Pressing the Submit Button – #AMCAS

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Certainty — there is such an irony in the word “certainty”, as few things in life are ever certain. 


Though, there is some overarching truths inherent to every premeds journey, or certainties: prerequisites, volunteering, and some type of leadership and/or some other types of enrichment experience. And, again we edge closer to certainty as we mature along our premed journeys’, after all there’s a lot less certainty of a freshman premed continuing on into medical school than a premed senior/post graduate. The reasons are pretty blatant, and don’t need much exploration: the premed journey whittles down a lot of people, regardless of your beautiful mind and/or heart, and by the time you reach the end you’re probably a ‘decent’ applicant if you stuck with it and life didn’t molest you too obtrusively. A lot of great people never make it to taking Organic Chemistry, the gnarled and tattered survivors go onto take the MCAT. The socially emaciated, #MCATPTSD desiccated husks of people,  formerly known as a premed, then goes onto enter the must brutal game of musical chairs i.e. the AMCAS. At that time, if you chose to apply then you are now an applicant — this nebulous “friend” zone where you’re still a premed, but you are “certainly” a premed after you’ve pressed the SUBMIT button on the AMCAS.

Before pressing the submit button, early in a premed’s career the title “premed” is one often wore in honor. For the medical school applicant premed, this is probably the most fearful time in their life, and the title suddenly bears great weight. In fact, there’s likely a strong correlation to how many people expect you to become a doctor your perceived Atlas boulder on your neck. Indeed, I’d argue there’s even some type of transcendental comradery that is threaded between applicants and accepted medical students (and even doctors), a mutual respect borne through similar experience regardless of outcome.

Let me assuage your concerns, it’s perfectly normal to be apprehensive about applying to medical school, there is no shame in it. Indeed, it’s better to have every doubt you can conjure up prior to being accepted into medical school — and even then the doubts probably won’t stop stirring. This is probably especially true if your parents have geared you up to be a premed since you were a fetus because this is likely the first time you realized the destination of your train tracks. There was little certainty when you started your career as a premed that you’d end your undergraduate career as one (if traditional), and there is little certainty that when you press submit you’ll get in. And really, there is a maturity involved in re-evaluating your life, after all the true path to medicine forged you own way.

But, there is one sure way to be certain you won’t get in, by sabotaging yourself (perhaps unconsciously) by putting in a low grade application effort on the AMCAS or self-selecting out. And its fine to decide to do something else, this is in no way a failure, the most important thing is that you consciously choose and don’t let the sands of fate do as they may.

Though know there is one certainty: the only way to get into medical school is to apply to medical school.




Agenda 4/24: New Email, Johns Hopkins M2 Interview, PS Critiques and Sweets

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Hello All,

Thanks for keeping up with my blog. To all the premeds out there taking their MCAT, writing a PS, and slaving away at the prerequisites my hats off to you! To my medical school friends, good luck on your coming USLME (or COMPLEX).

I created a dedicated email for questions, feedback, concerns etc: 

As you may already know, I have a few hats, I work as an ethical compliance associate (I don’t like the word officer) for the IRB and the ACUC (human and animal research respectively, yes I do realize the irony) — this is mostly for graduate students. I also have a job helping to coordinate research grants, conferences, and doing odd jobs to increase the amount of undergraduate research at my alma mater. If you didn’t know, surprise! Long story short, I get a lot of emails every day, from either the USDA, my institution, combative principle investigators, or panicking graduate students. So, I decided it was about time to make a email account just for the blog. Please feel free to ask me things there if you wanted to keep it private.

Post Step 1 USLME interview with Johns Hopkins MD candidate (M2) sometime in May

I have a good friend from my alma mater who’s now attending Johns Hopkins, and is currently a M2 (second year medical student). She’s currently caved up in a hole studying for Step 1, and she’s agreed to share her lessons and experiences as an M2 getting ready to move onto her next steps — clerkship. If you have any questions, write them to me at I’ll select the best 7, and 3 of my own to ask her. Her test is in mid May, so I’ll take questions until May 9th. If you do not clarify if you’d like your identify revealed then I’ll assume you wanted to ask anonymously.

Personal Statements — I’ll accept them again from May 1st until May 20th.

I agreed to take one person past the deadline, so, what’s the point of playing favorites? I understand that some people have some PS emergencies, seeing as how applications open up in June, it would be reasonable for me to open up my reading schedule in May. So, from May 1st until May 20th I will start accepting PS again. So, send them to, I’ve dedicated an email for your guys so that they won’t get buried under my other normal work/personal email. While, I won’t actually give any feedback until May 1st, feel free to send them earlier as I would read them earlier and thus have time to give more feedback. Warning, I give very honest feedback =). But, so far the few people last cycle who’s PS that I did critique (and they followed my suggestions) they did in fact matriculate into medical school — I was showered with gifts of kind words — a perfect ending for both of us. While I make no guarantees, I can tell you I’m really vested into you getting in, or rather helping you put your best foot forward so that you can get yourself in.

Overall, same process as last time:

– I’ll read 3 drafts, if you make them within that time frame.

– I will do content/context editing. You’ll have to find yourself a grammar Olympian — but, if I see something outrageous I may make a change. Always have your best mentor/reader do the last check before submitting to the AMCAS, just a FYI.

– Give me 3 business days to respond to your draft, label it Personal Statement, with your name in the title. I’ll use the track changes/comments options in Microsoft Word to make comments, I’ll then return the paper to you for your revisions.

And lastly, I’ve baked cheesecake from scratch

Marmalade topping

This is probably more of my own personal accomplishment, then anything that benefits you…unless I invite you out to eat. This may happen.


All the Things I Learned in Prison

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It was a somber sky on that Friday morning, I was told I could wear anything professional, as long as it wasn’t navy blue. I knew I was going to be in jail that day, I couldn’t decide which tie to wear, whats in vogue when in jail? Which knot would give me the most visual “street-cred” behind double rowed electrified barred wired fences I wondered. I tied a full-windsor knot. I rechecked my pockets before leaving the house, I knew I was going through a series of metal detectors and security checks, and I didn’t really want to have an awkward intimate pat down. I grabbed my keys, attached to it a curvaceous quaint black whistle, like the ones we played with obnoxiously as kids. I received the whistle several weeks prior during the crash course on prison safety and ways to not get stabbed, hustled, or black mailed while associating with the inmates. I keenly read the contract, and we were requested to denote from a list which classes we could teach. Apparently, there wasn’t a big demand for bio/chem tutors, so I had no idea how to pigeon hole myself into a slot. I had told the warden and program coordinator that I wasn’t sure if I’d be helpful, but I was a tutor, they told me run 1.5 HR workshops about academic advising and college. Around this time we all received our whistles, a novel way to alert the guards about all that stabbing they had warned us about — we wont go into the ridiculousness of this whistle. But, I had been reminded the morning of when looking at this whistle that I’d best reciprocate respect for my new students by going with a half-windsor knot.

I arrived early, it was mandatory, if you didn’t make it in time for the security check the gates wouldn’t open again for you. If you had been checked in, and you had worn navy blue, in case of a “lock-down” you may be shot on sight for not lying down on command because you’re confused for an inmate. As you may of imagined, I went with the standard black and white slacks dress shirt to avoid being shot or arrested while in inside the big house. I had brought a stack of print outs about “college stuff” to distribute, the guards told us we couldn’t bring it in, as it may be contraband, so we tossed it in the trash before entering the double gates of no return. The prison grounds were actually quite beautiful, the main compound consists of a thick stucco walled Spanish style series of buildings. I was told by one of the guards on the golf cart ride up to one of the cell blocks that it used to be a famous hotel back in the Gone with the Wind Clark Gable days. It struggled with the economy many decades prior, and was acquired by the military during World War II. During World War II many bungalows were built to house troops, these quarters now house inmates. The main beautiful structure is left empty, inaccessible, and now relic of a more extravagant past.

It was rough start, but after a couple of months teaching classes with these individuals, I had developed some type of prisoner repoire. These men, regardless of their past transgressions weren’t too different from my students I tutored in college — save having made opposite decision to the occasional similar circumstance. I worked with all works of life, from reformed violent offenders, even with sexual offenders who were quarantined from the rest of the population. Working with the sex offenders was particular personal challenge, but I learned to dispense my charity equitably. I told them I would treat them fairly, so I driven  to pull that off. I always waited to have the philosophical debate regarding my own feelings about them personally until I was on my way home.

The next session I was transferred to a unit with more “serious” crimes, some from racial gangs not on friendly terms with my own in prison. In fact, there was a stabbing between gangs in another part of the jail while we were there. So, it’s only natural eventually I was asked me why was I there each week, taking this measured risk. Most others in the program was of the criminal justice cut, or some type of social work, they wondered why a premed was there. It was asked not in an accusatory or malicious manner, but rather because they felt it odd. I chuckled, and responded back “Why not?”. I could now think of a thousand cool replies, at the time that was the best I could do. Weeks turned into months, I had help lead discussions regarding job skills, college majors, how to get financial aid etc. One day we were discussing interview etiquette, only to find out likely 4/5 of the room had never had a job interview. So, we made up some workshops on the fly. We assigned them homework, write up a resume as we had taught them, and bring it with them the following week for their mock interviews. We dressed the part. The confident inmates cognizant of the rules of prison were suddenly bashful and giggling with excitement about their pending interview. I did my best to rehash common interview questions I’ve heard throughout the years, as a native Californian I tried to put some oomph into my portrayal — really getting to know them during their interview. After the event was over, a stout diminutive man came over to me, and with tearful eyes told me “That’s the first time I’ve ever had a job interview”. I think it’s at that moment where I finally got why the man before had asked me about why I had come — it was perhaps one of the first time they had someone have consistent faith in them.

I certainly learned a lot of things while doing my medical volunteering: having a catheter placed twice in the same week sucks (try to avoid having to re-admit someone), it’s difficult to watch people suffer (good motivation to help them), people lie (there’s drug abusers who frequent ERs), but you should have faith in people (see the last clause for the eternal battle). But, perhaps in prison I learned the most valuable lesson of all: people are people and deserved to be treated as such.

Don’t limit your experiences to just the hospital premed, you’re going to serve the world, so see the world.

Thanks for having me!