Super Star Blogs!

Congratulations to Egypt! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself .  Hey! My name is Egypt Vlymen-Williams, I’m from Westchester, NY. I’m what New Yorkers call a “sophisticated ratchet” in that 95% of the time I’m a reserved, upstanding and professional individual. But if you catch me at the right time & place, you’ll see me turning up to trap music or dancing around to some dancehall/soca music! My hobbies include yoga & lifting weights. Integrating fitness into my life gives me a major confidence boost by helping me understand it’s ok to invest in myself. My life lessons taught me if you don’t love yourself, no one will do it for you! My vision is to inspire others to be the best version of themselves. I do this by continuing to grow in my own journey, hoping I can motivate others to step up their game. I believe my purpose is to be a blessing to everyone I possibly can, both in medicine & my personal life.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school & how did he or she impact you?  I actually have 3 professors that have had a huge impact on me & I can’t choose which one is my favorite. All 3 are my exercise science professors at Mercy College. First up is Dr. Mel. She is the director of the exercise science program and she’s the first professor I’ve had who I felt really cared about her students. She views us as her kids! She wants us all to succeed and it shows in how she interacts with us. I call her Mama Mel! Next up is Dr. Williams. She has so much swag! The first class I had with her I thought she was so cool. Not only that, but I’ve seen her lift weights and she’s a beast! I love interacting with her outside the classroom because she’s so fun but also very wise. She has been a guiding figure these past few years and I appreciate the gems of advice she continues to give. Last but not least is Dr. Davitt. I love the fact that he comes in every class with a huge smile on his face. He’s super competitive, he talks sooo much smack (he backs it up most of the time). He cracks jokes & he makes me laugh pretty much every time I have class with him. He’s also like a walking encyclopedia in that he’s always telling us about interesting research he’s learned or is a part of. All three professors are amazing in their own way but the one common thread is how their passion pours out in the classroom. I can’t emphasize enough how honored I feel to be a part of this program.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why?  I believe I was 13 or 14 years old. My sister had a severe asthma attack and had to go to the hospital. In my mind, those doctors saved her life and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. If I couldn’t be a superhero then being a doctor was the next best option!

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I’d like to use my knowledge in exercise science to specialize in either sports medicine or orthopedics.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had on your premedical journey?  I’m a personal trainer and I had the opportunity to train a doctor while I was working at Equinox. He was sooo funny. I looked forward to training him because every session he had me cracking me up! It was cool because it was one of the first times I interacted with a doctor that I didn’t feel was stiff or arrogant. I was able to shadow him for a day and he was the same with his patients as he was with me. He knew when to be serious but he made all his patients laugh. I hope to embody his fun and loving personality as a future physician.

6. What is your favorite book?  Hands down, my favorite book is “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. She talks about the difference between talent and effort. Talent only takes you so far, it’s the hard work that gets you to the finish line! This book is a pick-me-up to build mental fortitude. I read it frequently whenever I want to work on my mindset which reminds me it might be time to read it again!

7. Tell us one thing about you most people don’t know.   I’m not Egyptian even though I’m named after the country. I’m painfully shy at times but I’m working on coming out of my shell. I love Caribbean culture, I don’t know why I have no Caribbean background in my family. I did mixed martial arts for 2 years and loved it!

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?  Me? Not be doctor? Not happening.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you or are you overcoming it?  Unfortunately, I am my worst enemy. After graduating from Wesleyan University with a trash GPA, I didn’t believe I was smart enough to become a doctor. I made every excuse in the book as to why I shouldn’t pursue medicine. “It’s too expensive, I’ll never pay off my student loans, what about malpractice insurance, I’ll be in school forever.” Blah, Blah, Blah. At some point, it just clicked I can’t live my life with regrets. Now I’m back in school, ready to prove myself I am capable of accomplishing my dream. It’s all about my mindset!

10. What do you like most about Pre-Med STAR?  I love the guidance! I love the networking! Pre-Med STAR is the type of platform that will be the new wave in pre-med advising! I can’t wait to contribute!

Are You Smart Enough to be a Doctor

Are you smart enough to be a doctor? Take a quick minute to think about that question. Got your answer? Now answer this question, what criteria did you use to define smart enough? Did you think about a medical doctor and attempt to compare your intelligence to his or hers? If you did, I bet you thought of someone you think is really smart. How about trying this, think of the least intelligent physician you know. Are you as smart as that person? If the answer is no, then it is likely you just don’t know enough doctors. As a matter of fact, I bet many of you reading this are smarter than me. The point is, there’s a lot more to being a doctor than intelligence.

Students (and medical school admission committees) often fail to realize that you do not have to be as smart as the guy to your right or the girl on your left to be a doctor, you just have to be smart enough. You need to be smart enough to take in and process information; smart enough to ask the right questions, and smart enough to pull on available resources. Once you reach that threshold of intellect, being a good doctor is completely dependent on other personal characteristics such as discipline and passion.

So, instead of asking yourself if you are smart enough to get into medical school and become a doctor, ask yourself if you are passionate enough to dedicate your life to this; to dedicate your life to that of others. If the answer to that question is “no”, then this isn’t the field for you. If the answer is “yes”, then the next question is “Are you disciplined enough to be a doctor?”

That indeed is the real question! Are you disciplined enough to be a doctor? You don’t have to be a genius to practice medicine in this day and age (after all, it’s probably more important that you know how to find the answer to a question than having that answer stored in the back of your brain), but you do have to be disciplined.. You’ve got to be disciplined to get up every morning to make it to class on time, Disciplined enough to study every evening and stick with it until you know the subject matter cold, and Disciplined enough to go to sleep at a reasonable hour so you can get up and do it all again the following day. ALL doctors are disciplined!

My experience as a mentor has shown me that premeds as a whole tend to be discouraged much too easily (which explains the high attrition rate). Over the years, I have witnessed many potential doctors do poorly on one or two tests early in the academic year, and thereafter lose all confidence. They go from saying they want to be medical doctors, to saying they are not smart enough. And sadly, outside encouragement from others persuades them to believe that they are not cut out to practice Medicine. The students who don’t have a mentor to tell them that it is okay to struggle on a test as long as you are disciplined to learn what mistakes you made and refocus that for the next test, inevitably veer away from medicine without giving it a fair attempt.

So, to all of the premeds reading this, I am telling you today, YOU ARE SMART ENOUGH TO BE A MEDICAL DOCTOR! That’s not even the question. The question is, Do you really want to be a Medical Doctor, and if so, are you DISCIPLINED enough to stick with it???

 

Congratulations to Gregory! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  My name is Gregory Proctor. I am originally from our nation’s capital, Washington DC. I have been involved with providing patient care since and helping people since 1998. I began serving as a Volunteer Firefighter/ Emergency Medical Technician when I was 16 years old. I have served in the United States Air Force as a Firefighter. My travels have led me to five of seven of the continents in the world (all I have left is Antarctica and Australia). I met my wife at a fire house. The first time I met her I fell in love with her. This year we will be celebrating 15 years of marriage. We are both on the pre-med track together. I am currently working as a Flight Paramedic. She is an Emergency Department Registered Nurse. We have a rescue dog named Rascal.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? Dr. Jim L. Marshall is by far my favorite professor. He was my General Chemistry I&II professor. Dr. Marshall has the unique ability to help any student. I was retaking general chemistry one with him. After the first test I wanted to withdraw from the course. We sat on the bench outside of the lecture hall and took the time to go over every test question. As we where discussing the test I would perform mathematical calculations in my head and answer the questions he asked me correctly. Dr. Marshall looked me directly in my eyes and said, “you are a right brainer.” He went on to explain that my style of learning and understanding was conceptual. He identified himself as a “right brainer” as well. Dr. Marshall’s thoughts were that people that people that utilized the right side of their brain more than their left side worked better with concepts to explain mathematical based problems than math only. He made learning so enjoyable. He did not even have a book. Dr. Marshall had PowerPoints that he taught from and all math problems were worked on the board in to different methods to appease the left and right brainer. As a non-traditional post baccalaureate student, I felt so respected and understood. Dr. Marshall aided in making me feel like a student that had value. Just because I learned and understood things differently did not mean it was wrong or less than any other student.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? This is truly a loaded question. Many of my mentors tell me that admissions committees do not want to hear about when I was in grade school playing doctor and imaging myself as that one day. But I will share the first moment that I really wanted to be a doctor. When I was five years old I came from school one day sitting at the top of steps in my house. It was bring your father to school day and I asked my mother where was my father. She explained to me that he was in the United States Marine Corps and he had been shot and killed while on active duty. I learned that my father had been shot to the left side of the chest which shattered his heart and broke several ribs. At that moment I wanted to be a “heart doctor.” I felt that if I could fix hearts that I could bring my father back to life. I learned long ago that there is nothing that I could do to bring my father back. But my path in life towards becoming a physician continues to be filled with acts to help people as best as I can and to display the upmost dignity and respect while doing it.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? Anesthesia is of special interest to me. The anesthesiologist is the surgical middle link in the hospital chain of survival. Prior to and during surgery to the transition to post anesthesia care unit the anesthesiologist maintains the airway, breathing and circulation for the patient. The anesthesiologist serves as a patient advocate and manager of vital life sustaining functions through ventilator, medication and blood product management. These actions give those that are surgically, and specialty trained the best chance to mitigate the patients issue. If medicine were a sport I would equate it to professional basketball. Michael Jordan is the best professional basketball player ever. However, the Chicago Bulls did not start winning championships until Scottie Pippin came along. For me to be number two on a successful team would be so rewarding and awesome to me. The success would translate to a higher rate of positive patient outcomes.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? I am currently working in the medical field as a Flight Paramedic. So, I get to see lots of cool stuff all the time. But one event stands out as noteworthy. I worked at Presbyterian Hospital’s Emergency Department in Dallas, Texas where the first confirmed case of Ebola was treated in the United States. We had a physician from Doctors Without Boarders that was working in West Africa come speak to us about effective treatment for Ebola patients. In an open forum with that physician, our physicians and staff members I asked a question. “Since the Ebola disease attacks red blood cells directly and sickle cell patients already have their red blood cells altered would this give a sickle cell patient a higher probably of survival?” There was a moment of complete silence, then curious pondering looks on people’s faces, followed by some physicians saying, “wow that’s a really good question.” The guest physician went on to explain that it did not matter if a patient had sickle cell or not. Their chances for survival were no more or less than someone that did not have the sickle cell trait or disease. At that moment I felt like it was another moment of confirmation that I was on the track in life to become a physician. I was asked what my thought process behind my question was. My response was that Ebola originated in Africa. Human Malaria is believed to have originated in Africa as well. I was thinking that perhaps one disease could be a potential defense against another disease since they both originated within the same continent. Sickle Cell Disease often offers a degree of protection from Malaria.

6. What is your favorite book? As far as leisure reading goes my favorite book is Never Surrender. The book is based on the real-life story of Jerry Boykin. He is a United States Army Lieutenant General and was one of the original members of America’s Delta Force elite counter terrorism unit. It almost reads like a Tom Clancy fiction novel. But it is a story about General Boykins as a solider and his journey to the crossroads of faith and freedom. Reading this book inspires me to do what the title says, “Never Surrender.”

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I did not graduate from High School. I had to drop out in my 12th grade year to help with serious health and social-economic matters that involved my immediate family. I obtained my GED at age 20. I will too ashamed to go back to school, finish half a semester and obtain my actual high school diploma. Most people assume because I have a bachelor’s degree and doing post baccalaureate coursework to become a medical student that I must have had a well-adjusted background and upbringing. But I learned a very valuable lesson from that experience. There is no greater enemy than one’s own fears and it takes a great person to face them. Never again will I settle for second best. No trying to get into Physician Assistant school because Medical School will not accept me. Since my GED when I set a goal I have not settled for less. To date I have been successful with every exception to continue being successful with the top tier of any reasonable goal that I set!

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? This may sound like a very predictable response, but I am at a point in my life that I honestly cannot see myself as anything else but a physician. I view my journey as marathon not a race. I have been in the fire service for many years. My last formal paid fire department job was a senior leadership position in which I was directly responsible for the day to day operations of 9 fire departments and 1 fire prevention bureau with +400 personnel assigned in Southern Afghanistan. I transitioned from that position to become a full-time student again and dedicate myself to working medical jobs only. From a pre-hospital care standpoint, I have performed every job. Emergency Medical Technician to Paramedic to Flight Paramedic. I would continue to be a life student stay at the tip of the spear of flight paramedicine, perform emergency medical services training and continue to pursue my passion of being a physician.

9. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? I love that fact there is a forum where traditional and non-traditional students with my same interest are sharing their knowledge and experience about this process. We are all sort of in a specific bubble. But there is this flow of ideas, thoughts and information about everyday life and professional development opportunities to make you better as an individual. I am pleasantly surprised at all the applicable information to my journey that I have read and learned from the people here in a such a short period of time. There are opportunities for all of us to be showcased to medical schools which will enhance our chance of being chosen for medical school program. To date, I am not aware of any other forum or venue that showcases premed students as PreMed STAR does. Thank you!

Visit my PreMed STAR profile: Gregory Proctor

Congratulations to Sinigdha! Premed of the Week!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself.  My name is Sinigdha Biswas, and I am currently a sophomore at Stony Brook University. My major is Biology, and I plan on choosing a specialization in neurobiology and physiology. I am passionate about the ways in which we can provide global health education and quality medical treatment including mental health for those who do not have equal access to these necessities. Some of my favorite hobbies, when I get the opportunity of leisure, are photography and writing.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?  In high school, my history teacher Mrs.Pinto was my favorite. She made the class so interesting by emphasizing the power of history that I often read and did assignments ahead of time, leaving time to research topics outside of class. I always asked tons of questions, and she allowed me to add my findings to our class content. I loved going to her office hours and getting recommendations on historical books. She never put down my curiosity; instead, she referred me to articles, movies, museums, and just about any resources. From her, I learned the components of research outside of the classroom from recognizing which resources are valid to connecting multiple areas of discipline such as history, art, and medicine.
Mrs. Pinto was also the advisor and founder of my school’s National Honor Society, where she helped me to develop leadership skills. She taught me to be integral in a team by always coming prepared, voicing my opinions, and contributing to planning fundraisers on health causes such as a one we did to raise money for prostate cancer research. I learned to coordinate, keep a record, communicate, and manage multiple tasks which eventually helped me become treasurer.
Research, cooperation, and leadership are essential tasks that I learned from her which has helped me in college, work, and will on my journey to becoming a physician.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I knew I wanted to be a physician from a young age because I have always been aware of the consequences unequal access to medical care can have on people, especially those in poverty. Not everyone has adequate access to medical treatment and general care, both in underdeveloped and developed nations. Even in the United States, I think we need to reach out to underserved areas because many of these, especially the elderly, cannot afford quality treatment resulting in painful years of coping with their conditions. Some of these illnesses could have been prevented and cured had they been diagnosed earlier. In underdeveloped nations, there is still a lack of education on basic hygiene, infant care, and universal health rights. I do not think medical care should be a heavy financial strain on anyone, no matter their background. My own grandfather died in rural Bangladesh of an infection because he could not afford medication. There are millions more like him even today, so I want to be a doctor to strengthen the accessibility of medical facilities and care for the improvised. One of my goals is to also set up clinics in underserved areas, around the world, and provide seminars on health education.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am interested in neuroscience, gastroenterology, emergency medicine, and pathology. I am currently taking a cognitive psychology course which has made me interested in the field of neuroscience. Our brain’s ability to adapt, grow, and nourish us throughout evolution is something I have been reading much about this semester.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? The coolest experience I have had so far in my premedical journey is my work as a pharmacy technician. Although I am not directly interacting with patients and medical staff, I get to learn about the behind the scenes process after a doctor has prescribed medication which I believe is essential for anyone going into the medical field to know. I am responsible for understanding prescription labels, sending out the prescribed drug in packaging that is color coded or specific to a nursing home or patient’s needs, knowing pharmacy law regulations and state policies, answering calls from nurses and patients, consistently communicating with my pharmacists and staff for an organized work environment, and of course, learning about different drugs, their chemical properties & functions, and how they are administered.

6. What is your favorite book?  My favorite book is my course textbook for cognitive psychology. Don’t get me wrong; many textbooks can be a bit tedious, but this one has been so interesting for someone like me who wants to learn about the brain and human behavior. I have been emailing my professor various questions ever since reading a chapter, and he is always helpful to respond.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. Most people don’t know that sometimes, just sometimes, when I’m alone, I like to listen to music, sing, and clean the entire house simultaneously. It’s something about the music that activities my desire to organize everything!

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? If I couldn’t be a doctor, I’d work as someone who would provide humanitarian relief to underprivileged populations both in the United States and globally.

9. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? I just joined PreMed STAR, but already I’ve received so many supportive comments and advice from a ton of intelligent premedical and medical students. I finally found a valid site where I can ask professional questions, share my premedical journey and ready my portfolio for medical school along with the help of my new friends. I look forward to working with everyone here!

Reaching Beyond the Healthcare Sector to Address Social Determinants of Health                      

An individual’s health is impacted not only by factors such as genetics and lifestyle, but also by a group of factors collectively referred to as social determinants of health. These factors, which are responsible for the majority of health disparities, include the social and physical environment, such as housing, income, education, and access to health services. These health determinants are shaped by the distribution of power and wealth at the local, national, and global levels1,2. Since these factors are largely outside of the control of individuals and since they can significantly impact health, there is a need for careful monitoring of both the conditions related to social determinants and the actions taken by leaders to address them. Intersectoral actions, which refer to actions taken resulting from a collaboration among leaders in two or more policy sectors aimed at achieving a common goal, should be particularly subject to scrutiny since they may be outside the control of the healthcare sector yet can greatly influence the sector. For example, multiple policy sectors may develop initiatives to improve air quality in relation to transportation3. These initiatives may ultimately affect healthcare and the health of residents due to the relationship between poor air quality or pollution and respiratory problems.

     Another important issue is that in spite of the recognition by care providers and policy makers that social and environmental factors can significantly impact health, care providers do not routinely screen for social determinants in patients2. One reason for the lack of standardized screening efforts may be the inability to create positive changes, given the lack of control over such factors. One possible solution is that if an issue related to a social determinant of health cannot be appropriately handled by a primary care provider or social worker, the patient could be referred to a legal expert for representation to address the problem through legal means. Efforts to eliminate health inequities due to social determinants of health must be collaborative, involving not only healthcare providers and patient advocates, but also members of all major policy sectors in society.

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Definitions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/definitions.html.

2. Theiss, J., & Regenstein, M. (2017). Facing the need: Screening practices for the social determinants of health. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 45(3), 431-441. doi:10.1177/1073110517737543

3. Pega, F., Valentine, N. B., Rasanathan, K., Hosseinpoor, A. R., Torgersen, T. P., Ramanathan, V., & … Neira, M. P. (2017). The need to monitor actions on the social determinants of health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 95(11), 784-787. doi:10.2471/BLT.16.184622

How to Build a Strong Premedical Profile

In the age of the internet, your online profiles matters, and if you’re like most premeds, you’re looking for opportunities to showcase the great things you’ve done to med schools!  As more recruiters are getting on board with Diverse Medicine, your profile is the perfect opportunity to show them who you are!

Many recruiters spend less than 20 seconds skimming over online profiles, resumes, and CV’s.  In that short period of time, how can you set yourself apart from the pack?  The reality is, you only need to do a few simple things to pique their interest and keep them on your page a little longer. Your job is to nail the basics and reel the recruiters in to give your profile a complete review!

Here are 5 profile items that will help you stand out from the crowd and get more profile views!

  1. A strong premedical identity statement. Each of you has a premedical identity.  If you ask your professors, friends, or bosses who you are, what would they say?  Would it match what you’d say?  Would it match what you’d want?  Before you can expect others to know your identity, you must first know it.  Consider your passions and accomplishments and with those in mind, write down your premedical identity statement in one sentence.  Your short biography section should begin with your premedical identity statement.  This short bio paragraph should be about 3-7 sentences long.  The remainder of your entire Diverse Medicine profile is meant to support this paragraph.  After reviewing your profile, reviewers should see that your accomplishments match your identity.  Your entire Diverse Medicine profile demonstrates your premedical identity, but it starts with your identity statement.
  2. A nice profile photo. This should go without saying.  Your profile photo is your first impression.  On Diverse  Medicine, you want medical school recruiters and other premeds to click on your profile.  This is a perfect opportunity to showcase and promote yourself.  We’ve had students recruited and subsequently accepted to the same school; offered leadership positions; and invited to personal meetings.  All of this happened because the right person saw their Diverse Medicine profile.  Here’s what you need to know about getting profile views.  People view your profile for 1 of 2 reasons: your profile photo or your site activity.  The first thing recruiters see in their recruitment center are profile photos.  If you don’t have one, you might be passed over without them even looking at your profile.
  3. An authentic profile video. This is easily one of the most powerful things you can do to boost your Diverse Medicine profile.  Don’t get fancy with it.  Bust out your cell phone and make a 2-minute (maximum) selfie video.  In the age of social media, everything is visual.  Having an authentic video to introduce yourself is one of the most engaging ways to showcase yourself.
  4. Demonstration of skills and growth. Too often, premeds focus solely on showcasing their accomplishments.  This is great, but what recruiters really want to know is what skills do you have?  The accomplishments are meant to be evidence of the skills.  However, when given the opportunity, clearly state the skills which you used to accomplish the experience.
  5. An updated profile.  Like your profile photo, this should go without saying.  You need to demonstrate continued accomplishment.  Your profile should be growing as you progress along your premedical journey.  Recruiters will be more impressed with premeds who keep an up to date profile as these are the ones that tend less to procrastinate and stay organized.  Remember, this updated data you are entering now will save you a lot of time and trouble when it comes time to apply to medical school.

In this era, online identity matters.  As a premedical student, you want to clearly communicate what yours is.  Diverse Medicine is here to help you do just that.

What other tips you’ve heard of or used to make your profile standpoint!  Post a comment to share!

Congratulations to Breagan! Student of the Week!

1.Tell us a little bit about yourself. 
Hey ya’all! I am a Spelman alumna who hails from the home of rhythm and blues- Memphis, TN and attended Spelman College, a liberal arts HBCU in Atlanta, GA. As a biology major, I engaged in scholastic endeavors inside and beyond the classroom, made unforgettable memories with lifelong friends, and worked my way to the bottom of my soul in a personal journey of self-love. For fun, I cuddle with my four-legged friend, Nitro, volunteer, bike, hike or thrift. As such, my most proud accomplishment comes from my nonprofit work with FunLab that has grown tremendously since I initiated its inception. In the past, I have ventured to rural Panama to set up free mobile health clinics in underprivileged communities, Belize City for science workshops, and volunteered on a Haitian mission trip where we donated over 50 pounds of school supplies. Currently, I am enrolled in MEDPREP at SIU, the oldest post-baccalaureate program in the country geared towards those underrepresented in medicine. Upon completion of the Master’s in Biological Sciences from Southern Illinois University’s MEDPREP program, I aspire to continue a legacy of service through a lifelong dedication to deliver quality patient care in rural and/or urban areas.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you?
Mrs. Angel Perkins, mother of three from White Station High School in Memphis, TN, woke daily before dawn to prepare lessons for her Advanced Placement (AP) biology course. She used neat gestures and elaborate analogies to explain key concepts in cellular and molecular biology. She is also a civil servant. She chartered a contract to hire tutors to teach at an alternative school in Memphis, TN. Once I was recruited to tutor there, I too developed a passion to teach science-especially in inner-city areas and/or students of color.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? 
Blessed with serious curiosity tempered only by unbounded creativity, I have always looked for ways to solve impending problems. The search for truth pulled me into the sciences as explanations behind the many intricacies of the human body and life as we know it offers answers to explain common phenomenon we may often wonder about. Moments of reassurance came from a personal case study of my father where I concluded his medical diagnosis of Polio was incorrect as the Polio vaccine was standard procedure for hospitalized babies across the country at the time of his birth in the late 60s. Rather, it was determined from follow-up interviews and longitudinal personal observations that he has congenital cerebral palsy. Another moment I realized I was on the right path occurred when my grandfather, who lives in a small town of less than a few thousand residents, had a heart attack while I was his caregiver not long after I graduated college. Seeing the realities of the physician shortage from this perspective further intensified my zeal to address barriers that prevent health equity across various demographics, primarily race, SES, and age.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?
I am interested in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Surgery (General & Orthopedics), Radiation (Interventional & Oncology). I have been advised that trauma surgery would be a good fit as well since I am calm and level-headed enough to take charge of and inspire a team under pressure.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey?
Collaboration with Cure4Kids during an internship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to edit a book that delineates the molecular basis of common childhood cancers and illnesses such as leukemia and HIV as well as funding from the Dalai Lama through a generous grant both remain highlights of my path to medicine. Patients now receive the iBook once admitted, and FunLab is still in operation. To reflect, each of these experiences reinforces the indelible role of advocacy in education among healthcare and academia, respectively. I am tremendously grateful and excited to impact more social change in future communities.

6. What is your favorite book? 
Early Childhood: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Adolescence: Night by Elie Wiesel
Currently: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.
I am very creative and write original poetry, songs and short stories in my leisure.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do?
I am passionate about civil injustice and realize that one’s income is a key determinant of health outcomes, there will always be a gap between the quality of care among the haves and the have-nots. I aim to close this gap in medicine, education and the prison institutions, which are all significantly interrelated yet very disharmonious. Since I know that policy is the single most effective way to impact change among populations, I would leverage these passions on the capitol in health policy as a political health analyst, scientific editor, journalist and/or maybe even a congresswoman.

9. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?
I have found no other pre-medical forum where students can be their authentic self as is possible with PreMed STAR. I love that we can do everything from work on our AMCAS, ask others for advice, look for mentors, register for free MCAT classes and attend medical school admissions webinars with actual deans! Yet, the best of all is the ability to do all of this in an atmosphere that consistently pours into each other with encouragement and not envy.

Why Medicine?

This is the first question you should ask yourself if you are considering this path. Whether you are thinking of becoming a Physician, NP, Nurse, etc. Ask yourself why?

I imagine this may be the first question I am asked if I am one of the minority that are granted a medical school admissions interview. And when that day hopefully comes I want to be so very clear to myself and to those ADCOMS ‘why’ this is the path for me. I hear that if you have a ‘why’ you can endure almost any ‘how.’ I imagine that one of the most appropriate ways to apply this is to the path of becoming a physician. I hear about how rewarding it is. But I actually hear more about all of the difficulties, the frustrations, the lost sleep, the missed time with loved ones, and essentially the loss of freedom. You are dedicating yourself to others and for some that might be a price that they are not willing to pay.

I find myself asking myself these questions a lot lately. WHY Medicine? Are you WILLING to sacrifice what needs to be sacrificed? Are you willing to show up and be all in. In our most idealized state, when we set out on this path…we might say..of course I am willing. We might say..in a very simple way… I choose medicine because I cannot even fathom doing anything else. It is something that I know I must do. Something I know at my core. A knowing that grew gradually and then was almost realized at once. That this is the thing I am meant to do. I am meant to use the love I have for science and healing. My own experience that has lead to knowing what illness, surgeries, and suffering actually feel like. (And having the invaluable experience of amazing medical treatment) My love for problem solving. My dedication to life-long learning. I believe I am meant to use all of these things and put them to use to serve others.

And these have been my answers. But as I get further down the path I keep these two questions in mind. The why has to become a little more detailed. I need something to hang on to when things become difficult. When I get a less than stellar grade on an exam in a post-bacc course, despite going into it confidently and well prepared (or so I thought). When my work schedule changes on short notice and to keep my job, I go from working your standard 9-5 to working some weekends and some nights until midnight. A change I was not prepared nor happy to make for reasons I don’t need to go into now, but one that effects several areas of my personal life

So I will continue this internal investigation and am am wondering what those who have gone before me have thought. Those of you who are on this path too… what is your ‘why?’ How did you know you were willing do what it takes? I would love to hear about it.

With Gratitude,

Britt

Congratulations to Melodi! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.  My name is Melodi Harfouche and I am currently majoring in Anthropology with a minor in French at the University of Tennessee in my junior year. I am originally from Princeton, New Jersey and can speak 3 languages fluently (and am learning a 4th one!). Those languages are Turkish, English, French, and I’m learning Spanish! My parents immigrated to the States before I was born so in addition to being American I am Turkish, Lebanese, and Iranian. I am very invested in fitness and my overall well-being, and would consider going to the gym as one of my hobbies. In addition to the gym, I like to paint in my free time, and have recently gotten back into reading for pleasure.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher in University came last semester in my first Organic Chemistry class. His teaching style was amazing and he really made the class enjoyable from the start. It was obvious that he cared about the subject and really wanted his students to succeed in his class. From the first week of class I went to his office hours because I wanted to get ahead of the material before it started getting very difficult (as Orgo is notorious for). He was really helpful and made me try to understand and learn rather than telling me the answers and sending me on my way. From that day on I was in his office hours constantly, even when he didn’t have them scheduled! He made me truly love Organic Chemistry and made me really enjoy coming to class every other day. He really believed in me and encouraged me to keep practicing and keep studying and would sometimes even overestimate the difficulty that I was capable of. After the semester was over, he told me that there was a position open in the General Chemistry Lab to work as a stockroom assistant and he told me that it was an open offer because he knew how dedicated and how hard of a worker I was. Happy to say that I took it and now I get to be helping out in the stockroom every Tuesdays and Thursdays. Although I’m no longer in his class, he encourages me to pop by at any time and is always ready to help with Organic 2 material. Having a professor believe in me so much really made me more determined than I already was to succeed.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I think that I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was in high school. I’ve always been interested in puzzles and mysteries since I was a little kid and the human body is exactly that to me. There are so many unknowns still yet to be discovered about us, and I would love to be a part of that discovery. Being a doctor is exactly like building a 1000pc puzzle (yet definitely more difficult than that) because you are constantly presented with pieces of the puzzle (symptoms of the patient), and it is our job to look at the pieces and put them together in order to form a proper diagnosis. I love critical thinking and am rewarded by the satisfaction of being able to put together a challenging puzzle. Being a doctor would not only fulfill my love for human connection, but also my passion for critical thinking.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in? I am currently interested in Forensic Pathology (being a Medical Examiner), but am entertaining the idea of being a Plastic Surgeon where I would be able to aid in helping patients have reconstructive surgery. However, my options are completely open and I don’t plan on deciding until the last round of rotations 🙂

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? I wouldn’t say that any particular experience on my pre-med journey has been the coolest out of all of them considering they were all so cool. However, one that stood out to me was my experience visiting Icahn School of Mount Sinai in New York. Over my winter break from school I had arranged a meeting with an admissions officer and when I went to meet with him I had such an amazing experience. He gave me a tour of the school, told me about the admissions and interview process, and even showed me the dissection room for the medical students. It was honestly amazing and made me so excited about the school. I am going to have some pretty cool experiences lined up in the future as I will be shadowing an anesthesiologist pretty soon, and will also be shadowing my sister who does trauma surgery in Philadelphia! I think those two experiences alone will not be topped.

6. What is your favorite book? A book that I have read recently that was amazing is called “A Thousand Naked Strangers” by Kevin Hazzard. It is essentially the author, Hazzard, talking about his crazy experience as an EMT and Medic in one of the dangerous parts of Atlanta. It was hilarious, extremely real, and so enticing. I really couldn’t put it down and I think it will definitely be in my top 10. I am currently reading “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon and right now I love it! Would recommend both books if you get a chance. If that’s not enough here’s one more: “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” by Mary Roach.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know.  One interesting thing about me is that right now I’m a volunteer at the Body Farm at my University! It is technically called the Anthropological Research Facility, and I get to help Grad Students with their theses on human decomposition and what happens post-mortem. Essentially the ARF is in a forest, and we have bodies who have been donated to us (just like organ donors would do) placed all around for the purposes of studying human decomposition. Grad students and other project leaders who want to study a certain aspect of human decomposition would then place their subjects in various places and under different environments. For example, one of the people I work with wanted to study how extreme heat affects human decomposition, so she is eventually going to place her subjects in a sauna and observe what happens over time. It is extremely fascinating to see the different projects happening on the “farm” and even see the affects of diseases post-mortem. One of the most interesting things I’ve observed is raccoon scavenging. Raccoons, although nasty, are actually really interesting creatures. Unfortunately they do scavenge some our subjects, but they’re very selective about which muscles and which people from whom they scavenge. If a person had a disease or deficiency prior to death, the raccoons will generally steer clear.

8. What would you be if you couldn’t be a doctor? If I couldn’t be a doctor, I would be stuck between at least 4 career paths. I’ve been interested in so many things since being at school and I would struggle with picking a path if I couldn’t be a doctor. I would either be a lawyer, a chemist, a computer scientist, or a forensic anthropologist.

9. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? What I love most about PreMed Star is the ability to interact with a bunch of other students who are also on the pre-med track. It’s refreshing to be able to talk to so many people about similar things and give each other feedback and advice. I think the webinars are amazing as well because they can be very informative. Furthermore, I love how we can add to our profile and it not only identifies who we are, but makes our application process a lot easier considering all of our information is on one page. Honestly though, being able to make new friends from miles away based off of a similar career path is what makes me happiest about PreMed STAR.

The Road to Medical School

The road to Medical School isn’t straight!  There are many different ways to get there, but also MANY different ways to get into a wreck or make a wrong turn.  There are stoplights, accidents, unexpected construction, and bad drivers on the same road you are on.  If you want to get to your destination, you have to have a map, know the laws, and watch out for bad drivers!

HAVE A MAP: This perhaps is most important.  If you don’t know where you are going then there’s no point in getting into the car.  For the premedical student, the map is a year by year plan detailing what classes you need to be taking, extracurricular activities to get involved with, and what to do with your summers.  Furthermore, one must know where the gas stations (tutoring, study groups, etc) and rest stops (gym, lounge, relaxation centers, etc) are located.  DO NOT GET INTO THE CAR WITHOUT A MAP, if you do, there’s a good chance you might get lost, waste gas, waste money, and waste time!  If you don’t have a map, borrow one!

KNOW THE LAWS: Pertaining to the premedical student, the laws are the “rules of the game”.  Let’s not sugar coat things.  Rule #1-Get a good GPA, Rule #2-Get a good MCAT score.  Notice I didn’t say it has to be perfect, or even great, but at least aim for good. Those are the two most important laws, neither of which are easy to do without a reliable map. Certainly there are many circumstances that a student with a low GPA or poor MCAT score will get into medical school based on the holistic review of the remainder of the application, BUT what you MUST understand is this is NOT THE NORM!!!  The norm is a good GPA and a good MCAT score!  The same is true on the road; when an officer pulls someone over for speeding, the exception is warning but the norm is a ticket! After you grab your map and understand these laws, there will be many more laws for you to learn along the way, but start here.

WATCH OUT FOR BAD DRIVERS: Defensive driving is of great importance when you get in the car.  You’ve got to watch out for those individuals who are doing more texting than driving, the ones putting on makeup, and the ones who are impatient and angry for no obvious reason (I hope none of these are you).  The same is true for the premedical student.  You’ll be driving next to the party animal who tells you not to study and to head to the clubs 3 nights a week (I remember the Thursday – Sunday weekends in college), the boaster who acts like they scored perfect on every test (which most of the time isn’t true) to knock down your self-esteem, and the hater who doesn’t want to share study materials or helpful tips.  Watch out for bad drivers, especially during rush hour (e.g. test time, MCAT time, etc).  They might make you swerve, but get back into your lane!

So if you want to get to your destination; grab your map, know the laws, and watch out for bad drivers.  I remember the days when I was at the steering wheel on this road and the dangers that lurked at each corner.  Don’t forget that many of us were in the same position you are in now, and we faced the same challenges.  That’s why PreMed STAR is around now!  We are here for you, so ALWAYS feel free to shoot us messages and post questions in the forums!  Get in the car, squeeze the wheel, and press the pedal .  I personally am a person of faith, so I always say a little prayer and keep in mind that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.

I’d like to know, what crazy things have jumped out along your road to medical school?  How did you deal with it?

 

Image Credit: Pixabay

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