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My Interview with MedschoolHQ

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Hi,

My exams are almost over, just one more to go — they were very hard in case you were curious. A few weeks ago, before the exams, I was invited to have a podcast conversation with Dr. Ryan Gray of  Medical School HQ. So, after stripping off my tie from clinical site duty and me frantically trying to remember what my Skype screen name was we finally got down to it. It was sort of surreal, as before applying to medical school I book marked this site because I really enjoyed the content. If you haven’t heard of Medical School HQ, then it’s a good link to add to your favorites list. Here’s their about statement:

MedicalSchoolHQ.net takes the RELEVANT pre med and medical school topics and creates a one-stop shop for you to quickly get the information you need. Follow our current, constantly updating “Pre Med 101″ page for an easy step-by-step guide to your pre medical years.  We´re working hard on developing a Medical School 101 for those students going through it right now. We are constantly looking for new ideas that will help YOU.  Please let us know what you need to succeed and we will provide it.

MedicalSchoolHQ.net is the work of physicians. This site is here to help medical school applicants guide their way through the admissions process. It’s here to help medical students pick a specialty, aces the board exams and more. We remember how the MCAT and the AMCAS were (and still are) very intimidating and overwhelming for anybody wanting to apply to medical school. We remember how the USMLE seems to be the make or break test to get you into the residency of your choice. Let MedicalSchoolHQ.net be your hub of information to simplify the process.

My podcast interview was their 95th installment, I haven’t listened to it myself because I cringe at the thought of hearing myself speak (haha). But, if you’re interested in listening and learning some private details about my experience as a nontraditional medical school student please check out:

http://medicalschoolhq.net/95 

There’s a Storm Coming: Exam Week

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Hi,

I’ve been a little pre-occupied with studying, human dissection and medstudent tom-foolery. Starting tomorrow, my school has an exam block for MS1s (first year medical students). At my program, we have a traditional schedule, that is classes from 8 AM until the afternoon: Biochemistry & Molecular biology (and you thought you’d never talk about pKas again), Gross Anatomy (lab and written exams), Human Behavior in Medicine, and Public Health/Law. I have three tests this week, every other day, and the last test next Monday. Interestingly, as time marches on I’ll have less exams to take until Thanksgiving (Turkey Day) — I look forward to this idea.

There’s a lot on our plate as  first year, lots of studying, lots of cramming. Though, cramming takes on a different meaning compared to undergrad: in undergrad cramming meant you studied 48 hours before the exam, in medschool cramming means you’ve always been studying and it’s still not enough so you need to really work your buns off as the test approaches to stuff every last bit of information into your brain you can before the exam. I’ve heard from my upperclass mates that this pattern abates, dropping off over time as you become more comfortable with the material and testing style. But for now, most of us are stressing out over the exam block coming up, some more than others. At my school, there are a lot of industrious medstudents who’ve fulfilled a masters/extension to place into my medical school wherein they have a lighter load because they don’t have retake classes they’ve already aced. These people worked for it, and their reward is a little less testing around this time — bravo. So, if you’re one of the people who decided to go this direction, be confident that you aren’t wasting your time once admitted if you set yourself up with the right program. A lot of us however didn’t go this route, so we need to have a full block and we cry ourselves to sleep internally every night as we try to keep everything together, know the minute details while hopefully still understanding the big picture.

So, how do I feel? Pretty freaked out to tell you the truth. But at the same time I’m elated to see that medical school is every bit as challenging as people made it out to be, because it means that hopefully by the end I’ll be a better person and perhaps (if I’m fortunate) a tad smarter. We have a pass/fail system at my school with no internal ranking, this is to help cut down on competition amongst ourselves, but internally I’m sure a lot of us still want to do well just to prove it to ourselves that we ‘belong’. I’m lucky though, my classmates are ultra supportive and we study together randomly all the time — in fact, I randomly crash study groups all the time.

This past Friday, I decided to take a study break and I visited the person who interviewed me. You see, she told me to visit her if I decided to attend the program after my interview. I laughed when she told me that, and said of course because I halfway figured I’d be rejected and she just didn’t want to ruin my day. So, I lived up to my word and paid a visit. We talked for about an hour and a half, she told me why she wanted me to be admitted and I told her how I felt about the interview day and her interview. She later showed me her lab where she helps head the amyloidosis research, where both PhDs and MDs work together on a translational research project. We viewed a slide of amyloid protein stained with a Congo Red dye. You’ve probably heard of amyloid protein before, and the first thing to come to your mind is probably Alzheimer’s, but the protein plaques can also aggregate in your visceral fat around your gut and heart (in the septum). You can diagnosis someone with amyloidosis by taking a sample of fat from the visceral region, using it to confirm images of a hypertrophied septum thus confirming amyloidosis — the day actually turns apple green under polarized light, it’s still debated why this happens exactly. It was awesome because I just learned all of this a few weeks prior, and I have a test on the subject (and many others) tomorrow morning, so that’s one question I probably won’t get wrong.

My Dark Secret

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“Could you bring me some information on what type of degree a cook can earn to further himself in his career.

J. Smith

Hey may I wish you the very best in life, keep going, don’t let nothing get you down if it does don’t let it keep you down very long, keep faith in the lord Jesus + keep growing stronger in God’s holy word”

Before I applied to medical school I was involved in a program called Prisoner Education Program (PEP), I wrote a little about the program before in previous entries [Why I Chose to Go to Prison and All the Things I Learned in Prison]. In this program I received a folded up letter from an inmate that I still keep with me till this day. The main goal of this program was to help reduce recidivism by teaching these people life and job skills, academic counseling and tutoring. In the letter above, this person wanted to know how to become a chef. I joined this group for personal reasons, you see I grew up with only one of my brothers, and well we saw a lot and went through a lot of things together; much of it I’m not really prepared to share yet, but it’s things I stop to deal with everyday and I’m sure it’s the same for him. But, we grew up around crime and violence and death. Indeed, our drill was growing up wasn’t for fires or California earthquakes, instead it was a ‘drop to the ground’ when you hear pops because it meant a local drive by shooting. My brother and I have different fathers and we had a father figure who was likely a gang member at the time, I’m presumptive because I was too young to understand what a gang was and what it meant, who was shot to death in the same drive by drill we had come to know so often. I dreamt of the glint of his blood where the bullets had penetrated for many years, I still think about it now though I don’t remember his name any longer; recently, I learned in class that this was a form of post traumatic stress.

My mother hoped to move us away from this ‘fate’, we packed things up, and with a huge helping hand of welfare and government programs we moved to a new city, one where kids killed people in video games but not in real life. I was young, it was an effective strategy. But, for my brother I wonder if he’d seen too much by that time, because he couldn’t detangle himself from the life we once knew yet didn’t talk about with our new friends. His first brush with the law was when he was under 18, then it was just a vicious cycle after that coupled with my personal illness growing up devouring my mother’s attention of course. I’ve often wondered if things would be different, for him and I, first if we grew up in different neighborhood and if he didn’t have to compete with me for love. So, as a premed I did something odd who was soon going to apply to medical, I decided to spend much of my time in prison and get to know the population and maybe how to save and understand my brother who I’ve always looked up to and who had always protected me, read to me, taught me math and how to read, and disciplined me if I didn’t keep up with my studies.

As my brother fell into more troubles with he law and eventually kicked out of the house, I was fooled into thinking my virtues had kept me safe and out of trouble. That is until I had my first and hopefully last brush with the law taught me how little how the world can be. Despite missing many days in high school due to illness, I did pretty well in high school and got into a university; but when I graduated high school, I attended a community college because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, my step father who was an engineer at the time encouraged me to go this direction to find myself without breaking the bank with tuition. I was sort of disappointed by the transition, but never the less I kept my grades up and started taking some introductory engineering, math and some drafting courses. I met this girl one day, who was also from my school and we went on a date that week and I drove. During the date, being naive I didn’t bring enough petty cash with me, so I stopped at a local bank in an affluent neighborhood to get money out of my bank. While walking through the parking lot I was stopped by a police car, I was told to stop and put my hands on the hood of their car. A man and a woman team then got out of the car, questioned me several times with the same question. I’d seen enough crime movies to know cops do that to see if your story will stay consistent. I told them the same basic things: I go to X school, I’m interested in engineering, where I lived and I’m on date. Things seemed pretty jovial at first, I hadn’t done anything so I had no reason to fear. Then they handcuffed me and put me in the back of their car, this was about the time people were driving by and staring at me surely wondering what a menace to society I was.

In the back of the police car, on the cold and hard plastic seats, hands crimped by the handcuffs I then asked calmly

“So, why exactly am I here and what do you think I did?” 

The police officer responded, there was a bank robbery in X city (a local city I’d never been to by the way) and you fit the description of a

“Black male, with blue jeans and a white shirt”. 

I’d always had a defiant, if not flippant response towards things, so I laughed and asked

“Isn’t that like every black guy in the city?” 

They both chuckled, and we hung out in the car for an hour or so, my date in my car not being able to see this whole ordeal the entire time. Eventually, they did receive more details and I was realized, but not before another cop driving by yelled something like “Go get some chicken BOY!” — I was returned to my car, un-cuffed and as you imagined my date was pretty much over as was my self esteem.

After that, I never told my parents or my brother, I didn’t even tell my friends really as the whole ordeal was just too embarrassing for me. My grades dropped, I fell into depression and I soon wondered why had I been trying so hard in the first place, as an honor roll high school student, if this was going to be the result in the end? I just about dropped out of college and started working, and became rather reclusive. I soon understood how it felt to be on the other side of the law, and how degrading and violating it felt. I suppose this brings the story back full circle, with how I ended up in prisons voluntarily. No, I don’t think everyone in prison is innocent (though some probably surely are). But, what I do understand now is that I don’t understand society all that much and that’s why I choose to volunteer in a prison and try to help the convicted change their lives.

When I worked with the inmates, they had a hard time understanding why I’d come and if I could ever understand them with my fancy tie and dress clothes. I then told them my dark secret, and from there we had some collegiality. I recall one man who had been in prison for some time for an offense. We decided to do mock job interviews for them, as part of their life skills course. I still recall the man who weeped at the end, and shook my hand thanking me for giving him his first job interview after I gave him his feedback. Now, my brother is out of jail and he’s heard of the program I participated in, and we have a better understanding of each other and I of myself. Though, I’m not sure what ever happened to the man who wrote me the letter, as the next week that I came to the prison we weren’t allowed in because there was a stabbing that morning. I only hope that he doesn’t think that I abandoned him and although I subscribe to no religion, I do thank him for his best wishes towards me.

A Day of a Medical Student

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Medical school offers a lot of unique experiences, a lot of them are amazing some are frustrating (studying and feeling like you haven’t made progress, something we all go through). But, so far it’s pretty rewarding. To give you an idea of how my life now works, here’s a write up of one of my days.

I wake up about about 6:30 AM (just to clarify, I’m absolutely not a morning person). I must be sure to arrive at school by 7:45 AM if I plan on filling my coffee mug, and having my keister in the lecture hall by 8 AM. My school offers complimentary coffee  if you know where to find it. I tried, with moderate success, to preview the slides for the day of Gross Anatomy lecture and prep for another anatomy dissection for the afternoon. The anatomy lecture lasts for a few hours, we covered the back, spine, shoulder, upper arms, and forearms in the last couple of weeks. We are responsible for knowing muscles and their: actions, origins, insertions, innervations, vasculature and the infamous brachial plexus — I should also mention that we’re also responsible for knowing the bones on our own, we’re assigned a “bone box” with an assortment of bones to self study as on our own time. On that particular day, we were on the forearm and the muscles of the hand, this also included common fractures such as the Colle’s fracture and the Boxer’s fracture. The former fracture common to athletes like football players who fall with a flexed wrist, where their distal radius breaks at the styloid process and/or ‘simply’ stops making contacting with the collective wrist bones. The latter fracture is somewhat of a misnomer, it’s a fracture of the 5th or so digit (pinky) usually seen in people who were fighting, it’s a misnomer because an actual trained boxer probably knows how to punch someone without fracturing their fingers in the first place. At noon I devour lunch with my classmates, and typically mentally brace for dissection lab. On that day, we were the second team to work so we had free time to study before going in to finish the rest of the planned dissection — the dissection went well for both teams.

Overall, the tricky part about anatomy is figuring out how to squeeze it all in your head in a meaningful way. Our medical school tries to emulate Step 1 by giving 2nd or 3rd order questions, i.e. a clinical vignette wherein we have to both figure out what the question is asking and answer the question (long story short, they’ll never ask you a straight forward question). Lab is a tricky challenge, as you not only have to prepare for lab for yourself but also for your team; the worse you perform the worse your teams performs. For the first couple of weeks I was pretty stick from the formaldehyde, I’ve always had asthma so it really got to me. But, I just kept going into lab to grow accustomed to it, once a lot of the fat was removed the smell dissipates a bit, so things are better — though, I expect the allergies to come back once we dice into the viscera. I ended up finishing the day at about 5 PM, as we stayed a little longer to make sure we’d be on track for Wednesday dissection.

After finishing dissection, I had to change from my stinky scrubs to clean scrubs because I was to shadow in the trauma unit at 6 PM that evening. I didn’t bring enough food, so I had to engulf more food from a local Subway, then rush back to the hospital (fortunately, there’s a lot of food options close by). I went to the main desk of the hospital and picked up the phone to page my resident, someone came and we hung out in the trauma waiting room where the doctors wait to be paged. That night, I was on with trauma consult, this means that patients come in with bad conditions that may require surgery and they have to be delegated out to other departments (ortho, general surgery, etc). That day, my resident assumed it’d be slow in comparison to the weekend, where people have a penchant for getting injured the most.

It did certainly start off slow, we even had enough time to grab a coffee and the resident gave me advice on residency. The only case we had to worry about was an elderly person who had fallen and had fractured their hip, this fracture didn’t come up on X-ray weeks before and had shown up on a CAT scan when they came in with complaints of not being able to ambulate.

Then, that all changed when suddenly all the available trauma bays were full.

A young women who was injured by a car with severe bilateral hip dislocations and multiple fractures, they was wearing a neck brace because they weren’t sure if they also suffered spinal injuries. As you may have imagined, they was extreme pain with intermittent and understandably bawling and screaming that they couldn’t feel their legs, their ankles were twisted, and there was random spats of blood in the trauma bay. A sheet was tightly tied to their hip to keep everything in place. X-ray techs used the portable X-ray to get an idea of how bad it was, we later went back to the trauma waiting room to view the images on computer, it was terrible and they’d require decompression (aligning the bones back in place) by a team of ortho surgeons. The good news is that they didn’t have pneuothorax, but there was a question of if air had entered their viscera and was internally bleeding as one would expect with such a horrible accident. The initial CAT scan argued against this, however, the images was sent up to a team of radiologists in the hospital just to follow up.

While this was all happening we’d jump back and forth between the trauma bays to attend to two motorcyclists who were struck by a car. The driver, had a Colle’s fracture and a huge hematoma on the sternum where presumably the handle bar had blowed into the chest; it was also likely that their had a fractured hip. The passenger was ejected, flying over him onto the too of the car, they also had injuries. Glancing at the monitors we could see that, despite their injuries, they were hemodynamically stable and just in an extreme amount of pain. The drive couldn’t remember the accident, so they were sent up for a CT scan to ensure their head was okay.

While we were waiting for the CT scan, they resident asked me to go get histories on the female who was dragged under the car. We have a class called Introduction to Clinical Medicine, here we practiced taking histories; not that I thought I’d be using it so quickly. Now on pain medications, but still obviously in discomfort I approached them, asked their name and took their history and jetted back to my resident to report. Apparently satisfied, the resident asked me to go find the motorcyclist getting a CT and get the drivers history as well. Hospitals aren’t the easiest to navigate, and I probably looked like a lost puppy, but I did eventually find him and got his history as well. Then I had to track down the resident and their attending and report the history so they could document it, no one was upset so it must have worked out.

The beeper went off yet again, this time an inmate had tried to unsuccessfully suicide attempt. We bypassed the two guards, to approach our shackled patient in bed lying in wait for medical attention. This person had several contusions on their forehead, as earlier that day they were banging their head against the wall and several more bruises on their neck where the sheet they used to try to hang themselves had caught. We got the history this time together, their complained of pain and complained of blurry vision. The blurry vision worried the resident, the guard sitting in my view then made the universal binocular hand gesture, so I blurted out “Do you wear glasses?”, and they said “Yes”. This person was also on a slew of psych medications, and probably needed social work more than medial attention (I hope they get it), having worked with inmates previously I really feel for the spiral of events that may of lead them to here.

We then rushed up with the attending to go talk to radiology about their patient who was currently in surgery to decompress one patients hip. The attending there spotted some air in their viscera, and so surgery was paged immediately and one attending went to go update to let ortho know that they’d have to watch for internal bleeding.

Soon, the resident then said, “Remember that women with the infection? Can you go get a history from them?”. I had forgot about that woman, just like how I forgot to mention their in this story because the whole night was a blur. This patient had hurt their foot, and had come in with severe swelling of their foot. But, after interviewing them we learned that their now infected foot was accompanied by pain deep under their knee (DVT?). I reported back to my resident, noted the pain and we spoke of the possible DVT (this they was already watching for) and the new symptom polyuria that coincided with the infection before they came in.

By the time we had done all of this, it was now 10 PM. The gentleman and the passenger on the motorcycle were both stable, and hanging out in the ER for observation. The women who was drug under the car had their hips set back in place, and would be ready for follow up surgeries later, by the way they could move their toes so they were lucky to escape serious nerve damage. My shift was over, I was invited back for more by the residents and I shuffled out of there and rode the train home being too tired and lazy to change out of my scrubs, took a shower and woke up at 6:30 AM to start another day.

Disclaimer: certain information was changed in the story to protect patient and physician privacy.

 

 

 

5 Tips on Getting into Medschool — as posted on Accepted.com

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Reflections on Getting Accepted to Medical School

Are You Trying to Navigate the Med School Application Process?

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for Accepted.com on my past reflections on premed life as a current medical student. It actually took a few weeks for me to fulfill this request, as I was moving to Boston from California. Some of it I wrote while on the airplane, the rest I eventually finished in bit pieces in Boston, writing a sentence here and there between white coat ceremony and after classes. So, with that, here’s the article as reposted from their site:

In general, all the cliche tips you’ve heard are true: get good grades, you need an ‘acceptable’ MCAT, definitely get patient experience, and you’ll likely need some extracurriculars. All of these things about this pseudo check-list are true, it’s just a matter of figuring out a strategy to execute it. It’s also important to take a 10,000 feet look at the process of trying to get into medical school: you just want to get in, but medical schools are looking for people who can add to their program.

1.    Find a mentor as soon as possible, it’s never too late.
2.   Go at your own pace (grades, scheduling and taking the MCAT, and extracurricular activity).
3.   Gain marketable skills during your undergrad.
4.   Have the right attitude.
5.   Understand how the admissions process works overall and for the specific programs you’re applying to.

Finding a Mentor

Finding a mentor is easier for some more than others. If you already have connections, then it’s a rather straight forward process since all you need to do is reach out to who you already know. This mentor doesn’t have necessarily have to be a medical doctor, they should just know or be willing to get to know the difficulties you’ll face. Statistically speaking, since you’re in college you’ll probably have more access to a PhD professor than a MD or DO, it’s okay to start there. My mentor was my old physiology professor, I later worked on several projects with this individual. Because my mentor was an active researcher in electrophysiology it allowed for me to gain marketable skills and later find a job after graduation in the office of research at my old university. This made it easier for me to develop a set of traits and experience that may come of value to my matriculating class. I think people put too much emphasis on finding a physician mentor, while it’s great to have a physician as one, it’s important not to neglect your other resources. If you don’t know where to start, try checking out your universities “Office of Undergraduate Research” (or something analogous to it) as they typically specialize in aligning undergraduates with research mentors. I highly suggest research mentors because of the amount of depth and involvement that will be required for both you and your mentor — the deeper your involvement the easier it is to argue to medical schools just how you’d add to their program. Research certainly isn’t required (for most programs), but it’s a lot easier to explain what you did if you were part of a research team than say passively shadowing a physician. A good mentor will know your personality traits (the good and the bad) and will be able to work with you, helping you to become your own person and not necessarily a miniature version of them. Another trait of a good mentor is that they’ll often push you further when you’re all but ready to give up, not to torture you but because they know you’re capable of it.

Go at your own pace, don’t rush into failure

It’s easy to get sucked up into following another’s pace. Don’t be afraid to slow down, and be sure to get help when you need it — rushing to apply when you’re not ready, or trying to plow through the organic chemistry series isn’t the best strategy if things aren’t going your way (unless you’re applying for DO remember that your retakes at best are averaged together with the old scores). You have to be flexible about your abilities at the moment and pragmatic about what you can accomplish. That’s not to say you can’t get past the MCAT, but maybe trying to rush to take it so you can apply isn’t the best strategy. I’ve seen a lot of friends lose their chance to apply to medical school because they tried to sprint through the requirements or stack up too many extracurriculars concurrently. Take your time, this is your life, one or two years won’t really make a big difference in the long-run; take on challenges at a pace you can handle, you need not emulate anyone else or follow other premeds “suggested timeline.” Really, the only timeline you need to worry about is applying early during your application season, everything before that should be a personal journey. For myself, I didn’t go straight into the university I actually found myself working for years and considered dropping out of college completely because I had a career going at a young age. I later decided to go back, and went to a university and graduated in 5 years with a major, minor, and research under my belt. I took my time, and found my own path, with the help from mentors and several friends, and I ignored people whenever they questioned my timeline. Realize that a lot of people who you think are “rocking it” and will “surely get in” won’t, part of this is probably because of rushing and doing badly or burning out while doing well.

This also means that it’s better to do several things exceptionally than to do 100-mediocre things. In my old lab we used to host premeds who were ‘interested’ in research, but it soon became obvious where their heart was when they’d stop showing up once they got what they wanted, wouldn’t finish their assignments, or would put minimal effort into what they considered to be “scut work”. At that point, for example in lab, you’re probably unnoticeably sabotaging the lab. So, keep in mind that if you’re involved in activities you may be hurting more than helping by participating. If you hurt the organization more than help then don’t expect either a transformative experience or a letter of recommendation. So, if you can’t commit, and things are going too fast for your pace, slow down and figure out your priorities and only commit to things that you can help.

Gain some marketable skills

I wasn’t sure if I’d get into medical school, so I was terrified to graduate without any marketable skills. In other words, try to “specialize” in college. Unfortunately, not everyone will have an appreciation for your pipetting prowess or that you took labs like the thousands of others — so don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you’re a premed you’re automatically skilled because you’ve titrated a few times (some people get their PhD on titrations). If you get into research, it’s rather straightforward, you’d likely gain skills because you’d have to grow more proficient than the average premed because the success of your lab is riding on it. If you’re not a research orientated person, learning how to start service orientated clubs for example is an excellent skill, as is learning how to fundraise. What helped me in this process was to keep a resume and a CV, this way I was always objective when it came to “why” I was doing something. This also makes writing your applications for medical school dramatically easier, as you already understand your motivation and your objectives. Most premeds have a problem filling out the AMCAS application, though if you’re used to applying for jobs (jobs that require a degree) then  it’s not an extraordinary process.

Have the right attitude — once you think of it as “scut work” all is lost

“Scut work” is a amorphous phrase, one person’s ‘scut work’ is another’s dedicated career. You may feel wiping out vomit and feces is below you, but besides the lessons in humility it’s also a lesson in relativity and often a lesson in team work. You may wonder what mopping the floor with disinfectant has to do with you becoming a physician. Well, in that case a lot, because you’re helping to prevent MRSA infections in the hospital, lessening the load of the staff etc. You may feel washing lab ware  is beneath you, after all you just shadowed a neurosurgeon on Friday, but I’ve seen months of data lost (plus the lives of mice wasted) because premeds thought rinsing out the soap at the bottom of our glassware wasn’t important enough of a task for them. Yes, shadowing the surgeon was probably conceptually cooler, but how much did you really do besides observe? Often, it’s really the “scut work” that is where you can have the most impact. Besides, if you can’t wash glassware, or pipette properly, why would you be given harder tasks that you seem to not able to handle?

Once you start seeing things as “scut work” you’ve probably already missed the lesson, and the lesson is typically team work. Yes, I’ve gotten coffee for my lab mates and professor, but at the same time my lab mates and professor have brought me food and coffee because they knew I couldn’t leave my work space until dusk.

At the end of the day, hypothetically if you didn’t get into medical school and you abhorred your extracurriculars, than you probably weren’t doing it for the right reasons.

Know how the admissions process works

There’s a ton of advice floating around, some of it is legit, most of it is garbage. There’s a certain website, who’s name I won’t mention, that is ripe full of useless or misleading advice. Some advice you’ll get will be bad because people are ignorant of the process because they’ve personally have never went through it, but they’ll consider themselves self appointed experts because they’ve read enough anecdotes. Instead, go with people with admission experience and keep up with the latest AAMC news, and of course your specific programs’ guidelines and advice. The AAMC isn’t an evil agency as some would make it out to be; they’re rather invested in making sure you have the best shot possible at getting in — though, you wouldn’t know it by how some people act about the process of applying to medical school. Applying to medical school isn’t necessarily a mysterious process, but it sure will be if you didn’t do your own homework. Make sure not to be pulled into 20 different directions, stick to a few good sources (including the crown jewel aka the AAMC website), and don’t dilute your efforts too much by taking disparate advice from others. — even those who’ve applied many years ago are likely out of touch with what is required or expected of you currently, so it’s very important that you secure your future by doing your own background research. In the end, if you don’t get in no one will be accountable or more affected than you.

And lastly, it’s okay to be pragmatic, but don’t give up hope because of a bad grade or MCAT score. For the most part, courses and the MCAT can be retaken. Sure, it’s ideal to get past them with flying colors, but life doesn’t work that way usually. A test of your commitment is not only getting past these things, but learning how to do what it takes to get past them. This may mean you can’t apply to all Ivy Leagues, or that you’ll have to make a few detours. But, one C (or even D) won’t exile you from medicine, nor will a bad MCAT score — nor does it imply that you couldn’t survive medical school. You might find yourself taking a few detours, but in the end if you’re satisfied than that’s all that matters. Getting into medical school isn’t that transformative, but the journey to get there is, and if your endgame is just to get in without trying to better yourself then it’ll make applying just that much harder.

- See the original post: http://blog.accepted.com/2014/08/21/reflections-on-getting-accepted-to-medical-school/?utm_content=7507417&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter#sthash.A5tbkTM9.dpuf

PreMD Tracker Application — (Strong) Suggested Download

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I’ve never been so furious about a phone application. Why? Because it didn’t come out when I was applying to medical school. When I was applying to medical school, I scoured the internet, data mined multiple AAMC pages and devoured books about admissions wherever I could find them. Well, the good news for you (if you’re a premed) is that you won’t have to go through so much trouble. Yes, you should still do your homework like checking up on AAMC updates, but you don’t have to feel lost in the nebulous world of medical school applications like all of us were before this application. So, what is this application I kept harping about? It’s called PreMD Tracker, and it’s available (exclusively, for now) on the Android Market. The hint of the function of the application is in the name alone, it allows you to make a self check list to monitor your progress in assembling your medical school application. In the application you can both record and find additional information pertaining to that subject (using links from the AAMC) on: 

  • GPA
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • MCAT Scores
  • BCPM grade point average calculator
  • Volunteering Experiences and Hour Records
  • Upload your CV

The application is massive, and has many menus with additional information. In fact, I honestly feel that you could literally leave my site and download it immediately and never have to read my blog again because there’s so much there — I’m okay with this, if you promise to apply to medical school while using this application. Anyways, I was so intrigued by this application and who’d go through all the trouble to make this application that I arranged a phone call with one of the creators. It turns out that the creators both were friends from undergrad at Johns Hopkins who later went onto successfully apply to medical school. Though, they like myself, found the admissions process to be rather daunting and unapproachable at first. After they had gained admittance into their respective institutions, they decided to share what they’ve learned about the admissions process and make an application during their deferred year off. However, neither of them were programmers so they had to learn how to design, program, and put the application on an application market — note this wasn’t just a medical school admissions activity stuffer for these guys, as they were already admitted and just wanted to tackle the challenge of launching an epic project. 

The application is still coming along, and they hope to expand the phone application to the Apple Market Place, but more rancor is required to motivate these busy medical students to take time off their studies to push more programming out. Also, right now it’s free, so just take advantage of it because they made it free for download because they wanted people to benefit from it without feeling anxious about pricing — how and if this will remain free is a big question in my mind, as a medical students time is worth its weight in gold (if time were in fact weighable). 

With all that said, here’s a link to download the application:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.eiron.premdapptracker&hl=en

 

 

 

Received First “Pass” in Medschool

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I’ve been in medical school for just a few weeks, I thought I’d leave some highlights and help document my own memories:

Intubated dummy

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Intubation is an emergency procedure usually done in the emergency room to secure the airway of someone who can’t breath on their own and you have some trepidation about them drowning in their own secretions. My medical school, more specifically emergency medicine interest group at my program,  had an open opportunity to anyone who dared to try to intubate an anatomical dummy. A few weeks before I started medical school I got caught up in the show Boston Med, in that episode a fresh MD intern tried to intubate a patient and failed to do so — I know this is a skill you need down because time is the essence in both saving the figurative patient and reducing co-morbidites. So, what better than to get an idea of how hard this procedure is then by trying it as a first year with absolutely no training except the crash course 30 second mini lecture I received beforehand. The procedure is straightforward, but not without it’s caveats:

1. Place laryngoscope into oral cavity, hooking the tool towards the basement of the tongue. Ultimately, the purpose is to reflect the tongue out of the way.

Laryngoscope
Laryngoscope

2. Push and lift the laryngoscope, being sure not to roll the tool backwards as this will either break the patients teeth (best case scenario) or crack the maxilla (bad news).  The point of this movement is to expose the trachea (the vocal chords end up being a dead give away, no pun intended).

3. Once you’ve located the trachea, you stick a tube with a balloon attached down their trachea, you must be sure to not insert the tube down the esophagus (ultra bad news). Within the tube there’s a stiff, but pliable, rod that will keep the tube from collapsing as you’re trying to gently/aggressively shove the tube down the trachea. Once you’ve done that, you put about 10 cc of air into the tube to both keep the tube in place and prevent fluids from the patient from regurgitating up and going into the lungs (also bad news).

4. Then while holding onto the tube, you pull out the rod, and place either an attachment to bag to manually ventilate for the patient or the ventilation machine.

It’s pretty straightforward, though performing it is another story. I failed the first time, I wasn’t aggressive enough to expose/open the trachea. I then took a mental break and tried it again, this time I got it but after a brief struggle. Finally, after gathering my experience and thoughts I tried again and this time I intubated right away! I’ll definitely will be practicing this more in my 3rd year in the clinical skills laboratory. I never really thought of myself as a hands on person, despite constantly working with my hands, but I liked it and I’m excited for my future emergency room rotation on the wards as a 3rd year.

Signed up to shadow trauma surgeon

You never really know what you’ll do by the time you finish medical school, at least that’s what I’ve been told repeatedly. I suppose this hit home the most when, during my interview, one physician spoke to us about her own experience in medical school until now. At first, she couldn’t see herself doing anything but primary care, now she’s a trauma surgeon. She said to us during our interview, “If you come to this school be sure to contact me if we’re interested in shadowing in trauma”. So, I did followed through and contacted her, I have my first shift sometime next week. Let’s see who that goes, my primary goal is to not get in the way.

Gross Anatomy

The naming of gross anatomy proves that science people do have a sense of humor. Interestingly, it’s not so much the person or the physical anatomy that grosses medical students out. Instead, it’s that we’re inclined to like people and I won’t lie, a lot of us are quite sensitive emotionally (at least it’s that way in our class). The person who donates their body is the most beautiful and inspiring person you’ll never meet (unfortunately, postmoterm). For medical students this is a rite of passage, we all deal with the emotional and psychological impact in our own way. For me, it was with a pint of ice cream — though, I didn’t finish the ice cream yet as I was too tired to physically raise the spoon to my face. Last week we prepped the donor (and ourselves), this week we started dissection on her. Like most medical schools I’d imagine, we started with the back as they have huge muscle groups and there’s a lot of room for error due to the nature of the back, they have you start with the back first so you can learn how to work a scalpel. This is a huge effort, and requires a lot of team work. There are 8 members in my team, but only 4 of us are there  for a session — but we are one unit. One team starts, then another team comes and finishes. In between, there’s something called “transition of care”, this is analogous (and purposely so) to patient hand offs in the hospital. Each day there is a team leader (from the 4 person cell) who’s responsible for making sure the next team leader (of the other 4 person cell) knows what’s going on and what issues have come up. If we don’t finish our objectives, it’s the whole teams responsibility to self schedule a team to finish the work before the next dissection assignments. Today, I was part of the first team and all of my awesome team members worked together and achieved our goal today.

We Start Seeing Patients this Week

A lot of medical schools try to get their medical students into clinical thinking as soon as possible, typically with mock patient interviews from skilled patient actors. Our 3rd week into medical school we’re already schedule to start doing rounds with either residents are MS4 medical students and seeing real patients. Our responsibility is to take their medical and social history (probably from the nth time), and present out information to our superiors. I’ve already received my white coat, but it’s not in my possession because I gave it back to the school to get it embroidered as required. I’ll get it back this week before I start seeing patients. Around the same time I’ll be receiving my stethoscope and otolarynscope, both of which I probably won’t realistically know how or need to use for some time. For now, my focus will be on seeing patients, and learning how to build a report while gaining skills at getting an accurate and informative history from patient interviews. I’m a little nervous about missing information more than anything.

Survived My First Medical School Exam

The school crunched what would be a semester in undergraduate of Histology into 5 days (literally) followed by an exam. As I’ve never formally taking Histology I was a little apprehensive about this, as were many of my classmates, many of whom have never had experience in the subject matter either — though, it should be noted that some of my classmates were savvy enough to have taken a masters post bacc course (or post bacc with no degree) Histology course for 7 weeks prior to this. I mention this because if you’re of those people who’re doing post bacc work you should know you’re work isn’t going to waste, those people were comfortable with the cram session. For the rest of us, it was a gratifying torture, but we got through it. My school is a pass/fail school, though we can personally see our own scores so we can know how we’re doing. I passed with a comfortable margin, in fact the class average was rather high considering the circumstances. I should mention that the biggest difference between medical school and undergraduate work is that you really need to work with others to make things work, there’s just too much for you to think you can cover by yourself in too short of a period of time. I go through this period by planning studying groups, crashing study groups, and showing up to office hours. Without my class I’m not sure if I’d be sitting so comfortably right now as I write this blog, instead I’d likely be panicking and wondering if I’ll make it — turns out the signs are positive.