Agenda 6/13 Friday the 13th (WOOOO)

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Happy Friday the 13th!

My first medical school interview actually fell on Friday the 13th last year. The administration gave us credit for just showing up that day, jokingly asserting that having the bravado to show up that day alone was merit for acceptance. Anyways, here are the blog updates coming up.

Interviews on Featured on Blog

– Accepted medical student interview – Stanford University incoming M1

The last interview was received better then I could have expected. Last time, I asked for questions on Twitter and we sure received them — thanks! I should also note that the Johns Hopkins student last time was so excited by your questions that she’s considering opening a blog, I’m trying to coax her as much as possible. So, since that went well, and premeds said it was helpful, I’m going to do another interview with a friend who just matriculated into Stanford School of Medicine. Again, if you have any questions you’d like to direct to them (or me) feel free to either Tweet me, email me, or leave a comment. I do clean up the questions, and merge similar ones together, so don’t worry about if you’re asking a redundant question or if your question “makes sense” — just ask it, if I need to follow up with you I will. This interviewee will be a nontraditional, with research experience, and was both accepted into programs and wait-listed — so she’ll be able to really answer a large diversity of questions.

– Accepted medical student(s) — team behind Premed Tracker

Where was this application when I was applying — seriously? What happens to premeds after you put them through hellacious application process so that they may be accepted? Well, some of us enact our revenge by helping other premeds, this group did just that. I’m also writing a review on this application, so expect some type of combination of review/interview. After this review, I hope you’ll understand why I add I’m adding it to the list of premed must have items:

Premed (from freshman to ultra senior)

– Premed Tracker!

Primary Application / Secondary / Interviews


MSAR (of your application year, they free version and the paid version can not be compared)

Medical School Admission Guide by Suzanne Miller MD (has primary, secondary, personal statement examples, and much more + cheap!)

– Interview with ProMEDeus academic support and services for matriculating and current medical students.

Getting into medical school is awesome, but it by no means translates to “easy street” once accepted. After being accepted, the first thing on your mind will be, “So, how exactly will I pay for this again?”. If you check the MSAR, you’ll see that not all students receive financial aid, and most schools don’t guarantee you’ll receive financial aid (though, it’s tacitly assumed by the community). However, as we slowly drift back into the Dicksonian “money means virtue”  and “debtors prison” age, some students will find that after supposedly beating financial adversity to get into medical they’re just in the same po’folk boat they were in to begin with — but this time, people just tell us “Not to worry about it, you’re going to be a doctor”. This is quite easy to say, when it’s not you thinking of the prospects of another 4+ years of ramen noodle nights. In the academic front, not everyone flies through medical school with flying colors. In fact, it’s pretty normal for students to have some type of tumble along the way, it’s medical school it’s supposed to be hard. This is where services like ProMEDeus come in, they offer advising and services to medical students (incoming as well) who are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Accepting Secondary Entry Samples 6/17/14

Officially, I have closed my personal statement critique window. I actually do enjoy doing it, however, I don’t want my review speed to be the reason why you delay your application — this is why I closed the submit date for these on May 20th. I only have a few people working on their final draft, and a few emergency submits. However, there’s no premed left behind here, if you have special circumstances and really need a critique let me know. Though, it takes about 4 business days for me to return it to you. I think I’ve figured out several ways to keep this process sustainable, so I’m really hoping I’ll be able to read personal statements next year as well.

If you’re on track with me, then you’re probably ready for your secondary feedback. I actually had little to no intentions of doing this as well, but people have brought it up — so why not? I will probably post something this weekend or Monday morning regarding the format of submissions and perhaps tips around that time as well. There’s going to be a lot of essays for me to go through, so I won’t be as nit-picky about your writing as I was during the personal statements, but you’ll receive feedback. I’m not sure when this window will close, I’ll post that after I have an idea of how my work load will be. It will be first come first serve, once I feel taking on more secondary reviews will decrease the quality of my reviews I will close the review window — though there will be warning.

Expansion of New Section

One of a medstudents/doctors job is to stay abreast in the latest issues concerning our field. So, I’ll be doing some work primarily in July, to expand a section on more topics such as: politics/policy and medicine, world and national medicine issues. And even occasionally an opinion piece or two. Though, when something is over my head, I’ll probably try to pull in a resident expert in the matter. It’s really easy to focus on just the BCPM part of getting into medical school, but actually as a physician you’re expected to be a patient advocate, advocates should stay informed so that they can inform others.

Well, thanks for keeping up with my blog!




What My Medschool Interviews Were Like

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BUSM Class of 1885
BUSM Class of 1885

I received 8-interview invitations, but after consulting with my wallet, I only went onto 5-interviews. Anyways, about $7K and 5 dry-cleanings of ubiquitous charcoal suit later, I was accepted into all 5-programs. Some people have asked me recently what the interviews were like, so this post is dedicated to that.

The interviews will be told in no particular order, as to not identify the school and reveal their interview process. It was a gentlemen (gentlewomen) agreement we all made during our interview. I won’t cite specifics, but I’ll include what I can tell give you an idea of what interviews can be like.  In general, each school does a pretty impressive job at “aligning” you with an interviewer, or at least that’s what other’s around me on interview day also felt — sometimes it’s less intense, and feels a little more general.

Interview 1

This was a panel interview: one PhD, one MD, and one medical student. We sat around a board table, all of us sticking to one corner. I could see but not read some of the pages of notes about me, and the signs they’d preemptively annotated on my AMCAS and secondary printouts, I instantly appreciated how well my interviewers new my application. I was comforted by the fact that no one knew my application better then me: I wrote it, proofed it innumerable times, and even had a print out in my luggage just in case. And surely enough, point by point they had me verify my commitment, my ideals, and beliefs. They asked me to to explain my research, and it’s importance in medicine, so I did — we even started talking about what was the latest geopolitical news. I naively tried to answer the question given to me by the MD, “How would you fix health care”, I gave them my best shot, while remembering that this wasn’t really a question I was expected to find an answer to. As  non traditional, I had a little more life experience than coursework, so we just had a lot more things to talk about — in fact, one interview did voice their disdain for  younger traditional applicants by saying, “If the biggest problem you faced in college, we’re not sure if they’re ready for life never mind medschool”. Towards the closing of the interview, one interviewer asked me how I felt about the ethics of my grandmothers treatment, this was the only time during my interview trail where I was emotionally weaker than normal (she was my second mother). However, as an adult I knew I had to tackle this question prior to applying to medical school, so I had already mulled over the issue for some time. So, overall it was a rather friendly interview — we actually laughed a lot during the process. After the interview, I was pretty hungry, so I asked about what to eat locally, we spent another 10 minutes after the interview talking about food. The interview itself lasted for about an hour, but it felt like 20 minutes.

I should note that the dean did come, but for a few minutes, gave a hello and left. No interaction.

Interview 2

This interview day was pretty interesting. Apparently, part of the test of getting into the program was finding your interview, because you were given a map and told to scuttle across the medical campus to find your interview. I sort of enjoyed this independence, not everyone did that day. I found my interview room, I had to take two elevators and a bridge and then use a phone with a password to finally find my interview room. When I arrived, we walked to my interviewer’s office. There was a beautiful view out the window, I actually asked to have a moment to take it all in (You see, in California we don’t have this thing you other people in the world call “weather”, we have  “nice”, “hot”, “really hot”, “too damned hot”, and randomly “kinda cold” — though my coldest winters are summers in San Francisco).  So, during my interview trail across the east and mid west it was my first time seeing what autumn should look like, it was really my first time seeing the rest of the country past Colorado. But, I do digress. My interviewer saw had a thick packet, no doubt my application, in her lap.

– She said, “You have an *insert compliment* application, so we don’t even need to discuss it really, instead I want to learn about you — your life story”, to which I responded, “Sure, from when?”, her “birth”. And so, I told her my story for 45 minutes. I didn’t really pay attention much really, I had told this story many times each time holding details back. This time, emblazoned by my night out drinking with my hosts I decided to just tell her everything. My interviewer then got a little teary eyed, this was sort of surprising, and I asked her if she needed a tissue. Not that a had one, it’s just a polite thing people tend to say to each other, after all it was her office. Apparently, a lot of things I said was reminiscent to her own experiences with life she later revealed. I actually did the most prep for this interview, I had already performed all of my homework on the plane, but in the end I was just happy I knew myself. Though, there’s a reasonable likelihood that I was accepted merely because I was capable of finding my room, I’d like to think it’s because my interviewer and I clicked in a short period of time.

One of the deans actually hosted the entire interview day, from morning till afternoon. I was rather impressed, and I really appreciated the time spent with us. Some extra perks of this interview was being able to meet multiple doctors (trauma surgeon for example), and ask them about the program.

Interview 3

Typically, a medical school will wine and dine you with a breakfast, a tour and a spiel on why you should go to that program if given the option to choose. This program just flung me into an interview upon arrival. Unknowingly, I met my interviewer in the lobby, she seemed like a nice person, she even paid me a morning greeting. Though, during the interview, the tables turned. She picked apart my application, criticized my view points and answers on things for about 20 minutes and we argued about something for another 25, and about 10 minutes talking about the program. In the last 5 minutes she told me, I was just being ‘tested”, and she thought I was a strong applicant and was just playing devil’s advocate.

After that interview I had a lunch, and had to prepare for another interview with a medical student or another 45 minutes to a hour. This interview was fourth year, on the verge of graduating. She was extremely friendly. She asked me a few off the wall what if questions, those were actually rather fun. We then talked more about why I chose that school, what was good about the program, what problems did I recognize over the weekend that I stayed in the city. A lot of my interview, I was also asking her things, because I didn’t get that expected generic tour.

After the interview was done, we then sat down with people who didn’t tell us they were the deans of admissions. This was also done to “test us”, we were told directly. Apparently, this program believed in some type of “ninja endurance training”.

Interview 4

The interview day started off with me chatting with the dean of admissions in the lobby or 20 minutes. Then, during my actual interview it was a MD and one MD/PhD. This was an interesting format. One interviewer knew everything about my AMCAS application, while the other one didn’t. The fun part is that I didn’t know who knew. So the trick here was to, again, know my application well and be able to quickly convey what’s important and why. There was some discussion about why I choose that specific program, and because I had done a lot of homework on the school I knew exactly why I wanted to go there, so I just told them why. We spoke of social programs needed to help people, my experience with the indigent and under-served, and they shared their experiences. This was a friendly interview, they weren’t there to hurt me, they were there to see why I wanted to entire their program.

There was also a MMI (medical) interview. This is where they pay actors to pretend to be patients, and you pretend to be a doctor. II had 2-3 minutes to read a prompt case history, then I’d go in and get a history from the patient in 5 minutes. Sounds pretty straight forward, except there’s bound to be something. I think my first mock patient was a “yes” or “no” person, and really all she was there for was to get an unethical prescription — I rejected her gently, while offering her alternatives. The other mock patient came in with a bum joint, from an injury so they wanted a handicap placard. Though, when I asked how long ago was the injury, they told me about 4-5 years ago. So, my “ethical sense” went off, I tried to talk them into rehab while they’re young and fit as opposed to depending on a placard. She seemed disappointed, but rather accepting of my answer, she even agreed to try the rehab. At another interview I saw MMI actors get rather argumentative, so I’m happy I appeased my mock patients.

I met the dean a few more times throughout the day, very nice guy. We spent a lot of time talking about music, jazz, and going out to drink (without letting it get unprofessional of course ^_-).

Interview 5 

This interview day had two interviews, both MD both interviews took place at a hospital. The first interview was with an overworked physician who was also in charge of the implementation of the hospitals electronic medical records (EMR). I could understand how frazzled he was, at the time my job had also volunteered to ensure the successful release of an electronic system for research protocols at my workplace. We laughed about our experiences in “troubleshooting”, and being yelled at for a system we didn’t create but must implement. I’d like to think that this interview gave him a period to relax, because afterwards he was a lot more loose. I actually wish I had a chance to speak with him a little more, it was only about half an hour.

The second interview was also friendly. He didn’t say much about my application, other than paying a compliment. We spoke about the economic down turn that was causing a lot of problems in the US, and we also speculated on the effects on patients and healthcare overall. A significant portion of this conversation was actually centered on naming reasons why I wanted to go to that school and serve that particular community. Luckily for me, I had edited a premed’s personal statement in that state, and they let me stay at their parents house — this saved me a lot of money in boarding. At their parents house, I got the whole run down on the local politics and their opinions. Since I heard my “ears to the ground” so to say, I felt comfortable speaking from experience of what I’ve heard recently. This was another good interview, where I wanted to definitely have a drink with my interviewer, the interview actually went over 15 minutes because we wouldn’t stop talking (even when they were knocking for me to come along).

At this interview, the dean also did a quick stop by, and nothing more.


Elevator Speeches in Santa Barbara

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This weekend I went to Santa Barbara. The first day we stayed primarily in downtown Santa Barbara. We hailed a taxi to bring us closer to the coast where we could visit the innumerable wine tasting rooms dotting the lively coast.

The second day, we all pitched in to rent a vineyard chauffeur to allow for us all to have fun and drink responsibly. Upon entering the chauffeur’s, car we were all handed bottles of cold water. Our driver had a grandfather’s touch. Our driver beguiled us with his local vineyard knowledge, as he slalomed through the grapevine laden hillside to our first destination on our tour. I know very little about wine, so this was quite an educational car ride for me. In the course of our conversation with our driver, we learned more about our driver’s personal life. Pete was originally from the Midwest, and was once a stressed and prosperous consultant/analyst. A chance encounter with a native Californian drew him to Santa Barbara as a younger man, at this time he contemplated returning to California for retirement. A chance quadruple by-pass heart surgery prompted him to give up his stressful “salary man” life in the Midwest for the Santa Barbara wine country dream he once had. Pete only drove the car to give him something to do in retirement — in the end everything worked out for Pete. It was a succinct and entertaining explanation, it lasted maybe only 2-3 minutes, yet somehow he captured the distilled essence of his 70+ years on earth.

He then asked, as most people probably would, for his passengers to reciprocate this friendly gesture and volunteer information about themselves. We each introduced ourselves, in a similar way, trying to be quick but at the same time not misinform our new friend. It’s an odd tangent, but this reminds me of medical school interview day. You meet a lot of interesting people (other applicants), and you end up explaining yourself several hundred times (hopefully in a rather consistently well behaved way). In the “speech” world, I believe they call these situations: elevator speeches. I first became familiar with this term during a scholars’ workshop, where we each had to deliver a 1-minute elevator speech about ourselves. The term is mean to conjure up a hypothetical time pressure situation, for example being able to succinctly introduce yourself in an elevator with the director of amyloid research (i.e. scientific rubbing of elbows). It’s very hard to get ahead if you can’t explain yourself and your purpose. I came from the land of bench research, I can’t explain to you all how much I’ve seen good graduate students lack the ability to explain not only what they do, but why they’re doing it, and what they will do with it — premeds are not an exception.

It’s useful to develop an elevator speech, especially if you have socially awkward moments from time to time (raises hand). This way, you have something to reliably say to break the ice. Though, I suggest you develop more than one elevator speech: 1) a (technical) version, 2) a professional version, and 3) a casual version. All three would probably say the same stuff overall: I currently work in research administration and I’m going to medical school. The only difference between the versions is how detailed I am about what I do, did and will do. so I almost never explain my past research because most don’t care to hear about physiological chloride conductance measurements.

My Elevator Speech Structure *order may vary depending on the circumstances

– Introduce Self (10-15 secs)

– Introduce Current Activity (20-25 secs)

– Connect Past Events (optional) (15-20 secs)

– Future Goals/ Point of What I’m Doing (15-20 secs)

Because I already have a distilled story of myself, I didn’t really have to panic during my interviews because I always had “talking points”. Next week I’ll be speaking with a panel of professors to discuss IRB research compliance for about 20-minutes, I’ll probably use the professional version of my elevator speech to introduce myself. And in the car ride, I could easily see that our driver Pete too had mastered this technique — and he was probably giving us the “casual version” of his elevator speech.

Don’t ever be stuck not being able to explain who you are, just a word of advice.

You can find me on twitter @doctororbust