Super Star Blogs!

A Humbling Day

“He is not about to cry, is he?  Whoa, he is about to cry!  Where is the Kleenex box?!?”  I sat there in my VA clinic just last week with these questions roaming through my head.  I was anxiously staring at my patient just having told him this would be our last meeting together.  This was a 70 year old, stoic veteran who proudly served in Vietnam if my memory serves me correct.   Did I just unknowingly insult the gentleman or was he having excruciating pain?  Maybe he was passing a kidney stone or something.

It literally took me half a minute before I realized this man of few words I had been honored to help care for was really emotional because it hit him that this really was our last visit together.  It’s always difficult moving on and now that I am completing my final year of fellowship I expected departing from my patients would be emotional as always.  However, I hadn’t really taken time to see the impact physicians can have on the lives of their patients and how deeply they also influence us.  My patient wiped his face and said in a quivering voice, “You know… I thought I was going to die that day until you came by and spoke to me?”

I had met this gentleman nearly 3 years ago in his quiet room at the Durham VA hospital and thought it was another routine consultation for hyperthyroidism.  He was actually admitted with atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular rate and subsequently found to have significantly elevated thyroid hormones.  His wife and daughter stood anxiously at bedside waiting for me to give them any news.  I could tell that just like many patients I had been consulted on, this family was utterly confused as to what was going on.  Doctors and nurses had been in and out, in and out for the past 24 hours.  I sat on the bed next to the patient and smiled.  If I tell you I remember what I said to this lovely family I would be lying to you.  I don’t recall anything special at all I said or did.  Sitting there I do remember reaching for a paper and drawing out the brain, pituitary and thyroid gland.  I then diagrammed this endocrine axis until I began to appreciate heads nodding around the room.  This was a fun habit I had picked up during medical school back when I had plenty of time on my hand.  I would return to my patient’s rooms at the end of the day and answer questions or explain their disease.  I found this was a great way not only to educate the patient but also myself.

It is sad saying goodbye to my patients over the past few weeks.  Each clinic I have that old Boyz II Men song playing in my head.  I wish I can pack them all up in buses and bring them along to my new practice.  I am extremely honored and privileged to have served them for the past three years at an amazing institution.  As physicians, we often don’t grasp how important our 10-15 minutes consultation visits are.  Simply smiling at a patient and taking time to answer questions garners trust and really goes a long way in fortifying that doctor-patient relationship.  In this day of electronic records, technology and meeting specific hospital quality goals, many obstacles hinder these relationships.  We must always be cognizant of this and realize our attitudes, facial expressions, and words can really affect our patients.  We should treat each one as though they are a loved one.  Even on a larger scale, the way we treat our neighbors will also influence our destiny (Matthew 25:31-46, Mark 12:28-31).  This resonates well with Hebrews 13:1-3 and with a 33-year-old carpenter’s son who washed the feet of men.

Needless to say, my end-of-fellowship clinics have been extremely humbling and gratifying.  It reminds me why I chose to become a doctor.  Nonetheless, at times I feel as though I have been in a 10 year slumber since college and sacrificed a lot of life’s youthful pleasures in pursuit of my dreams.  The ten year training period post-undergrad has finally come to an end and I finally realize that the light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t a train after all!

Written By Dr. Daniel

Image Credit Pixabay

Congratulations to Curtis! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Curtis Mensah and I am a graduate of Stony Brook University. I am currently a first year graduate student at New York Medical College pursuing an M.S. of Basic Medical Sciences. I grew up in a faith based home which strongly emphasized servitude and caring for the well being of others. This has caused me to get involved in my community, with other students, and instilled in me a desire to give back and pay it forward to those who come after me. Being first generation, as both of my parents are Ghanaian immigrants has strongly influenced my personality, my values, and the work ethic I have to make my goals of becoming a physician a reality.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My sophomore year in undergrad I took a course called Political and Social History of Africa. My professor was named Dr. Abena Asare and initially I enrolled in the class because I knew she was Ghanaian. However, being able to learn about my heritage in such detail from someone who was clearly passionate about her work, motivated me to want to provide an example to all those who want to pursue medicine as someone that is truly cares about their work and naturally excites others about it as well. Getting to know her on a personal basis, similar to my parents, I was inspired by her journey from Ghana to an Ivy League degree and her impact at a prestigious university.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I first decided I wanted to become a doctor when I was very young, around the age of 8 or 9. I grew up around scrubs, white coats, sophisticated medical conversations. As a child I was naturally curious and desired to one day understand and also contribute to these conversations. I knew that I wanted to become a doctor, but at that point it seemed like more of a passive default than an active pursuit. I did not feel the true conviction to become a doctor until I was 19, during the spring semester of my sophomore year in college. It was at that point that I truly began to see the parallels between my faith and my desire to pursue medicine. I saw the real reason behind why I wanted to put others before myself and my journey towards medicine became a mission, fueled by my devotion to serve all those that I come in contact with, giving them a voice during their most vulnerable stages, changing their lives by not only being their physician, but their friend. Being a student that is hungry for knowledge and always looking to learn something new, I find that our discovery in this field is essential to serving those that are under-served in the most efficient way possible.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am currently interested in cardiology, family medicine, and sports medicine. However, I have decided not to make any decisions about the area I want to pursue until I have real experiences with them during medical school.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? My entire senior year in college has been the highlight of my premedical journey. I was elected as the president of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS) at my school. My involvement with MAPS allowed me to come in contact with many brilliant physicians and researchers, but also to serve as a resource to underclassmen who want to become health care professionals. I was also enrolled into a program called Pre-Medical Access to Clinical Experience (PACE) in which I got to have first hand experience in the daily life of multiple physicians. Through this program I gained a great mentor and I also was able to see the connection that the physicians have with their patient. Several instances showed me the hope, reassurance, and inspiration that doctors provide for their patients and it reaffirmed my desire to one day be a source of hope for many others.

6. What is your favorite book?  My favorite book is called “Rise” by William Lee Barefield III. He is a pastor as well as a hip hop artist. The book spoke of the need for the upcoming generation to not settle for mediocrity and what society expects of us, but instead, to live according the conviction and call for greatness that we all possess.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. One thing about me that most people don’t know is that I love to sing. I have been a member of the youth choir at my church for many years and have served as a co-vocal director more recently. I also currently serve as a member of the worship team at my church and jump at the opportunity to sing wherever and whenever.

8. What do you like most about PreMed StAR?  I enjoy getting to see the variety of paths that people take, while sharing the same goal. I also enjoy the sharing of resources and seeing us all help one another make our dreams come true.

Healthcare From A Patient Perspective

EMU’s M.A. in Biomedicine Program invites patients who have experienced medical issues to share their persepctives on healthcare. This is a unique event which allows students to empathize with these individuals and gain valuable insight on the field they wish to enter. The patient panel comprised of two cancer patients and a physician who’s father passed away from prostatic cancer. I’ll describe each patient and the important takeaways from the presentation.

Patient 1: A long-time employee of the UVA health system, patient 1 suffered from breast cancer. Patient 1 had both a sonogram and mammogram which revealed a 2.4 cm mass in her right breast confirming the diagnosis. She described the news as an “out of body” experience and felt overwhelmed when the healthcare team began to provide treatment options. Patient 1 explained to her doctor that she would need a little time to explore her options after consulting with her husband and family. The healthcare team consisted of a radiologist, oncologist, and surgical oncologist (specializing in breast cancer).

Major Takeaways:

-Patient 1 did not have a pleasant experience with her initial surgeon, so she opted to get a second opinion. She informed the audience that it is your job as a patient to have full control of your treatment plan and be well-informed by each physician. In addition, she noted that if you do not like your doctor it is okay to seek help from another professional. The surgeon did not build a good rapport with patient 1 and she felt that he undermined her input.

-The healthcare team bombarded her with a wealth of resources about her condition, treatment options, etc. but did not take the time to brief her on the most useful or pertinent information.

-Initially patient 1 was unsure of which direction to go, whether to choose surgery or chemotherapy first. Ultimately, she chose to have chemotherapy for 6 months which shrunk the mass and then proceeded to have a lumpectomy. Patient 1 had follow-up procedures to remove calcifications and described having “chemo-brain”. Chemo-brain is when a patient becomes forgetful with even the most basic tasks and feels extremely weak on a day-to-day basis.

Patient 2: A trained nurse who now in her 80’s suffered from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and pancreatic cancer. This patient was a long-time smoker who had multiple lesions in her pancreas which was removed at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. This patient had a history of illness from multiple trips to the hospital for pleural effusion, diverticulitis, etc. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after a follow-up with her physician, revealing metastatic cell growth at the end of her pancreas.

Major Takeaways:

-Patient 2 needed a skilled healthcare team to combat multiple symptoms and illnesses.

-Patient 2 also did not know exactly what to expect when her physicians conducted a procedure or injected her with a shot. She encouraged students who are entering the health professions to take the time to consult the patient on the types of sensations they may feel, side effects, etc. to put them at ease.

-It is important to look at patients as people first, and treat them the way you’d want to be treated. These individuals are at their most vulnerable state, so it is important to make them feel comfortable and inform them step-by-step of their treatment and prognosis.

Panel Member 3: Panel #3 was a healthcare professional whose father passed away from prostatic cancer. She described his condition as progressive and had to be transferred from Duke Medical Center to Johns Hopkins to be a part of an experimental trial. Panel #3’s father had high PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) levels which confirmed the prostate cancer diagnosis.

Major Takeaways:

-Panel #3 gave a medical perspective in which she relayed that she also had to argue with some of the healthcare staff because they were not adequately informing the patient or family members of her father’s prognosis. She felt that because Johns Hopkins was an academic teaching hospital they wanted to be aggressive with the treatment, yet did not take the time to deal with the underlying issue of treating the patient as a person first. Panel #3 described that her father had a lot of anxiety and that if the anxiety was treated first it would of made the experience a little more comforting before he passed.

-Hospice and palliative care are sensitive times for patients and family members. it is important to recognize how to relay information and how to break tragic news in a professional manner.

-The experimental trial: the patient was given medication to suppress testosterone levels, however the tumor actually grew, adversely affecting the patient’s overall condition.

-A doctor’s primary focus should not be research and experimental treatment, but rather focus on the addressing the patient’s needs to make them feel comforted and have dialogue and proper communication.

Overall, this was an eye opening experience. I learned the importance of getting to know your patient by learning something personal about them and taking the initiative to build a relationship. We are in dire need of well-trained physicians who express empathy, compassion, and are able to relate to their patient. The patient/panel members also described their insurance plans and reimbursement. I did not expand on this because as many of us know, medications are expensive and the patients still had a large out-of-pocket cost without proper reimbursement. I hope that you found this useful and if you have any questions please post and i’ll try to answer to the best of my ability. 

Premed Motivation

“What keeps you going?”  Interestingly, in the past I hadn’t put much thought into this question but as more and more premeds asked, I was forced to.  Because that is the case, it seems worthwhile to address it.  The question has been posed with the idea that working constantly to get into Medical School and Residency can be exhausting.  I agree 100%.  It certainly is emotionally and sometimes physically draining.  I do not believe there is a single trick to stay motivated, but there are 2 key things I did as a college student.

Before we delve into these 2 things, it is important to understand the nature of self-discipline.  The overarching theme of the premed life is self discipline which in turn will be your driving force for success.  No matter how good a mentor you may have, if you yourself are not disciplined to do what you have to do, then success is not an option for you.  A mentor can’t study for you.  A mentor can’t take take your MCAT.  And a mentor certainly can’t graduate for you!  So before you even ask the question of how to stay motivated, you have to have a self-conviction of discipline   Once you have made it up in your mind that you can be disciplined enough to do what it takes to get into Medical School, then you GO HARD!

So, the real question then is how to keep yourself motivated to go hard?  The first thing I did as an undergraduate student was to put small signs on my bedroom bulletin board with motivational quotes such as “failure is not an option”, “the world is watching”, and “keep your eyes on the prize”.  I know it sounds corny, but perhaps because I was an athlete growing up, motivational quotes have always fueled me.  Also, since these signs were right above my bed, I could not avoid looking at them everyday.  When I didn’t feel like studying, my own words were staring me in the face telling me to go hard so that’s what I did.  This might not work for everyone, but it did for me.  In the end, everyone has to find their own internal driving force and go with it!

The second thing that is essential is to surround yourself with friends who support your goal.  If I were to look at your 5 closest friends, I would have a good idea of what type of person you are.  If all 5 of them get drunk and high every night of the week, I’d guess you do the same which would hinder your studying.  If all 5 of them had goals and were self motivated to achieve them, then I’d guess you were working hard to achieve your goal as well.  As a freshman, I understood this concept and affiliated with students who wanted to do well.  Some of us even went as far as setting grade point average goals together and pushed one another throughout the semesters to achieve them.  It wasn’t competition, but rather encouragement.  If you don’t have close friends who care enough about you to tell you to study the night before a test when you are tired, then you won’t study!  That’s what friends are for.

What kept me going?  As silly as it sounds, little cut out pieces of paper stapled to my bulletin board and my friends.  Both of these things were necessary for me to make it.  So, my question to you is: How do you motivate yourself and who are your 5 closest friends?

Please comment below and share how you stay motivated.

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

Congratulations to Ashley! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Greetings, I am Ashley Henderson from Lufkin, TX. I graduated May 2017 from Prairie View A&M University with my Bachelors of Science in Biology and a minor in chemistry. I love listening to music and slam poetry. My favorite color is pink. I am terrified of flights, but I love to travel! I like experimenting in the kitchen, and one day I aspire to start a garden, even though I despise a handful of vegetables

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? This award would have to go to my high school track coach. She initially started off as my junior high basketball coach, then my high school world geography teacher, my junior varsity basketball coach, and finally my varsity track coach. I had a complicated childhood, which made me an angry kid. I had tons of frustration and disappointment bottled inside of me. No one ever noticed anything except my accomplishments until I met Coach Bolden. She made me acknowledge my hurt and channel it into a passion for the track. She reminded me always of the light at the end of the tunnel.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? When I was a child, I wanted to be a chef because I loved eating and cooking would supply me with an infinite access to delicious food. Then I wanted to be a carpenter because I love remolding turning the old into new. So, I cannot necessarily pinpoint the exact moment but more so an accumulation of events that have occurred in my life. My grandmother raised me until she passed away, the same day of my regional track meet, due to a ruptured varicose vein. I can remember sitting in class trying to figure out what I could have done to save her and not being able to come up with an answer. Although I did not a definite answer, I knew I wanted to attend college to break the cycle in my family. Since attending college, I have gained ample amount of opportunities I never dreamed of experiencing. Like conducting research, shadowing physicians, attending scholar conferences, studying abroad which all managed to play a vital role in my decision to pursue being a physician ultimately. My study abroad experience in Botswana Gaborone ignited my aspirations of becoming a physician as I witnessed disparities, volunteered in the clinics, and shadowed physicians. Many of the clinics and hospitals were understaffed and overpopulated with patients. Once again, I found myself full of grieve with the desire to help and this time I had an answer! I would join many of my peers aspire to provide efficient healthcare on the journey to becoming a physician.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am interested in becoming a primary care physician working with underserved communities.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? This is the toughest question so far because it is hard just to pick one! I would have to say my clinical experience in Botswana wins the grand prize. I participated in a public health study abroad program as a sophomore in college. The purpose of the program was to go into clinics “observe issues” and present “solutions.” Unfortunately, many of the clinics where understaffed and filled with patients. The unfortunate circumstances presented me with my first legit clinical experience outside of shadowing. I got trained on the child welfare portion of the clinic for 30 minutes, and then my trainer went on a 3-hour lunch break. So, my colleague and I found ourselves operating a part of the clinic!

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book as of now is The Wait. It focuses on resisting the temptations of instant gratification for the rewards of delayed gratification.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I love cutting hair. I taught myself how to cut hair with the help of YouTube videos. Cutting hair is like art and therapy at the same time. The individuals head is my canvas, and the exchange of our life stories is more therapeutic than an ice cream cone during the Texas summer.

8. What do you like most about PreMed StAR? I get the opportunity to network with others aspiring to enter medical school. There is no one way to get into medical school. Each who gains acceptance tends to be unique from the next. PreMed Star allows us to meet the unique individuals before we become overwhelmed with medical school. The journey is more adventurous and less stressful when you realize you are not alone. PreMed Star simply reminds me that I am not alone and what some may consider impossible may very well be possible.

Beyond All Expectations!!

I wrote this blog for my graduate program’s website. Check it out!

The process students must go through before gaining admission to a health professionals school is often just as stressful and taxing as attending one. For this reason, the choices made on the path to reach that goal are crucial. When I decided to attend EMU’s MA in Biomedicine program, I had certain expectations. I knew that the program was of a certain high academic caliber, having built up a reputation for preparing students well for medical school. After completing half a semester here, however, all my expectations have been surpassed.

The first and most prominent thing that truly blew my expectations away was the level of attentiveness that each of us in the program receives from faculty and staff. Because the program limits each incoming class size, the faculty and staff are easily accessible. In contrast to feeling like just another set of statistics at a big school, this program allows each student to feel like a significant contributing factor. It makes the process of getting to know professors much easier, and establishing connections with them is no longer a task, but comes naturally. Being on a first name basis with professors and faculty members is standard practice. Although this took me a couple of weeks to get used to, it has shifted how I view the professor-student dynamic. Rather than thinking of professor as the superior teacher and myself as the mere learner, EMU emphasizes a philosophy of learning where both professor and student engage actively and cooperatively in the learning environment.

Being a student in the Master’s in Biomedicine program has already, in just the few weeks I’ve been here, opened up a variety of opportunities to help me on this journey to medical school. At a recent graduate school fair, I spoke to many representatives from health professional schools from around the region and beyond. In many of these instances, the school’s representative knew of EMU’s Biomed program and gained more interest in our conversation at the mere mention of it. One medical school, in particular, was keen on offering further assistance to me as a Biomed student in search of shadowing opportunities, providing me with contact info for their recent grads who had opened private practices in the region. This kind of open door to a networking opportunity is just one example of what being an EMU student can offer, beyond just the classroom. In addition to exposure to a wealth of networking opportunities, I, like every student in the program, receive tailored advising personalized to our goals. This invaluable advising is a luxury that can only be offered in the midst of an intimate student body.

Among perhaps the best part of the program is the friendships that are established that are sure to last a lifetime. Being a part of a smaller program has afforded an environment in which it is feasible to get to know everyone else. Relaxing social activities are easy to plan, from movie nights to a night of good food and conversation. Aside from an encouraging peer group, there is an abundance of knowledge to draw on from the upper-class members who are continually available to assist. With such a rich assortment of resources available to utilize, I’m eager to see the prospects being a biomed student will afford.

Never Forget Your Gifts

Never forget your natural calling…

I recall how much emphasis was placed on extracurricular activities during medical school interviews.  They wanted well-rounded, academically achieved students.  However, I really suspected I would walk into a medical school class surrounded by 200 very studious but one-track minded students who beefed up their applications with activities they were forced to do.  Maybe a class full of Mark Zukerbergs, a couple of Screeches from Saved by the Bell, a few Napolean Dynamites, and throw in a couple of Erkels and Myras in the mix.  I really did not know how I would fit in.

On orientation day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a college buddy of mine who had played for his basketball team.  We had been playing ball together for the past 4 years and neither of us had a clue we were both pre-med.  Beyond this I came to find out there were other students in my class with extremely diverse backgrounds and talents such as athletes, local musicians, stand-up comedians, military men and women, and even a major former Broadway show planner.  Everyone in the class had hours and hours of volunteer activities that we all seemed so passionate about.  These people could have easily succeeded in other fields but chose to serve their fellow man through medicine.  I blended right in and made some very good friends over those 4 years.

One thing I did notice was that those 4 years of medical training really narrowed down extracurricular activity participation.  We all enjoyed our free time and occasionally I would get shocked to find out about more hidden talents other students possessed but managed to hide over the years.  As I went through residency these talents became even harder to discover.  Not only that, volunteer participation became scant.  One of my favorite questions to ask a group of medical doctors has now become, “If you were not a doctor, what would you have done for a living?”  This instantly brings a smile to many people’s faces as they open up their talent chest and past childhood dreams.  I’ve heard answers like a chef, a stay at home wife, a fashion designer, a pilot, and a librarian.  A few people have ‘no idea’- medicine was all they ever wanted to do.  The scariest one I’ve heard was- a professional sniper.  Needless to say I kept my distance from him after that.  Personally, I probably would have been an artist living a relatively simple life.

Medicine is an amazing field that has a lot to offer.  Your training takes you through a roller coaster with some of the worst and best days of your life.  During the same period, many transitions are taking place (relationships, marriages, children, first car/house, etc.).  It may even become difficult to offer time for volunteer activities when that time could easily be spent making money by moonlighting.  Medicine can really consume our lives at times.  We sometimes lose sight of prior dreams and talents that helped set us apart from others in the first place.  These God given talents were given to us for a reason and they have the potential to really change lives if we use them.  I think it is very important that every once in a while we set some time aside to volunteer or re-explore a talent or two.

Written By Dr. Daniel

Image Credit: Pixabay

Congratulations to Jordan! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hi! I’m Jordan Paluch from Lake Geneva, WI. I’m currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Biology and Life Sciences Communication as well as obtaining certificates (minoring) in Global Health and Leadership.

Growing up, my parents strongly emphasized overall wellness. We always ate local produce, organic food and made sure to do a little cardio everyday. I also saw doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors- you name it! Because of them, I really fell in love with the tenets of osteopathic medicine, and I am very excited to apply to D.O. schools this spring!

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? I believed I would go to art or design school until 16/17. Fulfilling my last science requirement in high school, however, I somehow ended up in an honors anatomy and physiology course that I didn’t sign up for. I only remained in the class because I thought my teacher was cute! Over the course of the year, the teacher that I had taught that even though I mainly had a creative mind, there were ways that art and biology mixed and that I could be good at both. I ended up taking AP biology only because that teacher was teaching it the following year and that’s how I fell in love with biology!

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I don’t think I could pinpoint exactly when I wanted to become a doctor. I believe that an amalgamation of events over the course of my life has led me to where I am today. Some of these events include going on a mission trip to Haiti because of my OBGYN, my mom being diagnosed with skin cancer, volunteering weekly at a local hospital and observing patient-physician interactions, having a rude professor told me that I’d never make it into the medical field, helping a solely volunteer-run women’s clinic in the area, shadowing multiple kinds of doctors, going on a Remote Area Medical trip in rural New York to help give the underserved free healthcare, creating events for my Pre-SOMA chapter and therefore having a group of people get as excited as I am about medicine- honestly the reasons are endless! I think that so many things that have happened in my life and so many opportunities have presented themselves to me and, ultimately, that has pointed me in this direction.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? It’s hard to know right now what I would be good at or what my niche will be, so I am leaving my mind open to anything. It is a personal goal of mine to open a free clinic, however, so I know for sure I will be working with underserved or rural communities.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? I am going to Omed this weekend in Philadelphia with two of my Pre-SOMA board members (who also happen to be good friends) and I expect that to be incredible! All the experiences I’ve listed before have been cool too, to be honest (yes, even the rude professor- he helped shape me into the resilient person I am today).

One specific experience that resonated with me strongly, however, was when I shadowed in the neurosurgery clinic at UW hospital. There was an older man around 70 or 80 years old who had gotten into an accident, and while his scans came back fine, he claimed he couldn’t remember who he was before the accident. I thought about this so deeply- if I were to get in an accident and not remember who I was, how would others describe me? Would I have enough pictures and video to remember what I was like? After that day, I vowed to record a little bit of each day during my senior year via GoPro so that I can eventually make myself a day in the life video! I’ve already caught so many amazing memories on camera that I otherwise wouldn’t have and it’s only the beginning of October.

6. What is your favorite book? I can’t remember the last time I read for leisure, so I’m just going to say that some of my readings for my anthropology class have been about ancient genetics and immunology in Neanderthals, which has been pretty neat to read about!

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I’m actually a wedding photographer/videographer/photo editor on the weekends! I love being able to get paid for a creative break from all of the stresses of school. I’ve worked this job since around 14 or 15 years old and being able to move up in a company because of the hard work I’ve put into it has been an extremely rewarding feeling.

My photography job emphasizes a completely different way of thinking aside from my Biology major, which is why I also added the Life Sciences Communication major. It was a perfect fit for me because I not only get to express my creativity, but I get to do that with science!

8.  What do you like most about PreMed StAR?  What I like the most about PreMed StAR is that I get to see what other pre-meds around the country are involved in and what their reasons for going into medicine are!

Beyond Expectations

Authored by: Monica Nazir, First-Year Student at Eastern Mennonite University’s M.A. in Biomedicine Program

Comment: If you’d like to read more blogs by Eastern Mennonite University’s M.A. in Biomedicine program please visit their website:  http://emu.edu/now/ma-biomedicine/

The process students must go through before gaining admission to a health professionals school is often just as stressful and taxing as attending one. For this reason, the choices made on the path to reach that goal are crucial. When I decided to attend EMU’s MA in Biomedicine program, I had certain expectations. I knew that the program was of a certain high academic caliber, having built up a reputation for preparing students well for medical school. After completing half a semester here, however, all my expectations have been surpassed.

The first and most prominent thing that truly blew my expectations away was the level of attentiveness that each of us in the program receives from faculty and staff. Because the program limits each incoming class size, the faculty and staff are easily accessible. In contrast to feeling like just another set of statistics at a big school, this program allows each student to feel like a significant contributing factor. It makes the process of getting to know professors much easier, and establishing connections with them is no longer a task, but comes naturally. Being on a first name basis with professors and faculty members is standard practice. Although this took me a couple of weeks to get used to, it has shifted how I view the professor-student dynamic. Rather than thinking of professor as the superior teacher and myself as the mere learner, EMU emphasizes a philosophy of learning where both professor and student engage actively and cooperatively in the learning environment.

Being a student in the Master’s in Biomedicine program has already, in just the few weeks I’ve been here, opened up a variety of opportunities to help me on this journey to medical school. At a recent graduate school fair, I spoke to many representatives from health professional schools from around the region and beyond. In many of these instances, the school’s representative knew of EMU’s Biomed program and gained more interest in our conversation at the mere mention of it. One medical school, in particular, was keen on offering further assistance to me as a Biomed student in search of shadowing opportunities, providing me with contact info for their recent grads who had opened private practices in the region. This kind of open door to a networking opportunity is just one example of what being an EMU student can offer, beyond just the classroom. In addition to exposure to a wealth of networking opportunities, I, like every student in the program, receive tailored advising personalized to our goals. This invaluable advising is a luxury that can only be offered in the midst of an intimate student body.

Among perhaps the best part of the program is the friendships that are established that are sure to last a lifetime. Being a part of a smaller program has afforded an environment in which it is feasible to get to know everyone else. Relaxing social activities are easy to plan, from movie nights to a night of good food and conversation. Aside from an encouraging peer group, there is an abundance of knowledge to draw on from the upper-class members who are continually available to assist. With such a rich assortment of resources available to utilize, I’m eager to see the prospects being a biomed student will afford.

Top 10 Learning Tips

1. STUDY WITH FRIENDS
This offers accountability. Choose the right friends but not the type that will distract your studies. I’m not saying you should study in the same room together but just go together for support. Find that kid that sits at the front of the class asking all those questions and meet with them weekly. Make sure you know what they know and there is a good chance you will excel in that class.

2. SIT IN THE FRONT
If you don’t think this is important check out these papers (Giles, 1982) (Rennels & Chaudhari, 1988) showing improved grades the closer you are to the front. This minimizes distraction, offers better vision and hearing, and forces you to stay awake or suffer embarrassment. You’ll make some friends up there with bright futures and maybe someone who can fix your broken computer.

3. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Repetition, repetition, repetition. Some say repeating 7-20 times commits something to memory. If you are a visual learner like I am, draw pictures or charts over and over. Sing a song with the words.

4. STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Quiet or loud as you please. Library, home, coffee shop, or outdoors. Often times, little cues in our environment subconsciously assist our learning.

5. MNEMONICS AND DRAWINGS
Get as crazy as you can with these. The crazier the more likely you will remember but don’t go too far and over mnemonicize yourself so you have to start having to make mnemonics to remember mnemonics.

6. STAY AFTER CLASS
You would be amazed at how much goodies the professor gives away at the end of class to those who stick around. Believe it or not, professors like to have a nice curve in grades. They don’t want to be too easy or too hard so they will reward a group of motivated students. Those who stick out will be noticed by the professor and they are likely to be those who ask questions at the end of class. Even more impressive is if you go to the front after class just to listen to other’s questions.

7. TURN IT OFF
I’m talking cell phones and computers. These are now the biggest distractions in class. I’d recommend you go ole school and print out the notes and grab a pen and write.

8. GET A MENTOR
Become friends with an upperclassman who successfully passed these classes. Ask them for advice or old notes.

9. SUMMARIZE FIRST
Look at the big picture before delving in. This goes for everything on your track to becoming a doctor or a specialist or life in general. When reading, read the chapter summary first. Before reading the book, read the back cover or the preface. Before taking a course read the description. Before going the premed route, speak to or shadow doctor. I find this similar to watching a movie trailer prior to jumping into the movie. There is a better chance you won’t be unpleasantly surprised if you first get a general idea beforehand.

10. QUESTIONS!
Mimicking any situation prepares you like nothing else. If you are asked in advance to take a half-court shot at half-time of a basketball game for $1,000, would you go there without any practice or would you be launching that ball all day and night in preparation? Again practice makes perfect.

And don’t forget to rest.

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