Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Decision Making Time

In applying to med school, medical school on April 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Well, if you’re fortunate enough, all your hard work has paid off and you are coming down to the final steps on the road to med school. Whether the final decision is between 2 schools or a list of 10, I’d say usually that last real choice boils down to an expensive school that you love or a cheaper school you’re not crazy about. I’d argue that this is the case for a majority of applicants, with the exception being the school that you love being the cheaper school either because of actual cost of attendance (COA) (i.e. usually your state school) or due to scholarship. But, I feel that the percentage of applicants in this scenario is tiny compared to the rest of us. (Another very small percent has the funds to go where ever their little hearts desire, but I’m not talking about them.) So what do we do? Where do we go? Arguments can be made for both sides…

On the side of the cheaper school is the fact that it is cheaper, which means I’ll in debt for a shorter period of time. Also, when cheaper equals state school (as it does for me), it means closer to friends and family, which can help in unwinding.

Against the state school we have that it usually isn’t as technologically advanced as private schools. For instance, at my state school (which quite honestly resembles a 70’s designed prison), when I asked about a simulation and clinical skills training center, my tour guide looked confused, as if he never had heard the terms before, while both private schools I was looking at either had both or were actively building them. In this economy, we know that while all schools are taking hits, I feel that public schools are getting hit a little harder, mainly because they are state-funded and states are making severe budget cuts (ex: after just paying off a multi-million dollar lawsuit, they just lost $20 million in funding…yikes). Also against my state school is that its COA for in state last year was $56K. They’ve yet to release the updated 2010-11 suggested budget, but I’m sure it’s going up as they stated they have no money. Personally, I don’t find a $10K – $15K/year difference that significant when we’re talking about hundreds of thousands in debt.

On the side of the school you “click with” (i.e. the private out-of-state school) you have the fact that you are happy with your potential student body for the next four years and you feel comfortable there. If you’re anything like me, this is of the utmost importance. I want to know that the place I am spending the next 4 years of my life will feel like a home to me. I don’t want to spend this time feeling out of place or wishing I was elsewhere or annoyed with my surroundings. I know my state school has a very young student body (many 7yr BA/MD students from the ugrad state schools…annoyingly young too) whose immaturity and lack of real world experience irritated me while the private school has an older student body with people with truly diverse backgrounds. Get in where you fit in! Next up is that it is far from home. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my family and friends, but let’s be real, they can be a distraction. They tend to not understand the demands of preparing for a career in medicine. Furthermore, time in med school will be severely limited, so it’s not like I’ll have ample time to hang out with them. Plus, I feel that if I did, it would detract from my bonding with my classmates. This way, since I’ll be far away, I can minimize the guilt associated with not being able to spend time with them – there’s always fb, twitter, gchat, ichat, BBmsger, etc. Cold, I know, but I only speak the truth.

Against the school you “click with” is, simply put, usually that it costs more and is farther away. Nine times out of ten, these are really the only two cons that can be found, and for me, they really don’t play into my happiness. Really, anywhere I go, I’m about to be in a lot of debt. Also, anywhere I go is really only a plan ride away – a plane ride usually factored into COA.

There are other factors I’ve left out for different reasons. First is which school is higher ranked? Personally, I really don’t believe in the US New & World report rankings and think that to a certain extent they’re silly and there as a large, ongoing marketing scheme for certain schools. But, for some this is very important. Clearly, it’s not a cue I utilized in my decision making process. Related to this is the notion of prestige, that certain appeal of being associated with a certain name. While I maintain that “fit” is the most important factor for me, I will say that “fit” aside, I think prestige is pretty high up there. I also think that it may operate at a more subconscious level than anything else, but have no doubt, it plays a large role. Another factor is location, which personally was high on my list of importance. My state school is, for all intents and purposes, in the hood, which students argue makes for excellent clinical training. True, BUT the private school far away is in a city that has its large pockets of poverty and high uninsured rates, coupled with a lack of doctors to serve the area, this too affords excellent, hands-on clinical experience and opportunities to deal with “the really bad stuff.” Plus, I actually like this city and feel at home there. Also not included are research opportunities. I’d argue you could find research anywhere you go, it’s just easier to obtain at certain schools, making it a smaller factor in my deciding. In addition, some people know where they want to be geographically for residency. Personally, I do not (but I do have some vague areas I’m interested in), however I want to know I have options, so I looked at match lists and all schools placed all over the country in various specialties, so it wasn’t that big of a deal for me. For some, the opportunity and ease of completing another degree while in med school is important to some. It was for me, and the school I decided on is very strong in the area I’m interested in. I’m sure there are more factors, but those listed suffice.

Funny thing is I know that I’d be fine where ever I went. I know I’d adapt, find my own crowd, and have a great, memorable 4 years – that’s just me. I refuse to let less than ideal surroundings influence my happiness. But then, why wouldn’t I just save a few bucks (i.e. ~$40K-$60K + interest) and chose my state school. To be honest, I feel that this is where the importance of first impressions comes into play. Personally, I was impressed with the pre-interview correspondence and sold on interview day with the professionalism of expensive private school. On the same note, I was equally unimpressed with correspondence and interview day of my state school. I am of the personal opinion that these first impressions carry significant weight and subconsciously influenced the interpretation of subsequent acts of the schools.

When I plugged all my weighted cues into my cognitive Lens Model for decision making, I came to the conclusion that I needed to be at the school I felt most comfortable and supported at and where I’d soar, and for that reason, I chose the more expensive, far away private school, and I’m not looking back.

May 15th is quickly approaching – get on it and good luck!


In medical school, Rants on April 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Got back the other day from my last second look and it’s nice to be able to finally say I definitively know where I’ll be attending school for the 2010-2011 school year! Whoop-wooooo! While applicants have until May 15th to decide where they’re going and then a few months left to relax, I find myself already packing and itching to leave.  I’ll be leaving home for the last time the last week or so of May. That’s approximately 5 weeks lefts of freedom.  I’ve never been one to enjoy free time…oddly enough, it gets my antsy.  It’s too much time to sit around and think and plan, and while forming a game plan ahead of time is good, it can lend way to worry.  This is where I am.

First off, I’m tired. But it’s not a physical tiredness, but more like a psychological slash energy of my being fatigue.  It’s hard to explain. I’m tired not in the traditional sense of “Oh, I need rest,” but more in the sense of I need stimulation – a jolt of energy.  In a way, I’m jaded with my situation for the next few weeks. Ever since I’ve been back, I just feel blah, because now, I feel like I’m just sitting and waiting for my real life to pick up again.  I have always hated being bored. I hate it!  Even as an only child, I found many times where I was bored and would do any and everything to entertain myself.  Now, not so much.  Oddly enough, as jittery as I get when I’m bored, I’ve been quitting jobs left and right! Illogical? Slightly. I mean, I still have two jobs left, so it’s not like I’m not generating income, but you’d think that someone who wants to stay occupied would jump at staying busy with work.  Probably has something to do with the mundane jobs I have (the ones I’ve quit)…boring is boring, and I’m cutting as much boredom out my life as possible.  I find myself with ample free time to sit around and think.  And we all know that too much of anything is not a good thing – thought included.

I am starting to panic about what I’ve just signed up for.  After all these years of hard work, the vast amount of money poured into this career path, and time and energy spent working to get in, I find myself not even able to rejoice in this good news.  Shoot, I’ve been accepted since October and every time I tell someone I’m going to med school they respond with “Congrats! Shouldn’t you sound happier about it though?” And a part of me is ecstatic. But that happiness is muted by fears of inadequacy coupled with anticipated years of debt. I’ve talked to many friends throughout the past years who are currently in med school, following their progress and asking for advice along the way. The most common advice I’ve received is, “Run while you can!”  – said half jokingly, but still… We’ve all heard the analogy of the amount of information covered in medical school is akin to trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. I’ve also heard it described as academic bulimia…neither images are particularly appealing. I find myself wandering over to the allopathic threads on SDN, and coming across multiple posts about academic probation or failing or feeling overwhelmed…to be honest, the immediate future does NOT look bright.  I’m starting to fear what awaits me in a few months.  Added to this crazy workload, I am being overly ambitious and pursuing an MD/MPH program to be completed within the traditional four-year medical program.

At times, I think I just might be a masochist. Maybe I quietly like a little (or a lot of pain).  I look back at my post-bacc experience, and I realize that, on the low, I enjoyed being a bit of a nerd. I liked my strict study schedule I made for myself, and the hours I spent studying for my courses.  Even more so, I enjoyed seeing the fruits (i.e. A’s) of my labor. I like being smart and I like being a hard worker and I like actively putting work into my future. Shoot, I even like rote memorization! Sounds like I might like med school…might.  I find solace in a few things. 1) I had intense course loads for my post-bacc (not quite med school intense, but certainly more so than undergrad) and I excelled with ample free time to enjoy life. 2) I approach this upcoming obstacle with the mentality of Yeah, it’s hard, BUT if just one other person has done it before, surely I can do it too. Other advice I received form some friends was to not concern myself with how or what my classmates were studying, but to stay on my schedule and use my own methods, because whatever I did that was good enough to get me here will carry me on.  While I think there will be room for adjustment in my methods, I firmly believe if I stick to this, I can and will succeed. 3) Finally, and most importantly, since this is what God has called me to be, I will be it, I will not fail.

Thoughts as a Future Career Woman

In medicine, Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 11:15 pm

As many random questions as I regularly am asked pertaining to my interest in and foresight into a career in medicine, the one that seems to throw me the most is, “How do you think you will handle being a female in a male-dominated profession?”

I guess it throws me the most because it’s an issue I’ve never really had to deal with in life.  Growing up, while I couldn’t stand getting dirty, I definitely wasn’t a girly girl. In fact, until I started undergrad, throughout the years, my best friends had always been guys.  I was usually the only girl in my group of friends, and it was something I was fine with or even preferred. Furthermore, whether it was in the classroom or on the playground or in rehearsals, I always gave the boys a run for the money. I’ve always liked the challenge of competing with guys – let’s face it, they tend to be more competitive (at least overtly), while refraining from cattiness. That’s definitely a good push for bettering yourself.

When I look at my time in college, I don’t recall ever feeling intimidated by the guys in my classes, so it’s not something I foresee changing in the near future – not for medical school, not for residency, never. However, I have always been in a position where the guy:girl ration was nearly even. And while I know medical school admissions programs have progressed a long way since the 70s, let’s face it, on some level medicine is still considered a “male profession”…especially in certain specialties (Think, all those male-dominated med school classes graduated in the 60s, 70s, and 80s are still in practice, so it’s still skewed).

I remember on one of my interview days, sitting in a room full or current M4s interviewing for Ortho residency positions. You guessed it, there was not one female in the group. In fact, aside from one Black male, the whole group was comprised of one demographic – white male. Certainly, this is not 100% representative of this specialty, however I think it is roughly representative in that Ortho (and I’m sure a few other specialties) are generally considered “male-only areas.” And not that women cannot wiggle into these unchartered territories and make a name for themselves, but it is certainly a difficult course to navigate.  I recall working in the Emergency Department at a certain hospital and sitting in the nurses station people watching as I do. So often, the male doctors and techs and nurses would babble away about sports or cars (cars = something I cannot for the life of me “get into”) or some other typically male topic of conversation.  I was so irritated sitting there day after day listening to them talking about the same mundane gibberish like it was sound profound discovery (I guess it’s their version of gossip?) – not so sure I would want to deal with that daily for my entire career.  But have no fear, I will be called doctor one day, and it will be said with respect, regardless of the composition of my peers, seniors, and subordinates.

And, think about it – when using the gender ambiguous term “doctor,” why is it that most people reply with “he” and not “she”? This can most likely be attributed to the residual, underlying sentiments that it is a “male profession.”  From a social standpoint, it’s true that at first glimpse who in their right mind would say that such a demanding profession that nearly consumes your life is a workplace suited for a woman desiring to make a family.

However, this view ascribes to the pre-women’s revolutionary view that women belonged in the home, raising the kids and keeping house. [Thank God along came feminism!] Clearly, many still chose to do this, but in the new millennium, we like to
think we’ve progressed from those caveman ideologies, where this is now a chose, not a contractual obligation.  However, even good ol’ progressive me still has a few hidden reservations.  Well, I’ll call them second-guesses – something I do not like to acknowledge I possess. But in all honesty, looking forward, it does seem daunting – the idea of juggling one of the most demanding careers out there with a possible family that includes children who need their mother. And I know me, as much as I want to be a career woman, I know that if I were to have kids, initially it would break my heart to be away from them and miss many of the key moments in their development.

Lucky for me, at the moment I’m at the point where I interact with enough bad kids on the regular to know I don’t want any…or at least not any time soon (thank you, substitute teaching at a Charter School! smh).  I have faith my kids will be well-behaved, however there is a sea of children out their with no value on life, and that makes a scary world to raise kids in. But, I digress…

The point is I’m the type of person who doesn’t try to plan things too far into the future.  Shoot, who’s to even say I’m going to get married? And even still, how do I know if my future spouse or I are able to conceive? Even still, who knows if I’ll ever come around to wanting kids of my own? No, too many unanswerable questions for me to waste my energy entertaining. I’d rather live life in the present and enjoy it now, and see what the future unfolds as I go out and live. If I don’t get married, I’d be fine with that. If I do get married, I’ll be fine with that and will work through those issues when they get here. Furthermore, if we do have kids, I will make a way for raising them to co-exist peacefully with the career I’ve worked for. Can I be greedy? Can I have my cake and eat it too? Why can’t I be both mother and doctor? I am fortunate enough to have a loving mother and support network who I know would be more than happy to lend a helping hand and be a daily part of my and my future children’s lives. Having Grandma & Co around to help with the kiddies would sure lighten the stress of the situation. I guess there is an added benefit to being both an only child and an only grandchild – help is literally only a phone call away 🙂  I admit, Iprobably cannot do it on my own, and I have no desire to.  My hard work plus God’s leading and protection plus support from family and friends will enable me to achieve anything I desire. Me, I want what’s coming to me…the world, chico, and everything in it. And if all else fails, I can always be a cougar! lol, I kid, I kid! Shoot – If Michelle Obama can do it, I can do it too – she’s my motivation 🙂