Super Star Blogs!

Phi Theta Kappa Induction

I am proud to be a new member of this great organization. 

102 BRCC students were inducted into the Beta Mu Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society – the international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs, particularly state colleges and community colleges.

Generation Z: You’ve Got Next

I took a second to review my surroundings during a clinic lunch one day. Another young provider was engaged in conversation with the guest speaker. A seasoned, middle-aged nurse quietly ate her meal while glancing at the materials. At the end of the table, two young nurses and a shadowing premedical student sat with their eyes glued to their cell phones. Another provider nearing retirement age was nowhere to be found. As usual, he was still in clinic booked through most of his lunch break. This really got me thinking about generational dynamics and its impact on medicine.

What generation are you?


I am not a fan of lumping large groups into a box but I am also not ignorant to the fact that generalizations and assumptions are at times helpful. As a proud 80’s baby, I guess I am considered one of those millennials or “Gen Y” guys. Recently, we millennials have been plagued with not so flattering adjectives such as lazy, impulsive, disengaged, and of course… entitled. However, we are also positively recognized for being accepting, tech savvy, resourceful, and entrepreneurial. My generation has entered the workforce over the past decade and have had to navigate through the stock market crash, housing bubble, social changes and borderless wars. At the same time, those of us who have chosen to be physicians are finding our way through a rapidly evolving medical field. Speaking to premeds across the country, I have come to realize that many are now classified as the generation Z or post-millennial cohort. As emerging adults, some of you are college students and others are nontraditional students attempting to find yourselves. We will soon be welcoming you into the profession so I thought I would briefly share three key areas I have observed across the past few generations.


Communication:

This is one of the most overlooked area I have observed in medicine. The fact that a team spanning 3-4 generations are now able to share the same clinic space, there is bound to be some type of conflict. I still feel uncomfortable hearing staff or patients who are baby boomers call me “sir”. I have learned to kindly accept this from them but never allow it to puff up my head. Some older staff are not welcoming of change and want things done the way they’ve always been while many millennials want a more modernized surrounding. I believe the younger members should occasionally set their gadgets aside and learn from the older staff about their interesting cases and techniques. Medicine to some baby boomers and generational X docs has shifted from an art to cookbook medicine. I also think the older staff can spend time with the younger ones in order to learn about tools that can enhance their style of care. Too often, these bridges are not formed and we stay in our own generational worlds.

As a physician, your communication with the patient is demonstrated through your bedside manner. I had an elderly patient last week look at me in awe as I auscultated her lungs. Soon afterwards, she smiled at me and said, “I was just so shocked that you young docs these days still do that.” Apparently, she and many others feel as though they aren’t even touched by the younger physician anymore. Many baby boomers are adapting to the diverse physician body and new tools used. Some are resistant to these changes while others welcome them gladly. There is a constant battle these days for face-to-face interaction with patients heavily due to the electronic medical records with all of the check boxes we must cover during each visit. This has been tough for us millennials but even tougher for the baby boomer and generation X physicians. Unfortunately, a number of seasoned docs have left medicine or have been forced into early retirement due to these changes.

Lifestyle:

This has significantly evolved over the past 50 years. I encourage you to take some time to speak to a baby boomer physician about their medical practice in the 70s or 80s. If you do, I hope you’ve got some time on your hands. Many conversations will start with, “Ahhh, the glory days of medicine, those were the days.” As you listen further you will realize that many of them worked hard. Super hard. Many found their identity in their work and medicine was a very well-respected field. Some would do house calls and there were no safety laws keeping them from performing 24-48 hour shifts as residents. The Sunshine Act was not in effect at the time, so some physicians of that day took vacations on the pharmaceutical company’s dime. Some of you may have physician parents who you rarely saw while growing up. Much of this has now changed as work-life balance has become a priority for many in the gen x and millennial groups. It is important for many of us to be present for our child’s dance rehearsal or soccer game. Many younger docs find positions where they can work part-time to raise a child and some even take on hobbies or side businesses. Dual degrees are becoming more and more common these days as we want the freedom to contribute to the world outside of the clinic as well.


The Future:

There remain a ton of problems with healthcare yet to be solved including expenditures, disparities, access to health, cost of schooling, and physician shortages. Many in the baby boomer and generation X groups feel disengaged in politics and business. Some come across as apologetic that medicine has slipped out of our hands as the local family medicine clinic is bought by the large hospital chain and new laws are placed forcing us to spend more time on notes than with the patient. I remain optimistic that these challenges will improve with my generation and the generation Z. I’m excited to see younger generations display courageous actions in their fight for better gun control laws. My generation faced the Columbine massacre but had little means to express ourselves. We applaud generation Z. I am amazed by premedical students standing up for social injustice at their state capitals. I see young docs and premedical students take the lead in creating apps and nonprofits benefiting hundreds to thousands of people’s health. This leads me to have hope that these problems can and will be solved one day. I am very excited about what you will bring to the field of medicine. 


I’d love to hear what generation you belong to and what ways you think your generation will impact medicine.

Congratulations to Tiana! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Tiana Clemons and I am originally from Chicago, IL but I’ve lived in Michigan for ~10 years. I attended Western Michigan University as an undergraduate and earned 3 Bachelor degrees and 1 Master degree. I am currently a graduate student attending Quinnipiac University and I will apply to medical schools this upcoming cycle. I love to mentor, read and dance.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
My favorite teacher in school and out of it is Life. She has taught me how to be present and considerate while dedicating my time to a commitment.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? 
The youngest I remember wanting to be a doctor was about eight years old. I loved learning about the human body and how different body functions occur. What solidified my decision to becoming a doctor was a lack of satisfaction in pursuing other career paths. No matter what, I somehow came back to medicine and helping patients and their families.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
I am interested in orthopaedic surgery, geriatrics, and cardiothoracic surgery.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
My coolest experience was working with a dementia patient to write a short story about her life. Every time we met she didn’t remember the last meeting, but by the time we finished the book She told me, ” I will never forget you”. That touched me to my soul.

6. What is your favorite book? 
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
My initials are TLC and I think it’s awesome! Tender, Loving, Care is great for a future doctor 🙂

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
Absolutely nothing else – If I could be a doctor and do something afterward, then I would be a mentor and consultant for healthcare policy changes (public interest lobbyist)

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
The biggest obstacle I faced occured during my time as an undergraduate with overextending myself and a lack of resources. School, work, extracurriculars, and life were hard to balance and I didn’t really seek help. Now that I am a graduate student and VERY INTENTIONAL about my path to medical school, I make sure to stay at peace. For example, I positioned myself to solely focus on my graduate courses without a work obligation, I attend office hours, and visit an academic counselor every week. As a result, my first semester I earned a 4.0! I’m in my second semester and working to maintain my GPA while studying for the MCAT. Now that I know I can achieve academic success, I am confident that I can accomplish my goals.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?
I love the sense of community. It’s so vital to this process to know you’re not alone and that we can support each in
accomplishing our professional aspirations.

 

The Essence of Gratitude

Most times, I wonder why the opposite of every good thing exists. Don’t we all strive for a utopian world? Every profession is trying to make the wrong right, the worse better, and the broken fixed. So, why does the other side of the coin counters the endowments and lushness of life? Well, I think the answer can be simplified into a single word. That word is gratitude. For we humans to understand the value of the good, the bad has to permeate our existence.

As we sit right now, in our comfy homes, as the day melts into the night, the world is in chaos. Children are starving due to famine, people are dying from injustice and war, and women are having stillbirths. The list goes on. Understandably, we do not like to think of these world problems because it disrupts our happy bubble. How about if we think of these plights when we stumble in life or when we presume ourselves as failures. Ruminating on these thoughts creates a mindset filled with gratitude. You become appreciative of where you are in life. You give thanks that your circumstances were not any worse, and you move to action or pray for those who are in distress. You slide into a great space where you can set things right and rise above any obstacles. Gratitude makes you content, and contentment makes you happy.

When someone dies, you should be appreciative of life. It may be a day more or a minute more; you have to make it count. If you are rejected from a position, you should be thankful. It may reposition you in a better place to reach for the stars. If you are treated in an unfair manner, be thankful. You now know the importance of kindness. When you become sick, be thankful. You now understand the value of having a sound health.

Gratitude lurks in every darkness, waiting for us to behold its worth. Take a minute and look around you. Now, take another minute and look within. You have all these armies of cells working daily to keep you alive. You have a great network cheering you on to live your best life. You have passions, hobbies, and routines that feed your soul. You have a foundation- your beliefs– which guides your steps. Why would anyone focus on the worst possible outcome? Why would anyone begin to sow seeds of doubts that only bear fruits of fear? Live now and be grateful! Your thoughts will grow into actions, and your actions will create your tomorrow. 

How to Raise a Doctor

Before I get too far into this post, I want to strongly encourage you all to keep your hobbies!  Throughout your career, continue to do the things you love!  For me, one of those things is writing.

A few of you have asked about my book that was recently released.  I decided to drop a short excerpt for you all here and attempted to make the book free for a limited time, but was not allowed to (apparently I can only do that one day in a certain period of time).  So I dropped it as low as they’d let me, just for this weekend in case any of you are interested.  People usually ask how this idea came about.  A few years ago, a young mother reached out to me in desperation.  From what I remember, she was young and single.  Her question was simple, yet potent.  “Dr. Dale” she wrote, “what can I do to help my son become a doctor?”  At that moment, I made a promise to myself to answer this question, not just via a short 50 word reply on Facebook, but by providing something of true and lasting value.  It wasn’t only for her, but for all the other parents and teachers who are asking this exact question.  That is the reason I wrote How to Raise a Doctor.

To answer this mother’s question, I needed some help.  Although I spend a great deal of my time helping students get into medical school, my children are young and I haven’t raised a doctor. Fortunately, I know a lot of people whose parents have.  I asked a bunch of my doctor buddies to connect me with their parents.  I then interviewed and surveyed over 75 of them to learn how they raised physicians.  It was quite the journey and I enjoyed every second of it.  Now, I don’t necessarily plan to raise doctors myself, but my wife and I certainly do intend on raising leaders.  That’s what this book is really about, how to raise a leader.  I’ve drawn on lessons from various physician parents, as well as lessons from my own upbringing.  The result is a practical yet powerful book that’s an easy read full of stories and gems.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest take home points was; don’t raise a doctor!  Below is a short excerpt from chapter 2.  As a special PreMed STAR deal, we’re dropping the price to $2.99 for the next 3 days!  I hope you grab a copy of the book and share it with any friends who might be interested.  If you do, please shoot me a message and let me know.

*I should also mention that PreMed Mondays (my next book) will be out May 1st.  This one is a premed mentorship book and will be very applicable to many of you.

-Dr. Dale

 

How to Raise a Doctor is Available on Amazon

 

Chapter 2: Don’t Raise a Doctor

I know what you’re thinking, I thought this book was about how to raise a doctor, and now this guy is telling me not to raise a doctor! That’s exactly right. I’m telling you to not raise a doctor. Instead, raise a leader, and let that leader become a doctor, lawyer, author, president, or whatever he or she dreams to be. Let that leader change the world for the better! Hone in on your child’s gifts and nurture them to full development. This is what all parents should want for their children.

Would you believe me if I told you most parents I spoke with didn’t set out to raise a doctor? Well, it’s true. Only 22 percent of the doctors’ parents surveyed reported that they intentionally raised their child to become a doctor. This means that the clear majority, 78 percent, did not.

At this juncture, your question is (or should be): Should I intentionally raise my child to become a medical doctor? The fact that you’re reading this book would suggest you might be leaning that way already. I can help you answer the question right now with one finding from my survey. Among the 22 percent of parents who intentionally raised their children to become doctors, 71 percent of the children wanted to be doctors throughout their childhood. So, to answer your question, you should intentionally raise your child to become a doctor if he or she wants to be a doctor.

The Power of Suggestion

Seventy-one percent of the children who were intentionally raised to become doctors wanted to be doctors since childhood. With this finding in mind, the question then arises: Was it the influence of the parents that led these children to dream of careers in medicine, or did the desire truly belong to the child?

It’s true that parents can influence their children to pursue medicine. Mine did. The power of suggestion is a real phenomenon that can change behaviors, beliefs, and desires. To show you just how real it is, I’ll share the work of Dr. Julia Shaw. Dr. Shaw is a psychologist who has done extensive work in the field of memory and suggestion. Her research has shown the world how easy it is to influence the beliefs of other people. In a ground-breaking study, Dr. Shaw interviewed parents of college students to learn about their children’s upbringing. Next, she identified sixty of these students who had never committed a crime, then held a series of three interviews with each of them. The students were under the impression that the study was simply about their childhood memories.  The true objective however, was to see whether or not they could be influenced to believe lies about their past.

During interview one, Dr. Shaw initially discussed true events that had happened to the student. Once they felt comfortable, she introduced a lie pertaining to a crime the student had committed. Initially, students tended to deny the crime, but Shaw used social manipulation techniques such as a childhood friend’s name to make the situation seem real. By the third interview a few weeks later, 70 percent of the students had admitted they committed a crime that never happened. Amazing!

If Dr. Shaw could use the power of suggestion to convince 70 percent of her research subjects that they committed a crime that never even happened, then of course a parent can use this same power of suggestion to influence a child to pursue a career in medicine. The real question is whether or not it matters. Is it a bad thing to influence your children to chase dreams that you believe are magnificent? I don’t think so at all. The desire to achieve anything in life has to come from somewhere.

My daughter is an infant and is unable to plant her own tree. If I take her out to our backyard and plant a seed for her, then let her water and nurture it as she grows older, who does that tree belong to? I’d say it’s hers. By the same token, dreams planted by parents, but developed by children, belong to the children. This is the most important aspect to grasp in this book: the dream must belong to the child.

So, should you use the power of suggestion as a parenting tactic? Absolutely! Doing so would be responsible of you. Expose your children to good things and suggest they consider learning more about them. Remember, I said that you should intentionally raise your child to become a doctor only if he or she wants to become a doctor. The challenge then arises in knowing if your child wants to pursue that path. The only way to find out is for someone to suggest it along the way. What better someone than you?

……….

 

How to Raise a Doctor is Available on Amazon

How I Found My Premed Identity (and Why It’s Important To)

I haven’t been a premed for long. It wasn’t until my senior year of undergrad that I committed myself to becoming a physician. I started my college education undecided/undeclared. Don’t get me wrong; I had always been drawn to the health field. I was in love with the idea of being so closely involved in science and being able to help people feel better. All of the right intentions were there, but it took time for me to grow into the position I am in today. Slowly, as all of us do, I learned more about myself and which role I felt fit me best within the healthcare team. Fast-forward two years. I am still on my journey to getting into medical school but I’ve been fortunate enough to meet one on one with medical students, recruiters, and deans of admissions.

I had gotten the chance to visit a medical school and meet with a dean of admissions that I had met through PreMedSTAR. It was great- we talked about their curriculum, their mission, my interests and goals, as well as the future of health care and health education. At the end of our meeting, I thanked him for his time and asked if he had any advice for someone about to jump into the next application cycle. To my comfort, he said, “Lauren, there’s nothing I can tell you to do that you haven’t already done.” It was reassuring to hear that I was on the right track. But to my surprise, he said the most common mistake premeds make regarding applications is not applying to the right schools. We all know stats can be a strong indicator of how competitive our candidacy is, but more importantly you must be able to connect with their mission.

Each school has a mission statement that summarizes their most important values and core beliefs. Arguably, this may be one of the most important factors to consider. You might have the right GPA and MCAT score, but a school won’t just grant you admission if you don’t seem to share a common mission. So how do you find your premedical mission statement? This takes a lot of introspection.

I sat on this for a while. As I was trying to define my premedical identity, I found it easiest to reflect on my most impactful and valuable experiences over the past few years. I threw myself into research and found myself looking for opportunities to attend and present my findings at conferences. I noticed a lot of the time my mind drifted to how we could apply modern science to investigate current health issues or designing follow up experiments to those discussed in class. I realized how passionate I am about education. I assumed a role as an educator by being a peer tutor throughout school, partaking in community K-12 science outreach programs, and educating my patients on health results and screening guidelines. Lastly, I found gratification in pushing myself out of my comfort zone and becoming a leader. This last one has multiple paths I’m still exploring: leading by example, mentoring, supporting and encouraging my peers, and learning to speak up about issues.

I think by taking the time to define some of the aspects I value the most I found clarity on where I want to go next. I want to build on all of these qualities throughout medical school and incorporate them into my practice as a clinician. It only makes sense for me to go to a medical school where I am able to do that. On the other hand, it only makes sense for a school to really want me if I match what they’re trying to create. All in all, I suppose this was just a roundabout way of saying to remember that this is a two way street. Define your current and future self. Then look for the best opportunities that are going to help you get to where you want to be. 

Congratulations to Meg! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Meg Hammond and I am currently enrolled in a Pre-Med Post Baccalaureate program at the University of Delaware. As a “non-traditional” pre-med student, I graduated from Vassar College with a degree in Psychology and went on to complete my Masters in Public Administration at Marist College. I’ve spent nearly two decades working in the non-profit sector, looking to serve various populations in different ways. I currently work in healthcare administration and finance and am the owner of a consulting business where I provide reimbursement analysis to organizations throughout the United States.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
Two of my math teachers in high school were amazing. They were both strict in their expectations but clear in their instructions. Some people don’t like math because it’s hard to see how it’s applicable to “real life.” Because of them, it was clear that it wasn’t just the math I was learning; I was learning how to think and problem solve. And it is because of them that I never opened the book in my graduate-level statistics course as I knew the material from high school!

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? 
While I have always wanted to help people and have had a love of science, early interactions with physicians put me off the idea of medicine. My first memory of medical “care” is being tied between two foam boards while various medical personnel attempted to draw blood from my six-year-old body. Hardly inspiring, unfortunately.

Then I suffered a serious spinal cord injury. And an osteopathic physician saved my life.

The fact that I initially hobbled into his office and walked out was admittedly impressive and I began to read anything I could get my hands on about Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). The hands-on treatments provided significant pain relief but, more than that, my osteopathic physician showed me that I could be cared for and not just managed. He didn’t treat my MRI results, he treated a person. He showed me that it was possible to practice medicine with compassion and humility. He showed me that a practitioner could possess a broad knowledgebase and skillset that instilled trust. He practiced medicine that allowed for a partnership between doctor and patient when it came to recovery.

Had I not found him, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be another statistic associated with opioid abuse as I would have desperately sourced ways for pain relief.

I was lucky to have found him (and other physicians that have joined me on my journey of recovery) as I had the means and access to appropriate health care; it didn’t seem fair that I was going to be ok and others in equally precarious places of health would not. He held a place for my body to heal when I lost faith that it would; I decided that I had to become a doctor so that I could hold that place for others.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
Not surprisingly, I’m interested in the manipulation side of osteopathic medicine. To be proficient at it requires an expansive amount of knowledge in anatomy and physiology; you are a student for life. However, with the growing shortage of primary care physicians, especially in rural areas like my home in Delaware, the need for wrap-around medicine and physicians to coordinate patient care is increasing. It is my hope to work in a primary care setting that fully integrates the philosophies and principles of OMM.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
Originally, I read all that I could find on OMM so that I had a better understanding of what was going on in my treatments. During one of my treatments with my osteopathic physician, he started to explain what he was doing when I excitedly interrupted him and proceeded to finish his explanation of Stanley Schiowitz’s Facilitated Positional Release technique. He looked at me, chuckled, and commented that his students don’t know this. I have to admit that the idea that I knew more about this than some of his first-year medical students seemed pretty cool to me.

6. What is your favorite book? 
I can’t pick just one! The Hot Zone by Richard Preston tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the first Ebola outbreaks and is what originally peaked my interest in epidemiology and related fields. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins thoughtfully explores evolution from the gene’s point of view and cemented my interest in biology. On a more lighthearted note, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams are works of fiction that provide an irreverent and entertaining perspective of our place in the universe.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
I’m from Guam! I love the closeness to nature and the inherent sense of community that comes with island life.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
I would pursue various clinical and coding certifications to broaden my medical knowledge and bring that to my work in healthcare finance. Honestly though, if I couldn’t be a doctor then there’s nothing else I would want to be.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
Doubt. I haven’t completely overcome it as think we likely all have moments of it. For me, becoming a physician means giving up a career that I enjoy and am good at to go back to school, take on an enormous amount of debt, and work ten times as hard as I do currently…sounds crazy. But I know this is the path for me so every time doubt rears its head, I remind myself of that.

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?
I love to see the various paths that bring people to medicine. It’s fulfilling to see the diverse qualities that our differences bring to our pursuits in medicine. More than that, I find that individuals drawn to serve in this capacity have many similarities and it’s comforting to find support for our shared struggles via PreMed STAR.

The One Quality Every Premed Should Exhibit

Last week, I met with a patient of mine who also happens to be a radiologist nearing retirement. After a brief visit, we spent a good 20 minutes talking about the future of medicine. He initiated this conversation by stating,

“You know… I am very worried about the future of medicine.”

He then proceeded to share his fears about insurance companies, managed care, costs of drugs, and growing clerical responsibilities. “But what really scares me is that some of the schools are selecting the wrong students and missing out on great ones,” he said. Since that day I have done a lot of reflecting on our conversation. This is a well-respected, sixty-something year old physician whose father was a small-town physician in the early 20th century and whose daughter had recently been accepted into medical school. He explained to me how he has students who shadow him while peeking at their watch every 15 minutes. He felt as though some students these days simply know the numbers they need to get in and the right words to say. He admitted that his daughter had a great advantage over others due to her access to finances, courses, and the “right” people.

I completely understand this sentiment shared by many older physicians and tend to agree with most of it. It is true that medicine is not what it was back in their day but it remains a noble field and there are many impressive students matriculating every year. I do share the concern that our field is missing out on many amazing candidates and at times selecting ones that blemish our profession. As I have mentored premeds over the past 10 years what sets many students apart can be summed up in one word:

GENUINENESS

Merriam-Webster defines this word as sincerely and honestly felt or experienced. I don’t know if there is a specific metric for authenticity or some sort of way to enhance it but we all intrinsically sense it. It is a quality we all want in a friend, a salesman, as well as a physician. These days, millennials may even say they like that person because they “keep it real” or “keep it 100.” Yet, as the physician/patient and I discussed, some are doing a disservice to themselves as well as the field of medicine when they are not genuine in their pursuit of the profession. I truly believe that genuineness and competence are the two top qualities patients are seeking in their physician. I can’t count how many patients come to my clinic complaining of physicians who ignore their complaints, speak over them, or make them feel as though they are “just another number.”

I have seen medical students, residents, and doctors become jaded, depressed and leave the field of medicine while others partake in illegal medical practices partially because they are bored with their job or lack sincere passion for it. It’s not that you shouldn’t be passionate about other areas of life or spend every second immersed in medicine but it is good to be true to yourself. While most students I speak to at recruitment fairs come across as genuine about the field of medicine there are a few who I can immediately tell this is not something they should get into. Making sure one is genuine about any pursuit is critical and will save a lot of time and pain. It is okay and good to question yourself (believe me, I did a number of times) but please make certain medicine is for you. Here are a few questions that may help you determine if you are genuine about the field of medicine.

  1. Am I doing this for myself or is someone pressuring me?
  2. Am I just chasing numbers and not internalizing my experiences?
  3. Do I truly enjoy learning and can I do it for the rest of my life?
  4. Do I care deeply care about people or am I easily annoyed by people?
  5. Do I feel fulfilled improving the health of others?
  6. Have you considered other career paths and why this one suits you better?

Congratulations to Patricio! Premed of the Week

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
My name is Patricio Ruano. Right now I’m 18 years old and I’m a freshman majoring in Biology ang minoring in Global Studies at California State University Channel Islands. I’m the first in my family to go to a higher education and that can sometimes be a struggle for me. My job right now is to mentor high school freshmen who were also in my position. I go to a local high school twice a week with premade lesson plans and agendas I made myself built around college life and STEM education in general to inspire these students to follow my path and hopefully get them to get a stronger start than I got. When I’m not traveling all over my campus for club meetings or exploring study spots, I do triathlons with my school’s triathlon/cross country club, and without almost drowning, nearly falling off my bike and losing my breath every other week I probably would have lost my mind several times over by now haha. Before I was the competitive college student my friends know me as now, I didn’t take schooling seriously which I regret. For high school, I went to STEM Academy of Hollywood, which offered a medical or engineering pathway for all four years. The only classes I really tried in were these medical electives where I was exposed to the world of biomedicine. By the end of high school, I only had a 2.7 GPA. I remember the moment I actually enjoyed being competitive was for my senior capstone project. We had to come up with a question where the “answer couldn’t come up if you Googled it”. While everyone did simple experiments such as “Do Hot Cheetos increase heart rate” I decided to try something more difficult testing if religious teenagers vs. atheist teenagers are more or less stressed based on cortisol hormone levels. My “study” took 4 months to complete including statistical analyses and required me to stay after school every day for over three hours, but I unexpectedly enjoyed it. I liked the work that I put in, and I felt proud of what I was doing even though it was probably very basic compared to actual research studies. If you have more questions about it feel free to contact me! Once I got to college everything changed. I tried as hard as I could to get high grades in my classes and planned out what I need to do in the next four years to get into medical school. I like to think that college was a gear switch for me. My mentality changed and my outlook on everything I do changed as well. It can be a struggle to go through this without anyone in my immediate or extended family trying something like this, but I will try my best and I will do it.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
My principles of microbiology professor told me something recently when I visited his office hours that will stick to me. I noticed that in the past couple of weeks I haven’t had time to spend with my friends or anyone other than a textbook and my fish in my dorm. I asked him “When you were in your first two years, did you ever hang out with your friends during the week or anything like that or did you just kind of go from building to building all day and working”. He’s relatively young for a professor, only 28 years old, and he also went to my University for his undergrad as well. I felt like he would be the best person to ask something like this rather than someone who was a freshman 30 years ago. He told me this, “Yeah, I had my friends, but I knew what was more important. During the week I almost wouldn’t talk to anyone. I locked myself down and kept it that was until everything I needed to do was done. And yeah, I was invited by my friends like ‘hey Michael come with us to this house party you need to destress’ but no, I wasn’t done yet. Work hard, play hard. But only play once all your work is done. Those people who are getting over 95% on my exams? They do that too. And those people who go out every day and say ‘hey screw that exam’, they’re the ones who come here at the end of the semester begging for a curve. You need to keep your head on straight and keep motivated while surrounding yourself with people who are the same. All it takes is one or two people who are only half set and you’re screwed up. Keep working hard and believe me when I say that you’ll regret it so much more if you do end up going to that party over studying for that Calc exam”. I felt reassured that I wasn’t letting myself get off balanced by school. I needed that boost at the time.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? 
I honestly don’t feel the same as when I’m in a hospital. Whether its for volunteering, an internship, or a visit to the emergency room when my friend cut his hand open on our model Cessna plane. It started in high school when I got my first volunteering position at Kaiser Permanente. I met a multitude of people who I talked to while waiting for their family members to pick them up. I remember their smiles, the way they thanked me for making their day brighter, when though they shouldn’t have. I was just a volunteer. Each doctor I passed in the halls looked like the most amazing person to me. I visited the NICU, orthopedic surgery, the ICU, oncology, as many areas of the hospital as I could while I was discharging patients. Each visit I thought, “These people are alive because of someone. I want to be that someone one day”. I volunteered every other day for 4 hours a day after school for a semester. Each day I left I felt tired, but happy. These experiences helped me know I want to be a doctor, because nothing else will leave me with the same feeling. I want to be the healer and the reason that someone is leaving a hospital as healthy as they can be. It’s the only calling I felt, I need to do this.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
If you were to ask me to choose a specialty right now, I would say either family medicine or emergency medicine. Family medicine because I like the idea of staying with a certain person or group of people for a long period of time and actually getting to know them. I have a mentor who is a family medicine doctor as well, and hearing about what he does daily really interests me. Emergency medicine would be because I already enjoy working under pressure and being one of the first to assist someone. As said before, my friend cut his hand open on our model Cessna. This happened in class. The cut was deeper than his skin, and you could see the white tendons on the back of his hand. Blood was spilling everywhere and the whole class was in shock. He himself grew pale and was close to passing out. Even though its basic first aid, I was the one that quickly stopped bleeding, cleaned and closed the cut using hydrogen peroxide spray, pressure and butterfly closures. When I took my friend to the hospital to get sutures, I looked closely as the physician applied the anesthetic and stitched his hand closed.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
By far the coolest thing so far was attending the AMSA convention in Washington DC. It was my first real exposure to a large crowd of people who are just like me. I met a whole lot of cool people who were both practicing and aspiring doctors. Nothing that I’ve done so far will compare to what I learned about how to become a doctor while at the convention.

6. What is your favorite book? 
I really like “The Stand” by Stephen King. Its this book about a viral disease that wipes out the entire human race except for a few who are naturally resistant to the virus. The book goes over how society had crashed and the survivors are thrown in a world with no rules other than their own morality. I’m only 2/3 of the way done, but I’m still super hooked to it.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
I was part of my high school’s first cross country team that made it to CIF competitions, it required me to run around 8 miles a day everyday but it was worth saying that I was part of the first group of people that made it past league competitions.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
I’ve thought about plan B’s. I guess the main one for me would be to try and teach at my old high school. I want to teach there before I die, hopefully after a retire as a physician. I would want to specifically teach there because the school as a whole has helped me and supported me so much that I want to give back directly.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it?
My dad is a diabetic, but also an alcoholic. Once he gets a taste of any form of alcohol, he won’t stop. There were time periods where he would be drunk for months at a time, only coming home in the dead of night passing out on the couch. Once he woke up he would go out and do it again. This left my mom and I struggling both emotionally and financially. We would have to go into our savings accounts to pay for rent, and food became scarce. Once I lost 10 pounds in 3 weeks. It was really hard to overcome, since I was still living at home during high school, only moving out recently for college. To get over this, I just avoided it. I stayed at school as late as I could to work on my senior project, or go to practices, or volunteer at the hospital. These outlets for me let me take my mind off of the struggles I was going through and straightened me back onto the path I wanted to complete. When college came, I moved out and most of the problems went away. When I’m at school, I try not to think about back home. It makes me off focus, worrying about what could be happening without me there.

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?
Since my university doesn’t have many premed students, PreMed STAR is one of the only outlets I have to be exposed to other students with the same goals as me. Without it, I would only know at most 5 pre med students. But with it, I’m able to connect with tens or hundreds.

THINK – Who Are You?

T.H.I.N.K. – Who Are You?

Who are you?  Tough question isn’t it?  Most people can’t answer it.  We often equate our identities with our jobs (e.g. I’m a doctor).  This leads many premeds to become so dogmatic that medicine is the only thing for them, that they fail to appreciate the other joys of life. “If I don’t become a doctor, I’ll never be happy!”  Well, I’d argue that you are more than a premed, and one day you’ll be more than a doctor.  Your job does not define you.  Who are you???

Considering this query and reflecting on my own life, I devised a way to answer the question, “who are you?”  It’s a very simple exercise, but it requires extreme introspection and honesty.  It’s my “T.H.I.N.K.” method.  Let’s get started.

T=Time.  Imagine that your long-lost uncle dies and leaves you with 86,400 pennies to spend every day.  The catch however is that you must spend all of it daily in order to get another 86,400 pennies the next day.  How would you spend it?  It’s likely you’d pay for your necessities (e.g. food, bills, etc.) then purchase the things you value the most.  Consider this, each day, God gives us 86,400 seconds that we can’t carry over to tomorrow.  The way we spend that time is a reflection of what we believe to be most important.  Even when we say something is important to us, the truth is revealed when we evaluate how we spend our time.  Is helping the needy important to you?  If so, your calendar should reflect it.

Question #1: What do you spend most of your time doing?

H=Hurt. My favorite Olympic moment was Keri Strug’s 1996 vault.  In the finals, Strug bombed her first attempt and got up limping.  It was clear that something was wrong with her ankle.  Through that pain and hurt, you could see her character.  While many people would have given up, Strug hobbled on along.  With a roaring crowd behind her, she bolted down the runway and nailed her second attempt on one foot.  After posing just long enough to secure the victory, she fell to the ground in agony.  Pain leads to action.  You either push through or withdraw.  What you do in times of pain demonstrates your character.  Furthermore, on an emotional level, the things that hurt you are the things that you care about.

Question #2: What single thing hurts you the most (on an emotional level)?  What do you do as a result of that hurt?

I= Inspire. There’s a great picture of Kobe Bryant standing next to Michael Jordan.  In it, the two are standing in the same position.  Kobe would be the first to tell you that Michael is one of his greatest inspirations.  What does this truly mean?  When a person inspires you, there is something special in him or her that you desire to have within yourself.  A certain character trait that resonates with you. Something you want to be part of your own identity.

Question #3: Who inspires you the most?  What is it about that person that inspires you?

N=Nurture. The Chinese Bamboo tree is quite the marvel.  To grow one of these, you first have to plant your seed.  Then you begin to care for it.  You have to water it, then water it, then water it.  Years go by and still nothing.  Then one day, it sprouts out from the ground and begins to grow faster than any tree you’ve seen.  This mighty tree that seems to pop up out of nowhere is the result of years of attention and nurturing.  For anything worthwhile to develop, it requires nurturing. Whether or not you realize it, every day you are nurturing things.  The things which we nurture, determine our impact on the world and how others will eventually view us.  They also determine how we will eventually view ourselves.

Question #4: What things do you nurture?

K=Know.  “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”  At the end of the day, we must hold fast to a conviction that is the foundation of our actions.  Something that we believe so deeply, it unshakable knowledge.   It is ingrained in your core and is the nidus for all your other beliefs.  Truly, this is the most important element of you being able to define your identity.  For most people, the answer takes them back to the question of ages, “why we are here?”  If you don’t know, what you know (i.e. what you believe with utmost conviction), you have no foundation to stand upon and to develop your identity.

Question #5: What do you know to be true above all else?

 

I challenge each of you to spend time answering these questions and write down your answers in sentence format.  Read it over like a paragraph.  Truly reflect on them and come to an understanding of who you are at your innermost core.   After completing this exercise, please share with us how it impacted you. Did you learn something about yourself?

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