Ben Walker earns top USMLE Step 1 score and scholarship

Date: Monday, November 22, 2021

University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine student Ben Walker has earned the highest score among his classmates on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 exam.

Ben Walker, portrait

The Minnesota native scored 273 out of a possible 300 points on the exam, which is the first of three tests that students must pass for medical licensure in the U.S. The Step 1 exam measures how well students can apply basic and foundational science concepts to clinical scenarios and is one of the most important—and toughest—tests they must pass.

Walker will receive a scholarship for his high score, to be applied toward medical tuition and fees.

He recently reflected on the exam and what’s next:

Why did you choose to pursue medicine?

The medicine decision started in middle school when my dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He went through chemotherapy and he's doing well now, but that was kind of what planted the seed. And then, I really just liked science and just helping people.

What has your experience at the UI Carver College of Medicine been like so far?

My experience has been awesome. I think our curriculum does a really good job of preparing us for exams, as I guess my score would reflect. I like the way our curriculum is set up, where we take USMLE board exams after clinicals. And then, overall, I just think the people here are awesome. It's got a very Midwestern feel, everybody's super nice and friendly. The atmosphere is awesome, especially during like things like football games. And then there's a good outdoor atmosphere here, as well.

What went into your preparation for the USMLE Step 1 exam?

I started preparing around the middle of my clinical year. And mostly what I did was just a lot of practice questions. In total, I probably did close to 10,000 questions. And then there was also just spaced repetition of learning things over and over again, which our curriculum tries to do.

What was your reaction to learning your score, and that it was the highest in your class?

I was pretty excited. And, obviously, it was really awesome to get some financial assistance. It was also nice just because that's a pretty big screener that people use on residency applications, so to know that I had a score that wasn't going to keep me out of any place was comforting.

What are your short- and long-term goals in medicine?

I’m currently applying to diagnostic radiology. Diagnostic radiologists spend most of their time interpreting imaging, like X-rays, CTs, and MRIs, but are also able to perform some image-guided interventions. I hope to eventually complete a fellowship in a more procedural subspecialty of diagnostic radiology so I will have more opportunity to interact with patients, but it's such a broad field that I don't yet know where I would want to specialize. 

What are you looking forward to?

I'm just excited to learn a lot more. If medical school is a lot of information, radiology is that much more. I love learning; I love just expanding my knowledge, gaining new perspectives on how to look at things, and just getting more experience with hands-on patient care.