”