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Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Think and Feel vs. Know

In applying to med school, interviews on September 28, 2009 at 5:59 pm

So, I just finished my first interview last Monday, and I must say it went pretty well (or at least that’s what I think).  In retrospect, I would admit that I might have slightly overstudied, however, I think that overstudying helped me feel properly prepared for any question that might be thrown my way.  For instance,  I thoroughly investigated various aspects of health care reform, from the history of health care in the US to the role of insurance industries and lobbyists in keeping the discussion of reform off the table.  Was I specifically asked for my views on health care in the US? No.  Did the topic of health care come up in conversation?  Yes.  Consequently, I was able to integrate the research I had done to make an informed, backed-up statement about…however brief it might have been.

I have two more interviews scheduled in the next two weeks and I’m trying my best to not let this first interview negatively affect my upcoming ones.  I was so nervous and confused about what would happen at my first interview that it drove me to do intense research and preparation.  However, now that it is over and I absolutely loved the school and I think I have a good chance of receiving an acceptance offer come October 15th (keeping fingers crossed), I find it ridiculously hard to force myself to study and prepare for the next ones.  I really don’t think it helps that I fell in love with the school and I honestly couldn’t picture a medical school that will help mold me into the type of physician I desire to be – it had so many unique opportunities available and such a loving and happy and unstressed student body and a wonderfully caring administration.  It is definitely my top choice now and any school I subsequently am blessed to interview at will be stacked up again it.

While it’s nice to know that I have potentially secured a spot at a school I love, it makes it difficult taking preparation for other schools seriously.  I am trying my best.  I do feel that it is important to make a truly informed decision, especially on something as big as medical school selection.  In order to accomplish this, it means I need to put my best foot forward for all schools and to act as if each is the only school I am being considered at.  Easier said than done.

What also isn’t helping is that the interview at this school was extremely laid back.  I felt like they were truly just trying to get to know who I am as a person, what my interests are, and assessing how well I liked the area and would fit in with their community.  In sum, it was a lovely, relaxing experience.  But, I’m no fool.  I know that not every med school interview is going to be laid back and solely focused on me.  I anticipate some will focus on (or at least touch upon) topics such as health care reform, issues in medical ethics, and current events.  Do I feel prepared for such a conversation?  As of yet, I’m not sure.  I do feel that I have a base understanding of such things, but I still don’t feel thoroughly prepared to engage in discourse on such subject matters.  But, will I ever feel ready?  My guess is no.  My guess is that I will never know exactly where I stand on anything.  I will never know every aspect of every feasible issue – I am only human and the sea of information (usually overwhelming in quantity and saturated with bias) is easy to drown in.  I do feel that I can hold a conversation well and that I have enough info crammed in my head to convincingly support my opinions.  There goes that 4-letter F-word again: feel.  Ah, feelings…can make you believe you’re sitting pretty on cloud 9, when reality says you’re slowly sinking down toward hades. lol. Or, vice versa for my optimists.

Guess I better step my game back up with this interview prep thing before my feelings of security lead me down a deceptive, self-assured path heading straight towards rejections and waitlists.  Yikes.  Now there’s a motivating image.  Time to get to it!

Difficulty getting Research

In applying to med school, Rants on September 9, 2009 at 9:13 am

This post is, admittedly, about to be a rant…  Being a non-Bio major, non work-study, nontraditional student has made it incredibly tough to secure a research position.  Currently, I am working full-time, have a part-time job, am quietly looking for a third job (since no one wants to give me health insurance…), and am applying to med school, which leaves little time for anything else, let alone a research job, making this a moot point for me.  But, back when I was unemployed this summer, I applied to so many research jobs – all to no avail.  While in the end, I do feel that I am in the place where God wants me to be, I do still feel a slight headache come on when I think about my experience trying to gain research experience.

Let me rewind by taking you back to my undergraduate years.  Flash back six years as a college freshman.  I knew nothing about biology, let alone any particular area I’d potentially like to put more work into.  I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a psychology major (psychiatry is still a very real specialty option for me).  I discussed  the idea of research with an advisor.  At least at my school, and I’m not sure how other schools do it, they took the position of Only do research if it’s something you truly have an interest in and want to explore.  Don’t do it just to boost your application for med school.  Then again, how do you know you’re not going to like something until you try it?  Ok.  Slightly confusing, but I interpreted to mean that since I 1) had no background in biology, 2) was NOT going to be a biology major, and 3) my personality doesn’t align well with research (i.e. I get bored very easily, and monotonous activities that I see no real value to push the psycho buttons in my brain) I should pass.

By the time I finally became somewhat interested in the possibility of doing research, I was a junior.  Seeing how I had already decided I was taking some time off due to shear exhaustion, it didn’t seem too late to get involved in research.  Plus, our school was a pretty big-named school with excellent biomedical research facilities…so, I assumed it shouldn’t be hard to get involved.  False.  What I found was that most research positions on-campus were either requiring advanced biology coursework or classification as a work-study student…usually they wanted both…I was neither.  I submitted my resumes to a bunch of labs, but to no avail.  If they were interested in having me join their lab, as a non work-study student, I was expected to do it for free.  Now, perhaps if I had been a traditional non work-study student (i.e. mommy and daddy are loaded and paying for college and I truly didn’t need any money) then I would probably not have flinched at the idea of doing this work for free.  However, and this is a big however, I am broke.  I had a very special situation where a close family member passed away and left me money for my education.  Outside of that money that my undergrad institution happily, eagerly, and greedily sucked me dry of, I come from a family with very little income.  So, while I didn’t have to work to put myself through college (much respect to those that do), if I needed to do anything in the semester, I had to work for the money to finance those endeavors (i.e. gas money, food money, etc).  In sum, working for free, while knowing that not only did I need a paying job, but that others would be doing my same job for a fee was not going to fly with me.

Needless to say, no undergraduate research was done by moi.  Post-graduation, I was offered a research position at one of my professor’s office doing clinical research.  I remember vividly how excited I was.  It would be doing research on clinical decision making – a topic I was (and still am) thoroughly interested in.  This prof was my favorite undergrad prof, and I took two of his course, receiving As in both: Judgment and Decision Making and Medical Decision Making.  I still love the subject, and even read books touching upon it in my (limited) spare time.  He extended the offer, but I had to work through the people in his office to get the position.  To this day, I still do not know what happened.  I just remember having to interview for the position (yes, I had to interview for a position in my prof’s research group that he wanted me to work at), last-minute having the interviewer change to someone who was not an interviewer, then the woman in-charge of hiring like had a baby or a sick baby (I forget).  Thrown atop of this, I had a scheduled trip to Germany to visit my uncle for a month, so since they couldn’t seem to get it all figured out in the month or so after graduation, I slowed my pursuit of it.  After sending e-mails inquiring for updates and getting none returned (highly unprofessional!), I stopped showing interest in the position and took a boring, monotonous job at the local hotel to pay the bills while I MCAT prepped.  Shame how that worked out – I would’ve loved that job and been good at it too.  Ah well.  Once again, I am a firm believer that everything that happens is for a reason.  Lord knows I did everything in my power to secure that position and they were sloppy on that end.  Who knows.  If they were that disorganized in hiring, perhaps it would’ve been a headache working there and would’ve strained my relationship with that professor (who I still admire, who still admires me and my work, and who subsequently wrote me a LOR that I know was amazing).  Got to stay positive!

Flash forward to my post-baccalaureate program.  The only thing I would’ve done differently there would have been to ignore the advice of the advisors.  I was only there 3 semesters (summer – spring), and they told me that since I was overly involved in undergrad, that I should focus solely on my coursework while there.  I sincerely hope this doesn’t come back to bite me in the booty…  While the pay was horrible, and most research positions were still for biology majors and work-study students, I know a few people who were able to secure jobs.  But here’s my thing with research.  I know beggars can’t be choosers, but if I’m going to spend my time doing some monotonous activity to further research, I want it to be in an area I’m interested in.  And I have many interests.  The opps I saw repeatedly were sleep and mapping the tongue – neither of which were particularly interesting to me.  Plus, since I started in the summer, many of the semester positions had already been filled.  By the time they became open again, it was clear that the many of the people who had the position would highly recommend a friend to fill their place – boooo! Not fair!

I even applied to an entry-level research position (as in the job description stated no research experience required).  By now, I had taken multiple upper-level courses, so when the woman invited me in for an interview, I was expecting to be a shoe-in. False.  This was the straw that broke the frustrated camel’s back.  This woman (who could barely speak English) had the nerve to invite out to interview over an hour away only to say that they were actually not hiring at this point, as they had already filled the position with undergrad work-study, bio major students who had more extensive research experience.  Whew, I nearly lost it.  I wanted to smack her across her face and ask her 1) why’d you invite me all the way out here? 2) What good is previous research experience if this is an entry-level position (don’t think I didn’t see those lil’ undergrads lugging around boxes and organizing supplies in the background).

After that, I washed my hands of trying to secure a research position.  I really hope no one asks me about why I haven’t pursued research during any interview (although, I have a touch of clinical research experience), because it might set-off a frustrated rambling response.  I pursued it, it just didn’t reciprocate :/

Interview Preparation

In applying to med school, interviews on September 2, 2009 at 3:07 pm

Perhaps it’s just me kickin’ it into full anal-retentive pre-med gear, but between having a full-time job and trying to adequately prep for upcoming interviews, I am at a complete loss for free time.  To be fair, I don’t think it helps that I telecommute.  You see, when you work in a typical office, you know that your work day will start around 9am and end around 5pm.  Pretty straightforward.  Telecommuting is the complete opposite for me.  First, I am not a morning person unless I have to be.  Since I must get 8 hours of work in each day, it doesn’t matter if those 8 are from 9am-5pm, noon – 8pm, or from 11am – 10pm stretched out with little breaks strewn all throughout my day.  Give you one guess which of those three examples best describes my typical workday.  If you guessed the latter, give yourself a treat.

Many of those mini-breaks consist of me checking twitter, facebook, SDN, and my email (I’ve taken a step back from MDapplicants for a while!).  I use Barnes & Noble as my virtual office, just leading to even more distractions (ranging from the cute baby across from me, to the repulsive man roaming through the aisles, to the numerous books I can delve into when the words on my screen start swimming together in a sea of blur).  I try to stop work and switch to interview prep around 7pm-ish, which leaves me ~ 3 hours per evening to research and prep.  Except when mom calls and needs something picked up from Whole Foods (which closes at 10pm), thus cutting my time short – oh, this happens daily.

So, what am I studying?  I’ve read through all the typical books already: Barron’s, the US News and World Report’s, The Princeton Review’s, and Kaplan’s, as well as MD Rx and MD Confidential.  From these, I’ve generated a list of about 100 different questions that could possibly be asked ranging from personal questions, to academic questions, to questions in medical ethics, and current event topics. [In addition to these questions, I’ve found that the SDN site with interview feedback by school is very helpful in anticipating which schools as which questions]  Creating this list has been sobering.  I thought I knew myself and my intentions well, and I also felt I was pretty up-to-date with current events.  This list, however, has shown me just how little I know, or if I do know it, how poorly I am right now at effectively and efficiently wording my thoughts on such matters.  Subsequently, I’m giving myself crash courses in topics such as the history of the US health care system, managed care, and health care reform.

Some may think I’m overdoing it – and perhaps I am.  But, I would much rather be over-prepared and think the interview was a breeze, than to be under-prepared and receive a prompt dismissal via a rejection letter/email.

Everyone encourages me to just be yourself.  That’s obvious.  Who else am I going to be?  While I don’t want any rejections, if a school rejects me, I’d much rather them reject me than a false representation of me.  At least that way I know that I just wasn’t a good match for the school, not that I could have been a great match for the school, but since I was trying to “put on airs” and impress them the facade was rejected.

Alright, this has been a good study break.  Back to the books!