Laila Kalaf

Pre-Health Specialized Studies ‘18


Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine ‘23
Pre-Health Programs, University of Pennsylvania ‘18
Bachelor of Science and Arts in Nutritional Sciences and Business Foundations, The University of Texas at Austin ‘17

“For my whole life I’ve wanted to be a pediatrician, and I’ve always thought about doing osteopathic medicine,” says Laila Kalaf (Pre-Health Specialized Studies ‘18). For Laila, osteopathy means talking to patients, getting to know them, and finding ways to help beyond prescribing medication. “The holistic and patient-centered approach is why I want to be a physician,” she adds. “You have to have a sense of vocation and want to help others.”

Although she took some science courses in college, Laila enrolled in Penn’s Pre-Health Post-Baccalaureate Programs to make herself a stronger candidate for medical school. “I chose Penn because of its prestige and because they tailor each schedule to the student. It’s not just ‘one schedule fits all,’” she explains. “That aligns with osteopathic medicine as well.”

The Pre-Health schedule that best fit Laila was two years of coursework on the Specialized Studies track and a linkage agreement that positioned her to continue her studies at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). “I was supposed to wait three years to apply to med school, but since I did the linkage I was able to apply during my second year,” she recalls. “You have to meet the requirements and be selected by Penn. I completed an application and I interviewed with the faculty and advisors.”

Now in her first year at PCOM, Laila values the scientific knowledge and practical skills she learned in the program. “The upper-division classes that we took—histology, physiology, immunology—have already been so helpful. I even learned how to study for the first time,” Laila reflects. “Group studying, getting feedback and advice—that’s what got me through it. If I had gone to med school straight out of undergrad, I wouldn’t have had this advantage.”

Completing her post-baccalaureate studies also provided Laila with experiences and opportunities outside of the classroom. She attended program-sponsored workshops to learn how to navigate the medical school application and to prepare for professional interviews. Through Service Link, she volunteered for a government agency that works with refugees and immigrants on fulfilling US health requirements. In her second year, she served as the Diversity and Inclusion Chair for the Penn Post-Baccalaureate Society, and the program coordinator for the Penn Medical Spanish Club. “I'm bilingual, and I love teaching others how to speak Spanish,” she says. “I reached out to Hispanic physicians in the area who would come in to give us talks and roleplay patient-doctor interactions. Those visits helped students learn the actual dialect, not just textbook language.”

“Get to know your advisors, get to know your professors, go to office hours,” Laila advises future Pre-Health students. “The environment, my peers, and the relationship I felt with my professors and advisors completely transformed me and made me believe that I was a capable medical school applicant.”

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