The Art of Being a Premed

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The amateur piece above is in the art realm called a ‘study’, it’s a copy of a Da Vinci self portrait (I believe) that I did years ago when I considered pursuing art as a major. A common way to practice fine art is to imitate a piece by an artist you like, meticulously trying to interpret the original piece in your own way, all while still paying respect to the original artist by keeping the finished rendition canon. In my opinion, the methodology for performing well on the MCAT and premed courses isn’t that far off from becoming decent at art.

Referring back to the ‘study’ above, I first broke the original piece down into a manageable squares, this was done to make the whole composition more digestible for me.  Breaking the picture down into more intelligible grid boxes allowed me to recreate with equal effort each square inch of the original drawing. The most difficult, and only part that requires some experience, is noticing what parts of the composition are most critical to capture the viewers attention, and planning how to render them. But for the most part it’s almost a mechanical process, if you did a swell job seeing the “forest” with a layout sketch and “trees” by paying equal attention to each square inch of the drawing then you’re likely to create a quality drawing. The end result of performing an art study is not only to recreate the art, but also to recreate the problem solving situations the original artist had to overcome, making us a better artist — perhaps you’re setting off the same neuronal symphony as the original artist while applying your craft.

In a similar way, trying to guzzle down MCAT or concepts in most premed courses is pretty daunting, but if you break them down into intelligible bits it’s not such a fool’s errand. In studying for the MCAT or any course I try to have a general “sketch” out the pertinent information, to catch the vital information I would use the AAMC MCAT subject guide. Then if I was trying to study the Physical Science section then I’d break each component into it’s parts, for example thermodynamics. Then I’d focus on more detail, breaking the task up into digestible chunks, for example:

1. Zeroth law (concept of temperature)
2. First law (ΔE = q + w, conservation of energy)
3. Equivalence of mechanical, chemical, electrical, and thermal energy units
4. Second law (concept of entropy)
5. Temperature scales, conversions
6. Heat transfer (conduction, convection, radiation)
7. Heat of fusion, heat of vaporization
8. PV diagram (work done = area under or enclosed by curve)

I self studied and kept track of each pixel of my understanding by keeping track of the bit’s that make the final picture. The challenge, just like art, is to take the disjointed aspects of the pieces and amalgamate them into something decent, i.e. demonstrate proficiency in the MCAT and premed courses. However, if you layout a good plan, take care to develop your fundamentals, and are systematic in your goals then it’s something we can all conquer.


Life works in a funny way, I quit art once my car was stolen with my art portfolio in it. I decided to study science because I figured that intangible art could never be absconded away from me (save Alzheimer’s).  I did eventually get my car back, but the thieves apparently were fans and kept my work.  I suppose in the end it worked out, I did get into medical school.

As usual you can find me on twitter



11 thoughts on “The Art of Being a Premed

    Christina Asai said:
    November 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Such a touching and personal subject on so many levels! It’s incredible to see how attitude can influence the direction we end up in, and to witness how you emerged from those heart-breaking circumstances to the accomplished and insightful being that you are now. Your artwork is beautiful with meticulous detail- I believe you will always have that artist within you, and that eye will continue to develop and appreciate things in different ways as you grow. So excited for this path you are on!

      masterofsleep said:
      November 15, 2013 at 6:35 pm

      Thanks for reading & commenting! Before uploading the eye I contemplated drawing a phenol group or something to spice it up, but then laziness set in =).

    justvictoria24 said:
    December 26, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Such an inspirational story! I’m currently anticipating on doing a post bacc for med school. Due to academic challenges the road has been very challeging. I have to retake my science prerequisites for med school transferring from a community college to a University really stagnated me in adjusting to the pre med course work. I really want to be an MD. Do you have any advice on how to stay focused and be a successful post bacc applicant?

      masterofsleep said:
      December 26, 2013 at 11:34 pm


      I’m really happy you enjoyed reading!

      Yes, I know that feeling of stagnation, I transferred as well. Well, first I’d guess there’s mindset, the prereqs aren’t just hurdles, they’re meant to help you survive in medical school. So, I had a positive outlook about the importance of say Organic Chemistry and it’s relation to Biochemistry. All of the sciences (and stats) courses that pertain to medicine are then reintroduced for the first year of medical school, so use that as a motivation for your coursework when it feels pointless or hopeless — it should also highlight how important they are. It goes without saying that rocking your prereqs will make the MCAT seem like less of an evil ogre, although it’ll still be an evil troll. However, most of the MCAT material (PS & BS) are covered within the first half of two-thirds of your science books.

      A lot of premeds stumble, and a lot of people give up. What makes matriculates different is simply that they didn’t give up. So, I’d suggest finding a tutor for free at your school, and making yourself a frequent visitor regardless of how easy you feel the course is. I would get students who were failing and students who were acing their premed courses when I tutored. Usually people doing well just should up to keep their motivation up. I was a tutor, but I never knew we had free tutoring services for one on one meetings until I became one of them; I’d suggest getting a dedicated tutor who knows you and your strengths and weaknesses. There’s a pretty good chance you’re already paying for tutoring services with your student association fees.

      You can also get involved in undergraduate research, especially if you’re an underrepresented student as there’s extra research stipends sometimes, and are in the STEMS major. Having an application often makes the work more fun because it’s put into context. Try contacting the university’s Office of Undergraduate Research or something equivalent. A large portion of medical students have undergraduate research experience (or post graduate) so it’s a plus.

      Hope that helps! And thanks for leaving a message!

        justvictoria24 said:
        December 27, 2013 at 4:05 am

        Thank you so much this was very helpful. Your words resonates with me and I will take all into consideration. Please don’t stop posting about your challenges and your road to med school you are helping people:) I have found motivation to overcome the academic challenges of being a transfer student and to continue to aim for my goal. When I start taking my prerequisite is it ok to ask questions if needed about certain subjects?

        masterofsleep said:
        December 27, 2013 at 6:04 am

        Sure, message me anytime, thanks again for reading.

    justvictoria24 said:
    December 26, 2013 at 10:36 pm


    brokenbrilliant said:
    January 1, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Great post – the lessons are useful on many levels 🙂

    masterofsleep said:
    February 14, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Reblogged this on doctororbust.

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