An Aspiring Physician Sets Her Eyes on the Long Game with the UVM Online M.M.S. Program

February 28, 2024 by Megan McHugh

Eyes on the Long Game: Aspiring Physician in Online M.M.S. Program

As a Colgate University freshman, Jenna Borovinsky loved the campus, her classes, and playing on the women’s soccer team. It was a busy, hopeful time and Jenna was soaking it all in.

Everything was going swimmingly, until one fateful day on the pitch.

A lifelong soccer player, Jenna was no stranger to injury. But a torn ACL is no small thing, and for Jenna, it would prove to be just the first phase of a years-long medical saga that would challenge her health, sense of self, and academic standing.

In an instant, her idyllic college experience was ripped out from under her, replaced by a series of surgeries, intensive physical therapy, and mental health challenges. Talking to her today, Jenna is candid about the academic fallout: “My undergraduate transcript does not reflect my abilities,” she says.

Apply to Medical School with Confidence

An aspiring physician, Jenna wanted to apply to medical school with a GPA that told a more truthful story about who she is as a student. “I just wanted to be able to apply competitively,” she says.

“Plus, I always knew I didn’t want to go straight into medical school,” she continues, explaining how after graduating in 2022, she joined AmeriCorps back in her home state of California to get hands-on community health experience. From there, she joined the University of California–San Francisco (UCSF) Osher Center for Integrative Health as a part-time clinical research coordinator to gain more work experience as she mapped out her next academic steps.

The University of Vermont master of medical science program has always attracted me, and this is because it can be done remotely,” she says. “It’s important to me to work in my community and give back, and I wanted to stay in my current role in California and also go to grad school. The work-life balance at UVM is exactly what I was looking for.”

While the master of medical science (M.M.S.) degree at the Robert Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont can be completed in one to two years, either online or in person, Jenna had her eye on the long game; to her, the program would be a springboard into medical school, providing the GPA boost and content confidence she needed to present as a strong applicant. 

Plus, the UVM master of medical science program, she explains, includes “a linkage program in which you maintain a certain GPA and get a certain MCAT score, and you get an automatic interview [with the UVM Larner College of Medicine Office of Admissions], and that is attractive to me. I know I would love to go to UVM Medical School. Therefore, this has always been the top program I was looking at.

Distance Learning: Connecting to UVM’s Medical Curriculum and a Supportive Cohort 

As a remote student logging in to UVM courses from the West Coast, Jenna committed to making the most of her graduate school experience, despite the distance. To build relationships and get an inside look at the medical school she hopes to attend after her M.M.S., she joined the LCOM Graduate Student Council to ensure that remote students’ experiences were represented. “We’re not on campus,” she says, “and we’re facing different difficulties than people on campus are facing.”

Obstacles are a normal part of any academic career, but for Jenna, the master of medical science program has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. “I feel like my confidence is increasing as a result of taking these courses,” she says, crediting the diverse student makeup as a significant learning opportunity for her.

“I’m studying with Ph.D. students and students from different master’s programs, as well,” she explains. Collaborating with her peer cohort has been eye opening and enriching, with distance posing no real barrier to Jenna feeling connected to her classmates. Group chats and virtual study groups go a long way to keeping her dialed in to her UVM community almost daily. “It’s hard doing anything alone. It takes a community. And despite being remote, I feel I have that,” she says.

Learning Online at UVM—and On the Job in California

With a mostly asynchronous course schedule, Jenna has the flexibility she needs to bridge time zones and maintain a part-time work schedule. Work, to her, is more than an income. It’s an education. 

“Gaining these invaluable life experiences is something I would never change, and that’s another reason why doing this remote program makes a lot of sense to me. I’m grateful I am gaining these life experiences at the same time as completing this rigorous coursework,” she says.

As she learns on the job about social determinants of health and studies equity gaps in health care access in rural and LGBTQ+ communities, for example, Jenna has crystalized her vision of how she wants to practice medicine: “I want to prioritize getting a background in public health in order to be the physician I want to be,” she says.

There’s a lot to look forward to—and a lot to prepare for—as Jenna rounds the corner on her last semester in the master of medical science degree program. This spring, diploma in hand, she will retake the MCAT and then start applying to medical schools. After everything she’s been through to get to this point, Jenna’s perspective is one of gratitude, grit, and adaptability: “Soccer was my main identity growing up,” she says. While her undergraduate injuries changed her athletic trajectory, they also broadened her world in unexpected ways. “It’s all allowed me to pursue passions I never would have done before,” she explains. No matter where Jenna’s journey takes her next, success, it seems, will be her final destination.

This article was originally published on the UVM Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) website on December 6, 2023, by Megan McHugh: “Improve Your Medical School Application with an Online Master of Medical Science Degree.” View article and watch video interviews

Read full story at UVM Professional and Continuing Education (PACE) website

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