Dr. Walter Coats

  • Truman Grad Year and Major: 2001 Biology
  • Med School: Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Med School Grad Year: June 2005
  • Specialty: Internal Medicine
  • Residence: Cleveland Clinic
  • Hometown: West Plains, Missouri
  • Current Job: Central Missouri Cardiology in Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Family: Married — met as undergrads at Truman

Why medicine? How did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor?
I knew that I wanted to be in a service profession. I felt it was my calling and I was very comfortable helping people. I never saw myself as a capitalist or business sort of person. Coming from a medical family — my dad is a doctor, my mom is a nurse — I knew a little about how things worked. My first year at Truman, I was a Political Science major; after one semester and sitting in with a judge, I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer, and I switched to Biology.

How did you prepare for med school? (extracurricular activities, shadowing, research, MCAT) Was there any part of your application that you felt was lacking and what would you have done differently to improve it?
I feel that experience is very important; of any kind (job, volunteering at hospital, visiting with a family physician.) You have to figure out if you like this type of work. Personally, I was a pharmacy technician at a hospital for a summer and a half. Research is also very important — most valuable to me was work done with Dr. Herrera. Mostly you have to demonstrate that you can succeed at something, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be the hard sciences (i.e.,biology, chemistry); medical schools look for this. The MCAT was originally my weak point, but I learned how to prepare for standardized tests, and it eventually became a strong point. My advice is to get a review book, put in the time and master it; do not skip around between books.

How well did Truman prepare you for med school as compared to your classmates? In other words, what advantages or disadvantages does Truman offer to a pre-med student?
I felt very prepared for medical school, though I was a “science geek” and spent lots of time in the science building.

What classes did you find most helpful to you? What material did you apply after leaving Truman?
The more challenging classes were the most helpful to me. For example, Physiology, Comparative Anatomy, and Calculus-based Physics were very helpful.

How many schools did you apply to? Where?
My application was fairly narrow, and I feel that this was the right way to go. Medical schools want to know that you have a plan and are capable of planning for your future in a specific way. Geography plays a huge role in where you end up; along with the type of education you want to receive.

How hectic is life for a medical student? For a doctor? How much time does your profession allow for family/friend recreation time?
The first and second years are very grueling — quite honestly not the best years of your life. You will spend lots of time studying. It is very tough to have a family during medical school, though I knew some that did it. The third and fourth years tend to lighten up quite a bit, but you still have to prioritize — there is always a trade-off.

What do you enjoy most about being a doctor?
It is very enjoyable just talking with and getting to know my patients. You have to realize that they are real people. There is a difference between a patient and a person you know and who knows you. It is very gratifying to make these types of relationships.

If you could do it all over again—from undergrad to where you are today—what would you do differently? Any regrets?
No, I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.

D.O. vs M.D.
I’m very familiar with the philosophy; my dad is a D.O. Osteopathy is old-fashioned in a good way — I strive to be a good generalist and more hands on. D.O’s tend to deal more in anatomy and structure than biochemistry, but I don’t use manipulation as much in my residency.