Category: Blog

Medical School Rejection? You’re in good company

Medical School Rejection? You’re in good company

 

As the end of the medical school application cycle comes around, a number of applicants are comfortably settling into the idea of choosing one school among the handful of acceptances they’ve received. Many, many, many more applicants, though, are finding themselves in a strange limbo full of medical school rejection and wait lists.

 

“Is it too late to start applying for jobs after graduation?”

“Where am I going to live?”

“How did this happen?”

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Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical School Side Hustles: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Medical school is crazy expensive. Obviously, your first priority should be doing well in school school and building your resume. This should be combined with a healthy balance of quality time spent with family, friends, not to mention focusing on your own personal well-being. If, and only if, all of that is in order, then perhaps you may be interested in one of the following medical school side hustles. However, working during medical school doesn’t have to be a giant commitment either – here are some of the ideas that fellow med students have tried to make some extra money…

Leverage a Talent

You will have to define your talent, but it could be something along the lines of an athletic or musical aptitude. At the very least, your status as a medical student should earn you tutoring gigs, if not for your medical school itself. Basically, if you are a master at something, or at least well beyond average, then you can likely charge for your services. For instance, I teach tennis part time and garner $20+/hour after the facilities cut. I have also tutored intermittently, landing $20/hour there as well. Now it is your turn, dig deep and find your inner medical school side hustles!

Earn $20+/hour Working for Motivate MD

This flexible opportunity fits perfectly with a med student’s busy schedule!  Motivate MD is currently seeking talented medical students for:

  • MCAT Tutor 
  • Pre-Med Online Mentoring 
  • Blog Content Writing
  • Sharing Motivate MD’s Pre-Med App and Services

If you’re interested in using your talents and past experiences to help pre-meds achieve their dreams, and desire the flexibility to fit into your busy med school schedule, this might be the job for you!  Take 5-10 min to fill out our simple job application here.

Donate Plasma

This one is not for the faint of heart, aka those with a crippling fear of needles. You are going into medicine though, so I will assume this applies to the minority. I have donated at BioLife Plasma, which pays $20 for your first visit each week, with another $50 if you come a second time that week. You can only donate twice in a calendar week and each donation must be at least a day apart. The sessions generally last only an hour. The best part is that BioLife has free Wifi, so studying is an easy possibility. I usually crush Anki decks while donating!

Uber or Lyft

I read online that you could net $25/hour and was obviously skeptical. “Why not try it out,” I said to myself. I was pleasantly surprised and did in fact net $25/hour. Surge definitely helps (elevated fairs based on consumer demand), but even without it I would have done well. Moreover, the passengers were all kind and chatty (one simply handed me a $20 for the tip), instead of drunken and belligerent, as I had imagined. The one downside is that your car can take on a lot of extra miles with this, so I would recommend doing it sparingly, but if you have got some time and a ride, give it a shot as one of your medical school side hustles! You can apply to Uber or  Lyft here.

Overnight Sleeping Shifts

These are absolute hidden gems. What is better than getting paid to sleep? Again, I figured this was too good to be true, but am thrilled with the results. Forty hours a week I sleep at a group home. I am actually only awake and doing things, like making breakfast or packing lunches, for 4 hours each week. The remaining time I truly sleep, or study. Facilities like this need round the clock supervision and odds are there will be one and demand near you if you reside in a big city. You will need to feel out the group home residents though. If they are runners, good luck getting sleep. Simply explain the situation to the interviewer and say that you are paying your way through school and actually need to sleep during the shift. They are understanding, as everyone else picks the job to sleep!

Landlording

I wish I could have made this one happen, but it wasn’t meant to be. If you think you have the chops to find an ideal property, location being key, then perhaps you should pursue this. The idea is that you have your tenants, hopefully other medical students, pay your mortgage. Then, long-term you can continue renting to medical students and have created your first rental property, voila! Make sure you have the nerve to handle any hiccups and headaches that may come along though.

Thank you for reading, and best of luck throughout your journey to becoming a doctor!

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Could Short-term Memory be More Important than Long-term Memory for Premed and Med Student Success?

Could Short-term Memory be More Important than Long-term Memory for Premed and Med Student Success?

 

The beauty of success is that only one person can define it for you: you. If your idea of success is being the best damn Mom in the world, then pursue that wholeheartedly. If you desire to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry, then by all means, do it! Whatever it is you want in this life, be it x, y or z, aim for perfection. Of course, no one is perfect (with the exception of my cats), so we will all inevitably fail. Because of this inevitability, most people are afraid to shoot for perfection. Naturally, they set the bar a bit lower, still high, but not quite at the level of perfection. Maybe they achieve their goal, maybe they don’t. Regardless of the outcome though, they have created a ceiling for themselves. They have put a limit on their potential. Because of this, I counter that we should all aim for perfection, with one caveat: utilize short-term memory.

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Finding Your Focal Point(s)

Finding Your Focal Point(s)

The modern world is ripe with opportunity, however, pursuing every bit of it can leave you stretched too thin. This is the classic conundrum faced by medical students. You spend years building your application, but have the joy of building it all over for your next stepping stone: residency. Don’t worry though, this simple, reflective exercise, inspired by Brian Tracy’s book Focal Point, will provide perspective and allow for optimization. Essentially, he proposes: highlighting the high-yield activities you do on a daily basis, and eliminating the low-yield activities, which exponentially increases your happiness and success (however you define it). Now, let’s find your focal point(s)!

Step 1: Define Yourself
Who are you? If you were to categorize your life into the things you work at, interact with, or think about on a daily basis, what would they be. Then, rank them, beginning with the most important. My list looks like this:
1) Family (includes Fiancee and kitties)
2) Friends
3) Mental and physical well-being

  • Mindfulness
  • Exercise
  • Diet

4) School

  • Class
  • Extra-curricular activities
    • Student Surgical Society
    • Volunteering
    • Research

5) Motivate MD community

In my experience, if the previous item is not in order, then the latter suffers. For instance, if my mental and physical well-being are in shambles, then my performance in school deteriorates.

Step 2: Create Short-Term Goals
By short-term, I mean less than a year. If you want to think in terms of a shorter timeline, be my guest. Some of my short term goals revolving around the 1st item above, family, include the following:

  • Talk on the phone/facetime my Fiancee at least every other day
  • Text her during my spare moments
  • Spend as much time as possible in Minneapolis (where she is a medical student herself)
  • Plan affordable dates while there
  • Make time for a honeymoon after we get married this summer
My list ranges from daily occurrences to things on the horizon in the coming year. (Side note, making time for dates, even on a shoestring medical student budget, is vital to a relationship and the mental health of any medical student. It allows you to escape the books and feel like a real person for at least a little while haha.)
Step 3: Create Long-Term Goals
These are the goals that look beyond 1 year, or whatever corresponds to beyond your short-term goal timeline. Some of mine, again for item 1 (family), are listed here:

  • Live with fiancee after 1st year and during 3rd year
  • Match in the same city as fiancee (even if through transitional year)
  • Take 4 affordable trips each year
  • Start having kids at the end of her residency

I am in an accelerated, 3 year program, so I will actually begin my clerkships the summer after my 1st year of course work. My fiancee will be a 4th year med student in Minneapolis, so if I am able to get placed in Eau Claire, WI (roughly an hour and a half drive), this may be a possibility. Keep your fingers crossed for me! Hopefully then we could live together during her intern year, which would be my final year of clerkships. Thereafter, I intend to match in the same city as her, even if it is just a 1-year transitional spot. This is where your priorities come into play. I have family at the top of my list and school down lower at 4. Therefore, I would gladly do a transitional year, even if it meant reapplying for the match, just to be with her. Just as dates are important to a relationship, I feel trips are as well. Your flexibility definitely depends on your specialty choice, but regardless 4 seemed like a reasonable goal. Maybe the kiddo goal is a bit ambitious, but time will tell!

Step 4: Identify Your Focal Points
This is the most important step. Critically look at your goals and figure out what is needed to accomplish them. This is your focal point. It may require more of certain activities, less of certain activities, initiating new behaviors, cutting behaviors out altogether, or some combination of this. For instance, when I looked at my goals, 3 themes emerged: mindfulness, awareness, and strategy. The mindfulness applies most to items 1 and 2, Family and friends. Being mindful encompasses interacting with them often, whether in person or through electronics, and being truly present during those interactions, not having my head buried in thoughts of pharmacology. The awareness also applies to these relationships because it involves recognizing how the relationship is doing thanks to my efforts. For instance, am I taking my fiancee on enough dates or am I texting my sister enough. Last, the strategic element largely incorporates items 3 through 5. There are a myriad of things I want to accomplish and unfortunately not enough time. To combat this, I decided that every night I will map out my schedule for the ensuing date, prioritizing these elements to slowly chip away at the high priority targets.

Step 5: Keep Your Focal Points Close
I did this entire exercise on a white board that I keep in my room (see the picture to the right)! That way, every morning I wake up I will be reminded of my goals and the focal points through which to accomplish them. Not that those in medicine could be characterized as wanderers, but this truly gives me a purpose every single day. I feel as if every day is an invigorating and inspiring mission now.
Now it’s your turn!
Go out and get what is yours!
5 things you must do before starting a new semester

5 things you must do before starting a new semester

In college, each semester offers the opportunity for a fresh start; a chance to learn from past semester mistakes; a chance to reach new goals. Being aware of this opportunity and successfully acting on it are two different things. While it’s easy to desire change, it is much more difficult to make it happen. How do you get the most out of a new semester and accomplish your goals? In this post, I am going to talk about a few key things I learned in undergrad that helped me turn a new semester into a successful one.

1.  Define your Goals 

I cannot tell you how many times I have wandered into a new semester like I was in La La Land (editors note: go see La La Land). I would take each day at face value and had no idea what to expect, or what I wanted.  At the beginning of each new semester, ask yourself what you want to get out of this semester. Is it to get all A’s in your classes? Do you want a letter of recommendation from a certain professor? Or maybe you want a new research position. To achieve new goals, you must define what you want. There is no finish line if you don’t create one.

2.  Be Realistic

After defining your goals, look at your other responsibilities and ask if the goals you set forward are realistic. If you work 40 hours a week and are taking 21 credits of all upper division science classes this semester, getting a 4.0 and being president of two clubs while conducting research is probably not in your future. I’m not saying it’s impossible- maybe you are superhuman with amazing multitasking skills. In that case, I am super jealous. But regardless, it’s definitely important to be realistic with yourself and understand your limits. That said, any goal is achievable if you are able to break it up into smaller attainable ones.

3. Break Your Goal into Smaller Ones and Schedule Everything

Take some time to organize a schedule. This includes class time, commute time, office hours, hours spent at any job you may have, sleeping, eating, getting ready, etc. I know this may sound trivial, but trust me it changes everything when you lay it all out on paper and visualize it.  Once this is done, look at the amount of time you have left each day and set aside a certain amount of time for studying, extra-curricular activities, research, and anything else you may want to include. This way, you know how much time you can realistically dedicate. If you stick to tiny goals of studying for X amount of hours and conducting research for X amount of hours, while working X amount of hours and accounting for class time, you may just achieve that 4.0 and become president of your club. And even if you don’t, you know you will be working as hard as you can with your current situation. And that is an achievement within itself. One that you’re bound to reap rewards from. If you set goals that are in your control and are attainable, you are more likely to achieve them.

4. Anticipate Obstacles

Everything in life does not always go according to plan. This semester is probably not going to go perfectly.  Plan for obstacles. Think of ways to overcome them.  Let’s say you don’t get the test score you wanted, what are you going to do differently? Attend more office hours? Study more? If you have a plan, you are less likely to get discouraged and more likely to plow onward towards your end goal.

5. Find an Effective Method of Stress Relief

Let’s face it. We’re not robots. The majority of us cannot work hours on end without feeling fatigue. We are humans and we are all vulnerable to stress, so you need to be prepared with at least one method you know will help you to recharge your battery. This is where you can take advantage of your passions. You should make time for the things you enjoy in order to help alleviate stress. For me, yoga, running, and meditation all helped me to effectively deal with stressful weeks. Everyone is different and you should find something that works for you. Trust me, you will be happier. Your mind will be clearer. Your focus will be better. Your motivation will be stronger. All of which are important in achieving your goals.

I elaborate more on these topics in my YouTube video, “Start The New Semester Off Right- College Advice and Motivation-Organization Tips for School,” (http://tinyurl.com/glkvzev) so feel free to check that out. I also found that creating Study To-Do Lists and preparing for lectures beforehand were both really helpful in maximizing my time. More info on that can be found in my video, “How to Study Effectively- Study Tips for High School and College- Premed Advice” (http://tinyurl.com/jk2h97d).

Hopefully you guys found this helpful! If you guys have any questions for us, feel free to contact us at [email protected] and we would be happy to respond. Now go make your next semester the best one yet!

7 Hacks for Pre-Med Success

7 Hacks for Pre-Med Success

Hello nerds and nerdettes, I’m here today to give you 7 lifehacks that will make your years and a pre-med infinitely easier. To be perfectly honest, these aren’t the sorts of lifehacks that you might learn from mentalfloss or /r/lifehack, but simple, little tricks I believe saved me time, money, and a whole-lot of stress during my years as a pre-med. To be honest, these first hacks aren’t particularly specific to pre-meds, but in the future, I promise that I’ll have a stronger focus on those specific needs.

1. Live with People Who Will Help Move You Forward

Let’s face it, pre-med life has a set of unique challenges few understand (except maybe our friends in the engineering and physics departments). Compound this with the fact that you are likely living on your own for the first time ever and “learning to adult” at this same time is a recipe for endless stress. In order to minimize these struggles, I encourage you NOT to live with your best friend(s) unless they too are pursuing a career in medicine. I made the mistake of living in a house with 13 other guys my 3rd and 4th year, and while more good than I can share came of it, the fear of having clean dishes, or enough hot water for a shower, or my non-medical friends wanting to grab a beer or play video games or have people over when I needed to study was a source of endless anxiety. Instead, find other similarly studious people who you might not be best friends with, but can get along with just fine, and set ground rules right away.

2. Abebooks.com

It’s witchcraft I tell ya. After being an idiot and buying my textbooks from the school bookstore first semester, I never looked back. Abebooks is arguably the best website I’ve ever used to find textbooks I’ve needed or wanted at reasonable prices, including all of those expensive science textbooks. And what’s more is that a lot of what they sell are the international editions (which, despite what your professors say, are exactly the same as their American counterparts), which are already cheaper. In fact, I managed to make money off selling my textbooks back to students and/or the bookstore once I was done with them. Also, don’t trust your professor about needing the textbook or not-ask other students instead.

3. Social Media is the Enemy

Okay, yes, digital natives, blah, blah, blah. I understand that we all have social media at this point, but the reality is that you will spend way too much time on it if you aren’t careful. It is easy to try to justify it by saying “That’s how I stay connected or hear about school stuff/events on campus,” but at the end of the day, social media sucks up more time than we realize. I love it too, but I had to come to terms with my passive use of social media to fill my brain (I could talk about the negative health and intellectual impact of this for days), and so these days, I only use social media, and even check email, and very specific times during the day. That way, I control it, and it does not control me.

4. Pack Heavy

I cannot tell you how much time I’ve wasted going to my apartment in the middle of the day to go get my books for afternoon class, or to make lunch, or even to take a nap. I end up just wasting time screwing around-cleaning, or talking to a roommate, or what have you. When you set out in the morning, go out with the intent of not returning until the evening once classes are over. This has the dual purpose of forcing you to stay in “class mode” as long as you are on campus, with no excuse not to sit down and get some work done when you have an odd 15-20 minutes between class.

5. Amazon Prime is your Friend

Amazon Prime is only $50 for students, and it is worth every penny. Whether it’s a charger for your computer, new ear buds, goggles for class, pens and notebooks, or even toiletries, Amazon Prime has saved me more time than I can even begin to imagine. This is especially true if you’re like me and didn’t have a care during your undergraduate years, and couldn’t just pop off to the store every time you needed something. You can even set up regular shipments of things like razors, shampoo, toothpaste, or certain foods (Amazon Pantry) that will free up more time for you to work hard and enjoy undergraduate life.

6. Take Advantage of Free

Whether this is free Friday screenings of movies on campus, or the kindness of your friend with a meal plan, take every opportunity to cash in on the free opportunities in undergrad. Let’s face it, your tuition is really paying for these “free opportunities” anyway. And more than simply freeing up cash for a Kaplan Class or the MCAT (two major expenses not to be overlooked), these free experiences are often opportunities to exposure yourself to new ideas and chances. For example, had I never attended a free physics symposium, I never would have heard of the new biophysics class being offered, and I would’ve missed out on an excellent opportunity.

7. Meal Prep

This is my biggest regret in undergrad-I simply did not eat healthily, and it bit me in the butt on many occasions. The trick was that I didn’t believe I had time to cook-which is entirely true when you’re a pre-med. My advice- take an afternoon-3 hours or so- once a week and make meals for the rest of the week, especially breakfast. Even if it’s just sandwiches or mac and cheese, or maybe something fancier like a casserole, make yourself something healthy and nutritious that will last you throughout the week.

Bonus: Have a Daily Schedule

I’ll talk about this more in a later installment, but suffice it to say that learning to plan out a single day is the number one skill a pre-med can develop. Lay out the gameplan the night before, and if you’re anal like me, even prep for the next day that night by laying out your clothes and packing lunch ahead of time.

By Matthew Wright
Medical College of Wisconsin
Motivate MD

Have anything to add or simply have an unanswered question? 

Join the Motivate MD movement and leave a comment below 🙂

My USMLE Step 1 Study Strategy

My USMLE Step 1 Study Strategy

I’ve been busy traveling for residency interviews, but I figured I should take some time to talk about my own strategy for studying for USMLE Step 1. While others have already posted study guides, I figured I would add my own two cents in, not because I have any revolutionary new ideas on how to study for the Step, but rather because I think there are a few suggestions I have that could make things a bit more efficient for you. Although I took the exam in early 2008, I feel this advice will be quite applicable for those of you taking USMLE Step 1 for years to come (haha, until they change the exam structure up, as they always do about every 10 years)…

Before I get into this, I should note that I am simply describing my own experience and what worked and did not work for me. I hope you take away something useful from it, but do not feel that there is only one way to study successfully for the Step. Everyone comes into this with different strengths and weaknesses, depending on their medical school’s basic science education as well as their own aptitude and experiences. Everyone also has their own learning style: some people are visual learners; others, aural. Another thing that people are less likely to admit, but is clearly true: while we all want to score well on the Step, not everyone shares the exact same goal as far as their score goes. Read as much advice as you feel necessary, but do what feels right for you, first and foremost. As for general advice on what subjects to study and how to budget your time, I feel these have been discussed quite well elsewhere, so check out 21+ Online Resources for USMLE Step 1.

My Daily USMLE Step 1 Study Schedule

If you do look at other sites, you’ll see there are various study guides for people who have 4, 6, or 8 weeks to study for the exam. What some sites don’t mention though is that the hours you’re willing to study per day matter as well. Some people can go 8 hours straight; others can only be highly productive for an hour or two. Personally, I aimed to do three 3-hour chunks per day. I’d study one topic from roughly 9am to noon, take an hour break for lunch, study from 1 to 4pm, take 2-3 hrs break to exercise and eat dinner, then do practice questions from 7 or 8pm until I felt tired. Some days were better than others, but I think I averaged around 9 hrs a day, which seemed appropriate to me. I also took a half day or whole day off each week to catch up with friends and family. It is key to schedule in breaks in order to maintain your health and sanity. Jam-packing your schedule with unrealistic study expectations will only demoralize you later on when you cannot keep up.

My Six Week Strategy For USMLE Step 1

Due to the structure of my school’s curriculum, in theory I had up to 10 weeks to study for the Step. However, in reality I probably spent about 7.5 weeks studying, and really peaked around the 6th week and plateaued after that. Sometimes I wonder if my score actually went down due to that extra 1-2 weeks of studying just because of burnout! Anyway, based on the general advice for Step 1 I found online as well as talking to upperclassmen friends who had recently taken the test, my basic strategy was to read through First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 in order to get comfortable with all the general topics covered in the exam. Some students try to start studying by picking a topic area and delving into it.
I understand the rationale behind this, but the reason I avoided it is that there is so much information out there, you easily start to feel overwhelmed as you study one area, which leads you to become demoralized. By studying First Aid initially, not only did I get a general refreshed on all the major topics covered on the exam, but I also felt more comfortable in judging the depth to which I needed to study particular subject areas. Since the questions on the exam are integrative, having reviewed all the subjects was often helpful when I took practice tests, as I got more questions right as compared to studying one subject alone, which helped build my confidence. I budgeted about a week for this, which was sufficient for me.

After going through First Aid, I prioritized each major subject area covered in Step 1, and covered them week to week, starting with the subject I was least comfortable with, biochemistry. As I mentioned above, I’d spend about 6 hours per day studying the subjects, and then spend the rest of the time doing practice from Kaplan Qbank and then later on, USMLE World. While I do not want to belabor what subjects to study and how much they appear on the exam, I feel that in general, memorizing First Aid in its ENTIRETY and doing LOTS of practice questions from one of the qbanks is sufficient to get a great score on the Step. You don’t need any fancy combination of books or vast detailed knowledge about esoteric zebra diseases. Just know the basics really really really well. That’s it! But, of course, no one would feel comfortable studying just one book and doing questions so we all use other resources. If you’re interested in the books I found useful, check out Books For USMLE Step 1.

I repeated this pattern of studying for particular subjects for about 6 weeks, but I made sure to reserve the last week before the exam to go through First Aid again. Doing so really helped solidify all the material in my mind. Also, as I had been taking notes in First Aid as I did review questions, I had a much richer resource to study from during that last week, and did not have to waste time hunting for notes in other resources. The day before the test itself, you really should try to just relax, watch a movie, hang out with friends. If you really feel the urge to study, just do some light review in order to calm your nerves and build your confidence. Do NOT try learning tons of new things. The rapid review section at the back of First Aid is good for this in my opinion.

The USMLE Step 1 Aftermath

After taking the test, I felt pretty good about my strategy and I think it prepared me well to answer most of the questions on the exam. There is no perfect strategy out there, and the test will always throw some real curveballs at you. But, don’t worry, many of these questions are experimental and will not affect your actual score. Focus on answering the questions you know you should be able to answer and you’ll sail through. The best part about taking the Step is that no matter how the test went, you have a great reason to CELEBRATE afterwards! All those weeks of hard work will have paid off. Go out and reconnect with all those parts of your life you put on hold!

By Scrub Notes
(click to see original post here)
My Pre-Med Story – Ellen

My Pre-Med Story – Ellen

“‘My pre-med story’ is a new series that lets you get a glimpse into the lives of fellow pre-meds… If you would like to share your own story, email it to: [email protected]”  Enjoy…

 

As the end of 2016 approaches, I know there are still some medical school applicants, like me, anxiously waiting to hear back from schools. This is my first year applying and the best way I can sum up my experiences so far is by comparing it to traveling abroad. Before you begin on your trip, you’ve meticulously planned out which countries you want to visit, chosen which cities you would like to see and also which sites you just HAVE to experience, calculated the cost of transportation, hotels, food, entertainment, etc., and created a day-to-day itinerary of your entire trip. But once you start traveling, you come to realize that not everything may go according to the plans you’ve set…

 

Comparing a new chapter in your life to embarking on an adventure may sound like one big cliché metaphor, but this whole process IS one long journey. Every person has a different story on why they decided to go on this “journey” to become a physician. For example, I knew I wanted to become a doctor when I was 16 years old. I had just started my first job as a lifeguard at the YMCA. Most of the time at work, nothing significant happened- until one day, I found an unconscious man in the middle of the YMCA parking lot. My Red Cross training kicked in instinctively and I rushed to help him. For what seemed like an eternity, I performed CPR until the ambulances came. When they finally arrived to take him to the hospital, one EMT looked at me and said, “If you weren’t here, he would’ve been dead.” Those words of finality resonated in me and that moment was when I knew I would do whatever it took to become a doctor.

The following years in high school I knew what I needed to do in order to get into the college of my dreams, and I did it. From then on, I thought I had my life together and everything would just fall into place. What I didn’t know was that I could never have been 100% prepared, especially since I had never embarked on a journey of this magnitude before.

During my sophomore year at Emory University, my grades suffered due to the unexpected deaths of my grandparents. This was a turbulent phase in life because I had never lost anyone so close to me. I didn’t know how to deal with grief so I blamed myself for allowing my grandparents to die. I blamed myself for being an ungrateful granddaughter who was too self-absorbed with her own ambitions to help others. The irony of my thoughts and actions consumed me and I hit an academic slump. After some time, I finally agreed to take a semester off during my junior year to seek counseling.

Looking back, taking a semester off was a blessing in disguise- I learned that I can’t control everything that happens and no matter how much pre-planning I do, life is naturally disordered. But if you have enough willpower to keep going, then the next step is to look for alternative routes. Which is what I did after I graduated from Emory. I completed a Pre-med post bac program, where I met some of the most inspiring and compassionate people. The following summer, I studied for the MCATs with another student I met during my post-bacc program. We couldn’t afford a prep course so we bought MCAT prep books and spend three months in the library together, for eight hours a day. It was a grueling summer of nonstop prepping and countless practice tests. It didn’t end there- then, there was the AMCAS process, followed by the countless secondary applications essays. (Not to mention how broke I was by the end of this process). But I did it. We all did it. And now, we wait.

I look back at all the time and effort I put into my dreams of becoming a physician. I know that my journey is incomplete and there is still a long way to go. But what drives me to keep going is in knowing that I tried and gave a shit…and I still do. My biggest fear was and is still failure. But I’ve come to learn that failure plays a humbling role in our lives. I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my life, but each time I overcome them, I gain a little more insight and self-awareness. It would be easy to breeze by life and get everything you want in an instant. But I believe that fighting to get to where you are makes you learn about ambition, determination, passion, empathy, patience, diligence, intuition, and other attributes that define a great physician.

What I want to ultimately say is that we cannot give up. Sure, medical schools initially filter applicants by grades and MCAT scores but what they also look for is personal growth and strong willpower. Nothing is more powerful, more reputable, than someone who does not stop at the first sign of failure. So, if you get rejected this year and are planning to re-apply, you are definitely more prepared than last time! We made it this far and if we can do it once, we can do it again. There may still be bumps in the road but each escapade is a learning process. And now you also know there is more than one way of getting to your destination. So rather than to “sit back and enjoy the ride,” embrace yourself for one helluva ride.

 

My Pre-Med Story By Ellen Kim (guest post)
Undergrad – Emory University
Post-Baccalaureate – Rosemont College
Research, Mentorship, and a Broken Liquid Nitrogen Container

Research, Mentorship, and a Broken Liquid Nitrogen Container

Research. Most premeds do it—some to check a box, others to learn, or challenge themselves, explore academia, or even add knowledge to the world. While just doing research to fulfill a requirement can lead to bitterness, and even burnout, the latter can give rise to a life-long passion and skill sets that can benefit a wide range of people.

I did it because I had to….

Now you may brush me off as a stereotypical cutthroat premed, I’ll tell you that it’s no longer the case. I have exceeded my requirement for box-checking and am now in a research fellowship, pursuing my own project. I feel fulfilled and I’m fully invested in my project and the potential it has to add to the knowledge of an under-studied phenomenon. I’m finally doing it for the right reasons and it feels refreshing.

Through a long process of mistakes, unhappiness, and stress, in which I almost dropped my hopes and desires of becoming a physician, I went from box-checking to pursuing a passion. Towards the end of my first research experience, I questioned whether I wanted a medical career. But I did some soul-searching (corny? yes; true? also yes), and gained some wisdom in the process.

It was my freshman year at university, and I was nervous about fulfilling the long list of requirements and recommended activities before I applied to medical school, especially research. When I applied for a research fellowship through and introductory research course and was placed into the lab of my choice, I was ecstatic—I felt I was going to make it.

During our first meeting, my PI seemed like the perfect mentor—he was a big name in transplant science, he offered opportunities of publications, shadowing and research conferences. I can still clearly remember his words at the end of the meeting: “Mentorship is one of the key components in any success story, and is the best way to help the next generation. I want you to promise me that you too will do the same for another student when you too are a physician.”

I promised, of course, and thanked my lucky stars for the opportunity.

Reality hit quickly. Naïve freshman me thought that I’d be working directly under his supervision. So it came as a surprise when he introduced me to the graduate student, “V”, I’d be working under. V was a pharmacy PhD candidate, who was a foreigner that had been in the US for two years and had quite recently started on the project that would be her thesis. She seemed extremely nice, so my surprise was not tinged with disappointment.

After completing endless research safety modules, I was finally in the lab with V, ready to cure cancer, end hunger, and find an answer to the age old question: Coke or Pepsi?

I figured the first few weeks would be spent familiarizing myself with the lab, safety protocols, and methods of the study. However, V jumped right in to teaching me how to do a long and seemingly dangerous tissue processing method involving liquid nitrogen. After two weeks, I was alone and unsupervised in the lab, working away at processing rodent tissues.

A pattern was soon established: V would tell me to be in the lab at some time, I would wait for an hour, then she would answer her phone and text back a to do list for that day, often with a protocol modification with which I was unfamiliar. My day would be spent trying to deduce exactly what I was supposed to do, sometimes having to text her back multiple questions, which were not answered in a timely manner.

I began feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t actually know what it was I was doing half of the time, and spent most of my time figuring out how to get that to do list accomplished without burning down the lab. I was also worried what the post-docs in the adjacent labs thought. I realized some would steal curious glances toward my section of the lab. What if I was exposed for the clueless undergrad I was?

One day soon after, I was pipetting a solvent and a research fellow that shared the lab stopped as he was passing by. To my shock, he looked concerned as he told me that the chemical I was pipetting was a carcinogen and should only be handled under a fume hood. This was how V showed me to do it.

I was upset and finally decided to take it up with V. She told me, “I’ve been doing it for years, and if you want to do it your way you can.” She also let me know that if I felt uncomfortable, then she could simply talk to the PI and have me placed on another project.  This frightened me. I feared becoming the incompetent, ever-complaining undergrad. That was not a label I wanted.

So I told her no, and that I would try my best. Meanwhile, I had not seen the PI in weeks, outside of routine lab meetings, despite my unceasing efforts.

The last straw came as the course was ending. I was transferring a mortar into a liquid nitrogen container to cool it down, when some liquid nitrogen splashed on my ungloved hand (V said we didn’t have the grant money to get the proper gloves), and I reflexively dropped the marble mortar into the glass liquid nitrogen container. It made a huge boom, and liquid nitrogen spilled all onto the floor. The same fellow from before came running over, eyes wide, and asked me what the f*ck was going on.

Not surprisingly, I was doing it the wrong way—the way V showed me how. The whole incident could have been avoided by simply poring the liquid nitrogen into a Styrofoam container.

I called immediately and explained what happened. She was nowhere near campus, but after screaming at me, she told me to wait for her. Two hours later, she arrived with further yelling and told me that I would have to pay a few hundred dollars for the broken container.

I went back to my dorm after with a million thoughts racing through my mind a minute. I laid on the hard, unforgiving bed that night, unable to get more than a few hours of sleep. What was I going to do? Is this what research is like? Am I doing something wrong?

Soon after, I told a biology lab teaching assistant whom I trusted. In her shock, she told me I was in no way responsible for paying anything and that I should talk to my seeming-absent PI.

This was easy enough—I just had to talk to the PI after a lab meeting. But what if he wouldn’t trust me and kick me out of the lab? What if I got a bad grade? What if that affected my GPA? Thoughts continued to run through my head during busy days and now sleepless nights.

I never ended up telling the PI. I left the lab, vowing never to do basic science research again. I was bitter, disappointed, and unsure of my aptitude for medicine. Actually, I was unsure whether I really even wanted to be a doctor. It took me a while before I even thought of doing any type of research again.

Not telling the PI is one of my biggest regrets to this day. If I were more upfront, this whole situation may have been avoided. Even if he’d kicked me out of the lab, it would have been for the better. However, I learned many important things that will help me throughout my life and career.

Fast forward to today (about a year and a half later). I am now working on my own project in the field of health economics, under a faculty mentor whom I met through a former professor and have a good relationship with. While his reputation is not as large as my former PI, he is fairly well-known in public health and, most importantly, finds time to invest in me.

Realize that research is not just checking a box. Many get into medical school without it, and if you don’t enjoy it, it can truly sap all the energy from you. There are plenty of not-so-great stories out there. However, most experiences (in fact few) aren’t as bad as my first and I attribute that to lack of experience, maturity, and foresight on my part.

BUT DON’T GET DISCOURAGED! It’s not all bad! If you find an interesting field, and find a good fit in terms of a lab, graduate student, and PI, go for it. You may just find your passion. And it’s okay to explore until you find the right fit.

And regarding the promise I made to my first PI? I plan on fulfilling and exceeding it. It’s now my goal to become a clinician-educator: to practice clinical medicine in an academic teaching hospital and teach residents and medical students. I also plan to take on a few mentees, invest my time in them, and help them grow personally and professionally.

By @Premed_Wisdom

Guest Post

Should You Consider Primary Care?

Should You Consider Primary Care?

 

As the growing burden of medical education increases, many ask the question, can I still be a primary care doc? This essay outlines a few possible solutions for pursuing a passion in primary care…

Are you considering primary care?  Or perhaps proctology?…

That is the late, great Richard Jeni.

How about family medicine or internal medicine/primary care practice?  If your parents were in Primary Care, the chances are, they would not suggest you follow in their footsteps.

You probably have heard other complaints such as low pay (you have loans to pay off), burdensome Insurance hurdles, EMR costs, ICD-10 headaches etc.  These problems are real, but can be overcome.

Independent Practice
Opening your own Fee for Service practice can be expensive, and expensive to run.  If this is your dream, start looking to underserved areas, so you reach a full panel quickly.  Joining an existing Independent practice is another option.  An older Physician may take you on and offer equity.  One caveat, the Independent practice is going the way of the millstone.  Hospitals are buying up practices.

Employed by a Hospital
The benefits are a steady income, relative job security, and the software and office staff costs are covered.  Disadvantages may include up to 30 patients/day, rushed appointments were you options are, write a script, order a test, or refer to a Specialist.

Membership Medicine
These are Independent practices that require a fee so the Physician can offer longer appointments, 24/7 access via email, text, phone, etc.  The definitions in this Industry are not in stone, but in general:

  • Concierge Medicine.  This form typically still accepts Insurance, but charges an additional fee to compensate the Physician for their additional time, that is not reimbursed by Insurance.  The downside is the additional office costs to still process Insurance claims.
  • Direct Primary Care (DPC).  In this model the Physician does not accept any Insurance.  All revenue is derived from the Membership fee’s, and the Physician is free to practice medicine without 3rd party payer interference.

I have been contacted by many Medical Students about how to move from Residency directly into DPC.  This is tough, but not impossible.  I call this a “cold-start”, and we are working on a way to help build a panel from scratch.  Just hanging a shingle and taking out a newspaper ad does not work.

In the mean time my suggestion is Network, Network, Network.  Find a DPC who may take you on post Residency.  Call them now.  You will find the vast majority are fantastic people who truly care about their patients and promoting DPC.  What can you do for them now?  Can you refer patients to them?  If you can help a DPC Practice to grow now, you may be creating your own position.

Do you know any employers?  Start telling them about DPC.  A self-insured 200 employee company is ideal.  They will have approximately 600 dependents, and that is a fantastic panel start.

Education of the public is the hardest part.  With rising deductibles and co-pays, DPC makes more sense every day.  Be sure to stress that DPC is not an alternative for Health Insurance.  The patient should of course still have Catastrophic coverage.

DPC can help you practice medicine the way you envisioned it.  Start planning your future now.

Guest Post: by Bill Cossart
-Contact Bill here