PREMEDLIFE The Magazine For Pre-Medical Students
BEST 2016 OF
Student shares advice on coping with the stress of medical school
5 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR FOCUS IN YOUR DORM
Tips to get rid of distractions that may be in your personal space
WHY SOCIAL LIFE MATTERS IN MED SCHOOL
November/December 2016 The number of qualified students applying to medical school each year far exceeds the number of available seats..” p.16
The Best of 2016 A look at the most read articles of the year
3 TECHNIQUES TO HELP DRIVE UP YOUR MCAT SCORE
5 EXTRACURRICULARS EVERY PREMED SHOULD CONSIDER
MY MCAT STORY: HOW I GOT OVER THE 500 HUMP
CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND REASONING SKILLS IS ONE OF THE MOST DIFFICULT SECTIONS OF THE MCAT TO PREPARE FOR.
THE NUMBER OF QUALIFIED STUDENTS APPLYING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL EACH YEAR FAR EXCEEDS THE NUMBER OF AVAILABLE SEATS.
ON MY FIRST DIAGNOSTIC TEST FOR THE MCAT, I GOT A 492. I WAS A LITTLE BUMMED, BUT I HAD A FULL 10 WEEKS TO PREPARE FOR MY NEXT TEST DATE.
November/December 2016 | PreMedLife Magazine |3
Generally speaking, physicians are respected. However, the cons understandably lead many premeds to question the value of a medical school degree, to wonder if it’s all really worth it.
Why Social Life Matters in Medical School
Medical students often say that medical school classes are similar to drinking out of a fire hose of knowledge. So how do students cope with the condensing stresses of life in medical school when they are constantly stuck in the books prepping for quizzes, tests, and attempting to fill their minds with endless scientific knowledge?
How I Survived These Medical School Courses Now that I have survived my first year of medical school (I still can’t believe it!), I figure it is as good as time as any to share pearls of wisdom in regard to the first year curriculum at TUSOM:
Why Medical School Is Still Worth It?
If you’re like most premed students, the dream of being a physician is something that you’ve held in your heart for a good period of time. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a physician role model in your life.
What Post-Baccalaureate Programs Look For In Prospective Applicants
Graduating with a degree from an accredited undergraduate program is an impressive accomplishment for anyone. However, for anyone who wishes to become a practicing physician, graduation from college is just a single small step in the journey.
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POST-BACCALAUREATE PRE-MEDICINE CERTIFICATE
THE CURRICULUM The Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Certificate provides high quality, preparatory education for individuals who aspire to enter medical school. This program is structured, full-time, and offered at the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus (VSTC) in Ashburn, VA. Students benefit from being part of a cohort and are expected to complete the program of study in one year. All courses are restricted to Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Certificate students. Laboratory sessions accompany all didactic coursework, except biochemistry, and are conducted in new state-of-the-art facilities on the VSTC. The Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine Certificate requires the successful completion of 35 credit hours, divided into three 15-week semesters:
SEMESTER I | SUMMER
THE GW CONNECTION TO THE WORLD Founded in 1821, GW has built a legacy of transforming students into agents of change. A GW education integrates intellectual discovery, interactive learning and unparalleled access to opportunities in every sector of society to help you put knowledge into action.
COURSE DESIGN AND LOCATION The GW Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medicine
General Chemistry I
Certificate program is a structured, full-time
General Chemistry II
program offered at the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, Virginia. The
SEMESTER II | FALL HSCI 3103
Organic Chemistry I*
35-credit-hour program begins each summer session and is designed to be completed in a 12-month period.
SEMESTER III | SPRING HSCI 3104
Organic Chemistry II*
* Organic Chemistry I, Organic Chemistry II, and Biochemistry are offered as a sequential, three-course series, 10-week each, over the fall and spring semester.
full page post-bac.indd 1
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istockphoto © Tinatin1
5 Things Premeds Can Learn From Preschoolers If you’re in high school and you’re reading this, chances are – you have already decided that you defiantly want to study medicine.
What’s on Premedlife.com? 5 Ways to Overcome Premed Burnout
Practicing medicine is a meaningful and rewarding experience that leads many pre-medical students to life-long satisfaction in their career choice.
5 Most Common MCAT Mistakes (As Explained by An Instructor)
Having the right mental and emotional disposition is crucial for success on the MCAT.
When All Else Fails Ask Khan Academy
As pre-meds, I can guarantee that at some point in your undergraduate career, you’ve reached out to Khan Academy.
6 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something” - Neil Gaiman As we look back at 2016, it is inevitable that we shortly thereafter begin to look forward. Or may look
forward before looking back on what worked and what didn’t work. And while it feels a bit odd saying this and it might sound strange hearing this but, as I echo Gaiman’s words in that I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes! Because to me, mistakes mean that you’re probably learning what obviously doesn’t work and are one step closer to figuring out what actually may work. You’ve made it to the end of another year and if you’re reading this, you are still motivated and pushing forward to reaching your goal of becoming a doctor. We here at PreMedLife are here to support you in all the ways you need and give you the tools for becoming tomorrow’s doctors. In the new year, we’re excited to announce the launch of our new website (so, look out for that) and are looking to building a community that will support you in becoming the best medical school candidate possible. We are looking forward to see all of our readers succeed in getting admitted to medical school and it excites us very much so see all of our readers reach milestones, overcome obstacles, defeat adversity, and be better than they were yesterday. With each day comes a new chance to make decisions that will affect your future. And while they may not always be the best choice (while you may believe they are at the moment) everything happens for a reason and everything that you go through and experience will in the end be a part of your story. Everybody’s story is different and everybody’s story makes them the doctor they become. It is important that you have these experiences for yourself, whether they are positive experiences or negative experiences - it is important to see the lesson in all of the things you experience, as well as learn from those around you. It’s very cliche to say this but as the year comes to an end - take the time to look back on what worked and what didn’t work and in the end be thankful for everything that you’ve endured and everything that you experience. As you prepare to go into the new year, keep a positive attitude about everything that will happen - good or bad - and know that everything you go through is all part of making you the best physician ever. And, don’t forget, we always want to hear from you so don’t hesitate to share your story - because you never know if you story will help inspire others.
PREMEDLIFE the lifestyle magazine for premedical students www.premedlife.com
Founder & Publisher | Tasheema Prince VP, Development| Monique Terc Contributing Editor | Njeri McKenzie Online Marketing Consultant | Portia Chu Contributing Writers xx Find us on Twitter @premedlife Find us on Facebook.com/premedlife Here’s How to Reach Us: Kisho Media, LLC P.O. Box 10572 Rockville, MD 20849 Main Office (347) 857-7491 Have a Story Idea? Email us at email@example.com Want to Subscribe? Visit www.premedlife.com and sign-up to our mailing list to receive an email when the latest issue is available online Want to Join Forces? (a.k.a. Partner With Us) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Inquiries? Email email@example.com PreMedLife magazine is published six times per year by Kisho Media, LLC. and copies are provided to select colleges and universities free of charge. The information in PreMedLife magazine is believed to be accurate, but in some instances, may represent opinion or judgment. Consult your pre-medical/pre-health advisor with any questions you may have about the medical school admissions process and related topics. Unless otherwise noted, all articles, photographs, artwork, and images may not be duplicated or reprinted without express written permission from Kisho Media, LLC. PreMedLife magazine and Kisho Media, LLC. are not liable for typographical or production errors or the accuracy of information provided by advertisers. PreMedLife magazine reserves the right to refuse any advertising. All inquires may be sent to: Kisho Media, LLC. P.O. Box 10572 Rockville, MD 20849 To reach us by phone call (347) 857-7491 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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S T U D E N T A D V I S O RY B O A R D
The PreMedLife Student Advisory Board is an exemplary group of premed students from a variety of backgrounds who have a wide range of accomplishments. They will help keep us informed about what we need to know to make PreMedLife magazine the go-to resource for aspiring doctors.
Follow us @premedlife
Tisha Berg UCLA Extension
Viven Chen University of Miami
Samantha Culver University of Vermont
Caitlin Draper University of Arkansas
Jared Eaves The University of Texas at Austin
Austin Greer Indiana Wesleyan University
Charis Guinto Evangel University
Hannah Hoekstra University of Minnesota
Lisa Lachhman Pace University
Austin Newsman Georgia State University
James Rock Slippery Rock University
Tyra Turner Agnes Scott College
10 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
Dr. Maurie Markman, MD Medical Oncologist
WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY,
STAND UP. When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer, you have the power to help. There are many ways you can stand up and show that you care. THEY TALK, YOU LISTEN. One of the most helpful and important things you can do is listen— without judgment and resisting the urge to give advice. DON’T ASK, DO TELL. Instead of waiting to be asked for help when it is needed, be speciﬁc about what you can do and when, such as: prepare a meal, babysit, pick up groceries, help with pets, or provide rides to and from appointments. Pamela Cromwell Cancer Survivor
LIVE AND LEARN. Educate yourself about your loved one’s diagnosis and treatment. When you understand what a cancer patient is going through, you’re better able to help keep information clear, track questions, and know how you can be most useful.
Christina Applegate SU2C Ambassador
STAY CONNECTED. After the initial diagnosis, people tend to drift away. Be someone to count on for the long haul. Check in, send a quick note, or drop off a book. Small gestures go a long way. Visit ShowThatYouCare.org to learn more about how you can stand up for someone you love.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a proud supporter of Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative designed to accelerate groundbreaking cancer research for the beneﬁt of the patient. Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
2-4-2015 10:28 AM
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Survey Gauges Feelings Around New MCAT Among Admissions Officers
Kaplan Test Prep released the results of its survey administered to admissions officers from 68 medical schools across the country. A press release on the survey’s results revealed that the majority of admissions officers say that it is still too early to tell if the new MCAT will help better evaluate prospective students. However, close to half of admissions officers say they feel that compared to the old MCAT, the new version of the MCAT gave them a better opportunity to evaluate an applicant’s potential to do well in their program, stating that “the new test has improved their ability to evaluate applicants noted the “broader variety of topics” tested, a better “focus on what the applicant has learned in school rather than rote memory,” and the addition of “biochem, sociology and psych that are beneficial to medical school.”
The new MCAT featured a number of significant changes all designed to better test what potential medical students know to how well they are able to use what they know. According to the makers of the MCAT, the new version of the test: requires broader preparation, asks students to apply what they’ve learned, focuses on behavioral and socialcultural aspects of health, and incorporates the latest science on information processing. Specifically, in addition to concepts in biology, chemistry, physics, and verbal reasoning, the new MCAT “also tests preparation in first-semester biochemistry, psychology, and sociology, with a greater emphasis on demonstrating scientific reasoning skills and by capitalizing on recent research about information-processing skills.” Additional data from Kaplan’s survey supports the
notion that, over time, more schools will likely shift their opinions to a more favorable view. “Additional data will give medical schools the data they need to conduct additional research on the new MCAT’s benefits,” said Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-medical programs, Kaplan Test Prep. In the press release, Chiu also points out that despite this uncertainty, medical schools say that MCAT performance remains the most important admissions factor with 46% naming a low score as “the biggest application deal breaker.” A low undergraduate GPA placed second at 32%. “One thing medical schools are certain about is the MCAT’s importance in the admissions process. The MCAT continues to be a key indicator of applicants’ academic potential,” said Chiu. p
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A CHART DOESNâ€™T EMPATHIZE.
Before reading a chart or lab report, a DO sees a human being. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine practice their distinct philosophy in every medical specialty. A DO first considers the person within the patient.
Learn more at DoctorsThatDO.org
istockphoto / Terminator3D
14 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
Want to drive up your MCAT score? Try This. By Leah Fisch
ritical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) is one of the most difficult sections of the MCAT to prepare for. Why? Because it’s not science! You can’t just study a few terms, learn some techniques and hope to improve. You need to approach this section strategically. You have to figure out your CARS weakness and work on it to slowly raise your score. The three most common issues my MCAT tutoring students face are:
Running Out of Time / Not Reading Fast Enough
Reading is more than just seeing words. You must understand and deduce information from the text you’ve read. This means you must read fast, read well, and feel comfortable with complex reading. I recommend an approach that I call the “newspaper strategy” as the best way to improve your reading speed and comprehension. In short, the newspaper strategy forces you to read something “boring” like a newspaper (read a section or articles that don’t interest you) or a specialty magazine (for a sport or hobby that totally disinterests you) every morning for 30-45 minutes. Since the subject matter is boring you have to train your mind to pay attention even when it isn’t interested. Reading something like a good novel doesn’t count because your mind wants to continue reading. Forcing yourself to pay attention when you don’t want to will help you improve your attention span and concentration. My students who’ve followed this strategy diligently (and read at least every other day) have seen noticeable results in about three weeks.
Trouble with the Questions
Some students feel they understand the passage but can’t answer the questions. However, when we review we discover that the student: 1.) Read the passage too quickly and missed the obvious answer,
2.) Didn’t fully understand the passage, 3.) Needs more practice working through passages. In addition to worki2ng on your reading speed and comprehension, I also recommend getting a book of CARS passages and practicing passages every few days. I don’t like daily passages because then it becomes a “check-list” item on your MCAT to-do list instead of an opportunity to sit and learn. There are many resources for practicing passages, including CARS prep books and the AAMC CARS practice bundles.
Moving Through the Material Too Quickly
Yes, it is possible to go through this section too fast. I worked with one student who was able to narrow down her answers to two choices, but she had a knack for guessing wrong! She tried to read passages twice and was afraid of running out of time. She would fly through the material and miss critical and valuable information. Do you find yourself doing something similar? If so here’s my advice: Take five seconds to think: “I am about to read and pay attention to this passage so I can understand and answer questions.” Read a paragraph and take two seconds to think: “What was the author trying to tell me here?” Repeat for each paragraph. Take five seconds before the questions to think: “What was that all that about? Why did the author write this? What was the position, argument, and support?” Then move to questions. If you read through the questions and find yourself confused or unsure refer back to the passage. The purpose of slowing down to think after each paragraph is to give you a mental picture of where to return if you need to verify information to answer the question. By the way, are you getting ready to take your MCAT in the next few weeks? If so, click to grab a FREE copy of my ebook MCAT Exam Strategy – A 6 Week Guide To Crushing The MCAT. by visiting Leah4sci.com/Premedlife.
November/December 2016 | PreMedLife Magazine |15
...AND THEN THERE WERE
5 extracurricular activities every medical school admissions committee wants to see
The number of qualified students applying to medical school each year far exceeds the number of available seats. On top of that, among the pool of applicants are a great number who are the nation’s best and brightest students. So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that you’ll need far more than just grades and test scores to earn a coveted spot at one of the nation’s medical schools. In fact, one study conducted by the AAMC found that approximately eight percent of applicants with GPAs ranging from 3.80 to 4.00 and MCAT total scores ranging from 39 to 45 were rejected by all of the medical schools to which they applied. On the contrary, the same study revealed that about 18 percent of applicants with GPAs ranging from 3.20 to 3.39 and MCAT scores ranging from 24 to 26 were accepted by at least one school. In this super-competitive medical school admissions arena, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd and your extracurricular activities could give you the competitive edge that means the difference between getting in or not. Extracurricular activities give medical schools a chance to see what you’ve done during your pre-med years outside lecture halls and other than studying for the MCAT. More than ever before, medical school ad-
missions committees are putting more emphasis on recruiting students who, beyond having a strong academic background, are balanced, well-rounded students who will be a good fit for their school. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), a well-rounded sampling of extracurricular activities or work experience, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant’s knowledge and development. When it comes time to complete your AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application, you have 15 spaces to enter your work/ activities that you would like to highlight to medical schools. Aside from your potential to succeed academically, this is your chance to give medical schools up to 15 more reasons as to why they should invite you for an interview and ultimately offer you acceptance to their medical school. So now that we’ve told you what you probably already knew about the importance of extracurricular activities, the next thing you should know is that not all extracurricular activities are equal. Here are 5 extracurricular activities that every medical school admission committee wants to see on your application>>>
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istockphoto / frantic00
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Volunteering/Community Service (Medical):
The extracurricular activity most valued by medical schools is medical-related community services. And we’re not just saying this. A reported published by the AAMC reported that after letter of recommendation, an applicants participation in medical-related community service was considered the next most important in deciding on not only if they would invite them to an interview but also if acceptance was offered. So, why is having this activity under your belt so important? For starters, altruism, the unselfish concern for the welfare of others, is something that all physicians pledge to when they take the Hippocratic Oath, so wouldn’t it be crazy for medical schools not to take this into account?And while your involvement in a
like working with kids and you’re good in math, check out the in-patient pediatric department at your local hospital, you’ll be sure to find an opportunity to volunteer as an academic tutor for the hospital’s long-term patients. You get the point right? Put some thought into which activities you will ultimately commit your time to because this time is precious and can mean the difference in finding an experience that is just an experience and finding one that brings meaning to your pre-med life. To find a medical-related volunteer/community service project, visit www.healthcarevolunteer.com to find an opportunity that is right for you. Examples of Volunteering/Community Service (Medical) Extracurricular Activities: Volunteering at a hospital or clinic to gain broad exposure to working within a health care setting; Volunteering as a summer camp counselor working with children
through clinical experiences, you secure critical insight into why you are choosing a career in medicine. As an individual who plans to spend the rest of your life working in a clinical setting, there is no excuse for not having any experiences. It is absolutely necessary that you spend a significant amount of time dedicated to gaining experience and not get caught up with dibbling and dabbling for short periods of time in many areas. While you should shoot for at least 200 hours of experience, there are students who may spend up to 500 hours or more during a single experience. But try not to get caught with the number of hours you are putting in and focus more on seeing what you can draw from your experiences, to leave you with enough exposure to explain with great confidence why medicine is for you!
Community Service (Non-Medical):
With non-medical community service activities There’s no way to tell beforehand comes an experience that will truly demonstrate commitment and dedication to something as to whether or not the activity you choose your that will do nothing other than foster your selfDifferent from being involved will be meaningful or not so it is important lessin atendencies. medical-related community service activto give yourself enough time during your ity, like volunteering at a hospital or during a health fair, donating your time to pre-med years to plan and manage your community something that has absolutely nothing to do with you says a lot – so, go ahead, rack up those time accordingly. hours, it will say a lot about your commitment medical-related community service activity can demonstrate the commitment and dedication valued in medical students and future physicians, it is important that your experience be meaningful. So your job is to make it count. You shouldn’t be worried about whether or not you’ll have enough extracurricular activities to impress admission committees, you should be more concerned with those which will foster meaningful experiences and outcomes. Not only will having meaningful experiences give you more depth as an applicant, it may even give you something to write about for your personal statement and give you stories to tell during your interview. There’s no way to tell beforehand as to whether or not the activity you choose will be meaningful or not so it is important to give yourself enough time during your pre-med years to plan and manage your time accordingly. In order to be successful in finding an extracurricular activity that has potential to become a meaningful experience, start by finding an activity you genuinely enjoy. Then try to find an activity that brings in the medical component. So, let’s say you enjoy sports, you play on your school’s team or you just love watching sports on TV – consider volunteering with the medical team at a sports medicine clinic in your area or with one of your school’s athletic teams. Or, let’s say you
who are disabled; Volunteering on an on-going basis with a blood bank to assist in various activities of the operation; Volunteering as a member of a medical corps to help restore crisis-affected communities; Volunteering as an emergency medical technician.
Medical/Clinical Work Experience:
Why not take medicine for a test drive before committing the rest of your life to it? Aside from learning about what you like (and don’t like) about medicine, gaining work experience in a medical/clinical setting shows medical school admission committees that you’ve seen what it’s like to be a doctor, you’ve worked around them, you’ve gained a sense of what it is they do, and yes, your sure that this is what you want to do with your life. It will give you the opportunity to get a first-hand look at medicine and get a peek at what you’re options are. Having medical/clinical work experience is more for you than it is for medical schools, they want to know that you know what lies ahead along the road to becoming a doctor and the field of medicine overall. As a pre-med, there are tons of opportunities to engage in a medical/clinical experience and this also includes shadowing a physician, which will allow students to gain exposure to patients in a medical setting. By gaining a realistic view of the health profession
to community and public service. Chances are, if you take a look at your top school’s web site, you’ll find that they are active and involved with community oriented service and projects. And in some cases, students are required to complete a certain number of hours of community service prior to graduation. According to an article published in The Clinical Teacher, the World Health Organization (WHO) expects all medical schools to ‘direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region and/or nation that they have a mandate to serve.’ Examples of ‘Community Service Non-Medical’ Extracurricular Activities: Volunteering with an organization like Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for individuals and families in need; Volunteering with an organization like Feeding America to support food donation efforts and a mission to end hunger Volunteering as a manager or coach for a little league in your community; Volunteering through an organization like AmeriCorps to participate in work ranging from public education to environmental clean-up; Volunteering on a on-going basis to organize a coat, book, toy drive to support individuals in-need within your community.
If you can use at least one of your 15 slots for work/activities to tell school’s about a leadership
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role you held during your pre-med years, you’ll be sure to gain a few extra points compared to an applicant who can’t say the same. While it will not guaranteed your acceptance, having a leadership role on your resume will help build your case for why you’re the one to pick. Many medical school look favorably upon applicants who have held leadership roles and some actually require applicants to have at least one leadership experience to apply. And it helps a lot if the school’s you are applying to are particularly big on leadership. For example, on the Website for the Geisel School of Medicine, under the page that outlines what the school stands for they have an entire section on ‘Creating Leaders and Leadership’ and explain that they are ‘committed to creating a new type of physician leaders who exercise the kind of superb leadership required to tackle our most vexing challenges in health care.’ So, the point is, if you’re applying to a school that is big on leadership, which is pretty much all medical schools, make sure that you’re able to show why you’ll be a perfect fit for their school. Examples of ‘Leadership Experience’ Extracurricular Activities: Holding an office in student government, club, or organization; Mentoring at-risk youth though a program like Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Becoming the team captain for a sport played
during college; Organizing any type of event on campus or in your community.
Experience with Underserved Populations:
By participating in a program working with underserved populations you will now have the opportunity to talk first-hand about your experience, what you gained from it, and why you are passionate about committing your life in medicine to serving individuals in these areas. Having experience with underserved population is something that medical schools will definitely want to see if you are applying to a program that is designed to increase the supply of physicians in underserved areas. With growing concerns about the reality that the U.S. will face a widespread doctor shortage and the treat of an impending health care crash due to this shortage, more and more schools have begun to implement programs to address the need for attracting students who are compassionate and dedicated to addressing the health care needs of underserved populations. By participating in a program working with underserved populations you will now have the opportunity to talk first-hand about your experience, what you gained from it, and why you are
passionate about committing your life in medicine to serving individuals in these areas. Working with underserved populations, medical-related or not, gives students the opportunity to become exposed to environments of cultural diversity. According to Health Reform.gov, the Obama Administration believes that strengthening and growing the country’s primary-care workforce is critical to reforming the nation’s health care system and announced that with the passage of the Affordable Care Act it plans to make available $250 million in new funding to expand the primary workforce to invest in a new generation of primary caregivers through increased resources for training, new incentives to physicians for providing primary care to patients, and support for caregivers who choose to enter primary care in underserved areas. And medical schools planning to participate in the Obama Administrations plan for creating jobs and increasing the number of primary care providers are looking to attract students who genuinely share the same desire to become a part of this new primary care workforce. For any of the above-mentioned examples of extracurricular activities, students can find opportunities within these categories that are particularly aimed at addressing the needs of individuals in underserved populations.
Is medical school still worth it? If you’re like most premed students, the dream of being a physician is something that you’ve held in your heart for a good period of time. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a physician role model in your life. Perhaps you’re fascinated by the expanding world of medicine— a career field that is constantly being updated with new and exciting discoveries. Or perhaps you fall under the category of “Premeds Inspired by Medical-Related TV Shows…
Whatever the reason for your inspiration to pursue a career in medicine, you probably also are aware of the many perks to the profession. Generally speaking, physicians are respected. They enjoy financially stable careers, and they can take satisfaction in knowing that their work is contributing positively toward society’s betterment. However, the life of a physician is definitely not all roses, and the downsides to the path to an MD are also hard to ignore. These cons understandably lead many premeds to question the value of a medical school degree, to wonder if it’s all really worth it. Arguably the greatest overarching “con” to a medical school degree is the initial financial burden. While in-state tuition at public medical schools is relatively affordable for many students,
premeds typically can’t be too picky about where they end up attending med school. If they are only accepted to an out-of-state school or a private institution, they will most likely end up paying at least $50,000 per year in tuition alone. This cost (which is often even higher, depending on the school) does not cover living expenses, books, or enrollment and loan fees. Receiving scholarships for medical school is much more difficult than receiving them for undergraduate programs, and the government currently does not offer any subsidized loans for grad school either. Unless they have managed to save up a hefty sum of money prior to starting school or are fortunate enough to have family sponsors, med students attending non-state schools can easily find themselves graduating with well over $200,00 of debt. This sum will
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also have been accruing interest and may prove to be understandably financially stressful for any freshly graduated physician (particularly for those who have undergraduate loans also). Additionally, while the current future of the healthcare system in the United States is a hot topic for debates, it’s also a bit of a predicament for future doctors. The Affordable Care Act largely changes the way that the entire medical system’s structure will operate, and physicians and other healthcare workers will undoubtedly be affected in some way or another. However, exactly how the new regulations set to slowly roll into action through the Affordable Care Act will affect doctors’ remains largely a mystery. While many have spent hours speculating over the future of the healthcare industry in America, the fact remains that we simply don’t know… yet. We don’t know how changes to the current (and arguably somewhat flawed system) will affect physicians’ payrolls. We don’t know how the changes will affect doctors’ working hours. We don’t even know if/how long it will take before changes become fully implemented into the system, and we definitely don’t know how long those changes will last for. With this many unknowns hanging over the future of the medical careers in America, it’s easy to see why many premeds are growing unsure of the wisdom in pursuing their dreams of one day earning their MDs.
If the uncertainty regarding the particulars of the future of the medical industry in the United States wasn’t enough uncertainty to deal with, premeds and medical students today are also faced with the uncertainty of being able to successfully be “matched” to their desired residencies. In fact, medical students are starting to have to worry about whether or not they will even be “matched” at all—favorite residency or least desired residency included. This uncertainty has arisen due to the increasing number of MD programs in the United States (such as the newly opened University of California, Riverside School of Medicine), along with an increasing number of DO schools as well. The number of available residency spots, however, has not increased in proportion to the number of graduating medical students per year. Traditionally, unmatched fourth year medical students would be given the opportunity to participate in the “Scramble,” a process that would allow them to “scramble” to apply/be accepted to any remaining residency spots across the nation, regardless of whether or not they were for residencies to which they had initially applied. However, with the increasing number of medical students applying for the limited number of residency spots each year, it has been predicted that in several years the opportunity to participate in the “Scramble” will no longer be an option, as all spots will have already been filled. Without completing a residency program, a MD degree is practically useless.
On top of the already mentioned uncertainties, the fairly ever-present stress within the life of a medical student today can easily be considered reason enough to choose another career path. The speed at which med school instructors expect their student to learn has been compared to trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. While each m1edical school’s curriculum varies, the same basic topics must all be covered within the first two years of instruction, and the amount of material covered within each or these two years is significantly higher and more detailed than that of the classes covered in any years of undergraduate education. Studying to learn this amount of material is obviously stressful in and of itself, and most medical students are used to being at the top of their classes. Finding themselves struggling to even pass a course is often a new and terrifying experience, and when many of them experience failure on tests for the first times in their lives, the stress can seem overwhelming. The toll that medical school life takes on students has not gone unnoticed; various studies have been conducted to quantify the rate of depression among medical students, and while the numbers vary between studies (from around 12-20%), all of these studies conclude that the rate of depression among medical students is significantly higher than that of the general population. Finally, even though the life of a physician is often seen as one of ease by those viewing from the outside in, this illusion is sometimes far from the truth. Physicians, like many others, can be plagued by financial worries. Malpractice insurance is anything but cheap, and with legislation in on ballots to remove the caps for malpractice costs in some states (such as California), the cost may only skyrocket in future years. Additionally, even though their average salaries are higher than those of the general population, so is their average accumulated debt. The salary of physicians in residency has not increased proportionately to the rising cost of medical school tuition. This means that despite their best efforts, most physicians will still be paying off medical school loans long after they have completed their residencies. Doctors also typically work long hours—many of which may go unpaid due to difficulties with billing processes with insurance companies. Furthermore, the stress of the burden of being held responsible for the lives of patients can definitely take a toll on an individual’s mental health as well. These career stresses often spill over into a physician’s personal life, causing further undesirable difficulties.
IS AN MD REALLY WORTH IT?
With all these negatives aspects, it’s easy to see why premeds might find themselves questioning whether earning their MDs are really worth it or not. However, as just about any actual medical students and physicians will readily tell you, the perks of the profession still arguably far outweigh
the cons. Many people search their whole lives for a career that brings them fulfillment and a sense of purpose in life. A career in medicine is one relatively sure way to find that purpose, particularly for individuals already passionate about blending science with care for humanity. Additionally, even though the looming loan repayment plans may seem extremely intimidating, premeds should realize that repaying enormous sums of loan money is possible and will most likely remain possible, regardless of how the future of healthcare plays out in America. Obviously, successfully paying off these loans in as little time as possible will require careful budgeting on the part of the borrower, but learning to be wise with a budget is never a bad quality to work on anyways. Furthermore, there are several different governmentsponsored1 medical school tuition (re) payment plans, including options to work in certain specialties in rural areas or in military branches. While these programs all require committing to a certain number of years of service in their specific areas in return for complete payment of all medical school loans, many students consider these options preferable to having to worry about making loan payments on their own for many years. Also, even though the logistics of healthcare in the United States will probably change within the very near future, the constant need for dedicated medical professionals will undoubtedly remain. If job security is determined by the demand for a service, then physicians will always have a secure field to practice in. Advancements will (hopefully) continue to be made in medicine, but these advancements will never be able to fully eradicate the sicknesses, diseases, and injuries that constantly plague society.
THE COSTS VS. THE DREAM
If your dream in life is to serve society as a physician, fears of the real costs of a medical school degree—fears of the costs both monetarily and mentally—should not be allowed to determine your future. Although these fears are legitimate, ways to overcome these issues still remain. If money is your main fear, then consider one of the previously mentioned loan repayment programs. If securing a residency spot worries you, then find peace in knowing that taking a year between graduation and residency to build your resume through paid research work is usually a back-up possibility. If you fear the toll of mental stress during medical school, then comfort yourself in knowing that many medical schools provide free counseling services to their students. Overall, even though the cost of a medical school degree may seem overwhelming at times, the benefits of successfully fulfilling your dreams for earning your MD degree are far greater. After all, you don’t want to someday look back on your life and think, “I wish I would have followed my dream to become a doctor…” Choosing to take the steps towards your MD now can help prevent those moments of regret later on.
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Two worlds. One dream.
Singers and Scientists share more than might be expected. Whether it’s a breakout melody or a breakthrough in research. When it comes together, everything fits. It can change lives forever. Stand Up To Cancer supports the collaboration, innovation and research that are turning discoveries T:11”
into viable treatments and possibly, one day, a cure. Stand up with us. Let your voice make a difference because when we work together, nothing is impossible.
Like, share and join SU2C. Find out more at standup2cancer.org
Jennifer Hudson, Stand Up To Cancer Ambassador
Shiva Malek, Ph.D.
Stand Up To Cancer is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Photo by Nigel Parry.
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BEST/2016 THE MCAT & ME:
HOW I GOT OVER THE 500 HUMP By Janet Umenta
On my first diagnostic test for the MCAT, I got a 492. I was a little bummed, but I had a full 10 weeks to prepare for my September 23rd test date so I felt I had plenty of time to bring my score up. The next three weeks, I read my entire set of Kaplan review books and did a set of practice questions daily. I settled to take my first practice exam after weeks of studying and this time I got a 498. A little better, but I was still below the 50th percentile. I still had 7 weeks to go until my test date, so I hit the books even harder, determined to get over 500 in my next practice exam. One week after I took my first practice exam, I woke up early to go the New York Public Library in Bryant Park to take my second practice exam. I was in a beautiful library room in the heart on NY. Some passages I felt confident in and some I didn’t. I didn’t think the CARS section was too difficult and after taking a 30 minute (or maybe an hour…) lunch at Chipotle, I sat back down to tackle the last two sections. At the end of the test, I was feeling confident. I hit the submit button thinking I at least earned a score above 500. Instead, I got a 497. Huh? I felt more confident taking the second practice exam than I did taking the first, yet my score dropped by one point. I was disappointed to say the least. Applying to medical schools is a competitive process; only about half of applicants get into medical school in any given year. Getting over 500 on the MCAT puts you in the top half of all med school applicants and improves your chance of admittance. Seeing my scores hover below the 500 mark was frustrating, so I knew I had to study SMARTER if I wanted to see improvements in my score. Here’s what I did to get over the 500 mark: SLEEP Taking a seven-hour exam is exhausting, but after getting a disappointing score, it might be tempting to just continue hitting the books aggressively to get your score up. I suggest getting a good night’s sleep instead and taking it easy the next day to replenish your fuels and avoid burnout. Once your rested, you are better able to see your mistakes clearly and study more effectively. SCHEDULE YOUR NEXT PRACTICE TEST Knowing what day you will take your next practice exam will help you focus your attention on maximizing your score in a limited time. If your test is still a couple of months away, schedule your next practice test a week from now. If your MCAT is in a couple of weeks, schedule your next practice test three days from now. REVIEW PREVIOUS PRACTICE TEST I know the last thing I want to do is look over a test I didn’t do
that well on but going over the questions you got wrong AND the questions you got right will help you identify the topics you need extra practice in. I recommend writing down the answer explanations of the questions you got wrong because it will help you see what you did wrong and help you avoid making the same mistake. Looking over the questions you got right is also a good idea to see if the method you used to get the right answer is the recommended method. Sometimes you can find a better way of answering certain questions by doing this. When I was enrolled in the Kaplan program, they encouraged us to make “Why I Missed It” sheets to help identify areas we need help in. Here is a snapshot of one I made back in August: IDENTIFY YOUR WEAKNESSES Ask yourself: What topics am I consistently missing points on? While I reviewed my previous tests, I noticed that I would always get points off on passages dealing with the same topics: Acids and Bases, Psychological Disorders, Carbohydrate Metabolism, etc. Knowing this, I scheduled time before my next practice test to go over those areas carefully and do practice exams so I won’t make the same mistakes. REFLECT ON HOW YOU TOOK THE TEST Were you distracted during the exam? Did you take unnecessary breaks (I know I did in the beginning)? Are you taking the test in a quiet environment? How are your time management skills? Did you run out of time during a section? Answering these questions for yourself will help you make changes for how you handle the next full-length exam, improving your chances for scoring higher than before. After focusing my studies for a couple of weeks, I saw steady improvements on my full-length scores, and I was able to score above 500 on my third practice (502 to be exact!) That was a huge psychological breakthrough for me because seeing practice exam scores start with 5s instead of 4s meant I was on the right path to getting a solid score on the MCAT. In the beginning, it was hard to follow the above strategies because it seemed like I needed to spend all my time poring over the MCAT review books. But that’s actually the WRONG way of studying and a trap many students fall for. I have found that the key to doing well on the MCAT is to study SMARTER. You want to make sure your studies are focused on improving areas of weakness and test-taking strategies.
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istockphoto / Rawpixel
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HERE’S WHY SOCIAL LIFE MATTERS IN MEDICAL SCHOOL
M istockphoto / gpointstudio
edical students often say that medical school classes are similar to drinking out of a fire hose of knowledge. So how do students cope with the condensing stresses of life in medical school when they are constantly stuck in the books prepping for quizzes, tests, and attempting to fill their minds with endless scientific knowledge? Unfortunately, some students cope by turning to various vices, such as substance abuse (see this 1991 study and this 2014 study) in an attempt to unburden their minds from so much knowledge. But medical school isn’t conducive to that type of behavior and students need peer support. After all, these are future doctors who will most likely be interacting with patients and members of the medical community on a daily basis. By staying sharp on your social skills during your time in medical school, you’ll have a much better time working with your fellow doctors, nurses, and staff during residency and in your future career. >>
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Value the time that you have each day and remember that relationships equal the amount of time spent with someone. Don’t burn bridges just because now you’re in medical school and you don’t want to “waste time” with those folks who aren’t immediately involved in the same career field as you. Rather, find friends whom you enjoy hanging out with and schedule a day twice a month (or whatever works best for you and them) to hang out and chat and do non-medical school things (although, depending on what you’ve been studying, you might find yourself analyzing them and trying to figure out if they have some underlying health problem that they’ve never disclosed to you). Plus, a bit of fresh air in the company of a friend and away from the books can do much more for you mentally than sitting in your apartment alone watching television and eating ice cream. If going out on a Friday night is your ideal way to socialize, drink in moderation so that you don’t waste the following day feeling awful. Just as the habits you picked up in high school carried over into your university days, and your university habits carried over into medical
school, the habits you start now will probably be carried over into your life as an M.D. So do a quick mental inventory of what habits you can create now that will help you then. Figure out your social habits that you already have. If you isolate yourself now or bottle up your feelings inside, what does that say about how you’ll be in the future? If you haven’t already, establish good social habits now so that when you interact with your future patients and those of your medical team, you won’t be known as that angry, impatient doctor who doesn’t see his patients as fellow human beings. By actually having a social life in medical school, you will learn good people skills, especially when you are around people from all sorts of backgrounds in situations where you are forced to trust them. Playing team sports that involve more than just one other person (so something besides racquetball) helps immensely with this. Try doing something outside of the medical school bubble, such as joining an adult soccer league in your city or taking an hour out of your week to help tutor underprivileged children.
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Of course, all of this takes time and energy, and honestly after a full week of classes and quizzes, who really wants to go mingle with the outside world? So set up a schedule that allows you to focus on your workload and still give time for you to socialize with your friends. Establishing a schedule in today’s world can be the difference between passing your classes with ample time for friends or burning out from constantly cramming.Your mind can only hold so much! If you’re keen on trying a new activity and aren’t really into team sports, go try climbing at a local rock climbing gym and get to know some of your fellow climbers. There’s a sense of community and trust-building that happens on rock walls that doesn’t often happen in normal exercise gyms as easily. Other fun, healthy social activities can be things such as weekly board game nights with your friends or joining a running club. One of the most important reasons that social life matters in medical school is networking. Networking is essential to having a successful career life, and those friends you make now in medical school might help open up amazing opportunities for you in the future. Unlike your friends
from high school, the majority of whom you probably never talk to anymore, the friends you make in medical school can actually help you and your family with things like recommendations, residency placements, jobs at hospitals around the U.S., and even places to stay when you’re visiting a new city for the first time. Don’t neglect hanging out with your classmates, attendings, and residents! Lastly, remember that a good balance is key to both staying at the top of your class and having a solid community to back you up and provide the support you need to be successful in your career. In today’s consumeristic culture, try to be giving back to your community through various volunteer programs (check with your school to see what they are already involved in). By investing your time back into society, you can have a healthier approach to life in general and make connections with the populace around you. It has been said that humans were made for community. So get out from under the books, go for a run around campus, and get connected with your peers and pals.
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How I Survived These M
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Medical School Courses IT’S OFFICIAL. I’M NO LONGER A FIRST YEAR MEDICAL STUDENT. TWO WEEKS AGO, I COMPLETED MY THIRD NEUROSCIENCE EXAMINATION AND WITH THAT, MY FIRST YEAR CURRICULUM AT TUSOM. I’M GIDDY ALBEIT APPREHENSIVE. THE END OF FIRST YEAR DOES NOT, UNFORTUNATELY, MARK THE BEGINNING OF SUMMER. >>>
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BEST/2016 Now that I have survived my first year of medical school (I still can’t believe it!), I figure it is as good as time as any to share pearls of wisdom in regard to the first year curriculum at TUSOM: anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, genetics, neuroscience, and physiology. Some readers have emailed me / tweeted me / messaged me about the academic nature of medical school and I’ve been working my way through those responses. I realized that other readers / future readers may have the same questions; thus, here begins a series of blog posts: How to Survive Medical School. I found that many inquiries have been about anatomy. In an earlier post, I shared the personal aspects of my experience in anatomy lab. Although I vaguely mentioned / vented about anatomy coursework on both this blog and the Twitterverse, I have not really shared specifics about the academic aspect of the course. I know, I know — better late than never, right? In this post I will (1) preface with some information about my personal learning style (just so you can better understand the perspective from which I give my advice), (2) provide some general resources for first year, and (3) describe how I studied for each particular course. Please keep in mind that not all the advice may apply to your particular learning style or institution; nonetheless, I hope that some of this proves helpful! I would call myself primarily an auditory learner. And so, a quality lecturer is my best friend. Listening to a lecture 2x is a much more efficient way for me to study than other means. Of course, not all lectures are delivered in the way that I would prefer and in those cases, I fall to my backup learning style: read & write. In such cases, I transcribe lecture slides in my own words and I use a textbook to supplement the information. I rather not read textbooks but a well-organized textbook is much better (in my opinion) than a set of muddled lectures. I use flashcards to master the information that I need to simply memorize / quickly drill. GENERAL RESOURCES FOR FIRST YEAR OF MEDICAL SCHOOL Anki: I. adore. flashcards. You’ll come to realize quickly that for each exam / block you’ll have tons of material to drill down. I am one of the unfortunate souls who writes painstakingly slow which is a bit incompatible with the pace of medical school. Anki has been a saving grace for me. Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard program that is quite powerful. It is easy to add images (or lecture slides) to each card. There is an image occlusion function which makes it possible to block out labels on images (shout out to my friend Nick for introducing that function to me) which is particularly useful during neuroanatomy, anatomy, and histology. It is possible to add audio to the cards, which is really neat.
There is a mobile app (unfortunately this is not free, although the desktop program is free) which means you can study Anki on the go! Firecracker: The first week at medical school, I asked a couple of second years if there was a resource they stumbled upon last year that they wished that had used from the beginning. Firecracker was one of the resources oft mentioned. I used Firecracker primarily for the anatomy & embryology units but I found it to be a really neat way to study high-yield information. Wunderlist: I find that to-do lists keep me from wigging out about all I have to do. My favorite program for to-do lists (I’ve tried quite a few) is Wunderlist. I’ve talked about my love of Wunderlist before; to be honest, I have to attribute my sanity to Wunderlist. There is also a (free) mobile app. Anatomy: imagine that you are given the opportunity to interact with a completed 1000 piece puzzle. Over the course of the term, you closely study each quadrant and every single puzzle piece. And then you are expected to identify (during examinations) significant or less significant / memorable pieces placed in odd / zany orientations. As a non-visual learner, anatomy was by far one of the most challenging courses for me as a first year student. Study Strategy: I switched up my study regimen each block but I’ll share just a few quick resources and strategies that I found invaluable. If I Could Do-Over?: This is not a course that I would want to repeat — it certainly has not been my favorite course — but I could do-over, I would have put more effort into my shelf preparation. I stumbled upon USMLE Road Map Gross Anatomy which would have been extremely useful if I used it earlier in the game, but maybe I can use it for USMLE 1? Also, Gray’s Anatomy Review is a question book comprised of difficult and comprehensive questions. I started to use this in my last block of anatomy and I could have sworn I saw almost identical questions on my exam! Biochemistry: I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I loved biochemistry. I enjoyed biochemistry in college (my college friends can attest to this); I loved biochemistry so much that I joined my biochemistry professor’s lab. To cut it short: I love biochemistry. Biochemistry at TUSOM: We take biochemistry alongside genetics, histology, and physiology — these courses are taught in blocks divided1 by organ systems. Our professor has a lot of resources for us: course synopses (essentially a mini-text-
book tailored for our course), recordings of the course synopses (I really pity the person who had to do these readings), lectures, and a question bank. If I Could Do-Over?: I heard a lot of hype about biochemistry in medical school and I wish that I could have told Ajibike from months prior to calm down. Biochemistry is a do-able course; it’s heavily memorization based but it is do-able. So if you are worried (as I was), don’t worry! You’ll get through it. It won’t be fun (all the time) but you’ll survive! Embryology: I find the subject material fascinating — truly! — so I wish that I spent more time on the material. Embryology at TUSOM: As I mentioned earlier, we take anatomy and embryology concurrently over a period of ten weeks. Embryology is often the forgotten course during that period of time (as there is far less material in embryology). Study Strategy: Full disclosure — I did not take embryology as seriously as I should. To be honest I remember very, very, very little besides Tetralogy of Fallot. Embryology involves a lot of folding and strange antics — it can be a nightmare for a non-visual learner. If I Could Do-Over?: I would have made my ‘translated handouts’ from the the jump — I started making these second block and I found this method to be invaluable. Neuroscience: I first found neuroscience intimidating. It’s a whole new language. Gyri and sulci and fiber tracts; I never studied neuroscience in college so I was first startled. The subject matter is really cool (do I say that about everything) and extremely important so I recommend really making an effort to learn neuroscience well. Neuroscience at TUSOM: We call neuroscience neurocation. No, the subject matter is not simple but since we take neuroscience as an independent course (over a period of six weeks), the workload was far less than our integrated curriculum. Neuroanatomy laboratory sessions were optional so…I basically never went to school. It was phenomenal. Where is the advice for physiology and histology? Don’t worry — I’ll be sharing that with all of you in the very near future! I hope that at least some of that was helpful. I remember how much I panicked before courses and I hope this helps you feel just a little bit more calm before launching into your first year at medical school. Feel free to comment if you have questions or want some clarification!
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AN INSPIRING, LIFE-CHANGING & EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCE!
- Jessica Gilchrist, Pre-Medicine Program
SHORT-TERM HOSPITAL INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITY FOR PRE-MED STUDENTS Applying for medical school is a challenging experience – although there are over 170 medical schools in the US, competition is fierce for every single one of them. Whether you seek to add to your previous experience before you apply or to provide focus and context to your interviews, a Gap Medics internship program abroad will provide you with the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes of your future profession and help you stand out from the crowd. In the process, you will be involved in an unparalleled medical and cultural exchange that can help inform your vital career decisions for years to come.
From shadowing in surgery and on the patient wards to attending global health seminars, our programs will give you a deeper understanding of medicine – all while you have the adventure of a lifetime with future doctors and health professionals from around the world. And it’s not all work and no play! In your free time, you can tour incredible cities, go on safari, or simply relax on the beach after all your hard work. You will really be spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your downtime.
your future, their hands
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istockphoto / ÂŠ runeer
What post-baccalaureate pre-med programs look for in prospective students
Graduating with a degree from an accredited undergraduate program is an impressive accomplishment for anyone. However, for anyone who wishes to become a practicing physician, graduation from college is just a single small step in the journey. For students who were perhaps â€œluckyâ€? enough to realize that they wanted to be a doctor during their first few years of their undergraduate careers, transitioning from undergrad to medical school can often be a fairly simple transition.
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BEST/2016 Such students are often called “traditional” students and are more likely than others to find themselves enrolled in medical school classes within a year of celebrating their college graduations. However, for many other students, the process is not so simple. Many physician-hopefuls realized their desire to practice medicine after they had already chosen other fields of study during their undergraduate careers. These students, although often just as bright and motivated as other pre-meds, typically need to make up for “lost ground” in order to successfully apply (and be accepted) to medical school. Fortunately, there are several options for such students/applicants, depending on when within their lives they decided to pursue medicine. Specifically speaking, while some undergraduate students might find it possible to squeeze in all pre-med requirements during their last few years at school (or might find it reasonable to spend five years in college instead of the traditional four), anyone who has already graduated obviously will not be able to do so. Instead, programs such as post-baccalaureate pre-medical Programs exist to help these students. A post-baccalaureate pre-med program typically lasts for about a year. These programs consist of focused studying on the core science classes, particularly those included in upper level biology work. Often, programs contain built-in MCAT preparatory classes in order to help students do their very best on this crucial exam, and many programs work hard to ensure that adequate mentoring programs are also available to their students as well. COMPETITIVE UNDERGRADUATE GPAS Like any academic program, post-bac programs are interested in knowing your academic performance up to this point in your academic career. However, unlike with many medical schools, having a relatively low GPA does not necessarily mean that you have a greatly reduced chance of being accepted. Instead, many post-bac pre-med programs understand that their students are there primarily in order to improve their non-competitive GPAs from undergrad. At the same time, being able to show academic motivation through your GPA is still of huge importance. In other words, while a few low grades during science courses (or other courses) during your freshman year in college probably will not keep you out of a post-bac program, continuing to get low grades throughout your upperclassman years as well might. Post-bac programs are more likely to admit students who have shown academic improvements than those who seem to be “stagnant C’s” throughout all of their schooling. Additionally, when considering how your GPA might play into your chances of getting accepted at a post-bac pre-med program, it is very important to consider the average GPAs of the students already in the program. Different post-bac programs may
have different focuses; while some programs seem to focus on students looking to improve their GPAs from undergrad, other programs are more directed towards students who never got the chance to take the required pre-med courses because they were studying other areas during undergrad. Research the average GPAs of students within a program that you are considering and improve your acceptance chances by applying to programs with averages like your own. OVERALL AMBITION In continuation with the above theme, applicants who are considered to be both ambitious and dedicated will typically have the highest chances of getting accepted by post-bac pre-med programs. Unlike a GPA, however, ambition can be a little harder to clearly “show” to an admissions committee since it cannot be as easily measured. Still, post-bac programs are looking for applicants who show ambition through their current life choices, whether that be through volunteering to check in patients at a local free medical clinic or spending a few days a week putting in hours at a local research lab as a volunteer. Ambition to rise above difficult circumstances is also well received by post-bac pre-med programs as well. As mentioned previously, these programs are designed with the understanding that many of their applicants are coming into the field of medicine from what could easily be considered to be disadvantaged situations. Trying to complete undergraduate science classes while working a full time job, doing college work while being responsible for a family, or just trying to navigate the rigors of school while being an older/non-traditional student are all circumstances taken into account by post-bac pre-med program admissions committees. AGE OF APPLICANT In addition to having student bodies made up of varying GPAs between different post-bac pre-med programs, the average age of students in different programs varies as well. Specifically speaking, even though the general aim of all of these pre-medicine focused post-bac programs is the same (that is, helping to get students accepted into medical schools), the actual student populations vary greatly from program to program. While some programs might have more students who come directly from undergraduate courses (and thus are around 22 or 23 years old), the majority of programs actually have average ages of students much closer to 30 years of age. TOTAL LIFE EXPERIENCES In fact, many post-bac pre-med programs are extremely interested in the life experiences of their applicants. While a good part of this interest stems
from general inquiries into the lives of its potential students, admissions committees are also very interested in knowing how a student’s current interest in medicine ties into his/her past life experiences. However, this does not necessarily mean that a student who chose a career in nursing prior to deciding to apply to a post-bac program has a better chance of getting accepted into the program than a theology student does; instead, it simply means that admissions committees are very interested in knowing the life experiences that led the thought processes behind an applicant’s current decision to pursue a career in medicine. In general, the best way for a post-bac pre-med program applicant to use his/her life experiences to improve his/her chances of getting accepted into a program is to use any and all application essays to tie in past experiences with current ambitions. For instance, the student who is working in the business world but who wants to pursue a career in medicine should use his personal statement essay to clearly articulate what experiences in his current career led him to his current conclusion that a career change would be best for him. An admissions interview is the next place where a student can use his past experiences to help improve his chances of getting accepted into the program, but this second step typically only occurs if the first place of convincing (the essays) is well received. The goal of a post-bac pre-med program is to graduate students who will then be accepted into medical schools--students who might not otherwise have ever gotten to go to medical school. While the content of the programs themselves is carefully designed to best achieve this goal, admissions committees understand that they can only really achieve their goals if they also have classes of students who best meet the character qualities of successful doctors. Such qualities include intelligence, integrity, and ambition, and all of these are often analyzed based on a student’s re-telling of his/her past life experiences. While the overall goal of a post-bac pre-med program is somewhat similar to that of medical schools in general (that is, to graduate students who are better prepared to eventually serve in the medical field), the requirements for admissions to these programs are vastly different. Both programs are very competitive, but they definitely have different standards of acceptance. While medical schools typically are looking for applicants who have strong GPAs and high MCAT scores, post-baccalaureate pre-medical programs are more interested in discovering students who could someday have those medical school admissions requirements.
36 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
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6 Ways to Nail Your Next Shadowing Experience By Austin Greer
38 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
istockphoto / © TanawatPontchour
The thought of working alongside a practicing physician can be intimidating. Maybe this is what defers a lot of PreMeds from pursuing solid shadowing experiences. Perhaps, you are like me and associate early shadowing experiences with a series of awkward and embarrassing moments. Regardless, there is a lot to be gained from a shadowing – and most PreMeds willingly acknowledge this. The problem is that a lot of PreMeds feel they are not fully equipped to nail a shadowing effort seamlessly. Like many others, not all of mine have been so smooth – but I have learned in the process some unsaid tips that I wished I would have known earlier. Whether you are completely new to shadowing or simply just trying to sharpen a current commitment, I believe I can help you conquer your next experience. >>>
LEARN THE IMPORTANCE OF SHADOWING There are few other settings in which you can observe a doctor’s practice, evaluate their field, and ask any burning questions almost at will. At its core, shadowing is a way to bridge the gap between being a PreMed student and being a doctor. Doctors can really enjoy it as well as they get the opportunity to be tour guides for their field – matching your perceptions with the reality (whether good or ugly). Ultimately, long-term shadowing commitments can lead to strong letters of recommendation and a better understanding of the field. Oh, and did I mention it is free? LEARN ALL OF THE STAFF’S NAMES THE FIRST DAY When a physician welcomes you, you are also being welcomed by the other 80% of individuals who are not the doctor. If you are shadowing in an office setting, there may be 3-4 nurses and several receptionists. Introduce yourself, write their names down on your notepad, and study them briefly before returning the following week. Not only does it break the perception of being the random PreMed that comes in every week, but also much of the staff will have great advice for you. This shows that you are not just there to put in hours. Besides the fact that it is common courtesy, it also shows that you have leadership potential. FOLLOW THE DOCTOR – EVERYWHERE I remember sitting in front of a patient with the doctor I was shadowing. Halfway through our visit with the patient, the doctor left the room very quickly – leaving the patient and I alone. For a lot of reasons, ten minutes being stuck in the room with a patient can feel more like a really uncomfortable eternity. Unless the doctor specifically tells you to stay put, follow them straight out of the room. You will most likely thank yourself. DO YOUR HOMEWORK If you are shadowing for the first time, get familiar with a couple procedures that you are interested in. This may lead to an interesting conversation with the doctor, or simply look very impressive on your behalf. If you are in a long term shadowing commitment, the doctor might give you one or two things to read up on before showing up the following week. Obviously this would be a wise thing to do, but try to expand on that in-
formation by asking a few questions about it when you return. Doing this consistently shows that you are actively learning and respect their field. ASK QUESTIONS Let’s be clear: without asking questions, you could very well miss the opportunity to stand out to your doctor. It seems simple, but there is a method to it. Write down questions that come up in your notepad as you are with the doctor and patient. Then, filter through them at least once before asking. This serves as a system to keep from asking embarrassing or obvious questions. Along with this, make sure that you are asking them at the right time. Asking the doctor while they are with the patient may be poorly timed. Instead, try asking questions between patients or at the end of the day. EMBRACE THE AWKWARDNESS Remember whom you are dealing with here – doctors. These are people who hear things they wish they had not on a frequent basis. Patient A will tell them (in detail) about their disturbing late night party endeavors that brought them into the office the next day. Patient B will tell them how they did not think at the beginning of the day that they would end up swallowing a children’s toy. I am not totally certain, but I think all physicians would profess that being in a position of help to others inadvertently puts you in a position of hearing these kinds of stories. The point is that asking a few embarrassing questions are infinitely easier to swallow for the doctor than the stories they hear almost every day. As long as you are committed to learning, laugh at your occasional mistakes and learn from them as you go. Maybe you are like me. Maybe over time you have accepted that the journey to becoming a physician seems less like a point A/Point B endeavor. It has dips, turns, and twists – but maybe this is important to becoming a physician after all. No matter how much we prepare, sometimes things are out of our control. Regardless of whether it is lab, attending lecture, or shadowing, learn to embrace the occasional awkwardness that comes with the duty of being a PreMed student. In fact, it might just make you a little more prepared for the future.
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Paperback iPhone Case
Adhesive notes for iPhone. We know what you’re thinking — there are apps for that. Well, it’s still easier to jot something down on a sticky note, and more satisfying to cross off an item with real ink.
My Cinema Lightbox
Write your own feature title with this retro light box and letter set.
Devil’s Dictionary Medicine Glasses These glasses feature iconic industry vocabulary and their satirical definitions.
40 | PreMedLife Magazine | November/December 2016
Poppable Bubble Wrap Calendar
Keep track of the new year and put your love of popping bubble sheets to use with this brilliant bubble wrap calendar. Every day that goes by youâ€™ll get to enjoy the simple joy of popping a bubble off this clever calendar.
u Heat Activated Coffee Mug
Heat sensitive ink responds to hot, steaming coffee. Features heat sensitive porcelain mug The coffee cup that perks you up - Heat sensitive ink responds to hot steaming coffee - Genuine porcelain
These pillows playfully represent male and female DNA through pink XX chromosomes and blue XY chromosomes.
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5 WAYS TO BOOST YOUR DORM ROOM FOCUS
Even for the most ambitious student, a lack of focus can really be a hurdle to overcome on the road to medical school. Focusing comes easy to some people, but for many others it takes dedicated effort to succeed through all of the easy to access distractions in the digital world. While camping out in a quiet corner of the library is often a great bet for forcing yourself to hunker down and study, there will also definitely be those nights when studying from your dorm room just sounds like a cozier, more convenient option. If focusing in your place of residence isn’t your thing naturally, try these tips to help yourself out.
Build slowly This is really the key to focusing anywhere and everywhere, particularly if focus is something you struggle with. Save yourself some frustration and start by building your focus in small segments at time, gradually working up to no-break study marathons. If focusing is a natural struggle for you, start with a 25-5 pattern; study for 25 minutes, then give yourself a 5 minute break. Increase your study time gradually, without increasing your break time quite as much in order to keep your productivity on track.
Make your lists If you’re like most premed students, you actually have an impressive list of tasks that need to get done. However, while some students are great at buckling down and knocking out every single one of those items, others find it harder to concentrate on one thing at a time. Make a list, set time limits on items, and work from there. Don’t allow yourself to spend more time on an item than is reasonable; at the same time, abide by your list and follow it through--focus on each item at hand, not allowing yourself to work on something else during that time period. Inform others Sure, there will always be those friends who like to harass you for “needing to study” instead of hanging out with the crew, but hopefully most of your good friends are supportive of your academic endeavors. Let your friends know when you need to hunker down into “Do not disturb” mode or when your phone will be on silent. Or, let them know when you need some extra encouragement from them to get you focus and study in the first place. Keep others informed of your need to focus, allowing your “task” of focusing to be in both yours and their hands. Remind yourself Focusing on your most important tasks can be terribly difficult when just about everything else you can think of sounds more appealing. This is where putting up constant reminders of why you’re slaving away studying when you’d much rather be sleeping is so important. Reminding yourself of your reasons to strive for success might mean a few post-it notes around your desk, a photo that inspires you, or a few friends on speed dial who know how to get you to rekindle your passion for your pursuit of medicine.
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istockphoto / © oneinchpunch
istockphoto / © gabrane
Invest in some help Telling yourself not to waste so much time on Facebook might not be enough to actually battle your desire to procrastinate. Invest in some help for blocking out distractions by getting a productivity app or software. There are a good number of options out there, including Cold Turkey, SelfControl, Blinders, and more. Find one that allows you to study while temporarily blocking out other potential internet distractions.
MACHINES DO NOT LISTEN.
Before you talk to a doctor, choose one trained to listen. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine practice their distinct philosophy in every medical specialty. A DO is trained to first consider the person within the patient.
Learn more at DoctorsThatDO.org