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Medical School Admissions Webinar Featuring Dr. Quinn Capers

Medical School Admissions Webinar Featuring Dr. Quinn Capers

Dr. Quinn Capers, Associate Dean of Admissions at Ohio State University joined us for January 2018’s PreMed STAR webinar. This webinar featured one and a half hours full of high yield questions that premeds need to know… directly submitted by all of you! This webinar covers grades, post bacc programs, MCAT, clinical shadowing and more, all from an admission dean’s perspective.

Thank you so much to all of you attended and shared your premed related questions. Thanks to all of you and Dr. Capers, the webinar was an incredible success. If you weren’t able to make it, or if you’d like to watch the broadcast again, check out our recording at the  bottom of this post.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get through all of your questions submitted at registration. As promised, here are Dr. Capers’ responses!

1. What would you suggest for mature applicants (out of school for 7 years with work experience as a Military Officer)

Medical school admissions committees want to see that you have acquired experience in leadership, community service, and health-care related experiences. If you were able to do these while working, great! If not, start working to accumulate at least 50-100 hours of community service. Some medical schools have an “expiration date” for completing prerequisite courses. If it has been 7 years or more since you completed Gen Chemistry, Org Chemistry, Biology, Physics, you may want to check with each school (just call the admissions office.) If your prerequisites have “expired”, you will need to either enroll in a formal post-baccalaureate premed program (preferred) or take individual courses on your own. Then, I would strongly suggest a formal MCAT prep program.

2. What is your advice for ultra non traditional prospective med students (>50). I’m committed.

The same as above; if you are serious about it, start accumulating the experiences, you may need to update your premed prerequisite courses, take the MCAT, and you are off to the races. Do know, however, that if it takes more than one year to prepare to apply, that this will be added to 7 years (4 years of medical school + 3 years of residency). So, whatever your age now, add 8-9 years; that will be the age when you are finally ready to start practicing. If you are OK with this, go for it! If not, consider another health profession, like RN or PA.

3. I am a non-traditional student. I have shown an upward trend from undergrad and graduate studies. How does Ohio State COM weigh graduate GPA vs undergraduate GPA?

Graduate courses are strongly considered, as is an upward trend.

4. How do you set yourself apart in the MD/PhD candidate pool?

 MD/PhD candidates must display fitness to pursue the MD, so they should have the same strong experiences, personal attributes, and academic performance as MD candidates. Additionally, to be competitive they will need a strong research background (publications not required). The letter of recommendation from your research PI is weighed very heavily.

5.  Is it more beneficial to be at a smaller college and do very well or to be at a larger more prestigious institution and do worse? 

Remember that all students, no matter what college they attend, will take the MCAT. This makes differences in individual college’s reputations and perceived prestige less important. Going to a “prestigious” college does give some advantage, but a student at a less prestigious college who posts an outstanding MCAT score and has a strong experiences portfolio can wipe out the advantage. Go to the best college “for you.”

6.  Do schools take into consideration if a student had severe hardship/family loss that effected their grades? 

Yes. You must explain it, both in your essay and in person if you get an interview. Not necessarily all of the intimate details, but enough of the story so that they understand why your academic record suffered. It will be necessary for you to demonstrate that your academic performance “recovered” after your hardship.

7. Do med schools view mental health struggles students faced? Is it frowned upon/stigmatized? 

Medical school admissions committees do not ask about your health issues; the only way they know about it is if you tell them. However, once you bring it up, it is fair game for them to ask about it. I would think very hard before getting too detailed about your medical history. It may suffice to simply say that you “had some health issues” that have now resolved. Have a trusted person, like a premed advisor or a physician that you shadowed read a draft of your essay.

8. What makes an application stand out above all others? 

You will be judged based on a balanced consideration of your experiences, attributes, and academic metrics. Work hard now to be sure that you are strong I all 3 areas. What makes it standout is the uniqueness of you; you are the only person on planet earth just like you. Tell your story.

In my opinion the necessary ingredients for a strong personal statement are:

-You must state that you want to be a physician

-You must answer the question “Why” you want to be a physician

-You must tell the reader your personal story of how you made that decision


Congratulations to Nga! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I was born in Vietnam and moved to Texas when I was four years old. Growing up, my mother and sister always taught me the importance of helping others. Even though our neighborhood was in a poor area, the neighbors always helped each other. Our neighborhood consisted mainly of immigrants that came from all parts of the world. When there was a new neighbor, we gave groceries as presents. When there was a holiday, we all gathered at one house to celebrate and to share food. From fixing a light bulb to visiting the elderly, the kids in my neighborhood were all taught how to love and help others.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher was my Art teacher in fourth grade, Ms. Short. She was so passionate about art, and the way her eyes lighted up when she taught made all the difference. Our elementary school consisted mainly of children from low-income families, so she always brought small snacks for us during our after-school Art program. When Ms. Short found out that my mother could not take me to the Art museum because of financial reasons, she came over to my home and took me to the Art museum where my art done in class was being exhibited. Ms. Short was kind and selfless; an example that every student should have.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  When I was seven years old, my father was taken away. My mother became a single mother, and my sister had to move away for college. I suddenly did not feel safe at home. Every time I was sick though, my mother always made time to take me to the doctor either herself or asked someone else to. When I was at the doctor’s office, I always felt safe. I knew that the doctors and the staff there truly cared about me and my well being. I knew that I would start feeling better soon, and my trust in my doctor never faded. Even if the visit was just thirty minutes total, the warm feeling of safety lasted after the visit.

Therefore I would like to provide that same safety and reassurance for others. I would like all my patients to feel safe and taken cared of. Although I had the passion early on, I had no work experience in health care growing up. I decided to attain a health-related bachelors degree first and get more experience so I can better understand the health care system. I graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing and worked as a registered nurse for three years to gain more medical experience. Throughout the years, I have loved being in health care. I worked in oncological surgery, cardiovascular, and a transplant unit. After 12 to 15 hour days, I know that if I still enjoyed what I do, that means I truly love health care. I loved being a nurse, but my original and main goal is to become a doctor. I have known this fact for many years now, and I know that with the right hard work and being surrounded by the right supportive people like in PreMed STAR, I can make my dreams come true.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Honestly, right now there are so many! I am interested in family medicine and internal medicine. I am shadowing an internal medicine physician right now, and everyday is something new. I like dermatology, because I worked at U.T. M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and saw how the dermatological conditions can be manifested from either an external or internal pathway. I like nephrology and cardiovascular, because these two systems work so well together to balance the body’s homeostasis. I shadowed a hepatologist and thoroughly liked my experience. I like respiratory, because the conditions of how we breathe and the factors related truly affect our body’s pH and all of our organs. I am currently shadowing a pulmonologist, and I am learning so much.
So currently, I am very open-minded about the different fields of medicine.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? This will sound strange to some, but I find the struggles of the premedical journey very inspiring. The balance of studying for classes, working, finding physicians to shadow, building networks, volunteering, and many, many other things has pushed my mental strength and physical strength to only make me stronger. Any challenge, any obstacle that I endured or am enduring is exciting to me, because I know that in the end, I will be an even more resilient person than the person I was yesterday.

6. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes. I read this book in middle school as a class assignment, and I really liked how the main characters develop. The book made me laugh, cry, and feel empathy towards the characters. The book dives into the topics of intelligence, emotions, and the bonding that humans have with each other and to animals.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I like to volunteer as a teacher! With my nursing degree, I was able to have jobs that were also outside the scope of health. Teaching was one of them. I was a site director for a while for an after school program, and I volunteer as a teacher for Junior Achievement. I have volunteered with Junior Achievement for years now, and I love how I can teach students about all their possibilities of careers when they grow up. I purposefully choose schools in underserved areas, because I know that most of these students have less resources to learn about their possibilities. Lots of students in these areas never get to leave the environment of where they live. So I feel very happy to have the opportunity to show them that with studying hard in school and working hard, they can become whatever they want to be.

8. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? I love that PreMed STAR is such a supportive community. Any time I have a question about the MCAT, GPA, which courses to take, how to study, even emotional support through this rough premedical journey – PreMed STAR is always there for me. There are live webinars, articles, and so many other things for a premedical student like myself to learn from. Thank you so much for having PreMed STAR.

Shadowing Experiences and Tips

Hello everybody! I wanted to start a new forum/blog regarding the topic of shadowing. Many Pre-Medicine students have been struggling to find opportunities to shadow and I would like everybody who have had success with finding shadowing opportunities to comment on this forum/blog to share their methods and ways to finding shadowing. Let’s collaborate and help each other out!

Here is my personal experience and tips for shadowing. Hopefully this helps students who need help finding shadowing. Feel free to PM me if you have any specific question also!

Shadowing experience 1: Medical Center of the Rockies (MCR) Hospital OR Physicians (Stopped), Loveland, CO

Shadowed different OR surgeons, mostly did night shifts after 4pm as I had a summer internship at the time

How I obtained the shadowing opportunity: I started out by volunteering at the MCR in the ER for about 3 years. Then, I switched over to volunteering in the OR Surgery Front Desk. Instantly, I met all the scrub nurses and had valuable connections with them, since I was in charge of bringing the patients back to the surgical preparation room. There, I asked them if I could shadow the OR surgeons. The next day, I was in the OR. I remember the first surgery I observed was a 5-hour long surgery (Lumbar Laminectomy for Spinal Stenosis) that lasted from 5 – 10pm.

A few weeks later I met Dr. Warren Schutte.

Shadowing experience 2: Dr. Warren Schutte MD, Plastic Surgeon, Front Range Plastic Surgery (Continuing), Loveland, CO

Shadowed a private practice under Dr. Schutte. I was absolutely amazed at his technical abilities to use his hands in complex ways to turn something that looked horrendous to an end product that looked beautiful. For example, I observed him surgically remove a tumor from a patient’s breast and then suture it back together so it looked like a regular breast again. It only took him 1.5 hours! I also got a ton of observation on what it is like to have good bedside manners by following him around to patients.

If you are interested about his practice, this is his website:

How I obtained the shadowing opportunity: I met him in the MCR OR during a day I was shadowing. He had to stop by MCR for a quick consult. It was probably the luckiest day of my life. Meeting him was a godsend as I suddenly had a mentor. I’ve learned so much from him.

Shadowing experience 3: Denver Health Teaching Hospital Cardiology Residents and Attending Physicians (Continuing), Denver, CO

Shadowed residents and attendings at Denver Health. I wanted a shadowing place closer to my college (Golden, CO) had a blast coming into the hospital at 7am to listen into pre-rounds. I realized even residents make mistakes when diagnosing patients during the pre-rounds!

Then, rounds would begin and I would follow a group of 3 residents with an attending to 7-10 patients. I got to listen to a patient’s irregular heartbeat through a stethoscope and even got to practice one of their techniques by pushing on the abdomen to see if the carotid artery would dilate. It was a great experience overall and I got to talk to many residents!

How I obtained the shadowing opportunity: It took me about 3 months to get everything ready to go for shadowing here. I was actually the first person to shadow at this teaching hospital that was a Pre-Med student. Everybody thought I was a medical student the first day I joined them. A lot of talking on the phone and just taking the initiative to follow up and continue expressing my interest in shadowing cardiology! I learned that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So don’t be afraid or embarrassed!

Shadowing experience 4: Colorado Children’s Hospital (University of Colorado Medical School Afflicted Hospital) – Orthopedic Pediatric Surgery (Continuing)

I am planning to shadow Dr. Mark Erickson MD (Orthopedic Pediatric Surgeon) during Spring Break of 2018 to learn about Orthopedic Pediatric Surgery. Paperwork has been turned in, just waiting on the confirmation! It will be exciting to see what it is like to be a surgeon for children.

Interesting fact: Dr. Mark Erickson operated on me when I was young and he was the one who planted a seed in my head about becoming a physician. How cool would it be to finally come full circle and shadow him?

How I obtained the shadowing opportunity: Again, just calling. This shadowing program required an application and a personal statement. I was happy to spend the time to do this as I knew this opportunity would be amazing for me.

That’s it for now! As a side note, I have had no initial connections with medicine prior to these shadowing experiences. My parents are not doctors and I didn’t know anyone that were physicians prior. In this way, if you are a Pre-Medicine student reading this post wanting to get started on shadowing, be confident in yourself and trust the process! Be curious and don’t be afraid to open your mouth!

Let me know if I can be of assistance in helping you find your shadowing opportunities!

My question for you all is the following: For those who have had experience with shadowing, what are some tips and strategies to obtain shadowing, so that others can learn? For those who want help finding shadowing, what challenges do you think are hindering your success in finding shadowing opportunities?

Don’t Do These 5 Things When Applying to Medical School

If you’re like most premeds, the application process frightens you!  It’s extremely daunting.  Every ‘t’ crossed and ever ‘i’ dotted.  One misspelled word and you’re done!  Your application gets tossed out.  Well, maybe it’s not that serious. 

I happen to know someone who wrote the wrong school name in her secondary essay, and she still got accepted to that school!  Now, I’m not encouraging you to do that.  As a matter of fact, I’m telling you NOT to do that.    Here is a list of 5 things NOT to do when applying to medical school.

  1. Don’t Procrastinate. You need to start today!  The reality of the situation is that the application process begins the moment you declare yourself as a premedical student.  Even if you haven’t reached the point in time when you are completing the paperwork, the process is already underway.  Make sure you know what you need to do, and when you need to do it.  Now, regarding the paperwork (i.e. the electronic application submission), you need to be prepared to fill this out before the application even opens.  Make sure your PreMed STAR profile is complete so when the application does open, you’ll be ready to simply copy everything over.
  2. Don’t Exaggerate. Remember that time when you scaled Mount Everest with 1 hand tied behind your back then performed CPR on a grizzly bear?  Ummm….NO!  Perhaps I took it a little too far, but you get the point.  Be honest!  There’s no use in embellishing your story.  In this day and age, technology makes it too easy for people to figure you out.  When you make it to your interview rounds, you don’t want to be that kid stumbling over their words when the interviewer asks you to explain a story you exaggerated.  This can get you into big trouble.  Always be as factual as possible.
  3. Don’t Cut Corners. In other words, be complete!  Be complete in checking for errors.  Be complete in filling everything out.  Be complete in explaining your experience.  I recommend you have a least two other people review your entire application prior to submitting it.  If you cut corners on the application, what’s to make the admission committee believe you won’t cut corners as a physician?
  4. Don’t Apply Blindly. It is very important that you do your research on medical schools before you apply.  This application process can become very expensive very quickly.  Apply to schools that you’d be willing to go to.  Apply to schools that you believe you have a shot at being accepted to.  Apply to schools that share your values.  Do your due diligence, before clicking that submit button.
  5. Don’t Quit! It’s a long journey to become a medical doctor.  I remember staring at that application and trying to make sure everything was perfect.  At times, it can seem a bit much.  This is a very resource intense process and it’s easy to wonder why you’re investing so much into it, with no guarantee of acceptance.  Let me encourage you to chase your dreams!  Now that I’m on the other end, I can tell you that it was well worth it!  Just be sure you’re doing the rights things and setting yourself up for success.  Hang in there friend.  Don’t quit!

Did any of these 5 don’ts resonate with you?  If so, which one?  What other “don’ts” do you have?


*Image credit pixabay

Congratulations to Ashley! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.   My name is Ashley and I attend University of North Georgia with a Major in Biology. I love animals, spending time with friends and family, and helping others. It is my dream to become a Medical Scientist and research Autoimmune diseases like MS. It is also my goal to make a positive impact on the world by traveling to different countries and pursuing Medical Missions.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher was my 5th grade teacher. I wasn’t a very good student when it came to Math and Science. My teacher Ms. J encouraged me. She told me that I was intelligent and that I can be whatever I want to be. This really impacted me to work hard and improve my grades.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  It all happened when my Grandfather was dying. I was 8 years old when my Grandfather passed. He was like a father to me since my own wasn’t around that much. I used to help take care of him along with my Grandmother. That’s when I knew that I wanted to be a Doctor. I loved the feeling of caring for someone. I got interested in Medical Sciences when my Sister got Diagnosed with MS in 2015. I grew more intrigued with Autoimmune diseases and how they show up in the body. There is no cure for MS, and there are multiple explanations of how it starts.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Medical Sciences, Global Science, and Pediatrics. I am interested in all three categories.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  I had a little research experience from my Chemistry professor a year ago. He taught me about different skills such as pipetting.

6. What is your favorite book?  My favorite book is Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson. It’s the Autobiography of the famous Pediatric Neurosurgeon. Him and I seem to have several things in common. He empowers me to become a Doctor after reading his story.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.   Most people don’t know that I can sing. I also love to listen to music. Opera is my favorite! I listen to it while I do my class work.

8. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?  I really enjoy interacting with people who have similar goals and dreams to mine. I also like coming together as a online community and encouraging others. It’s hard when your by yourself trying to figure out your path to Medicine. It can get overwhelming, if you don’t no where to begin. But with PreMed STAR, it gives you relief to know that there are others in similar situations. We are all figuring out this Medical journey together!!


How to Get an Excellent Letter of Recommendation

If you’re like most premeds, just the thought of requesting a rec letter makes you nervous.  It’s kind of like asking someone out on a first date.  Even if you’ve known the person for a long time, there’s always that fear of rejection.

Well, here’s the deal, it doesn’t have to be that way!  I’ve asked for enough rec letters, and I’ve also been asked enough times to know that there’s a good way to do it, and there’s a bad way to do it. You want the former.  If you do your part ahead of time, you won’t have to worry about anybody telling you no.

Here are 3 basic steps to help you get excellent letters of recommendation for your medical school application.

Step 1:  Start Building Your Relationship on Day One

This is where most premedical students drop the ball.  They can’t get great letters because nobody knows them well enough (your parents don’t count).  The moment you decide that you are premed is the moment you should intentionally begin building relationships with people qualified to write your medical school rec letters.  As much as I wish there was a way around this, there simply isn’t.  If you want a great letter, you must have a great relationship.

Step 2: Ask Early & Ask for Greatness!

Six months in advance!  That’s when you should be contacting your letter writers to make this request. It’s important to keep in mind that you’re likely not the only person asking your professor or lab supervisor for a rec letter.  These individuals are busy enough as it is, and the rec letters are additive, “non-essential” work.  In other words, if they don’t write your letter, they’ll feel bad, but likely won’t get fired from their job.  That being the case, your rec letter may not be at the top of their priority list.  This is why you must ask early and get to the front of the line.  Students who ask after you will have to take the back seat.  Also, if you ask early, your letter writer will have no good reason not to submit your letter on time.

Great & Excellent!  It is rare that a premedical student uses either of these words when asking me for a letter.  On the other hand, I never ask someone for a letter unless I use one of these words.  Be bold and make the ask.  Keep in mind, the default letter is good.  That being the case, good becomes average.  You need your letter to be great!  Don’t be scared to explicitly request this.

Step 3: Send Supplemental Material

Sometimes, us letter writers need to have our brains jogged.  We interact with a lot of students and can’t remember everything about everyone.  So, do yourself a big favor and send over some information to remind us who you are.  Send over your CV (you can download your PreMed STAR profile from the portfolio tab) and if you’ve written your personal statement, send that as well.  This will help us write a letter that better reflects who you are.

Rec letters are extremely important. Medical school admission committee members don’t have the opportunity to interact with you much, therefore they must rely on what others tell them.

What other tips have you heard of, or used to get great rec letters?  Share your comments!


**Premeds, login or register HERE for free.  PreMed STAR is the online recruitment network for premedical students.  You build your premedical profile…we’ll showcase it to medical schools.


*Image credit pixabay

Congratulations to Quanitria

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Hello, I’m Quanitria most people call me Nena I love to help encourage others to continue to push for there dreams no matter how big or small. I love to take on challenges no matter how overloaded my schedule is however I love to do it with passion. I’m a former college student and will be graduating in May afterwards will begin to prepare for the MCAT.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher in high-school was Mrs. Haley an anatomy teacher at the time I was team captain on the track-field. I remember one day actually skipping a little of practice just to help dissect a pigs brain. I was truly fascinated and shocked that I was eager to dissect than to go practice on the track field.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? Well it was not planned in the beginning I remember being a senior in high school and remembering of how the human body intrigued me and no matter how many classes I had taken that semester I would always seek interest in this subject. I remember this huge project that was due at the end of the semester that everyone talked about and it scared them to actually take the class because of it. I actually procrastinated and did it within two days and excelled. I did it very well that she kept it and I was able to help others that was not doing so well in the class.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  Neuroscience or cardiologist those are the most complicated intriguing parts of the body that we still have a lot to understand about.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?  Attending an ASCB conference in Philadelphia last fall I was able to present my research.

6. What is your favorite book?   A child called it

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  I’m a vegetarian and I love to teach children ages 2 to 5 within my church and public library.  I read Spanish books to them.

8. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? I love this website and app because its authentic, its my second home. Most of all its encouraging, impacting and uplifting I’m grateful for being able to have an opportunity to obtain great advice from people all across the world that are trying to become great authentic people. I love that PreMed STAR encourages you to follow your heart, dreams and become who you are. This is a wonderful opportunity for others to network and be encouraged by the success of others, but also know their own dreams can be fulfilled with consistency, dedication and motivation.

Basic Study Methods Tips

As pre-medical students, we are often faced with the challenge of understanding various complex concepts, which span from the biological sciences right into the chemical and physical foundations on which they stand. In our efforts to drive this information into our heads, we find that there are many ways to do this, some which work better than others. Some of us use note cards, some do problem after problem, while others resort to memorizing every word in the text. The study methods that we use depend on both our learning style and the material being studied. Unfortunately, we do not stride right into college with effective habits; instead, we have to develop these on our own. As a general biology and organic chemistry tutor, I’ve had the opportunity to witness both the methods that appear to be effective, as well as those that are not. The process of developing your own study methods can be a hard and frustrating one, and my intentions in this short blog are to give new college students, as well as those of you who are a bit more seasoned, grounding on which to start developing and refining your own methods.

Don’t just memorize, conceptualize:

Contrary to what many of us may have heard from our high school teachers and college professors, memorization is more important than we think, especially in the sciences. The reason there is so much angst over the idea of memorization is because the word often elicits an image of students mindlessly memorizing terms, which have no significance to them. This sort of studying is often seen in students who don’t want to spend time understanding the material and are most concerned with “just getting through the exam.” The last thing that you want to do is memorize a bunch of terms without seeing the big picture, so you have to be mindful when using the method of memorization.

Start this method with study cards; memorize all the terms and definitions associated with one specific concept, not perfectly, but sufficiently enough to be comfortable when seeing them. From here, we start the real learning. Now it is time to connect all of these terms that you have been memorizing. Without looking at your cards too much, start to create concept maps on your own. For example, if you are studying the organelles of the cell, you could start by memorizing all of the terms and definitions (nucleus, nuclear pores, ribosomes, rough ER etc.). Then move on to understanding how these work together. You could connect the functions of these organelles by saying that the nucleus is the site of RNA synthesis; this newly synthesized RNA leaves the nucleus through the nuclear pores and enters the rough ER, where ribosomes translate the RNA into proteins, which are sent to the Golgi apparatus to be modified, and so on. At this point you not only have the terms memorized, but you have a solid understanding of how they relate to each other. This method of memorization followed by conceptualization is something I have seen bring much success to the students that I tutor, as well as myself.

Don’t forget to read the textbook!

In many of our classes, we have the horrid textbook. The textbook is long, boring, and can be quite overwhelming. The truth is, this seemingly endless book is actually your best friend. Textbooks provide us with a detailed, step-by-step understanding of the material, which is blown through by our professors, who often fly through the material faster than we can take notes. Our textbook will stand on every word, create detailed concept maps, and repeat itself to us over and over again until we understand the material inside and out. Our textbook is always there to help us get through the concepts; all we have to do is open it.

Once we pry this beast open, we can start solidifying our understanding of the concepts on which our lectures are based. While in the text, there are a few things that can make our time most effective. First, let’s break out a highlighter or a pencil; now we focus on highlighting main points, key words, and details that we did not see in lecture. Don’t get carried away with this, only highlight what you feel is absolutely necessary. Also, whenever we see something in the text that was not discussed by our professor, we should make note of it and ask them about it after class or during office hours. Lastly, we have to be sure to read actively; we can’t simply read the words without interacting with the text. We have to constantly take notes in our books, noting connections, questions, and our reactions to the material. Interacting with the text will insure that we don’t spend hours reading the text, to remember only the last paragraph that we just finished reading 30 seconds ago. With that being said, the textbook is our friend, and it will take its time to make sure we understand all of the material sped through in lecture; we just have to be patient enough to read it.

Seal the deal with active studying:

Though making study cards and reading the text are essential to understanding the material we are studying, these methods should not be used alone. The purpose of creating study cards and reading the text is to develop a fundamental understanding of the concepts. These passive methods give us a basic grounding in the material so we can begin applying our knowledge, analyzing new and related knowledge, and synthesizing your own ideas. This is where active studying comes to replace our passive methods. When we study actively, we seal the deal; we bring our literal knowledge of the concepts to life.

Methods of active studying vary with the course being taken. Let’s start with courses like chemistry and physics. In these courses, we not only have to understand the basic concepts, but we have to apply what we know to solve new problems as well. In these courses it is essential that we spend a good amount of our post-passive study time doing problems. For this method, it may be worth investing in a white board; I often find myself most capable of organizing my thoughts about a problem when I take it from my notebook paper, and lay it out on the larger whiteboard.

Active studying also has its place in those courses that don’t involve the level of problem solving seen in physics and chemistry. It is in our biology courses that we don’t have to solve long, drawn out problems, but often have to apply our knowledge to answer questions that stem from the same basic concepts presented in lecture. Unlike most biology courses in high school, university-level biology courses no longer call on us to simply memorize the material. We have to know the material enough to be able to apply our understanding to situations that were not discussed in class. In order to be able to handle these types of questions, we have to take our study methods to the next level. We have to begin to create detailed concept maps, which describe not only individual details, but the big picture behind the concept itself. For example, if you were studying glycolysis, after you understand the pathway and what it is responsible for, you want to fit it into a larger context. In doing this, you may explain to yourself how it fits into metabolism as a whole, and what other pathways it is connected to (e.g. synthetic, aerobic and anaerobic pathways). You can even go as far as looking into what happens when this pathway is not working properly, or missing essential reactants and or enzymes. This is just one of many ways which could be used to look at the information we are studying from a broader perspective. As future doctors, active studying can help build those critical thinking skills which are essential to the career we plan to enter.


Image Credit: Pixabay

Would I Choose Medicine Again

It seems that over the past year or so, there has been an onslaught against the field of medicine by none other than medical doctors!  Facebook is inundated with blogs written by disgruntled docs who at times seem to be on a mission to worsen the physician shortage.  Certainly I agree that there are aspects of entering the medical field that pre-meds should know such as long work hours and debt incurred, but what’s with the obsession of attacking our field.  Is it really that bad????  Well, since it seems that nobody else is doing it, allow me to be the one to say….I’d Do It All Over Again!  Below is my list of 5!  Five reasons I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

5) Money: It is funny that so many blog posts of late have criticized the pay of physicians and our level of debt.  The truth is we still have more wealth than 95% of Americans.  Just because we do not make as much as we would like to make does not mean we don’t’ make a lot of money.  Would I be a doctor if I got paid 30 thousand dollars a year…..the honest answer……No, I wouldn’t.   So the level of pay is definitely a plus.

4) Job Security:  This sounds shallow but it is true.  As long as we live in this broken world, there will always be sick patients for me to care for.  One thing is for certain, we are all going to die one day and the majority of us will see doctors along the way.  Obamacare, fee for service, socialized medicine…it doesn’t matter what kind of payer system we develop…at the end of the day, our services will be in demand and we will have a job.  As physicians we can complain about the field all we want, but the vast majority of us would rather have this job security than not have it!

3) Intellectually Stimulating:  It is VERY hard for me to think of another field as stimulating as medicine.  What we often fail to realize is that medicine is more than biology and chemistry.  This profession includes ethics, mathematics, technology, spirituality, etc. I challenge you to find an aspect of life that a physician does not encounter.  Each day I face new challenges that stimulate my brain.  Each day I learn something new.  Each day I say WOW!

2) It Is an Honor:  We very often fail to realize the privileges we are granted as Medical Doctors.  As a 30 year old black man, an 80 year old white woman might tell me her deepest secrets, secrets that  her husband of 60 years  might not even know (I do not this endorse this, but it’s just the way it is).  What other arena of life does this occur in???  We are entrusted with our patient’s most sacred information.  More times than I can remember I have been told by patients’ and family members to do what I think is best in any given situation.  The conversation often goes like this.  “Your husband is dying and I can still offer him X,Y, and Z.  If you do not want to pursue those options we can let him die comfortably.  How would you like us to proceed?  Well doc, we trust you.  Just do what you think is best”.  To be regarded with such high esteem.  To be entrusted with the life of another human.     What an honor!

1) It Humbles Me:  Let’s face it, doctors are BIG HEADED!!!  Conceited, arrogant, narcissistic aren’t we???  Interestingly, I’ve found that medicine has humbled me beyond expectation. This perhaps is what I love most about it.   It reminds me of my mortality and to cherish this gift that is life.   At the age of 30, working in the critical care environment, I have seen more people die and told more family members they lost a loved one than most people will in their entire life.  This makes me VERY aware of the reality of death.  You may be wondering why this would make anyone want to be a doctor …but trust me, when you truly understand that death is real and that tomorrow is not promised, you appreciate things in a different light and live in a different manner.   This has done more good for me than I can explain.  It is priceless!

So with an emphatic YES, I’d do it all over again.  It is rare to find a field that offers the combination of these five benefits which I feel are key to establishing a satisfying career.  As always, I leave you with words to consider… “All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” .  Work hard and don’t complain!


Image Credit: Pixabay

Never Lose Sight

Sometimes I like to take snapshots of myself and my environment before life changing events take place. One of those still shots came when I received my acceptance to medical school in 2004 (wow, that was a long time ago!). Those around me wondered why I was not frantically jumping up and down screaming like a mad person. Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic but at the same time understood the new battles I would face. Not necessarily the sleepless nights and tests but also the battle of being true to myself and truly being happy in life. These are the 5 areas I have focused on:

1. Be Humble:
Like many highly esteemed careers, medicine can really get to our heads. I remember so many premed students gaining acceptance to medical school and just being grateful that someone found them worthy enough. Or many students anxiously walking into their first med school class. Years into training some of these very same students have already lost that humility. Medicine, if you think about it is much like a cast system. The more prestigious the school or specialty the easier it is to succumb to this superiority complex. It is also amazing how much power a white coat or two letters behind your name have. People (family, friends, and patients) just as easily can inflate our heads. For many, acceptance into medical school equates to becoming a trophy for others. We have worked extremely hard to get to this position, but never let it make you look down on others. We must always look back and remember how grateful we were just to serve in this profession. Stay humble.

2. Don’t Let Others Change Your Goals:
A huge problem people face during medical training is not knowing how to manage outside influence. There are great mentors one can benefit from but then there are others who attempt to sway you towards a life you are not meant to live. I have witnessed so many friends being encouraged to pursue a different field than what they are drawn to simply because it makes more money, is more prestigious, or will benefit that particular person (may be expecting free healthcare from you). I’ve even seen people discourage people from medicine altogether. I’ve seen some forced to live a certain lifestyle above their means (built on loans) and some forced to marry a particular type of person. People assume many things about your life when you are in medicine and some will begin to live your life for you if you let them. It is important to discern advice from others because in the end you will have to live with those decisions.

3. Don’t Forget Where You Come From:
Medicine can be very time consuming but never forget your family and friends. Most of us can find refuge here. Its great when they offer that support you need from them but remember you too should support them (attend weddings, baby showers, birthdays, etc). Unfortunately, some close contacts don’t understand the demands of medicine and as you lose some others come in. Give back to your community as well by mentoring or volunteering. It’s amazing how many premeds spend hours upon hours volunteering in the community but when they finally get into medical school or residency they drop it like a bad habit. Sadly, sometimes we have selfish motives behind our good works.

4. Live Your Life:
Many people delay so much during medical school. Some are for good reasons yet all will affect you in the long run. “I’ll wait to get married… to have children… to take that arts and crafts class… etc.” The truth is this God given life is so precious and it will go on with or without you. You don’t want to regret anything at the end of your training. It’s all about balancing things because there will never be a “perfect time, place, or person” for any of your plans. The type A, perfectionist, calculative personality traits many doctors have can really hurt us in the long run. It would be great to live long enough to see your great grandchildren. You also don’t want to be that woman in her mid-30s who waited all this time to have children and find yourself rushing against your fertility clock. I have spent some time training in an infertility clinic and the attending shakes his head every time he sees a women in their late 30s wanting fertility assistance (very $$$). The sad part is many of them are in high demanding careers such as medicine. Time always beats out brains.

5. Keep Your Faith:
Again, time restraints and numerous distractions can pull us from this. Personally, I’m Christian and feel this should come first above all in life but many times I did fall short on holding to this during my training primarily due to poor time management. I was encouraged by watching a friend in ENT who would be worshiping in the pews every Sundays, half-asleep, fresh out the OR wearing his scrubs. I’ve seen a lot of people lose sight of real life priorities during their medical training. Many people put career above their faith. I personally would prefer to be identified as a Christian before being identified as a doctor.

At the end of it all the key is to be happy. At least I believe that is most people’s long term goal. Many feel medicine is a means to this happiness. I’ve seen many doctors enjoying life and I’ve seen some very very miserable doctors. Chasing money, power, prestige, or respect will not bring this. I’ve found that sometimes, thinking back to that excited, ambitious, meek, premedical student with that acceptance letter in hand really allows me to better appreciate this journey.


Written By Dr. Daniel

Image Credit: Pixabay


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