Super Star Blogs!

Sophomore Year Coursework: Road to Medical School

Hello peers, friends, and colleagues,

I am a sophomore in my undergraduate years humbly asking for advice in finishing this semester strong. Do y’all have tips in how y’all gradually transformed throughout undergrad from either C or B students to A students? The classes I am enrolled in, organic chemistry and cell biology, are genuinely fascinating. I am always willing to take the time to understand the concepts/do the problems and re-listen to my professors’ audio recordings (from lectures) to both understand and memorize the material as much as possible. Nonetheless, after spending hours of putting this information in my own words and trying to iron it out, I still seem to overthink or misunderstand the wording of some of these questions on test days. So, advice?

More so, if you could go back, what more do you wish you could have done your sophomore year (e.g. perhaps have more fun, take more leadership positions you were passionate about)?

Congratulations to Melissa! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. My name is Melissa Chase, I’m 21 years old. I was born in Milwaukee Wisconsin as Brynn Lisa Christensen then adopted into a loving family in Sonoma County California where I became Melissa Chase. I entered college to Sonoma State University as a Kinesiology major with a recent switch to being a Biology major after increased interest in upper division biology subjects (virology, immunology, bacteriology). I am two classes away from a minor in Economics, I’m not sure if I’ll be finishing that but I have a deep love for economics- perhaps micro more than macro. I’m the President of the Pre-Health Professions Club on campus and work to help get my fellow club members opportunities that expose them to medicine early and gain clinical hours to help them decide what health profession school they would want to apply to. By doing this, I created Sonoma State’s first shadowing program with local clinics that filter our students through a rotation of specialties to expose them to a shift with MD’s, DO’s, NP’s, and PA’s. I’m also the Chief Emergency Department Medical Scribe and spend most of my days (and nights) with the incredibly intelligent team of doctors who work there. I work as their right hand to aid in their productivity and quality of patient care. Last summer I had a surgical internship in Athens, Greece at the Ιπποκράτειο Hospital and observed over 100 hours of surgery with the most compassionate doctors and residents I have ever known. I was able to do this through the Atlantis Project which I highly recommend to every single pre-med student. However, the role I hold in highest regard is being a student instructor for Human Anatomy both in lecture and the wet lab where we have 3 full body cadavers and many varying organs and extremities. I lecture small groups of students as our class is over 100 people, I lead them in their cadaver dissections, teach them their lab information in addition to proctoring and grading all exams. I’ve found that I truly love teaching, seeing student’s succeed, being a confidant who can relate to their hardships having known the difficulties they’re facing, and sharing in their journey through Human Anatomy.

2.  Who was your favorite teacher in school and how did he or she impact you? My favorite teacher in school was actually a professor in my first year of college. I never was great at mathematics and had to enter into corrective math after performing poorly on the University entrance test. Dr. Steve Wilson, Ph.D was my professor. He made math understandable, dare I say he even made it easy, and I actually felt embarrassed that I never knew there were multiple ways to approach certain problems. He gave me confidence in mathematics, and now it’s a subject I excel in and enjoy. I am not the type to create excuses for my failings but my time in high school was met with hardships. I ended up having personal problems with my entry algebra teacher as a freshman in high school and that left me without a base of knowledge to build on.

3. When did you first decide you wanted to become a doctor and why? I wish I had a romantic life-changing story for this, it would make personal statements much easier. I feel like I have always known I am medically inclined. After being hospitalized for Anorexia Nervosa, restricting type, I was given a nutritionist and thought about the field of nutrition for about a year. After that, I witnessed a car crash right in front of me on the freeway and had this overwhelming urge to help even though I knew I couldn’t because I would do more harm than good with untrained hands on critical patients. Later that day, I looked into being an emergency medical technician, and paramedic. I researched heavily and read articles by EMT’s and paramedics about the lifestyle they lived with this as their career, I was left unsatisfied and dismayed. I pondered this job for a few days before deciding I would take the long road and become a physician which matched my medical predisposition and desire to generate positive outcomes for people in undesirable conditions. I also have become comfortable in leadership roles and desire these types of jobs, after working in the ER where the physician is the decision maker this only further solidified my yearning to become an M.D. A large part of being a physician now is the computer work. In a normal 2-hour long visit, we average roughly 5-10 minutes with a non-critical patient face-to-face and the rest of their time in the ER they spend with the technicians and nurses while we spend that time on the computer or the phone either ordering labs, imaging, calling for consults, and looking up past medical history as well as charting the current visit. This is also very common for most outpatient settings I’ve shadowed in. Being a doctor, in my experience, is not specifically interacting at length with the patient and only spending time with them. Rather, it’s mostly being away from the patient and being the director of their care ordering studies and looking over results to come to a conclusion which will ideally give the patient better health and clarity of their current state.

4. What area of medicine are you interested in?  I have experience in many areas of surgery including general, upper GI, cardiothoracic, ENT, as well as outpatient cardiology, family care, pediatrics, as well as extensive time spent in the ER as their Chief Medical Scribe. Out of these options, I would say I love all of them equally for different reasons. Surgery tests the intuition of the surgeon and relies on one’s knowledge of the entire body and all systems within beginning with histology which appeals to me because I find I take on challenging tasks. I enjoy family care and pediatrics because it allows one to form personal relationships with the patients and be able to watch them progress in their life in addition to being a constant for them, someone who is always there for them and to whom they may confide in. When they come in with an illness, they trust in you to help them which is a tremendous amount of responsibility. Finally, with cardiology and emergency medicine work, these are analogous to being a detective and figuring out a diagnosis which explains their symptomology. In the area I work in with the ER, we have a large population of homeless individuals who unfortunately have comorbid psychosis and polysubstance abuse. Getting the “whole story” as to why they presented to the ER is hard to obtain. Through lab and imaging results we can deduce the cause of their current condition. This “detective mindset” also applies to our patients who arrive unresponsive and were found unresponsive so their progression to this current syncopal state is unknown and we need to pinpoint exactly what is happening inside their body in order to save them. I’ve been in the ER now for almost two years to the day, and I’ve had firsthand experience with a handful of patient deaths that arrived in this unresponsive condition, both elderly and adolescent; most of them illicit drug overdose related, withdrawal related, but some were extremely interesting etiology including a saddle pulmonary embolus and an abdominal aortic aneurysm. As much as I love the ER I’m working in, I believe I may have had enough emergency medicine work by the time I retire and begin my journey applying for medical schools. However, my mind remains open and if I end up in an ER in my medical journey, I would be happy my end began as my beginning.

With that being said, I have a limited view of areas of medicine- I haven’t seen them all. If I had to chose now based off of my experiences, I would say perhaps general surgery interested me the most. However, again my views are obscured because I spent my time in Athens, Greece observing these cases and they do not have access to the same techniques, imaging studies, and technology that we do in America. In short, I am interested in all areas of medicine and am excited to expand my understandings.

5. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had so far on your premedical journey? My most treasured experiences being a pre-medical student will always come from my time spent in Athens, Greece with the Atlantis Project. I made life long friends through this program, we lived together in a huge apartment in Athens for a month and saw the most astounding Greek history every day. I can’t even begin to explain the coffee we drank when we got to the hospital at their café stand, which was 2 euros, and fails in comparison to any American coffee available. Every single place we ate at whether it be restaurant, café, or street trolley, had the best Greek food for barely more than 5 euros, and I crave it still every day to the extent to where I worry when one day I’ll be pregnant and ask my husband to fly to Greece to bring the food back to me! We explored the islands of Santorini and Mykonos and were able to navigate the metro system to explore as much of Greece as possible from the beaches on the peripheral to the country in the center and all the city-life in between. Aside from the social aspects of the trip, we were given direct access to observe surgeries for eight hours a day, every day. We also were invited to the medical student lectures (in English) since the Ιπποκράτειο hospital is Athens largest teaching hospital. Both surgeons and residents put in maximal effort to teach us what exactly they’re doing surgically, why, and how this will benefit the patient. We observed many cancer cases as tobacco smoking is extremely excessive in Greece- even the surgeons smoke even after operating on cancer related cases multiple times every day. I was able to see over ten mastectomies (breast tissue removal), esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, colonic cancer, lung cancer, and how they operate to remove these malignancies. My closet physician friendships were with Dr. Henry Markogiannakis along with Dr. Spyros Smparounis and Dr. Theodorou. All general surgeons, and chiefs of their departments. Probably the most interesting part of the internship was being hospitalized as a patient myself and being able to get the entire view of Greek medical care. On the third week of our internship, I woke with a fever of 39C, had chills, horrible lumbar back pain, and a headache. I thought it to be a common cold or illness and stayed home to rest until the pain became unbearable. I presented to our own hospital’s ER, where the surgeons quickly found out I was, and they came down to the ER and completely took over my care- which I was thankful for, the ER physicians never spoke to me in English and began triaging me and getting labs without me knowing what was happening. They found that I had pyelonephritis after an 8-hour workup where I got the most extensive set of imaging and blood work imaginable. Their preliminary blood work showed only an elevated white count which indicates an infection but the location to them was unknown and they sent me to three other hospitals for more testing. The entire area has one CT scan, so I was given renal, pelvic, and abdominal ultrasounds in addition to a full cardiac workup and serial blood tests. By midnight, I returned back to the ER at Ιπποκράτειο where the doctors were waiting my imaging to be sent to them. At this point I was still febrile, I asked for Tylenol which I learned is called Paracetamol in Europe, and wanted to go back to my apartment. I argued at length with Dr. Smparounis, he eventually made me stay as an inpatient while they conclude my diagnosis. I stayed in a room with four other people, the hospital is entirely non-air conditioned, and summers in Greece were always above 100F degrees. They gave me intravenous antibiotics and a dextrose fluid solution for the next three days until my fever subsided and they discovered I had pyelonephritis. My roommates brought me food, coffee, and all the books they had with them since I was confined to my bed with only my cell phone. During the course of my treatment, I got a diffuse bodily rash as an allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics they administered, which made them want to keep me longer for observation to my apprehension. I was eventually discharged then went cliff diving with my roommates that following weekend in Santorini and completed the final 4th week of shadowing in general surgery with the same surgeons who nicknamed me Lazarus for “rising from the dead” after my time in the inpatient ward. Luckily, the Atlantis Project prepares for the undesirable and provides all students with over 100,000 American dollars’ worth of medical coverage and I did not need to pay for my inpatient stay or studies. However, if I did have to it would only be roughly 300 euros for a comprehensive medical workup and hospital stay.

6. What is your favorite book? I might be a bit biased, but I have two favorite books. The authors are some of my closest professional friends. The first, Birth Day, is written by my former pediatrician whom I shadow now; I’m 21 years old and he has known me since I was roughly 3-6 months old. His name is Dr. Mark Sloan, M.D (He’s the original, Greys Anatomy didn’t begin airing until he was already out of medical school). Birth Day is a three-decades-long exploration of the marvels and peculiarities of human childbirth, it delves into every aspect of childbirth and the evolution of each step involved. I love this book, and it has made me eager to shadow in obstetrics- a mission I am still trying to accomplish. Dr. Sloan is an incredible doctor, and is the one responcible for me loving medicine in the first place. Whenever I would go in for a visit, he would explain medically relevant things to me, as a child, sparking my interest in medicine. Every time I came in with musculoskeletal pain from sports (I played many throughout my time growing up), he showed me X-rays, and explained anatomy. He also saved my life, which I’ll explain below in #9.

The second book which made me love Organic Chemistry even more (if that’s possible) is called Strange Chemistry by my chemistry professor Dr. Steven Farmer, Ph.D. This book is being discussed for a movie (but I’m sure I’m supposed to keep that a secret until all the signatures are on the line). This book is a collection of stories which relate our real-world experiences to the world of chemistry and brings about the knowledge of what happens chemically during every day actions. He discusses how alcohol affects the brain and can cause death in withdraws, how methamphetamine mimics the neurotransmitter dopamine, how asphalt is the most recycled item in the US, how Bengay can (and has) kill a human, as well as many other relevant things that open your mind up and help you to understand pertinent chemical reactions. No knowledge of chemistry is expected for the reader, he does a fantastic job making everything understandable to an individual without experience in any field of science. Words cannot do justice to my explanation of Dr. Farmer, I’ve been going to his office hours since before I ever had him as a professor because he makes everything comprehensible and he genuinely cares about helping students. His office is also like a mini free 7-Eleven, he gives out free food to anyone because he heard sometimes students are broke and go without eating. While you’re there getting chemistry help, you can also snack, watch his magic card tricks, and discuss with him his personal Guinness World Record or black belt in ninja training. I am thankful to him for never giving up on students and working so hard to counsel us and help us succeed.

7. Tell us one thing interesting about you that most people don’t know. I have competed in women’s natural bodybuilding and placed first two weeks after turning 18 years old. I still bodybuild but not for competition any longer, I enjoy being in a caloric surplus too much to give that up again. I train daily and work on being a functional and strong individual, it’s been an important part of my life keeping me healthy and confident. I recommend weight training to all women given its health benefits for the musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, and to promote positive body image.

8. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? I honestly have not entertained the idea. Perhaps if medical school does not seem likely after applications then maybe I will begin to think about this, but until then medical school and becoming a physician are my focus. I feel that the goal of life is to be happy, regardless of your occupation. When I am elderly, irrespective of what title I held, I just want to be able to tell my grandchildren that I was happy, regretless, and lived my life as best I could.

9. What has been your biggest obstacle as a premed and how did you (or are you) overcome it? When I began high school, I was chosen to play as a starter on their volleyball team. Perhaps this made me a target of jealousy or envy, that’s the only reasoning I could come up with after this entire experience concluded. Within my first week at high school, the bullying began from a group of girls also on the team but one year older than me- mainly over the internet as many adolescent girls fear in person confrontation. Every aspect of my physical appearance was targeted, weight, height, phenotype, even my eyebrows which remain a self-conscious factor to this day, eight years later. My strategy to get my peers to like me was to stop eating, I remember thinking “if I’m skinnier like they are, maybe they’ll stop”. I was never overweight, I was 5’9 and 145lbs which is exactly the baseline weight for my height. I trained hard for volleyball, so I had a fair amount of muscle in my legs and abdomen giving me a “thicker” look. I began to eat less and less, and the months and years progressed. The bullying stopped around my junior year when the main girl perpetuating the bullying graduated. At that time, I was exactly 100lbs and in full-blown anorexia nervosa. I would go 5-6 days without food and became a pro at throwing my food away without anyone noticing. My closest friends and my parents had no idea and I told them I was thinner from running more (a lie, I didn’t have the physical strength to even walk upstairs). My mom later told me she was suspicious and every night when I came home from practice she hugged me and would palpate my thoracic spine to assess how much bonier it’s becoming indicating further weight loss. The beginning of my junior year I began experiencing tremendous bilateral upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue forcing 8 ER visits without a diagnosis (although, after working in an ER myself, my visits were not met with any pertinent testing which we would order on a normal basis. However, I was 16 and otherwise healthy which would make many physicians assume a benign cause and they were unaware of my anorexia). My pediatrician, Dr. Sloan, saw my many ER visits, was likely called for consult by the ER physicians during my final ER visit and he admitted me to the hospital to figure out what was going on inside of my abdomen. I had cholelithiasis, cholecystitis, pancreatitis, and multiple organ trauma from gallstones exiting my common bile duct and shooting into my digestive tract causing puncture- all secondary to anorexia. This was festering for six months, undiagnosed. I was told I had a 40% chance of full recovery assuming successful surgery outcome. Every night I saw my mother crying at the foot of my hospital bed, begging me to eat again and survive surgery. She’s never been one for God, but I feel like I remember hearing her pray. The entire recovery process was initiated by my volleyball coach, Dan Freeman and sophomore geometry teacher Mrs. Balli. Mrs. Balli noticed my weight loss within a one-year span since teaching me and asked my coach if I had additional energy loss and personality change. He confronted me about it- he’s the first person I told the truth to regarding my eating. He did the one thing that pissed me off the most- which is what I needed the most. He benched me from the season until I sought medical attention and told my parents about my eating and bullying. Without him, I wouldn’t have told anyone else about my anorexia. Making a long story short, I got my surgeries, received physical and psychological therapy, and began bodybuilding as a new hobby. I made competing a goal and won first in natural women’s bodybuilding one year later after my hospitalization, one week after I turned 18. I overcame this by realizing I shouldn’t look to others to form my own opinions of myself. This entire endeavor taught me self-love, compassion, and positive body image through strength training. I learned how important fuel is for the body and the importance of eating enough calories and making sure the macronutrients making up those calories are beneficial to how the body processes them. To this day, nutrition and strength training hold a high regard in my life and mental/physical well-being.

10. What do you like most about PreMed STAR? I love the community the most within PreMed STAR. Everybody asks great questions and the replies are all positive and helpful. Every single person appears to be genuinely welcoming and friendly. I find that as a pre-med this environment is rare, and many times we are so highly competitive that being supportive of one another doesn’t occur often. I try to create the most supportive and encouraging environment on my campus through my club, and to see a whole country-wide group of students doing the same is incredibly heartwarming. Ultimately, we are all going to be peers and colleagues and we will spend more time with each other than anyone else, we should be friendly and helpful from the start. I vehemently recommend this app to every pre-med student I know for this reason.

How to form good habits

Do you ever wake up in the morning, do a little hand dance on your bedsheets in a bid to find your phone while your consciousness is still busy transitioning from alpha waves to beta waves? Me neither. Well, who are we kidding? We have all been there. Starting your day by checking emails and social media may seem benign at first, but it subtly weakens the foundation of the productive day you forecasted. This leads me to my question: how to do you form good habits or rather, how do you do away with bad habits?

Habits are things we perform routinely and they are usually personal. Habits are like the atoms of our individual persona and they ultimately indicate the type of person we are or want to be. First, to form good habits, we must have unwavering faith about taking on/doing away with that habit. Have you ever wonder why people use the word ‘religiously’ to qualify an act that is done with so much care and almost to perfection? This is because to religiously perform a task, you have to strongly believe that the purpose of the task is to connect you to your higher self or to metamorphize you into your best self. I will use an anecdote to illustrate this. I went to a session at a conference where students were sharing with the audience how reading transformed their lives. It all began with one book and when they discovered the respective purpose that reading serves them– for instance, changing their lives—they made it a habit to read at least two books a month. One student mentions that she listens to audio books during her daily commute and the other mentions that, as a nursing student, during her clinical rotation, she uses reading to bond with patients who are paralyzed or brain dead. These students believed that reading transformed their lives so they made it an integral part of their identity. It became a means of escape from the chaos of the world and a tool to impact someone else’s life. So, to form a good habit, you have to perform it religiously.

Just like in many world religions where the performance of its daily rituals is rewarded supernaturally, connecting to your higher self generates some rewards, one of which is making you a productive individual. One habit that I have incorporated into my lifestyle recently is making my bed right after I get up in the morning. It is like a morning ritual that sets the tone for how the rest of my entire day is going to play out. Making one’s bed may seem like a total waste of ATP which could be saved for a 10-20 seconds walk to the coffee machine. But, this mere act gives one a sense of responsibility and organization. From the touch of softness used to smoothen the surface of the sheets to the sense of sharpness used to tuck the sheets at the edges, making my bed is my panacea for a bad day before it even started. Early morning habits like this give you a mindset that yields positivity, happiness, and productivity. Some other habits that make people productive are engagement in any kind of physical activity, writing a gratitude journal, praying/meditating, cooking and so on.

Habits are not easy to form and simultaneously, are very hard to relinquish. The key to forming a good habit that becomes a part of one’s persona is believing in its transformative purpose, in its ability to make you better than you are today, in its ability to refine your individuality. This belief will go a long way in helping you to become whatever you want to be. I don’t like physics, but here goes an analogy. Think of your habits as magnets that form a magnetic field in the universe. It will only attract things that resonate with its natural frequency. Hence, to attract what you want, form habits that bring you closer to it.

Eating Wise as a Premed

Hello Premed STAR! I am a practicing Endocrinologist serving a community roughly 50 miles from the University of Texas and 23 miles from Texas State University. Why do I bring this up? Well, I have a number of college students who follow up with me in clinic for a number of reasons but 9 out of 10 times, weight concerns come up or some sort of dietary indiscretions are uncovered. But I know I’m preaching to the choir here. As premeds, I know you all are setting perfect examples for your peers, right!

Let’s be real. Even premeds are susceptible to the cruel “freshman 15”, stress eating, malnutrition, eating on the go, excessive alcohol consumption, and eating disorders. If you are anything like I was during college, a cereal bar sufficed for breakfast, Chick-fil-A sandwich and waffle fries served as lunch, and a small on-campus joint called Rumors provided my midnight pancake, egg and bacon fix while I studied. My saving grace was my active lifestyle and avoidance of harmful drugs and substances. Now I am more than ever aware that poor diet in school can lead to not only weight gain, but a number of issues such as lower grades, higher risk of depression and anxiety, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and a host of illnesses. My hope is that you are more conscious of your dietary intake than I was. Let’s explore a few dietary tips that may lead to a healthier you, now and beyond your premed years. Don’t worry, I’ll try my best not to sound like your mom.

1. Don’t skip breakfast.  You’ve heard it said many times, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” However, studies show that about a quarter of the US population regularly miss breakfast. Granted, there is mixed data regarding causation, many studies have shown increased risk for metabolic disease and excess weight gain in those that skip breakfast. It is tough to be on your A game on an empty stomach. Consider a nutritious bowl of oatmeal decorated with fruits for breakfast as I do. This is a filling meal providing fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants.

 

2. Drink primarily water. Some recommend taking in eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily for all adults while others break it down based on gender, age, pregnancy, breastfeeding status, and physical activity. 80% of your fluid comes from drinking water and other beverages while the other 20% is derived from foods. Water can provide many benefits including assisting the body in removing wastes, regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, and smoothening the skin. I always recommend to my patients that at least 80% of their fluid intake should consist of plain water. Excess sugary and alcoholic beverages can be harmful to the body long term (especially the liver). Furthermore, the great thing about water is that it is FREE!

3. Limit processed foods. An eye-opening moment during my medical school days was when a grocery store clerk smirked as she rang up my groceries and whispered, “you must be a bachelor.” Although this was a true statement at the time, I was puzzled as to how she came to that conclusion. It didn’t take me long before I surveyed my cart and recognized I had 5 frozen boxes of pizza, pop tarts, cereal bars, ramen noodles, ice cream and Powerades. Rarely would you see any of those items in my cart after that day.

As I tell my patients, food is a daily medicine, invest in it. The sooner you recognize that the grocery store is the gatekeeper to your health, the better off you will be. I recommend periphery shopping where you will find much healthier options and less processed foods. Avoid shopping while hungry because an empty stomach is an easy set-up for failure at the grocery store. Consider using tools such as the Fooducate App which allows you to scan foods by their barcode to determine their scores and nutritional values. Alternative choices are provided as well.

4. Eat your Fruits and Veggies. Okay, I may be sounding like your mom now but this one is very important. Many if not most premeds are not consuming the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. This leads to less vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants which can aid in fighting illnesses and chronic diseases. In 2011, the food pyramid was transitioned to the MyPlate model and this really emphasized the importance of fruits and veggies as they make up roughly half the plate. Fruits make for great snacks.

5. Don’t be afraid to seek help. We all know the premed track is hectic and unfortunately, it will only get progressively busier over the next 10 years. Do not neglect your health. I repeat, do not neglect your health. If you experience sudden unexplained weight gain or weight loss, go see a doctor. It very well may be nothing but endocrinopathies such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Cushing syndrome, adrenal insufficiency as well as malignancies can present this way. On the other hand, if you believe you have a substance addiction or eating disorder, seek help through a counselor, doctor or anonymous hotline. More than you may realize, this problem haunts a number of physicians. Many of these habits begin in college. In fact, I still remember my intern year rounding on the wards with an attending reeking of alcohol. A few weeks later, he was on life support after crashing his sports car. Thank goodness he survived, but he was charged with another DWI and I can only guess this took a toll on his right to practice medicine. There are many people who are willing to help you and others out there you yourself may be able to provide guidance to.

So, how are your eating habits?  What can you improve on?  What other tips do you have?  Please share!

Congratulations to Kenean! Premed of the Week!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself .  My name is Kenean Bekele, I was born and raised in Ethiopia. I came over to the United States with my mom and two younger sisters when I was 13-years-old. The goal was to join my Dad and other family members as well as pursue a quality education that would enable me and my sisters to work anywhere.

2. Who was your favorite teacher in school & how did he or she impact you?  My favorite teacher came along when I got to Junior year of High School. I had an AP US History teacher named James Wright, he truly had a passion for US History and loved teaching it, this resulted in making his class one of the few classes that my peers and I really looked forward to. We all loved the fact that he loved US History, and slowly began to love the subject as well! He not only taught me but showed me how to love to learn.

3. What area of medicine are you interested in? The area of medicine I am interested in is Pediatrics, I love children, being with them and spending time with them makes me a better human; I believe we can learn a lot from them too. I want to be able to use medicine to help heal and ensure a steady developmental process for children and their families.

4. What’s the coolest experience you’ve had on your premedical journey? The coolest experience I have had in my premedical journey so far would be when I attended a scientific symposium held at my university campus that featured students who participated in scientific research and medical mission trips. Since I will most definitely be doing medical mission trips myself, getting to hear the students’ experience, insight and to be advised by them was really cool.

5. What is your favorite book? My favorite book is “Corrupted Science” by John Grant, an overview of how the beginnings of science were filled with error, scandalous events, and subject to manipulation by those who had both ideological and political agendas.

6. Tell us one thing about you most people don’t know.  Something interesting about me that most people don’t know is the fact that I know a good amount of conversational Hindi and understand it even better than I speak it.

7. If you couldn’t be a doctor, what would you want to do? If didn’t become a doctor I would become a clinical psychologist, it’s actually one of my majors along with pre-med Biology.

8. What do you like most about PreMed STAR?  What I like most about PreMed STAR is that it allows students who are passionate about medicine like me, interact with one another, learn from each other, prepare for medical school and create a unique support system for them that they can count on.

Our Pre-Med Story

I dedicate this poem to every struggling premed out there. If it were meant to be easy, everyone would be on this path. So, I implore you right now to fight for your dreams, make your hard work count, and most importantly, do not give up. If you believe in what you desire, it will come to fruition. Be determined. Be dedicated. I applaud you for making it this far. You are halfway there. Keep going!

I dreamed of saving lives
My thoughts were driven by my journey through life
I heard the moans of the sick
I witnessed the mourning of the dead
Then, I decided with unwavering faith
That I want to be a physician

Loaded with multifarious responsibilities
Here I am as a premedical student
I immersed myself in the pool of valor to be competent
I came out of my cave of fear to advocate for others
I took strides up a bumpy hill to help my community
Then, I saw my dreams looming forth
Emerging from the horizon like the gallant sun

To become well rounded, I went on adventures
I sailed through my labs and lectures with focus and hard work
I swung on the ropes of leadership guiding the sway with optimism to make an impact
I flew through the clouds of compassion by enthusiastically interacting with patients
I rode down the slopes of self-doubts, leaving behind my foes in every ditch encountered
Then, I arrived a step closer to my ambitions with confidence and relatable qualities.

On the night before my MCAT, I reflected:
I have mastered every concept and learned from every mistake
I have shivered through the chills of the library for hours of practice.
I had delved deep into every resource on the web and on print, soaking in every detail
So, I promised to leave my anxiety at the doors and walk into the exam hall like a fierce warrior
Yes! It is a battle because I am fighting for my dreams
I promised to make myself proud and walk out those doors feeling accomplished.
I whispered to my soul
Dear self, it is time to crush the MCAT.

You would find-from all walks of life- a premedical student
Those who have commanded organizations with the air of elegance and service
Those who have cared for the sick as nurses with soft humility
Those who have changed the course of narratives by the power of their inner voice through the pen
Those who have taught the next generation of professionals in schools and colleges
Those who have filled acoustic halls with the echoes of their mellifluous voice
Those who have served their country with a flaming passion
Those who have tackled and dribbled on the sports field with fortitude
Those who have put out the flames to provide ease to victims of fire hazards.
Then they realized
 Medicine was their calling all along.

Medicine is a noble profession which we all pursue with undying passion
We seek to build a healthy and happy community through medicine
We seek to educate about wellness and promote wellbeing
We love science and want to use it to change lives of people through medicine
We are life-long learners and are curious about everything we observe.
We have been smitten by the ravishing white coat and scintillating stethoscope
We are on the path of compassion and altruism
Wake up every day with your ‘why’ seeded inside of you
Stay afloat with hope and faith and rekindle them by visualizing your goals
Remember
We are not just premeds
We are the future of medicine.


How to Have Fun During Medical School!

There’s this myth that your medical school years will be among the most miserable in your life.  Emphatically false!  Personally, medical school was an amazing period in my life.  Some of my fondest memories take me back to those crazy days.  I had a blast as did most of my friends!  Here are five tips that can help you have a similar experience.

  1. Make friends in your class. This should go without saying.  If you don’t get this one right, you might as well not even bother trying the others.  I said medical school was fun, I didn’t say it was easy.  Having a core group of real friends will ease the pain significantly.  When I was a first-year student, Tuesday nights were my favorite.  A group of friends would come to my place and we’d all watch House MD.   There’s nothing like feeling brilliant during class then missing the diagnosis every episode of House alongside your friends.
  2. Treat yourself. This one’s really good!  After each test, no matter how you think you performed, go out with your friends.  This treat is for the hard work you put in studying, not for the grade you get.  Getting a good grade will just be a second reason to celebrate.  I partied much more during my medical school than I did in undergrad.  Typically, I went out with med school friends and we always stayed out of trouble.  The good thing about hanging out with classmates is that we had the same stressors.  There’s nothing like venting with people who understand exactly what you’re going through, then partying hard to relieve the stress!  Just a word of caution, stay sober and stay out of trouble!  Party doesn’t mean “act a fool.”
  3. Mentor Someone. At some point during your medical school career, you’ll realize that you are at the bottom of the barrel.  The attending is the boss.  The fellow is the henchman.  The resident is the troop.  And the med student is the underling.  You go from being the smartest kid in class, to getting coffee for your team.  Your self-esteem can take a real hit.  An easy way to regain your confidence and help someone at the same time is to mentor a premed.  Perhaps I’m being selfish with this point because I’d like to see every premed have a mentor.  Nonetheless who better to mentor a premed than a med student.  It’ll bring you great joy!
  4. Volunteer.  Similar to the mentoring point above, volunteering is also a great way to have fun during medical school.  Many students sign up to volunteer in student-run clinics.  You spend so much time with your head in the books that it’s easy to forget why you decided to pursue a career in medicine.  Volunteering in a clinic will remind you.  My favorite volunteer experiences dealt with exposing primary school students to the field of medicine.  Figure out which volunteer activities are most fulfilling to you, then make time to do them.  In the end, I firmly believe that people are most fulfilled when helping others.
  5. Find a hobby. Med school might as well be called the hobby killer.  Too many students start with a hobby they love, and graduate with it as a distant memory.  I was always impressed with classmates who kept up with gymnastics, music, and other things of the sort.  It was easy to see that they tended to be some of the happiest students in the bunch.

Nowadays, there’ so much negativity about pursuing a career in medicine.  Don’t believe the hype.  Medicine is an awesome profession and medical school is one of the best parts of the journey.  These are five things that helped me have a blast while learning to care for life.  What suggestions do you have that can help make your time in med school enjoyable?  What hobbies do you hope to keep while in medical school!

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

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