operationMD

Archive for the ‘medical school’ Category

Hello, Summer!

In medical school on June 6, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Once again, it’s been a while since I last blogged. While I’ve been done with first year for nearly 6 weeks now, and done with the school year ~1.5 weeks, I have yet to take a moment to reflect on the craziness that was first year! Literally, after finishing my last exam of the year and celebrating, I collapsed into a 4-day coma (which, in retrospect, was probably induced by the sudden withdrawal of caffeine that I had continually transfused into my bloodstream for the entire month of May). Anywho, I am back home after finishing the year strong (What a stark contrast to ugrad! Is that motivation I smell?) and am thoroughly enjoying my deserved summer break. Granted, I know that once I touchdown back South, I’m going to hit the ground running…

But, back to the topic on-hand: reflection. It’s mind-boggling to think that just 12 months ago, I packed up all of my belongings and made the long 24 hour drive down to my new “home”. Sooooo much has happened in those months, with too many memories to name without cues.  That being said, there were some big take-homes and tips I’d like to share… (mentioned in order they came to mind, not order of importance)

1) Work in study groups. Yeah, yeah, yeah – we’ve all heard this numerous times, but in med school, I found itparticularly difficult to find others I studied well with.  Many friends/peers can be distracting (i.e. socialize instead of memorize) or agitating (i.e. overcaffeinated, twitching, unstable studiers on the verge of collapse).  Personally, I “test studied” with people to see if we were compatible and went from there.  Keep the group simple 2-4 max., and make sure it’s with people 1) you trust to have the facts straight 2) don’t belittle others for not knowing something (surprisingly common, even if only done via inflection) 3) go at your pace and 4) that push you to excellence. [5) Bonus if they readily provide caffeine or treats!]

2) Keep it friendly.  Clearly, you’re not going to like everyone and some people won’t like you for whatever reason.  Clear up any miscommunications and keep it moving.  Be cordial, but don’t be fake.  Somehow, it always seems that those that annoy you most or that you dislike most will wind up in 90% of your “randomly assigned” small groups (not sure if I buy into this “random” biz).  Work well with all – even those you detest.

3) Leadership is good.  Imo, it doesn’t matter what area it’s in, but take on a little extra responsibility in something you feel passionate about.  While some mistakenly think it’ll be a great resume/CV booster for residency (FALSE: Step 1! Step 1! Step 1! then it’s like Dean’s Letter, LORs, Step 2, and research in some order), I think it’s 1) just nice to get involved with something tangentially related to what you’re memorizing in the books and 2) you get to meet some great people in that area that can give you tips and serve as mentors or liaisons.  That being said, don’t pull a me and find yourself in a position where you might just be overstretched come second year – oops.

4) Sleep is also good.  Took me a while to realize this one (ask about my patented Nap Schedule), but recall and focus is so much sharper with a solid night’s sleep under the belt.  Same goes for exercise and eating right, but you already knew that, right?  Oh, good tip for eating well during exams:  Cook 2x as much of everything the 1st week or so of a block and freeze half.  Pop that baby out of the freezer come exams week and you have quick, easy meals.  And yes, med students frequently “sleep” (re: pass-out) under desks…publicly…without shame.

5) Avoid drama and neuroticism like the plague – both are contagious and deadly! Simply put, med school is full of Type As (surprise, surprise).  Type As are notoriously neurotic.  Per Wiki – “ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound.”  Um, Wiki…were you snooping on med students as your source of this definition??? But seriously, not everyone is like this all the time (well, some are – sprint the opposite direction), but even with half of a class in this state half of the time, the likelihood of interacting with one is pretty significant…especially when exams near.  Likewise, med school has often been described as High School, pt. II.  Well, I’d say Middle School, pt. II, but you get the deal.  Hang around the neurotics too long and next thing you know, you’ll be twitching and having heart palpitations.  And even being peripherally involved in the drama will lead to your name coming out of people’s mouths you don’t even know.  Solution? Smile and keep it moving!

6) Take as much personal time as you need, without apology.  And I emphasize the “without apology.”  I’m not recommending disappearing for extended amounts of time without so much as a peep, but if #5 starts to get to you and/or you feel that you need an extended break from the insular medical school community – take it!  It’s your time and your life.  It’s much better to take that step back, regroup, refocus, and come back clear-headed than to get bogged down, unfocused, and irritated.  And if people give you slack about it, brush it off and do what you need to do to get where you need to be. Period.  Also, hold onto at least one thing non-medical that makes you smile and cherish the time you spend with it, without apology.

7) Keep it moving!  Successes, failures – I don’t care.  Either way, keep going!  Learn from both, but don’t stop for too long.  As I said, these next 4 years are pretty insular, and in that type of environment, it’s easy to turn minor events into major ones.  But in reality, all these happenings are just small snippets in a series of events that will compromise this “Med School Experience.”  Get caught up too long on one and you’re likely to miss the next.

8 ) Nepotism is real and isn’t going anywhere, so get used to it.  Personally, I thought I had left nepotism behind in ugrad.  Truth of the matter is, we live in America, so nepotism is here to stay.  What’s important is how you let it affect you.  You can get all worked up because so-and-so doesn’t have to work as hard because daddy will make sure they’re fine OR you can use it to fuel your drive to perform even better.  I chose the latter.

9) Be happy where you are, but never content. Be happy that you are blessed to be in this position at this point in time, regardless of where you are.  For me this means to be happy I’m fortunate enough to be at ___SOM, as a member of the great class of 2014 (yes, my class is GREAT – I love them because of and in spite of their foolishness!), in the great city of ___.  Am I content?  I personally believe that no matter where I am, I’ll never be content.  Does this mean I’m disgruntled?  No, I just believe that there is always room for improvement and ways to better and expand any institution, and that the best way for any of us to do that is to use our previous experiences to inform future growth – and that’s why we’re here. Keep pushing!

10) Never ever calculate the minimum you need to pass a class!  I swear, this leads to the death of all ambition.

11) Find yourself a mentor.  They really do provide priceless information and tips, and if nothing else, they’re a tangible role model that can increase your desire to study.  I know I’d often hit the wall studying and then go shadow my mentor, only to return to my desk ready-to-go!

12) It doesn’t matter at all that you can’t spell and only minimally matters that you can’t pronounce anything.  I’ll file this under my list of “Things that are True.”  Coming in, my spelling was poor (thank you, SpellCheck!) and now, I can legit only spell medical terms – all else has fallen to the wayside.  I’m impressed I am even able to type this blog.  When talking to many of my friends about various essays we had to turn in during the school year, most felt that their writing level had fallen to the level of a 4th grader.  Pronunciation comes with time…or never.  Luckily, exams are written multiple choice, ftw!

13) If for any reason you are debating whether or not to get a smart phone for med school, go ahead and invest.  So many things are a first come-first serve basis, and smart phone users have a leg-up.  I got a Droid X for Christmas and life hasn’t been the same since! (so, apparently my phone’s been “eclipsed” by the Droid X2 already -whomp whomp)

14) Don’t apologize for or explain the fact that you’re studying – you’re in med school! (I’m going to throw this on the list of “Things I Thought Died in Ugrad”)  Being in med school, it seems ridiculous that you’d ever feel compelled to apologize for studying, especially to classmates, however, I often found myself hesistant to say “No, I can’t go PlaceX because I need to study.” Doing so usually brought on heaps of verbal harassment by peers (nonsensical!) who emphatically stated that since they’re not studying, I don’t need to study.  Do not fall into this trap.   Why don’t they need to study?  Were they a Bio major who’s taken a bajillion bio courses (and you’re a non-science major)?  Is this nepotism or sheer laziness (re: “I just have to pass”)?  Are these people quiet gunners who’ve already secretly been studying? Do they have less extracurricular commitments than you? Are they just lonely and want company?  The world may never know the answer as to why some people continually try to stop others from studying.  All I’m saying is if you feel you need to study, do it and kiss those sorry haters good-bye!  Plus, true friends want your success and understand the sacrifice that sometimes needs to be made to achieve it.

Staying true to my Keep it Moving! theme, I’m going to enjoy the rest of my time here at home, but when I get back down South, I have some things to layout and some plans to execute.  Yes, summer is a time of R&R, but it’s also a time to prep for a busy upcoming year.

Hope life’s treating everyone well!  I will actually blog rather consistently this summer – I promise!

Summer Freedom

The Anatomy of Happiness

In Blessings, medical school on December 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I just got back from a little holiday shopping with my wonderful mommy (love her!), and aside from realizing that I have lost my tolerance to cold, I realized how ridiculously blessed I am.  Yes, such an epiphany struck me in the middle of Barnes & Noble, of all places.  How did this all come about?  Well, while perusing the isles looking for different gifts for different people (self included, of course) I came across a display that caught my eye.  (Ironically, my mom was looking at a bunch of natural medicine books)  Anywho, this display was of Dr. Alice Robert’s “The Complete Human Body: the Definitive Visual Guide” – and visual it is.  Actually, I consider it beautiful.

Over the years, I have learned how much of a visual learner I am.  As such, page layouts and picture and color choices greatly affect the way I process information presented in books.  I literally stood there in the middle of the store flipping through page after page of lymphatic drainage, anastomoses, muscle, and bone, and looked like a kid on Christmas morning.  At a point, my mom stopped reading her book, turned and stared at me gawking at the busy, shiny pages. I have spent the past 4 months going page-by-page through the human body, but this book was more captivating than Grant’s or Netter’s or Grey’s human atlas of anatomy.  She jokingly asked me if I wanted one for Christmas, to which I seriously responded yes.  Then, I guiltily admitted that everything I was reading I had just learned this past semester in Anatomy.  Every.thing. Lol – NERD!  Whatever.  I still want one, I just won’t be pushing for a Christmas arrival.  I think it would make a fantastic book for my nonexistent coffee table 🙂

But that infatuation speaks to how enjoyable my life is right now.  That’s right – in med school, I absolutely love my life.  For the first time in life I am 120% certain that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.  While I might not know exactly where I am going, I know that 1) I am in the right profession and 2) at the right institution, speciality TBD.  That feeling – that warm, radiating, indescribable sensation – is priceless and brings a smile to my soul.  Or rather the peace and joy that feeling brings my soul radiates through my entire being and makes me smile.  Sure, there were multiple times this past semester when I prayed to God to make anatomy end (right around the time we reached the perineum and our cadavers were lying pelvis elevated, legs spread, revealing all for the world to see…ugh).  However, at the end of the day, I love what I’m doing.  I love gaining practical knowledge, I enjoy the deep thinking exercises known as SP, TBL, and PBL, and I actually love the soothing repetitiveness of sitting out and writing and re-writing pathways and lists until I know them inside-out.  Of course, having an amazing and fun class does nothing but help matters.  In sum, I.am.blessed. I.am.happy.

Overdue Update

In medical school, public health, research on July 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Wowsers, it’s been a minute since I’ve stopped by this page.  My apologies. Relocating, summer MPH courses, and meeting new classmates has taken over my life.  It’s interesting really.  Back home, I’d say electronic communication was fairly integrated into my daily activities.  Down here, I hardly go online save during class – such a bad habit, I know.  I rarely watch tv or get on my laptop unless it is something school-related.  And it’s not like I’m swamped with work or anything of the sort, I guess I am just slowly transforming into a local and picking up their lifestyle habits.  Bye-bye fast-paced, cold tri-state area, hello warmth and relaxtion!

I usually stray from personal updates on this blog, but I feel inclined to share a little of what I am learning and what has been occurring in my life.

As previously mentioned, I am enrolled in an MD/MPH program and am focusing on epidemiology.  As it currently stands, I hope to use this MPH coursework to better understand how to study disease among a population, as opposed to individual treatment, how to recognize patterns and trends, and how to implement new procedures and treatments to help allievate the burden of disease on a population.  Vague? Yes, but I am of the mind that at this point in our careers it is better to start broad and narrow in as we go along, rather than start with a limited scope and miss out on opportunities.  I figure that with this broad overarching theme guiding my studies it might also help me eliminate possible specialties.  Aside: already out of the running are Peds (unless a pediatric specialist) and OB-GYN.  While I am not a fan of these introductory courses all MPHers are required to take, I am hoping that the upperlevel courses will be more applicable and relatable to the role and responsibility of a physician.  I like epi because it translates well into any specialty I chose.  As a bonus, I’m thinking that it also has the potential to make me a more attractive residency applicant – I mean, what program wouldn’t want a doctor who wants to really focus on and research a pressing issue in that specialty and who has learned the techniques to do so?  I smell a potential for breakthroughs, which leads to a potential for positive attention (re: money) for that institution.  Perhaps I’m overreaching, but I’m trying to stay positive and hope for the best – after all, this other degree isn’t cheap…I’m going to make it work for me! Lol

In other news, it looks as if I’ll be transitioning from clinical research to more translation and/or bench research – and I’m amped for it!  At the moment, I am unsure what I want to specialize in, but am leaning heavily towards surgery, with neuro coming in a close second and maybe emergency med.  I will start working with a surgeon here on some research. Aaaaaand, not only is it in surgery, but it’s regarding organ transplants!!! All you have to do is scroll a few posts back to see how much this area of medicine personally interests me.  I think it’s great because even if I wind up not doing surgery, I will be grateful to have contributed in some capacity to the knowledge database in this arena.  In addition, she is working on many projects with  long-range potential involvement, meaning there will be many opportunities for me to learn numerous different aspects of research and to gain invaluable experience.  Only downside is it’s not paid, BUT we know experience really is invaluable, so I’m all smiles.

So, that more or less brings us up to speed.  With that being said, I’m out again.  Hope you’re staying cool where ever you are…this heat around the country is slightly ooc – Hello, Global Warming!

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!

Anticipation

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.

First Second Look

In Finances, medical school, Rants on March 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

While my state school has had some events for us, I wouldn’t quite call them Second Looks. Now that I’ve officially attended my first Second Look, there are two points I want to discuss.

1) If I so much as hear another whisper about URMs stealing other applicants’ seats I’m going to snap. The Second Look I attended was at one of the largest medical schools in the nation. Do you know how many URMs were there?  Three Black females, maybe 1-2 Latinas, and no Black or Latino men…NONE!!! I kept looking around at my potential future class that was about 50/50 Asian and White, and I couldn’t help but think…really?!? Talk about feeling like you stick out like a sore thumb…  I love Love LOVE how all these schools repeatedly state how much they value diversity in their student body and it’s something they promote, however, physically it’s something I rarely see. Granted, I know race is only one element of a diversified class. I am well aware that diversity comes in many forms, from ethnic to socioeconomic to religious and to ideological diversity, and that all are important in forming a truly well-rounded class. I also know that clearly not every accepted student attended the Second Look. However, if the sample I saw is roughly representative of my possible future class, then that’s ~3% of the class is URM.  Wowsers. That’s incredibly low…especially for a big school in a major Northern city.  Seriously, I never want to hear that annoying argument again. Blows my mind every time. Clearly URM quite literally means underrepresented minority, so hush your mouths…there really aren’t enough people involved to make the effort of debate worthwhile…negligible impact on your chance of admittance, so hush!

2) Exactly what is Financial Aid?!? Giving a brief history, I was fortunate enough not to have to deal with financial aid stuff as an undergrad (someone close to me passed away and had left money for my education…which my undergrad institution gladly ate up).  Needless to say, I am unfamiliar with dealing with these offices.  I sat and listened to the long, depressing, anxiety-inducing financial aid presentation at Second Look. I glanced around the room to see that most of my peers had the same glazed-over look on their faces that read “Please make this stop! Purdy pleeeeease?!?” It’s never fun listening about going into roughly $200K worth of debt (+ interest)…NEVER!

Somewhere in my nervous trance I picked up that it appears that this office awards everyone the same thing – NOTHING.  I mean, they have a bunch of little scholarships that they give out to people ranging from $500-$5000, but that barely puts a dent in ~$36K/year they expect their students to cover with more non-federal loans. Which brings me back to the question of what is financial aid exactly?!? First off, it’s more like abuse than aid. I know I feel slightly beat down every time I discuss the issue, not helped in any manner. Secondly, is their sole role to act as a liaison between the students and the lenders, whether that be the Federal Government or private institutions? I mean, I guess when I always heard of “financial aid packets” I expected money to spring forth magically from these offices to partly subsidize the difference between what the government can cover and the actual, full cost of attendance.  Shoot, the government can’t even fully cover tuition… Once again, I just don’t understand!  How are you aiding me???  Perhaps I just have a strong imagination and hope my desires for minimal financial debt can be dreamt into existence. Or, maybe this school’s financial aid department is not its strong suit.  Maybe I’ll have much better packages from other schools that actually resemble aid…assistance in alleviating the costs.  Lord know that at this point, while I liked this school and was almost won over on Second Look, if other schools I am considering deliver better in this area, I’m dipping out and getting that refund back…I don’t like them that much.  If I did, then maybe I’d consider the HPSP (Health Professions Scholarship Program) offered through one of the armed forces. But, I’m not quite there yet.  I’m really just hoping that this school is lackluster in this area and other schools come up with something better. It will certainly make my final decision easier. Money, money, money, money…when you have none, people keep wanting more. Ugh!

Financial Aid Woes

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on March 10, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Thanks to some pressing from my mom, I went ahead and filled out the much dreaded FAFSA last night.  Eyes got crossed a few times flipping through the pages of lines on the forms for my mom and me (yes, she makes me do hers instead of her filling it out).  Finished that sucker relatively fast (haven’t completed one in about 2 years, but I swear it took ages before to do) and submitted last night.  I’m happy to say that it’s already been processed and sent out to the designated schools – one step closer to becoming an official medical student 🙂

Then, something told me to go look at the financial aid websites for the designated schools to see what was due next.  Good thing I looked too, as some have forms due on the 15th (as in Monday!) if you want to be considered for need-based money…and who doesn’t want some of that?  So, I opened my Word document and created a nice little color-coordinated timeline (yes, I have a slight obsession with color-coordinated items) of what’s due for each school and when, with links included where pertinent.  Then, I started reviewing suggested budgets for each school. That’s right about the time I felt my heart sink a little, then stop completely, then rapidly recharge to a pulse far exceeding my normal resting rate.  The schools range in price from about $56k (in-state) to $70k (private). Personally, I feel swindled that our in-state price is that much, for a crappy and dangerous city to live in too. Why can’t we all be like Texas? What’s their tuition, like $8k per year – absolutely ridiculous and unfair…that needs to be regulated or mimicked. Seriously, what is that state doing so well that they can provide professional education for that price. Perhaps other states need to start modeling their system…

Anyways, back to my lovely little state.  Supposedly, state-wide budget cuts are hitting our state school system hard. Librarians are being fired, libraries are being “closed” and restructured into “media rooms” literally the size of a room. Rumor has it that the licensure people came around this week and weren’t too happy with what they saw.  Now, I will state that this is just hearsay and, as of yet, as no truth to it. However, I think it says something that this rumor has sustainability because of the status of the state and it’s medical schools.  Not a good look, Jersey…puts at least one little check under the cons column for your list in my book.

I went into this process stating that money would not be a consideration. In retrospect, maybe I went into this process a bit wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was all about “fit with the school” and “personality of the student body” rationalizing that since I lacked undergrad student loans, I had a little room for give in terms of financial aid. Now…as I stare down that long, dark, barrel of debt, I’m wavering a bit in my stance.  I don’t think it helps that somehow I am just now realizing how much my 12 month post-bacc program cost, smh. When I factor in the price of obtaining an MPH as well…I get slightly overwhelmed and start getting so nervous that I reach the point where I embrace debt and do not care anymore.  I pray that God will work a financial miracle in this situation.  I pray that the financial aid offices will take pity on my soul, and award me a very nice package. I would also love some scholarships – I know they’re hard to come by, but a girl can ask and pray, right?

Actually, when I started receiving acceptances, I prayed that God would show me the school he wants me at based on their financial aid offers. Now that the time is approaching for those packages to be unwrapped, all I can say is, “Yikes!!!” While I still stick by that, I am nervous and am anxiously waiting to see what happens in these upcoming weeks. Keep me in your prayers!

The Dating Game

In applying to med school, Finances, medical school on November 16, 2009 at 11:33 pm

To a certain extent, searching for the right medical school is much like searching for the right significant other. Most people have a certain set of characteristics in mind when they search for a mate. For some, they look for a mate that they think is on their perceived level – someone they think physically looks as good as they are convinced they look (emphasis on perceived…you know how some people have that inflated self-image), someone who fits the look they are going for. Some (like me) find intelligence irresistably sexy, and consequently all partners must possess a certain level of smarts to make the cut. Some seek financial security. Still others (usually men) are intimidated by too many brains and therefore chose someone of lesser intelligence to accompany them throughout life. The list continues… Some look for a deep measure of humanity, a concern for the environment, a shared love of music/money/sports/[insert some random passion or value].

One of the funniest things I have said when considering someone is that I could picture them an excellent father and husband, but a boyfriend…not so much :/ Rest assured, we remain friends and have never dated, and I have absolutely no desire to date the man. His unintentional lack of follow-through irks me to no end. However, I know that in another 5 years or so, when he’s matured a bit more, he would be an engaging spouse and potentially an amazing father (I’m not ready to get married or have kids any time soon…let that be known). To round out the list, let’s be honest and just say that some people use their mates for networking opportunities (cold, I know, but I’m sure we can all name somebody). Ooo, one more. There’s always that desperate individual who really doesn’t care what traits another person has, as long as they are available (sometimes that’s not even a requirement) and possess the right body parts (still not always a requirement)…they’re the most entertaining to watch, imho. lol

Likewise, all these criteria are used by applicants to evaluate potential medical schools to apply to, and finally, which one to choose as their legally bound mate for the next 4+ years.  So, let the dating game begin!

So, what am I looking for in a man and/or a medical school? Well, let’s see, for a man, I look for someone who mirrors my life values. I want someone with a sense of humor, who’s bright (I get intellectual crushes very easily…just call me intellectually promiscuous), who understands the importance of giving to others, who’s down to earth (I hate pretension), likes to live life, has diverse interests, and likes to do random things. When evaluating a guy, money’s not an issue. I mean, if he has money, it’s certainly not a negative, but lacking money is not a negative either. Ha, looking at this list, it kind of looks like I am asking for a lot, but I swear I’m not! In the end, I just want a down-to-earth guy, with a nice smile and laugh, that likes to have a good time, but also has a serious side (such as focused on his career and family).

I am pretty much looking for the same thing in a future medical school.  I want a “family oriented” school, where there is a sense of family within my class and between the administration and the students.  Likewise, I desire and institution that supports my diverse interests outside the classroom through reduced lecture hours and various student groups and community service outreach.  The only big difference here is that financial ability will be a LARGE factor when making my selection. 

I am really curious as to how all of this is going to play out. For instance, if I am accepted at a school that seems down-to-earth, has a student body that’s into serving their community (both within the walls of the school and externally), and encourages its students to maintain their outside interests, but lacks a substantive financial support, will I pick them? My heart says one thing and my brain says the opposite. Ugh, I hate when that happens!

In undergrad, I was fortunate enough to receive numerous acceptances at a wide range of schools. One of the schools offered me a $100,000 scholarship for being one of their “top 100 applicants” or something like that. They went over-the-top, inviting us all to campus, taking us out on the town – the put on the works! However, despite their enticing offer, I chose a school that I wound up having to pay full-price out-of-pocket for (thank God I had been left money to finance my education). Why did I chose that school? Because I felt that my undergraduate years were, well, literally priceless! But, unlike medical school, I felt that it made a significant difference where I attended undergrad.

Medical school is a completely different game though. Any US accredited, MD-granting med school is good – it has to be, as we will be handling human life…something our society (rightfully) highly values.  With hard work (both inside and outside the classroom) you can get into any residency program of your chosing. With that in mind, it makes no sense to choose a school that’ll land you a quarter million dollars in debt (GASP!) when you can go to another school that you might not click with quite as well for substantially less money. Plus, lowering debt reduces the possibility of being pigeon-holed into a speciality just for the sake of being able to pay off loans versus following your true passion.  Like most other things in life, I feel that it is important to follow the heart and where God is leading. I’m excited to see what the spring offers. Whew, May 15th, 2010 is only 179 days away!!! Doesn’t seem so far away now, does it?  People keep asking me if I have a top choice right now.  My answer remains the same: I am trying not to get attached to any school until financial aide packages are laid out on the table.  I need to see my potential spouse’s hand before I commit!  I must know how deep those pockets go!

Accepted!

In applying to med school, medical school on October 19, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know I’m failing, but I swear I’ll do better to make a conscientious effort to blog more frequently.  Anywho, the main reason I did not update you this past week was that it was the dreaded, highly anticipated, Decision Week 2009.  For those unfamiliar with the med school application process, October 15th is the earliest date schools can officially notify applicants of acceptances.  In other words, it is one of the most anxiety-ridden days…that is if you were an applicant blessed with an early interview or two.  I, like many of my fellow SDNers and pre-med applicants, was a nervous wreck leading up the 15th.  I had heard rumors that last year there had been a glitch in computers and emails about CBCs (criminal background checks) had accidentally been sent to those who had been accepted to schools, but had yet to be notified.  This year, I do believe CBCs won’t be conducted until the first of the new year, however that did not stop me from increasing my compulsive e-mail checking in the days leading up to the 15th.

Unfortunately, I did not received any news (good or bad) on the 15th.  Nothing but emptiness filled my inbox 😦  However, I did receive great news on the morning of the 16th – I was accepted to a school I absolutely loved!!!  That’s right folks, I am going to be a Medical Doctor!!!  Woooo-Hooo!!!!  I tried to predict how I would respond to an early acceptance.  My original guess was that I would pass out, wake up and run around the block beaming from ear-to-ear, call my mom, post the good news on twitter, facebook, and AIM, send mass text messages, and then part-tay!  My real reaction wasn’t too far from this.  I had actually just gotten off the phone with moms when I found the lovely little present from God sitting in my inbox.  I immediately hit redial and shared the good news with her.  From there, I’m not 100% sure what happened.  It was a mixture of being unable to breathe, a few tears were shed, I think I almost passed out, and in the middle of all this I managed to simultaneously electronically post and text messages about the great news.  When I got off the phone with mom, I ran around the house in circles, like a dog chasing its tail.  When I finally tired myself out, I sat on the big leather sofa, stretched out my arms, looked up towards heaven and repeatedly exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus. Praise you God!” Rinse and repeat until I was light-headed and out of breath.

Really, this was all in Divine timing.  My grandmother just so happened to be visiting from down South and I was able to share the good news with her in person.  I am her only grandchild, the last of the bloodline, if you will.  My grandmother has suffered numerous bodily ailments since as far back as I can remember, and since I started down this road to the M.D., my mom has been praying that my grandmother would live to see the day when her only grandchild would become a doctor.  Through all the pain she lives in, the news made her spring out of her seat and hug me – not an easy task for someone with scar tissue wrapped around her spine and arthritis all over the place.  Of course, more tears were shed and the rest of the family was immediately notified.  Everyone on both sides of the family said, “I never thought I’d see the day when we would have a doctor in the family!”  Really, I never thought it was that big of a deal.  I am just following my heart, my passions, and where God leads.  When I said this to my mom, she responded with, “Are you kidding me?!?  You have no idea what an inspiration our story has been to other single mothers…”  I guess she’s right and I have slightly underestimated how monumental of an achievement this is for my family and my situation.  In the past few days, it has slowly been sinking in.  All I can do is smile and praise God!

I must say, I feel like a tremendous burden has been lifted from my shoulders, for I know that no matter what happens during this long, tiring cycle, at the end of the day, I will begin training to become a medical doctor at an institution I absolutely love!  What an AMAZING, INDESCRIBABLE feeling!!!  Just the thought makes me beam.  Now, I’m not a smiler.  Actually, I have been told that my neutral face looks on the mean, cold, standoffish side of the spectrum – good thing I’m usually laughing 😉  But, I’ve been smiling ever since the good news was delivered.  God is beyond good!  I’m still eagerly waiting on the acceptance packet to arrive in the mail (and a little nauseous at the thought of having to come up with the deposit money in my current financial situation…oh, the sacrifices I make), at which point I’ll probably get that great adrenaline surge again 🙂 

Now comes the debate on whether I should withdraw my application from some schools or just leave them alone and see what happens.  But, more on this topic later…

To everyone out there – Keep the faith!  As a friend of mine put it, I am the poster-child for re-applicants everywhere!

An Introduction of sorts…

In medical school on August 8, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Hi. I am not new to blogging – I have a separate blog where my identity is not completely anonymous, that serves as my social commentary on the world around me. I decided to create a new, completely anonymous blog to chronicle my ventures to obtain a Medical Degree.

For those unfamiliar with the application process to medical, allow me to summarize for you – to call it an emotional roller coaster is beyond a misnomer.  Not only is it the longest process known to man (starts in early June and ends anywhere from early Winter to late Spring, depending on the strength of your application), but on average, it also costs between $3000-$5000 to apply (not including the ~$1600 one spends on MCAT prep courses).  So far we have high monetary and time investments, with no guaranteed return.  With the average medical school acceptance rate being ~ 3-15% and with a total of 16,000 open seats across the US and 36,000 or so applying each year,  you see that ~45-55% of applicants don’t make it in each year.  The hardest part of the process is not studying for the MCATs, not in filling out your primary application, nor is it  the numerous individualized essays on secondary applications, but the anticipatory months spent waiting, playing over in your head what you could have improved or written better, hoping that your attempt at honesty and creativity caught someone on the admissions committee’s eye and that you will be granted a few interviews.

As the days roll on, I’ll update you with more about myself: my character, my interests, my history, my family, my friends, and my ambitions.  I hope my readers will find this somewhat entertaining – I am quite the character, once you get to know me 😉  I hope my sarcasm correctly projects across the internet!  Perhaps my experiences along this application process can be insightful and of benefit to at least one other poor, tortured pre-medical soul.

Signing-off, for now…