medstudent

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.

 

 

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Moving to New England: Boston in 15 Days

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So, how long exactly does it take for a person to get ready to move from one coast to another?

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As I look around my room I see that I’ve packed and prepared absolutely nothing. Instead of packing I’m strategically procrastinating, not making my packing check-list, and instead choosing to: bake cheesecakes, write articles like this one, etc. Surprisingly, I’m not too caught up with the stress with the geographic transplant, somehow flying across the country just hoping you’ll get into medical school makes that one flight to revisit as a student a lot more bearable. In general, here’s my packing plan:

1. Get books to east coast somehow.

Probably, the most stressful part for is figuring out how to move my library of books. There’s several ways to accomplish this goal: toss em, ship em, leave them, or replace them electronically. I weep when books are destroyed, and it’s prohibitively expensive to ship these ‘bricks’. Thus, I decided to either box them up to store or to download digital copy’s of the books I already own. I’ve been rather successful at finding digital copies of my books at either Gutenberg.org or by enough sniffing around the web for PDFs. Though, bear in mind it’s easy to find copies of books when you read old books or stick to science and math — so, fortunately, I’m a boring person so it’s easy to find my books.

Book list that made the cut either with a digital copy or packed along:

1. Calculus Made Easy, Thomas (found digital replacement, but bringing original) — who doesn’t like a novel written on math from 100 years ago? I rather prefer the way math was explained before as opposed to now, so I prefer this book.

2. Age of Propaganda (digital replacement) — it’s a good book on both propaganda and advertisement, it was a mandatory read from an English course and I kept it. When applying to jobs, medical school, or residency it’s a good skill to know how to “sell yourself” and make your self “wanted” (although you’re probably not necessarily needed).

3. Medical Physiology Boron, Boulpaep (digital replacement) — this was the physiology book I had to refer to and present from during lab meetings, so I’m just familiar with the layout. My program will use another medical physiology text, but I will keep mine as well.

4. Communities of Discourse: The Rhetoric of Disciples, Schmidt, V. Kopple  (soft cover)– tackles rhetoric from various angles. This is a great book if you want to find your favorite writer to emulate. This is another book I received in class that I couldn’t part with after purchasing.

5. The Feynman Lectures on Physics , Feynman, Leighton, Sands (digital) — this book covers everything from physics, to quantum physics using vector calculus. I recently picked up volume I, but returned it after realizing I should just wait till I settle in to get all III volumes. I’ve now read all of volume I and have made it through most of II, and have dabbled into III. I won’t be wining in bets with Hawkings any time soon though.

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6. Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes, Hille (found digital copy, but probably bringing hardcover anyways) — this was the field and research that helped me get into medical school. But, really it’s more symbolic than anything, it was a mandatory read assigned to my by my old PI. It reminds me of those days.

7. The Human Brain Coloring Book, Diamond, Scheibel, Elson (soft cover copy only) — so, I bought this book during Neuroscience for undergrad but never actually colored in it. But, I did read the information, that’s actually all I needed at that time as I would draw out the brain structure. This time however, I’ll use it for anatomy in medical school as this coloring book series is popular.

I have another 60+ books (all science related), but the rest of them will get left behind in Sharpie marked boxes at my parents house. I made it a point to keep my undergraduate books, occasionally I like to read through them to see how far I’ve come or how much I’ve forgotten (something to justify all that money I spent on my education).

Clothes to pack

This is the easiest part. I live in California, we have four seasons: hot, really hot, kinda hot, and not that hot today. In Boston there will be spring, summer, autumn and winter. Therefore, my clothes from California are likely only useful for between a 1/3 or 1/2 of the year at best. So, most of my clothes can be left behind. The bulk of my clothes will be donated, undergarments with questionable structural deficits (holed-up knickers) will be tossed. I only need to worry about enough clothes to last a month or two, the rest has to be purchased while I’m out there (winter wear etc). I’m very sentimental with my blankets and my towels (I never got over the blanket phase?), so I’m bringing some items I’m already familiar with for comfort.

Electronic Stuff

The laptop obviously goes, not because it’s a good laptop, but just because of the data and programs on it — as you may imagine I’ll also be bringing my portable hard-drive  (Library of Alexandria) as well.  I’ll also be bringing my set of speakers (non passive speakers), and my favorite guitar.

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That’s actually just about it. I like starting from scratch, it doesn’t bother me to move around. Californians move around the state a lot, it’s rare for us to grow up in one neighborhood or one domicile, we’re known to even move around during elementary school — not that kids want to. So, I’m accustomed to losing everything and starting over from scratch, it’s practically “spring cleaning” for me.

Hm, it seems that be writing this article I’ve accomplished one of my goals, writing a check-list. I procrastinated my way into success.

 

 

Diversity — Financial Diversity and GPA

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In the last article I focused on diversity and applicants’ socioeconomic status (SES) correlation with the MCAT. This time we will discuss SES and the overall GPA. Gleaning information from the last article we’ve already discussed the following:

  • The AAMC and the TMDSAS both have found a trend, the higher the students’ family income bracket the higher their mean MCAT score.
2012 EO-1 Applicants' who's parents less than bachelor degree, EO-2 applicants' parents with at least bachelor and unskilled labor as a profession. EO-3, EO-4, and EO-5 all represent bachelors, masters, or doctorate degrees with executive or professional positions.
2012 EO-1 Applicants’ who’s parents less than bachelor degree, EO-2 applicants’ parents with at least bachelor and unskilled labor as a profession. EO-3, EO-4, and EO-5 all represent bachelors, masters, or doctorate degrees with executive or professional positions.
  • Just over 75% of the accepted medical students come from families in the upper two quintiles (income brackets).
  • Less than 10% of the accepted medical students will come from families in the lower two quintiles (income brackets).

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The average median income for applicants' parents was $57,000 in 1987, it is now $100,000.
The average median income for applicants’ parents was $57,000 in 1987, it is now $100,000.
  • This trend has been pervasive, but not for the lack trying from the AAMC and medical schools continual attempt at intervention with the introduction of SES consideration & holistic interviews.

-We also most mind the logical caveats in the data:

  • Averages don’t equate to a snapshot of any one applicant; SES isn’t fate, either in a positive or negative light.
  • Not qualifying for SES status necessarily guarantee both familial support financial and emotionally. I was in this boat, long story short in college I never qualified for SES consideration because of my parents income that I never tapped into. Regardless, I slaved away like everyone else healthy GPA and MCAT score, fund my ability to work for free (volunteering), applications etc. 
  • We can’t use these numbers to correlate with who works harder, and there will be variations in applicants regardless of SES that would appear within any pool.

This time we will examine the talking point data presented by the AMCAS and TMCAS to examine the following questions:

  1. Is there any correlation with SES and GPA?
  2. How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.

This time we’ll focus on the Texas equivalent of the AAMC, the TDMSAS applicant joint study talking points and data. For the applicants and accepted, the TDMSAS broke down SES into three categories: parental education & relationship, household (wealth, household size), and hometown (inner city and rural etc.) considerations. For our conversation, we will limit our time to talk about the applicants. Lastly, those who scored more points ranked higher on the SES scale, the higher your SES rating the higher your grade ranging from SES A-D — getting an A wasn’t a good thing.

1. Is there any correlation with SES and GPA? By graphing the aggregated data supplied to us by the X, we get a graph like so:

Data take from report, and graphed with Sigma Plot.
Average GPA versus Year. Data take from report, and graphed with Sigma Plot. TDMCAS assigned SES A – high qualifying SES classification, whereas SES D is on the other side of the spectrum with no (for intents and purposes) SES qualification.

In general, since they’ve started to consider SES there are several short term trends. Overall, over the years everyone has gotten higher GPAs however those with less SES (higher parental income and education etc.) consideration fared better in their overall GPA.  The average  currently shows a trend of groups SES B & C besting (higher incomes) always trumping group SES A (most SES consideration by points). Interestingly, the lowest effected by SES had the most variability in scores, however note that this group always either floats near the performance of groups SES B & C, this group also has the highest average GPA overall.  In other words, there is a correlation with GPAs and SES status.

2. How is SES related to ethnicity? *We will look at the TMDSAS because of their unambiguous preferences for consideration of SES.

*2008 Estimations to nearest whole percent.*Other races not included because values not given, so values may not total to 100% Percent of Total Applicant Pool SES-A (4% of Applicant Pool) SES-B (~10% of Applicant Pool) SES-C (~25% of Applicant Pool) SES-D (~remaining 61% of Applicant Pool)
White/Caucasian American 50% 28% 41% 52% 56%
Asian/Pacific Islander 23% 17% 17% 20% 26%
African American 7% 17% 11% 8% 3%
Latino American 13% 30% 20% 11% 7%

From the chart above we can see that the lowest SES, SES-A, only made up a measly 4% of the applicants in the 2008 cycle whereas the the top two categories (low SES score) made up over 75% of the applicant pool. Caucasian Americans (a mixture of ethnic groups) are the most likely to be in the upper two brackets, however note there are certainly Caucasian Americans qualifying for SES status — in fact, just over 1 in 4 of those with the highest rating of SES were in Caucasian Americans in the TMDSAS — as a whole this is a diverse group economically.  Asians are listed as a conglomerate, from Chinese, Vietnamese to Pakistani, therefore it’s really hard to say much about “Asians” because it’s too broad of an ethnic category. Never the less, all we can really say is that Asians are also a diverse group, and should not be excluded from the SES conversation — in the lowest income bracket (SES-A) by percent alone Asian Americans  qualified as much as African American applicants. African Americans and Latino Americans (another conglomeration) have the least applicants by percentage applying in the upper two (low SES scores) groups C & D, with only 3% and 7% of African American and Latino American applicants’ families qualifying for SES-D respectively. In other words, SES is a multi-racial issue and all races would likely benefit from its application. 

In conclusion, the AAMC and the TMDSAS both recognize that there is a correlation between SES status and academic performance (MCAT & GPA). The AAMC also acknowledges that there is currently a disparity, or lack of diversity, in terms of the financial backgrounds of their applicant pool — this lack of diversity in the applicant pool eventually translates to financial skew of matriculates towards the upper income brackets (and parental education). In response to this reality, the SES is considered by medical colleges as a purview of legitimate holistic review. However, despite genuine efforts to diversify in this area, there hasn’t been much change in the financial portrait of students — in the next, and hopefully final article on the issue, we will discuss some reasons possibly why.

No matter if you agree or not, data is data; and it happens to be the data medical schools take under consideration.

AMCAS II Ex. 4 — How’d You Help Your Community?

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As premeds (and medical students) we are expected to have performed community service. Most premeds will express the only relevant experience is something like physician shadowing or something medical. It’s a logical position, you want to do medicine so you want to see medicine; and every premed should get a taste of medicine before applying.  But, serving your community in other ways would probably benefit your community than the benefit you perform for the medical team with random gopher tasks. Of course, if  believe you’re doing substantial work with medical community service, then power to you — as long as you can jabber on about how you made a change you’re good. Like everything else, everything you mention is fair game for the interviews; i.e. padding your entries will back fire during an extensive interview.

I was one of those despicable premeds that enjoyed doing community service. You see as a former welfare child, long term (elementary – HS) poorly insured inpatient, and my education was funded by grants and scholarships for research I actually I already felt I owed my community more than I could ever repay. Thus I never had the “checking boxes” feeling, I was just happy to be able to check anything at all. So, for myself I suppose there wasn’t much altruism in my actions, but instead I wanted to validate my own existence and rationalize why doctors and the community kept “saving me” by adding value to myself. For my own service I decided to highlight three things and how I inclusion in the activity made a change. If you stroll to your applicant programs’ website you’ll likely see their community service, other than medical, you want to let schools know that you can contribute to anything, and you don’t find non medicine things to be “beneath you”.

My format is straight forward, I was going for a holistic application so I didn’t focus on just my medical community service:

1) Prisoner Education Program – non medical. Several medical schools I applied to have  specific programs targeting inmate health. I found this out by searching their websites. It wasn’t very hard to conjure up why reducing recidivism is good for the community. It was also a great lesson in the human condition. In case you’re curious, I still did participate in the program even after I was accepted for medical school, some of my former students were released by this time, attending college and working.

2) Patient experience, medical volunteering. I had a few options, so I didn’t bother addressing my positions where I was designated pillow fluff-er (though fluffy pillows are important) or warrior filer. I instead only decided to talk about programs where I was essential (small staff) and/or that my inclusion helped their organization substantially.

So, without further adieu, my entry is below.

How’d you help the community?

I try to have an impact to all my commitments, including: civic duties, medical volunteering. My work with the Prisoner Education Program allowed me to help mentor nearly 80 adult convicts for a multistage education and job skills training program. These 80 males graduated the phase of the program with new skills vital to their later independence: job interview skills, educational advice, GED training, and math tutoring. This program was designed to reduce the statically likely prisoner recidivism by empowering them through education and mentoring. My most important medical impact was during my time helping children perform physical rehabilitation at my university’s Motor Development Clinic. I worked with two adolescents: one with attention deficit disorder and motor movement problems, and another child with extreme mental deficits who had almost no motor coordination. I worked with them over the summer, charting their progress and reporting their outcomes to the supervising physical therapist. I worked with low income parents and adolescents to improve grades and attitudes about academics, now their parents report and teachers praise the students for their improvements and their positive demeanor towards learning. Currently, I serve my community at Donuts Hospital in the Oncology department. I help children cope by providing tutoring and providing a compassionate ear to their concerns in the interim between their treatments. At Donuts Hospital I have also helped staff or organize a number of fundraisers related directly to the oncology department and children’s hospital wing.

–end–

Interestingly, my hospital work wasn’t discussed much during interviews, a lot of it instead came from my non medical volunteering. I suppose it’s not that surprising, we can assume that it’s hard to impress seasoned physicians with medical. So, although people in premed sometimes seem to hate to hear it, it’s often a strength to be different if you can justify it.

As a future physician you’re proving in this entry that you have not only done community service, but you understand why — admittedly the last part is harder to verify.

Med Blog Roll

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About the blog roll:

This will be a running list of blogs I actively read. Though not being on the list doesn’t mean I don’t suggest the blog, it’s just not brought up at the moment for a number of reasons (mostly likely time and forgetfulness). As time goes on, I will edit the list to add to it. But, for now, here are my common reads:

Physicians and aspiring Physicians

MD Admit – physician, MD attending. I met Dr. Miller online, I don’t quite remember how a little over a year ago sometime in early spring. I remember this because I was panicking about applying to medical school, most certainly like how some of you are/will be/already have. When I was applying, I was terrified. After finding out more about me, she then sent me an email (that I still have) egging me on and dropping tons of pointers that helped “de-mystify” some aspects of the application. Later on, I found out she was actually running a company for advising applicants in medical school by stumbling onto her book on Amazon. Why she took the time with me free of charge I’ll never know (go doctors!), but I hope all my viewers will check her blog out.  Her blog, book, and the MSAR and are an essential combination for any applicant.

HotarunoKoyapost graduate MD fulfilling residency requirements, *Japanese language only*. To the few readers in Japan, or those comfortable in Japanese, this is a perfect blog — if not one of the best no nonsense medical blogs out there.  The blog starts from this physicians orientation to medical school, continuing all the way onto their graduation. I set my blog up after being inspired from hers, it’s surprisingly concise and succinct yet accessible. I’ve never tried to use Google translate, but you’re free to give it a whirl if you want to see what the blog is about.

MD PhD to Bemedical student, MD/PhD candidate. Currently kicking butt and taking names as a dual degree student. This blogger also write for a number of well none medstudent outlets, so to say she’s productive would be an understatement. If you want to know what type of life an MD/PhD leads then this is your blog.

Dreamer Doc – medical student, MD candidate. This is one of the best composed and informative blogs out there. It overs the entirety of medical school, as the blogger is currently a senior doing clinical rotations. If you’re not subscribing to this blog then you’re really missing out potentially.

Aspiring Minority Doctor – medical student. This blogger dedicates their time to helping other premeds along the way. If you’re looking for a blog to inspire yourself, learning more about this blog and all the things they had to overcome is a great motivational point. This blogger knows what it takes to get into medical school, and is driven on their own accord.

5 Year Journeymedical student, MD candidate. This is one industrious and helpful blog, you’ll find tips for applying for medical school, webinar updates, and when she has time she even manages to critique primary and secondary applications free of charge. This blog is really dedicated to helping others through their journey.

White Coat DO – medical student, DO candidate. This account has great content and organization, so it’s a great resource for those interested in medical school and medicine. Here you can keep up to date with graduate medical education (if you don’t know what GME is don’t worry you will soon, like all of us) updates, other interesting write ups, and pertinent links.

The Health Scout – medical student, MD candidate. This blog is great because you may simultaneously learn something and laugh. The writer expresses themselves with both word and cartoon — it’s sort of like when the “funnies” were in the daily paper, albeit a medical orientated comic strip. She’ll soon be starting her 3rd year, I can only imagine what imagery she’ll later share with us as she becomes active in the hospital.

This Medical Life – medical student, MD candidate. Writing is a dying art of communication, no where is this more apparent then when we all sit down and take the verbal section of the MCAT for the first time. The blog covers a diverse amount of topics in a “writerly” way, from healthcare to life lessons.

The Crafty Premed – this is a great premed blog, especially for those in the mist of the prerequisite battle (or if you want a preview of what you have in store for you as a premed towards the end of your course work career). Becoming a doctor starts with being a premed.

PharmD Blog

MedEd101 (Medical Education 101) – when you’re a medical student and resident, if you’re fortunate, you may make rounds around the wards with PharmD students. As a future physician you’ll often (most of the time) encounter patients who are on a myriad of drugs.  PharmD students are masters at adverse reactions between medications, dosage strategies, and other things you’d learn if you dedicated your education to the pharmacology side of medicine. I can only hope the PharmD I get to learn interact with in the future is as helpful and knowledgeable as the owner of this blog.

Nurses and aspiring Nurses

Nurse with Glasses – mental health nurse. Blogs about mental health, the importance of family support for patients, and other issues we often don’t brush up on enough as we pile our noses into text books.

Pre Nursing Chick – RN student. If you want to read up on the struggles our friends in nursing have to endure here’s a good place to start. You can watch this account go from RN student to RN to the sky’s the limit. If you’re interested in nursing, or learning more about their coursework here’s a good place to hear one of their testimonies.

last updated 7/11/14

 

AMCAS II Ex. 2 — Diversity Question

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di·ver·si·ty

diˈvərsitē,dī-/
noun
  1. the state of being diverse; variety.
    e.g.: “there was considerable amount of diversity this applicant can add to our program” — says your dream school.
The Diversity Essay Prompt
Many secondary applications will ask, in one manner or another, something about diversity. The end goal for you, as a writer, is to capture or convey:
  1. What do you know about diversity?
  2. What is your understanding what diversity means in the current medical age?
  3. How do you tie that together into an argument of how you’ll help better that medical program?
  4. I found it difficult to brain story what makes me” diverse”. This is only natural, I speak English fluently as a native, but when someone asks me to say something “in English” I can’t think of a thing. So, instead I brainstormed the tangential answers by pretending I was addressing a future patient who misunderstood me, thinking I had nothing in common with them. I then tried to think how I’d assuage their concerns, then it was easier to shift gears into how writing about my “diversity”.
  5. Do not confuse this with the “hardship essay”, though your diversity may contain hardships that in fact make you diverse.

For my own diversity essay, I tried to take advantage of the changing medical landscape with the Affordable Health Care Act, allowing current events to segway into my understanding of diversity was easier for me (it almost gives you a skeleton to work around). Though, the caveat here is that you have to be up on your world and national news to play the part once you arrive at interviews (better start listening to Al Jazeera and NPR now). For myself, growing up without healthcare had an enormous impact on my quality of life, after all when you have a big family you have the unfortunate consequence of seeing ‘statistics’ play out as you’ll see in my diversity essay:

A physician must interact with patients across a large spectrum of income classes, a large swath of patients live in poverty. Therefore a doctor with a diversity of experiences may be better able to adapt to this fact. Lack of affordable health insurance inexplicably leads to overuse of emergency rooms, I know first-hand as I wasn’t privy to having a primary physician as an asthmatic who couldn’t afford insurance. I can only imagine that with the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act the diversity of patients seeking treatment can only increase. Being one of *14 (two dead) I’ve seen that diversity first hand having: a brother diagnosed with HIV, one dying after chronic cocaine abuse, and a brother currently in prison. To better get to know a diverse population I have spent time working with myriad of individuals from prison as a mentor, lecturer and tutor. As a volunteer in children’s oncology department I learned that compassion is a component of professionalism. Furthermore, I am gaining a greater understand the research process as an IRB/ACUC member. As an IRB member and Ethical Compliance Officer I weigh risk versus beneficence in order to protect special populations (prisoners, children, mentally disabled, and pregnant woman) from dangers of irresponsible research: misleading informed consents, conflicts of interest, manipulation and undue influence. I believe my diverse background will create a solid foundation of experience as a medical student and practicing physician.

–end—

It’s likely that if you’ve gotten this far, you have a story to tell. So, be assertive and tell it.

*In case you’re curious, for myself, I currently no interest in children nor having a huge family. For now my houseplant named, Fernando, makes a good son.

AMCAS II Question Ex.1: Why This Area? — My Example

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If you’re currently applying to medical school, you’ll likely soon start to receive secondary applications, congratulations on making it this far. Please pay particularly close attention to your first couple of secondary applications, you’ll be able to use the husk but not the heart of essays you’ve already written from other institutions. Also, during the beginning of this period, it’s easy to rush things out the door and wish you hadn’t afterwards. So, before we start I’ll remind you to proof read for typos and word transpositions (this will happen if your word processor auto corrects). Also, most importantly, make sure to never make the mistake of confusing one school’s content for another on an essay. To help avoid these mistakes use your friend Control + F to find your mistakes quicker, then print out the real secondary. Take a high lighter and lots of coffee, and make sure you don’t misidentify a school and caught most grammar and typos issues. On your computer I suggest that you make a folder called AMCAS Secondary Entries, make sub folders for each school and place their secondary essays there. Inside the main folder, AMCAS Secondary Entries, keep an Excel sheet to keep track of what types of essays you’ve written already and the character length — this will help you to make a strategy later when you’re exhausted and can’t imagine writing yet another secondary.

How to handle the “Why this area?” question

There is probably a plethora of reasons you want to go there, most of them are hopefully genuine. From your genuine reasons, pluck from them the reasons that best align with the mission and strengths of the program and their surrounding area. Also, you can tailor this entry by doing background information on the school and who they intend to serve — if you’re admitted, these are the people you will be serving. When you see similarities between those you will serve it’s a good thing. Note, this cuts across class, race and gender. What you’re trying to do in this entry is convince them that if you’re admitted you’ll be happy about your choice, and you gave it some thought. While it’s true that from the applicants’ perspective any medical school is good as long as they are accepted, The reciprocal: all accepted are good for the medical school, that is not necessarily true. In other words, a school will not invite you for an interview if they feel you haven’t really given it thought of why you want to be there — and that’ll either be obvious in this entry or during the interview if invited. Here’s one of mine:

A mentor once taught me that insensitivity makes arrogance ugly; and empathy is what makes humility beautiful. If accepted, my new mentors will forever craft my philosophy as a future humble physician. For this reason, I chose Meow-Mix Medicine School (MMMS) because the school’s core values of excellence, collegiality, and integrity. I believe becoming a medical scholar, in a new community, will prepare me for a successful career as a physician and advocate for the underserved.

MMMS integrates science theory and medical practice early; this is reflective in the school choosing to concurrently teach the basic sciences and the principles of medicine. MMMS hones medical student’s clinical problem solving skills by integrating the basic sciences patient care through small groups. My own experience in electrophysiology lab, and leading small lab discussions on preeminent research and physiology, taught me that often the best way to learn was to correlate theory with application via experience and in-depth discussion with mentors and peers. MMMS learning style encourages collaborations between training physicians; I believe this learning environment will foster excellence in the student body, as delivering stellar health care is a team effort.

MMMS keeps its medical scholars connected with the local community by providing comprehensive healthcare to vulnerable subjects by providing free health screenings to the local Kitten community at the Meow-Mix Area Health Education Center. A family shouldn’t have to choose between food and proper medical treatment. Additionally, I find it encouraging that MMMS has strong patient advocacy for underserved populations through organizations such as the Meow-Mix Meow for Health Program.I believe MMMS has a strong emphasis on patient beneficence without discrimination. MMMS commitment to the community, research, and education will prepare me for a life of service as a physician.

This the longer version (recall that you’ll different schools have different character count requirements), and experience with writing a bunch of these will allow for your to better tailor your entries. I found all of the information by data-mining (stalking) the medical school: checking their Tweets, blogs, Facebook entries, Youtube. Even if a school is huge, the department medical school PR “concept team” is usually rather small and intimate, so sometimes being the only person who watched that “wonky” video with 200 views puts you ahead of the pack. Of course I looked at their website and MSAR, but that’s sort of a basic requirement nowadays. By the time I wrote the “Why Here” essay I knew so much information about each school and area that it actually made the decision of where to matriculate to an arduous one because I taught myself to love each program I interviewed. 

Note: there’s a good chance that I changed the name of the university for mutual privacy, or the proper nouns I used really exist — equally likely =D